You must do your part

AUDIO VERSION

 

I need to make one more observation about the approach we were called to take to funding our ministry with Grad IV, because it bears on the story that follows:  If you are to take this approach, you must do your part.  That is, you can’t just sit back with your arms folded and expect God to send in money.  You have to earn what you can to support your enterprise.

At Dohnavur, for example, the children all worked in the fields to help grow their own food, and they also made crafts to sell to support the mission.  Amy Carmichael wrote nearly 40 books during her lifetime, primarily to share “news of God’s great works” with the wider Dohnavur family around the world.  But the royalties on her books also brought in valuable income.

In the same way, when we became volunteer staff I also did a variety of freelance work. I continued consulting with the International Bible Society (Biblica), primarily for The Books of the Bible, the edition I’d helped them create in which the biblical books are presented according to their natural literary divisions.  I also got the opportunity to consult with the American Bible Society, and through them I was introduced to the Ecclesia Bible Society and became one of the translators of The Voice Bible.  A friend introduced me to The High Calling and I wrote more than a dozen articles for their web site.  Another friend connected me with Bible Study Magazine and I wrote another half dozen articles for them.

And then Biblica Publishing asked me to write a series of companion study guides to The Books of the Bible.  Beginning with John and Genesis in the fall of 2009, they envisioned me writing six guides a year through 2013, until we had 25 guides covering the entire Bible.  For each of these I would be paid a modest advance on anticipated royalties, with perhaps more to come if the guides sold well.  So by the end of our first year volunteering with Grad IV, we felt we had a stable, if very basic, supplemental income lined up for the next several years.  I would be able to do my part.

A complementary consideration, if you are to follow the approach we were called to, is this: You must also be a good steward.  You must make prudent purchases, “do it yourself” whenever possible, and be careful not to waste.  (Even after miraculously feeding five thousand people, Jesus gathered up the leftovers!)

Priscilla was the consummate do-it-yourselfer.  Her wide-ranging talents as a handywoman and her fearlessness in tackling any project, from cutting down trees to rewiring the basement, always kept our cost of living low and our thrill level high.

Here’s just one example.  At one point we needed to replace a turn signal bulb on our car.  If you drive into a dealership service area and ask them to replace a bulb for you, with minimum shop hours and prescribed labor rates, you can be looking at $30-50 for the job.  So we decided to park outside the dealership, go in to the parts desk, purchase the bulb we needed, and try to install it ourselves.  Unfortunately they were out of stock for our model year.  “But,” the parts manager told us, “if you’ll pull out the old bulb, I’m sure I can match it to something we have here.”  This took some finagling, but Priscilla eventually figured out how to get it out.  She went back into the dealership with it and after some time she returned, a smile spreading over her face.  The parts manager had matched our old Toyota bulb with a new Lexus one!  And Priscilla had said to him, “You’re going to give us a really good deal on this, aren’t you?”  The smile was because, in response, he’d sold us the $10.00 part for $2.99.

But so long as you’re doing your part, and you’re being a good steward, because your enterprise legitimately has the first claim on your time and energy, you can count on God to provide everything it needs that you cannot.

For Halloween 2008 the six InterVarsity chapters that were then active on the Michigan State campus cooperated to put on a big party for nearly a hundred international students, who were always eager to participate in American cultural celebrations.  Each chapter was responsible for one activity.  Grad IV was assigned to lead the pumpkin carving, and we were asked to provide 40 large pumpkins so that teams of 2-3 people could work together creating jack-o-lanterns.

At retail prices those pumpkins would have cost several hundred dollars, and neither we nor Grad IV had that kind of money.  So Priscilla approached the managers of the three largest grocery stores in our area and asked them to donate.  They all replied that they were open to doing this, but only when they thought that no more of the pumpkins they’d ordered in for the holiday might still sell.  So we’d have to wait until very close to the date of our event, which was Halloween itself, to see what happened.

It will be recognized that this strategy, by its very design, ruled out any possibility of a Plan B.  If no pumpkins were donated, this would be because they had all sold out, and so none could then be purchased, no matter how much money we might have.  But God gave us faith to trust and wait expectantly.

Two days before Halloween, one manager felt safe giving us 15 pumpkins.  On Halloween day, a few hours before our event was to begin, the other two managers donated over 30 more.  So in the end we had more than enough!

We’d also been asked to show the international students how to carve a pumpkin.  Priscilla was very skillful at this so we asked her to do the demonstration.  She realized that if she did it with a knife, it would take so long that little time would be left for the students to carve their pumpkins.  So she brought along her jig saw and created a jack-o-lantern in what had to be record time.  Our international friends then had a grand time carving and showing off their own creations.

Priscilla carves a pumpkin with a jigsaw.

Author: endlessmercies

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister and served local churches as a pastor for nearly twenty years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School. Dr. Smith answers questions about the Bible, particularly those that arise from the use of his study guides, at goodquestionblog.com.

3 thoughts on “You must do your part”

  1. “It will be recognized that this strategy, by its very design, ruled out any possibility of a Plan B.”

    Chris, this reminds me of a sermon of yours I heard many, many years ago. (Perhaps you can remember the exact context.) You said, “Prayer is Plan A for the Church. There is no Plan B.” This gem has stayed with me over the years, bringing me countless instances of encouragement, hope, and self-conviction.

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    1. I remember saying that, too, though I’d have to dig out the exact context. When we follow God into situations where there is no Plan B, like the Israelites with the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them we are likely to see God do great things. God, of course, needs no Plan B.

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