by Kathi Pelton
Today I was reminded of the story in John 6 of the boy who offered his lunch (loaves and fish) to the Lord. It is such a beautiful example of what God can do with our offering.
“‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost. ‘ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” John 6:9-14
The offerings that we bring often feel insignificant compared to the great need that is before us. But when all that we have (both small and large) is placed into the Lord’s hands, He blesses it and multiplied it to feed the multitudes. Not only that—there is always more than enough with leftovers that exceed the original offering. In this story the boy who offered his lunch not only still ate and was “filled” but I believe that this increase was counted to his credit! Not only were the people’s hunger satisfied but the miracle of multiplication revealed Jesus to the masses. They believed!
This seemingly small act of faith on the part of this boy brought increased fruitfulness not only for him but for the multitudes. It is still revealing Jesus today and increasing the faith of those who merely have “a lunch” to offer.
My husband and I have been in full-time ministry for many years. The majority of our time in ministry we have been supported by those who the Lord prompted to support us financially. On an emotional level this was a hard adjustment for us when we started on that path. We had been used to being the ones who supported others and suddenly needed to be supported. When God called us to live in another country to oversee a house of prayer, we had to “go” and trust that the Lord would bring generous givers to surround our lives as we gave our “yes” to His call. We quickly had to learn absolute trust and thanksgiving in times of plenty and times of hunger.
Throughout the years of living upon the support of others (amazing and beautiful people!), we had to come to terms with the truth that Paul speaks of in Philippians 4 regarding his own ministry and support, when he writes, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”
Our hearts, like Paul’s, have always been to give our all and give our “yes” to all that the Lord asks of us (whether giving or going). Though there are times of great struggle and sacrifice, we know that He is worthy of it all. We have come to understand through these verses in Philippians 4 that the burden or weight that we often felt as people supported us was wrong thinking. Let’s look at what Paul says about those who supported him and the work he was doing,
“Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Philippians 4:14-20
God equally credits the fruitfulness of Paul’s ministry to those who stood in the place of support. Although Paul was the mouthpiece (and he was credited for that), those who offered financial support gave “an acceptable and pleasing offering to the Lord” and it was credited to them for all the fruit that came forth.
It is a partnership! One is not greater than the other because one cannot exist without the other. I live in the confident assurance that those who give are benefiting from the fruitfulness that comes from the work of those they give to. In light of this truth we all can focus on the work before us and pray for the increase of Kingdom fruitfulness; being confident that those hard working supporters are being blessed equally as much. The reward for the one who goes and the one who gives is the same!
I am sharing this because there is so much misunderstanding about this partnership and about the role of those who give and those who go. Often people hold back because they feel as though they give with no return. Or they give only a small measure because they feel as though all the fruit goes to those who are the mouthpiece or instrument of “going.” But according to Paul, he is able to “seek the fruit that was increased because of those who gave!” There must be those who plant the seed and those who water the seed. God sees both with equal importance, impact. and honor.
The one that “goes” and the one that “gives” are rewarded the same and credited for the increase of fruitfulness. Both take a posture of faith and live by faith even in two different roles.
I pray that this understanding takes the pressure off those who go and adds a blessing upon those that give. I have been in both roles; those who have given and those who have gone, and one was not above the other or more honorable than the other. No matter what role the Lord has called you to stand in; the increase of fruitfulness is credited to you. It is a pleasing sacrifice that will bring the increase of fruitfulness upon your life as well.
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