by Betty Barnett
During my early years with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), I joined a team in Mexico City passing out Bibles door-to-door. I was also asked to teach support raising to a group of missionary trainees from Guatemala – a country with very limited financial resources. Yet I believed that if God’s principles were true, then they were true worldwide, in all societies, among all peoples, in all economic situations. But those convictions were about to be tested!
So I asked God, “What is the key to support raising that applies to all people?” A word came immediately to my mind: generosity! Suddenly I understood-it was not others’ generosity toward us, but our generosity toward others that was the key. Generosity. I pondered the word and gained new understanding of the principle: An attitude of generosity purifies our motives, keeping us wanting to serve others, not wanting to be served. This keeps our hearts right before the Lord and before others, without hidden agendas of manipulation or greed.
Generosity in us also breeds generosity in others. It permeates Scripture, reflecting the heart of God. “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25, NLT). We cannot prosper in ministry with pinched hearts. Whether we come from difficult backgrounds or not, we’re to be generous as an example for people to experience the kingdom of God in action. Generosity also breaks cultural bondages that hinder giving and receiving. Therefore, I believe the “key” to keeping givers giving is directly linked to our giving to them…giving thanks, giving friendship, giving gifts, giving communication – our generosity in many forms, in different seasons.
The apostle Paul talks about seasons of plenty and seasons of want in Philippians 4, and yet he seemed to be free of those things that you and I often struggle with, such as, “I need more support…I have fear of the future if I don’t have enough support…fear of failure…” Paul was able to declare a personal freedom from these struggles when he wrote, “…I have learned to be content with whatever I have…I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” While he commended the Philippians as the only ones to send financial help to him, he clarified that he wasn’t saying this to get more from them, “Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.” He was thinking of their spiritual benefit, not primarily of his own needs. He was operating in generosity.
Oh, Lord, help us become more like Paul in learning the spiritual secret of being content, being generous in all seasons, and experiencing Your provision for us in our ministry!
Recently, I emailed my core supporters asking, “WHY have you stuck with me all these years of my ministry?” (some had been supporting me over 30 years…yikes!). Within a few hours, I was overwhelmed with responses from most of them, with repeated themes of, “We know you…we have a bond in Christ with you…we trust you and believe in God’s calling on your life and ministry…we love you….” As I consider the years of ministry partnership together with these people and how our depth of trust, friendship and commitment has grown, I realize it’s not because of the newsletters or updates I’ve sent, nor the Christmas gifts representing that year’s ministry for me, nor the thank you notes (although I’m sure they’ve all helped!)…but rather, this depth of relationship has grown over time, with personal contact, face-to-face time with most of them on a yearly basis, sharing our lives together, and praying for each other.
How do we keep givers giving? By first giving to them, by wanting their best, by having a two-way street of giving and receiving. Through that, the kingdom of God is built, extended and expanded. All of us are privileged to be partners in His work…all of us operating in generosity towards one another, with the “riches” of that spilling over into the world.