Life + Culture

The Cattle on a Thousand Hills

The Cattle on a Thousand Hills

Frustrated and angry at the task in front of me, I simply wanted to throw in the towel. Working through my list of contacts and not seeing much return, the thought of giving up was appealing like never before. No one had prepared me for how difficult support raising would be.

One of the primary methods missionaries and other vocational ministers use to receive their wages is support raising. These workers enlist the financial support of local churches and individuals. This integrated partnership provides an opportunity for the body of Christ to work in tandem in order to complete his kingdom work around the world. One goes down; the other holds the rope. That image was popularized by Andrew Fuller, who held the rope for William Carey while he served in India.

Often the thought of support raising can scare a potential worker away before ministry even begins. Much like the ten spies who returned after scouting the Promised Land, a paralyzing fear can halt gospel workers from pursuing God’s call on their lives.

How Anxiety Hamstrings Us

Even for those that have crossed the initial threshold, the process can be intimidating and fearful. While there are encouraging times, the moments of uncertainty and apprehension can dominate one’s thoughts. Not only from personal experience, but also from my interactions with others whom are actively support raising, it can be hard to trust that God will provide for our every need, when the checks or commitments are few and far between.

This spirit of anxiety hamstrings those who are actively raising support. It also deprives the church of potential workers for the harvest field, whether locally or globally. At its worst, this debilitating fear causes us to doubt that their Father really will provide for his children. This kind of challenge can be a sobering test as to where we find our ultimate satisfaction and security.

God Provides Through Poverty, Too

Jesus’ words provide us the corrective needed for those who are discouraged in support raising. Jesus puts his distressed followers at rest by saying, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Later, he concludes his most famous teaching on prayer, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).

Not only does your heavenly Father know your needs, but he also desires to give good gifts to his children. He does not wish for his laborers to suffer in anxiety, worrying that they will not have the means needed to carry out the task. His desire is that his children would see him ready to satisfy their every need. He is willing and able to provide.

However, God desires much more than providing “daily bread” for us. Famously in John 6, Jesus promises to be bread for his followers. In the stressful moments of support raising, it is easy to believe that being fully funded will fully satisfy. Yet we are promised something that greatly surpasses being completely supported financially.

In feeding the multitudes, Jesus publically displayed his power over the material world. He showed the crowds in stunning fashion that he was the source of all their physical needs. Yet even more than satisfying their hungry bellies with food, he would promise to satisfy their hungry hearts with himself. When God becomes our greatest treasure, all our deepest needs for security and comfort have been met.

Hands Open Wide to God

Especially in the West, we highly value comfort, safety, and security. Leaving a salaried career for an uncertain future cuts to the core of what we value most. These treasured idols do not leave us easily. Unforeseen obstacles quickly hinder the process, making it extraordinarily difficult. Well-intentioned parents and friends may discourage you from pursuing a ministry that requires you to raise your own financial support. Fellow believers may try to harmlessly propose alternate ministry options that eliminate vulnerability and uncertainty.

It goes against everything we’ve been taught to love. The siren call of our world beckons us to believe the promises of the American Dream. We are told to taste and see that the world is good.

Yet when we taste and see that the Lord is good, he proves to be all-satisfying. Even better than reaching full funding, God grants us the fullness of delight in our hearts. Psalm 145:19 promises, “He fulfills the desire of those who fear him.” Again in Psalm 103:5, he is the one “who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Moving Beyond the Mirage

The mirage of financial security in a “real” job should not drive our vision for ministry. The glory of God in Christ Jesus should. Spirit-empowered, kingdom-minded thinking should drive the process, not the fearful angst of the flesh.

Paul says to the Philippian church, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God promises to deliver the things that we need to accomplish his purposes. While this does not offer an unqualified guarantee of full funding in ministry, it does offer something far greater: The gracious and generous God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills will supply all your needs (Psalm 50:10).

Navigating the troubled waters of support raising is no easy task. However, resting on the omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence of God can and will carry you through it.


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