God Exists in Community: Our Example on the Support-Raising Journey

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:22 (NIV).

 There is a pain in my heart over the friends we have lost while on the support-raising journey. It’s the awkward avoidance of our phone calls or never returned emails because they think we’ll be asking for money. Sadly, most of time we’re contacting our friends just to get together, but they’ve become so fearful that we’re going to put them on the spot that it’s easier to avoid us than to continue the friendship. Although Jason and I have never made high-money demands in conversations and have only let our need be known, we still wish we had a different mindset when we first started fundraising—one that was more concerned about creating an environment of worship than one set on the philosophy of speed. Since we changed our way of thinking, it has made our conversations more glorifying to God, and He has still brought us the money needed to do the ministries He has called us to do—with our relationships intact!

Since we’ve been on this journey for over nineteen years, we have realized that the real focus of raising support isn’t about our needs being met. This statement probably makes you think, “Um, Heather, the whole reason why we raise support is because we need money in order to be used in a particular ministry.” Of course you have monetary needs, and they should be made known and goals worked toward. The error comes when whole philosophies are written with the premise that we build relationships and make high-money demands in order to be fully funded and make it to our ministries as quickly as possible. Therefore, raising support becomes all about us, and as I’ve experienced, this can have a devastating impact on relationships—the opposite of what God intended.

In John 17:22 Jesus declares through His prayer that the reason for being in complete unity with one another is “to let the whole world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Obviously, believers are to unite as one in our spiritual communities and in our church families so that others can see Christ’s love in us; however, there is no asterisk by this verse with a footnote that suggests that the support-raising journey is supposed to be any different. In fact, I find it fascinating that this entire journey is set up as a team effort where we are to work together for the purpose of letting God’s love be known here and around the world. This means that our needs should not be what drive this journey. They are only a secondary purpose that God holds in His hands. A greater purpose is for us to grow as one in order for His glory to be known in the world. We accomplish this by leading people into worship and providing opportunities for them to join God in His work.

God exists in community, and wants that for us as well. He has provided everything we need for this to happen—His glory. Therefore, instead of making our needs the primary focus, let’s not miss the opportunity to let Jesus’ prayer be ours during this time. Let’s be one, a reflection of who God is, in order for others to know the truth of Jesus’ love.

  1. How can using this prayer as your own change the dynamic of your support?
  2. Pray for God to take your focus off yourself during the support-raising journey, and look to Him to accomplish His work through your team.

 

God is Our Provider: Our Source of Contentment on the Support-Raising Journey

 

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

Contentment is the foundation for understanding the truth that God is our provider. One day I was watching Fixer Upper, and when the show got to the “big reveal”, I actually found myself tearing up—not out of joy, but out of jealousy. We live in a home that’s almost a hundred years old and is in need of some fixing up. I imagined what an additional $50,000 dollars could do—money we don’t have—and the more my mind wandered down that path, the more discontent I became. In that moment I wanted to trade places with that couple and understand what it was like to have all my house dreams fulfilled. Needless to say I have to greatly limit my HGTV consumption in order to combat house envy!

By no means do I think people shouldn’t fix up their houses. That’s between them and God. However, I do know that contentment can be hard on the support-raising journey and our perspective on God’s provision can often become skewed. On the surface this journey seems pretty black and white—when you get money quickly, God provided for your needs. When you don’t get the money, you probably did something wrong; therefore God isn’t going to provide the money until you get it right. Well, maybe people don’t say it quite that bluntly, but when someone works hard and the money still doesn’t come, then you can only imagine how a black-and-white formula can rattle that person’s trust in God as the Provider.

So, how do you stay content on the support-raising journey with the demands of dollar figures and deadlines? During the difficult times my husband and I have had while working hard raising support, God provided in ways we never expected. We just had to look past the traditional thought of how God provides for our needs, which taught us to look past the dollar figures, in order to see what God was really doing in our lives.

As you work hard to meet an overwhelming schedule, take the time to recognize God’s true provision. Maybe it comes in the form of lots of money quickly—I hope so! However, it may come as food and shelter provided by in-laws (that’s what happened to us) or a free car or even a deep conversation from a friend at the exact needed moment. God shows up and takes delight in giving His children gifts. We just have to notice them for what they are. Instead of setting our minds on what we think we need, allow God to provide for our true spiritual needs. You can’t help but to be transformed when you recognize His goodness!

  1. What are some non-traditional ways you’ve seen God provide on your journey? Praise Him for those things.
  2. Pray for contentment no matter what circumstances He is taking you through.

 

God is Unchanging: In the Ever-Changing World of Raising Support

 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews13:8 (NIV)

My prayer has always been to make myself available to be used by God in whatever way He chooses. For me personally, He has given me a path that consists of a lot of change. Maybe as a result of living off support for over nineteen years, I’ve often dreamed of what a life of stability must be like. I have friends who have grown up in the same area, gotten a job right there with a steadily growing income, and haven’t moved in over twenty years. Most of their kids and grandkids will more than likely do the same thing. Boy, I think to myself, wouldn’t that be nice! In the twenty-one years that my husband and I have been married, we’ve moved twelve times, a lot of them being major moves and to five different ministry settings.

Our last move literally about did me in. Through lots of prayer, I knew it was the right decision as God orchestrated all the events to jumpstart us in that direction, and then provided miraculously for our support. However, it didn’t make it any easier to pack up our house once again, say our goodbyes, and be uprooted after settling, I thought, for the last time. Being used by God isn’t necessarily easy.

I’m sure that just about everyone on the support-raising journey can attest to the fact that raising support doesn’t feel like a very stable endeavor, as its whole reasoning is based on change. You are giving up a regular income in lieu of one provided by others as they are directed by God. Whether you are physically moving or not, you are preparing for a new ministry. You’re growing in the role of being a worship leader as you help others see the need to join God in His work. All of these things, even if they’re good, can be stressful.

If this is the case, then what does God’s immutability mean for us in the ever-changing arena of raising support? More than anything, I believe it keeps us grounded in an eternal perspective. Because God never changes, we can trust Him to hold our ups-and-downs and keep us persevering toward the bigger picture. All the moves I make and changes that come my way are nothing in comparison to eternity where I get to be with an ever loving-never changing God. Whatever path God gives you, you can trust that all things will work for God’s glory.

  1. Worship God for all His unchanging attributes.
  2. Pray for God to continue to use you no matter the changes.
  3. Pray for the grace to trust Him through all the changes that will come your way.

God is Praiseworthy: As You Lead Others on the Support-Raising Journey

“And they were calling to one another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” Isaiah 6:3 (NIV)

 I have several aunts who have no money but who faithfully pool together whatever change they can find and send us a check every several months. It may not be a huge amount, but it’s always the biggest blessing received at our exact moment in need. Inside the gift they always offer words of encouragement and thank us for allowing them to be a part of God’s work. They get to be a part of something that is much greater than what we do. We are just a receiver of their earthly gifts as they praise and worship God our true Provider.

Worship is meant to be a corporate act. Yes, we can certainly worship God by ourselves, but the richness and depth of it is felt in community. That’s why I feel it’s so important to teach those who are raising support to be worship leaders. God has given each of us a team of people who are worshipping God through their prayers and finances. Therefore, this journey is not about us at all. It’s about God and what He is accomplishing through us.

With this knowledge taken to heart, I think we all need to examine our focus while raising support. Is it on money or on God? If all of life is an act of worship, because God is worthy of our praise, then that means worship doesn’t stop when we are in need of money. In fact, I would venture to say that raising support gives us an even greater opportunity to worship because of the people God has gathered around us and the magnitude of the job He has ordained us to do.

This scene in Isaiah 6:3 has always baffled my mind. Creatures I can’t fathom even with Isaiah’s description are shaking the thresholds and doorposts of the temple with their shouts of praise. It’s amazing what happens when our eyes are fixated on the holiness of God and unite our voices in worship of Him. All hell will shake and tremble as people fall to their knees in awe of our Father. We have an opportunity to do just that!

Use the support-raising journey for God’s glory and bring people in praise to the One who is worthy.

  1. Be in awe of how God has created you for your ministry.
  2. Lead others into worship out of that awe.

God Listens: As He Accomplishes His Will on the Support-Raising Journey

 

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” (NIV) Psalm 34:17

Twice I have felt God convicting me to take life-changing steps of faith, and when I obeyed, neither one of them turned out like I had expected—at all. When I found myself in difficult circumstances, I called out to God and questioned whether he heard my cries, or even if I had heard Him correctly. I fought, trying to get back any semblance of the life I had given up. I felt abandoned when I couldn’t piece my circumstances back together. It wasn’t until I changed the way I prayed that I began to understand that He had something more.

Jesus prayed in the garden, “Your will be done” (Matt. 6:10). He recognized that, although God was listening and deeply caring for His circumstance, it didn’t mean that God’s sovereign plan wasn’t the best and only way. In the end Jesus was obedient unto death for us. Throughout all of this, He never questioned whether His Father was listening to His hurts by saying, “Hey, now, why are all these people coming at me with swords and whips and such?” His sweet communion with His Father gave Him peace to do God’s will even in the midst of the storm.

Everyone should always pray for the Father’s will to be done, but honestly, I was missing the mark on that one. I wanted to be in the center of His will and tried my best to obey, but when my own expectations weren’t met (where everything turns out rosy), I got upset. This led me to question God as to whether He was really listening. Now I’ve learned to change my prayers to “Lord, help me to understand Your will.” That way, when I know I am in the center of His will, I can withstand anything. This takes communing with God on more intimate levels, which in turn, leads to deep-rooted trust to persevere through His plan. God is already listening. He is asking me to listen back.

The support-raising journey is a big step of faith to follow after God’s will that is often full of unexpected twists and turns. While we should work hard toward our goals, there is truly no way for any of us to predict how it will turn out. God simply asks for our obedience as He works out His plan. Know that He listens to our desperate cries every step of the way whether things are turning out the way we expect or not.

Fast forward a few years from my steps of obedience that didn’t quite look the way I wanted. God used those circumstances to put me in a greater position to be used by Him that was far more reaching than I could’ve ever had expected. My vision was narrow while His saw the entire plan. We might not understand the pieces to the puzzle in the moment when things are in disarray, but God really does care as He uses everything for His glory. Obedience, trust, acceptance—that’s what He wants from us as He continues to cradle us and listen to our every plea.

  1. Whether for the good or bad, are there things on the support-raising journey that have not turned out quite the way you expected?
  2. How have you seen God at work during this time?
  3. Expect God to do amazing things with you through your obedience to Him.

 

God is Faithful: Throughout the Bumps and Jumps of the Support-Raising Journey

 

“Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” Psalm 119:90 (NIV)

The book of Hosea depicts Hosea, a loving husband, in pursuit of his unfaithful bride. God chose this poor prophet to literally play out His passion for Israel by telling Hosea to marry Gomer, a prostitute—that had to be a tough assignment.

Imagine the heartbreak of having to buy back your own wife, the one to whom you pledged your undying love, from the hands of someone who was using her for his own pleasure. Anguish is the only word that can capture the depth of that feeling, and it is out of this agony that, verse-by-verse, this stage is used to display the burning passion of God’s love for His people.

The Israelites were rebellious. Their ways were fickle as they chased after fleeting pleasure. When God satisfied them with blessings, they became proud and forgot Him. God poured out His anger and wrath against them, not because it was a lover’s petty tantrum but because it was The Lover’s way to bring them to repentance. He knew what was best for them, and even in His wrath, He stayed faithful in His covenantal love.

That same passionate and burning love continues for us. That’s why He grafted us into His covenantal love and strips away everything that distracts us as He continues to pursue us. In His love, He will be faithful. His ultimate desire is to grow in us a heart of obedience and devotion, because when we are obedient to God’s commands, it is a picture of our own love for God (John 14:15).

Here is when we often fail to understand God’s faithfulness. We have to realize that God’s faithfulness doesn’t hinge on our earthly assumptions of Him or our circumstances. The way God proves Himself faithful is through the fulfillment of His covenants, His promises. Therefore, while fundraising we need to learn to separate our hope of receiving our wants from the actual promised covenants of God. There is a vast gulf of difference between the two. If we put our understanding of God’s faithfulness in our assumptions, then we will always be frustrated and disappointed.

Understand that every path God leads us down, including raising support, is designed for us to witness and be shaped by His passionate love—thank goodness God didn’t put us into Hosea’s shoes! Therefore, God remains faithful even when support runs low. He remains faithful even when deadlines pass. He remains faithful when the money comes quickly and we leave sooner than expected. If we understand this, then our world will not be rocked and God’s faithfulness questioned when our expectations of what we think He should be doing aren’t met. Use the support-raising journey to grow in this truth and allow God to break you in order for God to fully use you. Because if you continue to be obedient, God will certainly use you.

  1. Notice how God is faithfully guiding your support-raising journey no matter the path and receive His love.
  2. Praise God that He is faithful to keep His promises.

God is Our Strength: Our Continued Promise on the Support-Raising Journey

 

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28 (NIV)

Jason and I sat helpless in the hospital room in North Carolina where our ten-year-old son had been in-and-out of for three weeks. His symptoms were gradually getting worse, and as the days wore on, the doctors had more questions than answers for his condition. The more tests they ran, the less everything made sense. At that same time, Jason was making phone calls to some of our biggest supporters to reconnect with them and to let them know how to be praying, only to find out that each of them had changing household circumstances. That meant that in the first three phone calls we found out we were losing a big chunk of our support. Here we were sitting in a hospital room. Our medical bills were climbing, our support-account was dwindling, and two weeks prior to my son’s hospitalization, I had felt God’s leading to turn in my notice at the mission agency where I was working to help fill the shortfall of our support account.

Even if it were out of well-meaning intentions, if someone would’ve quoted Philippians 4:13 or Isaiah 40:29-31 to me at the time, I would’ve either cried or punched them—preferably only the former. I was exhausted, broken and confused. God’s strength felt elusive to me. However, I think that’s the problem with how we define God’s strength. His strength isn’t a “feeling” like you get with a caffeinated shot of espresso that wakes us up so we you can motor through our circumstances. It’s a promise that we have to claim, especially when we’re weary and worn out from life’s struggles. His strength rests in our eternal hope, not our immediate circumstances.

When you’re doing God’s work, whatever it looks like, you’re on the playing field taking direct shots from the enemy. No matter how short or long you’ve been on the support-raising journey, it’s certain you’ll have times when you’ll feel like you can no longer go on. Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Only when we’re still during the raging storm (Psalm 46:10) are we somehow bolstered by an unnatural strength that’s not our own.

I made it through that difficult season of my life. I literally cried out to God many consecutive nights and fasted until I was weak. However, somehow finding His strength when I had absolutely none of my own, drew me closer to Him. That is the same hope for you.

  1. Allow yourself to be real with God and tell Him how you really feel about everything you’re going through.
  2. Take the time to be still and discover a strength that’s not your own.

God is Full of Grace and Mercy: And This Truth Can Even Be Displayed While Raising Support

 

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:1-17 (NIV)

We have never been to heaven. We’ve learned about it in Scripture, discussed the hope of it, and some people have even written books to give us a taste of its greatness. There is an electrifying expectancy, knowing that one day God’s people will walk into a land where praise is the adorning jewel to perfection. Jesus stepped out of this perfect beauty into the filth of this dying world to become one of us. He willingly paid the price for our death and conquered it so we could live in that perfection.

This is the same God who washed the dirty feet of the disciples.

If you don’t get this example of such incredible humility, then it will be hard for you to even begin to fathom the depth of God’s grace and mercy and to live in it while raising support. We are nothing. Our fallen character swells our egos as we listen to Satan’s lies, telling us that we on our own are greater than who we really are. We are nothing. Sadly, we are selfish by nature, demanding attention, fighting for our right to be heard, and whining if someone else gets noticed over us. We are nothing. Sin is the core that drives us, blinds us, and destroys us.

Here is the beautiful message of God’s grace and mercy—We are nothing, yet the completed, triune God wanted a relationship with His fallen creation. Jesus, in all His glory, obeyed His Father’s command to step out of the heavenly realm to be the sacrificial Lamb for our sins. In that one act, we who are absolutely nothing and have no desire to pursue God on our own, are chosen by Him and are crowned with royal righteousness, not by our own might, strength or goodness, but by His glorious grace.

We are in a battle against this truth. The verses—in humility think others better than yourself (Phil 2:3), be humble and bear with one another in love (Eph 4:2), in humility God will lift you up (Jas 4:10), the last will be first (Matt 20:16)—clashes with our old self-righteous rags we still like to wear in this fallen world. Christ, who is God in the flesh, took the lowly position of a servant to demonstrate how we are to love and serve one another, and He stated, “no servant is greater than his master” (16). With these words, we have no grounds to hold our egos over anyone else, for even Jesus served His betrayer. With Jesus’ actions as a servant, our smugness should be wiped right out of us, because He is the King. We are all vile, arrogant, and whiney, and God has given us unearned keys to His Kingdom.

Therefore, God did not choose you because you showed the greatest potential to grow your ministry with the next brilliant idea, or because you excelled in Bible college while graduating top of your class, or even because you have shown a whimsical knack for puppetry. Apart from Him, you offer absolutely nothing to God that He cannot do for Himself. But He CHOSE you. He took DELIGHT in you. The very Sustainer of life BESTOWED you with gifts to serve and glorify Him. That is grace. And this knowledge should bring us to our knees in worship.

I’m painting such a stark contrasting picture to help you translate this truth into your support-raising journey and throughout your ministry. Jesus’ foot washing example is not just for special ministry moments set with dim lights, a half-empty washbasin, and awkward side-glancing silence. Day-by-day, with every breath, we are to live the truth of this grace out. The support-raising journey is a chance to figuratively wash people’s feet. God has opened the door for you to step into people’s lives and connect them with God Almighty and to invite them into His work. This isn’t the time to celebrate you and how great you are. You have a story to tell of how God is working in you, a humble story of how you are being used by God’s grace and mercy.

What are you going to choose to focus on during this time?

  1. Praise God that He is using you for His kingdom purposes.
  2. Tell others your story of God’s amazing grace and mercy in your life.

God is Holy: Which Comes Before Our Efforts on the Support-Raising Journey

 

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written” ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)

The further our culture gets from God, it seems the less we, even the Church, are in awe of His holiness—the kind of crying out where we declare our unworthiness when we encounter God like the prophet Isaiah did as he saw the LORD seated on His throne. Instead, we’ve made the holiness of the King of all kings tepid and have painted a picture of a God who is so tolerant of sin that He would never condemn anyone to eternal punishment. The reality is, God is perfectly righteous and His wrath will be poured out on all unrighteousness. Simply to be in His presence should cause us to fall down in awe in reverence, never leaving us the same.

If God weren’t holy, then we wouldn’t have needed the sinless sacrifice of His Son. Before the Apostle Peter repeats God’s calling for us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16), he paints a picture of a loving God who showed great mercy in order for those who have faith to have new birth into a living hope, an eternal inheritance that will never spoil. With this gift there is no more separation from our loving God. He made us holy—not to the point of holding wrath and judgment in our hands—but to the place of being set apart. To live out of this gift, we are called to put aside our evil desires and live as holy strangers in this world. This gives us an eternal perspective, which allows us to endure anything we encounter.

1 Peter 1:15 says we are to be holy in ALL that we do. This is a convicting statement as people venture out onto the support-raising journey where the pursuit of money reigns and has the potential to make Christians not only act worldly but to experience undue stress. But what does it mean to be holy on this journey? First, we must understand that God has placed us on this journey for a reason. Having to raise support is not a mistake. This time is God-ordained as an intentional way for us to share our stories of what our awesome God has done in our lives. That change in perspective often changes our attitude. We can freely set aside our panic, burden, and overall feeling of being overwhelmed and simply rest in His presence.

Just like when Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me,” we, too, should take the time to encounter God in his holiness and be stirred into action by the God who loved us enough to pursue a relationship with us. He is asking us to be set apart, to be different, even on the support-raising journey. This is more than just a change in action, but a change of heart as we fall to our knees in awe of our awesome God. Let this thought guide every conversation and meeting you have. If we miss this opportunity on the support-raising journey, then this time becomes just an arduous task instead of an avenue to talk about our holy God. Let’s take our conversations and make them pleasing to God. My prayer for you is that by living as holy on this journey, you will keep an eternal perspective so that you can endure anything that comes your way.

  1. How is this thought of God being holy going to change your support-raising journey?
  2. Take time to encounter our holy God.

God is Patient: As He Holds the Whole Support-Raising Journey in His Hands

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some count slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)

I have lain awake sometimes literally fearing that God would not use me. My heart so yearns for the people around me and those where I’ll be in future ministries to know Jesus that I fear, if I don’t get to places quick and start telling people about Christ, then they would never know Jesus before they die. This is obviously a silly thought probably magnified by a half-sleepy mind in the wee morning hours, but so often we run our support-raising journey in this frenzied, must-hurry-up-and-be-used state. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be used right now in the places that God calls us—after all, He did call us to go!— but, when it drives our state of mind while raising support, it can cause us to be impatient, and with impatience comes frustration, and with frustration comes a doubting spirit.

So, the question becomes—what drives your support-raising journey? What drives this journey will shape your conversations, reactions, and even your peace of mind. The rut we often get into, and it’s even emphasized in many Christian organizations, is thinking that, since money is the obstacle for our immediate use and there is a great need for us wherever it may be, then this is what becomes the force that drives us. Get it now, get it quick, and go, go, go.

However, did you catch the personalization of 1 Peter 1:9—He is patient with you. With YOU! Peter didn’t write: He is patient with the rest of the world because they need Christ until we, Christians, hurry up and get there to save people before the day of the Lord comes. His patience is personalized. He is growing you to be mature in Him, and then we get to be used with far-reaching impact. A mature person who takes the time to recognize God at work right where they are has far greater effect than one who just hurries through the process just so they can be used.

Think of raising support as a journey of faith that strips everything away so you can watch your heavenly Daddy perform great things in order to grow you. For some the initial thrust is shorter than others, but either way, it’s an incredible stage to watch His greatness. Patience doesn’t mean we stop working toward our goals and just sit to wait to see what happens, it means we rest in Him for the outcome of our labor. Thank goodness He is patient enough to mold a wretch like me into a jewel to be used for His glory!

  1. Let the awesome reality of God’s use of you sink in, and then praise Him for His patience as He grows you for His purposes.
  2. Shift your focus off the money and onto Christ so you can rest in Him.