In October 2009, I gave a brief talk about God’s provision.
It was an open discussion night, held in a local restaurant / pub, and open to the general public.
The theme: "How does God provide?"
My foundational text was Psalm 23:1 – "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
As a missionary working in a developing country, the definition of want and the experience of provision is entirely different than what I would have described had I still been living in North America.
1. Biblical examples
Provision through offerings:
The Apostle Paul writes that he knows what it is like to want, to be in need, and how to live off the partnership offerings of others. In Philippians 4:10-19, Paul writes "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty."
The ministry of Jesus was partially supported by women helping out of their own means. These women had received ministry from Jesus and chose to support his work. Luke 8.3 reads "These women were helping to support them out of their own means."
Further back into the Old Testament, one sees that the priests of the temple received provision for their needs through the offerings of the people.
Nehemiah received provision for materials and supplies through the king he served.
Provision through profession:
In 2 Thess 3:6-13, Paul talks about the value of work and earning money by the labor of your hands. Sometimes, provision comes through working for someone or for yourself – receiving financial provision in exchange for labor.
Paul was a tentmaker by profession. In Acts 18, he worked in Corinth for a while as a tentmaker, in partnership with Aquila and Priscilla. "When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to the preaching" (18.3). We can speculate that someone still ran his business now that he had sufficient help.
Provision "out of the blue"
I’m not sure how to categorize this one, but two examples may help.
When Jesus was born, three Gentile wise men paid Jesus a visit, bringing expensive gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. Imagine being on the receiving end of a strange visit.
Did the parents of Jesus just win the lottery? No. It was the provision of God for their immediate relocation to another country as a political refugee. I doubt Joseph took his woodworking tools with him – he likely had to buy them again. How did they pay for transportation, for food, for lodging.
A second example is from the stories of feeding the multitudes – God multiplied the meager resources to meet a need. Unexpected provision from unexpected sources.
2. Testimonies of Others
"Faith like Potatoes" is a biographical movie of a farmer from South Africa. He had relocated there from another African country and started out completely broke. Along the way he became a Christian and the film documents some extraordinary examples of God’s provision, particularly about a potato harvest at the films end.
Biographies from Christian missions all have testimonies of God’s generous provision, often through anonymous gifts, or through intentional partnership through offerings, or through working as a tentmaker.
3. Personal Testimony
As a missionary family ourselves, we have received provision through a variety of means in 2009.
- In three months, we received nearly $30,000 out the blue for some big-ticket needs for our ministry, like a car, health insurance premiums and kids schooling.
- Cancelled bills or reduced bills
- Practical gifts for our ministry, like working laptop computers
- Regular ongoing gifts from our partners
- Offerings from the churches where we give ourselves in ministry.
- Provision from on-line presence and live seminars.
Living on partnership with you:
Pastors receive provision through the offerings from their congregations.
Non-profit ministries like PRMI receive provision through those who have been blessed by their ministry or believe in their cause.
Full-time missionaries like ourselves, are partially supported by the donations of our partners who believe in our work or partially through our own means of self-support.
We’ve known plenty (like when we earned a 6 figure income). We could generously sow into ministries and spend our money on discretionary needs. We could be the financial partner. Provision for us came through a steady corporate job before we moved to the mission field.
We’ve known want (like when our offerings for one month was only $750). We’ve carried the stress of wondering where will the next grocery money come from, how will the kids schooling get paid for, and how will we not default on our bills.
We can identify with the daily struggle of the poor with whom we work. We see provision is more ways than just financial.
Does God provide?
Does God provide through out of the blue surprises? Yes, we’ve have several examples.
Does God provide through work of our hands? Yes, we’ve got examples of that.
Does God provide through offerings? Yes, we have partners who invest in our work.