10 things I have learned living by faith without a fixed income for 10 years
My husband and I have been missionaries in Peru now for 10 years. Before moving here we sold our car which bought the furniture for our rented house, had 3 monthly supporters which didn’t cover our monthly costs and stepped out in faith. Over the past ten years God has provided for us in many different ways. We now have supporters and supporting churches from three different continents, but one thing remains: our promised monthly support is around 50% of our monthly budget, so every month we get to see God do something miraculous! (More fun to put it that way round, right?!)
I would be lying if I told you that I have never had a - ‘oh, my goodness, are we still meant to be in Peru because our bank balance overdraft is drawing to an end!’ - moment more than once. I would be lying if I told you that I never worry about our finances. Every month when I total up the numbers and there is a deficit I have to draw a big breath in and remember - God has provided every single day and every single month we have been here for the past 10 years. He hasn’t told us to move on yet, so I just need to hang tight. He will come through before the money is needed.
So that brings me to the first thing I have learned:
1. God doesn’t promise to provide for tomorrow today. He also doesn’t promise to provide in the way you want Him to.
I believe it was Paul Maconochie, our church pastor when we were in Sheffield, UK, who encouraged us with this one. And it can reduce a lot of stress. There are many times I am tempted to worry about how I am going to pay something next week when there are still 7 days for God to provide. Also sometimes I may desire God to provide in a specific way (send money, Lord!) when instead He sends shopping bags or an offer of help in some other way. Honestly, how many of our money stresses are failing to follow Jesus’ simple advice: don’t worry about tomorrow.
2. There are seasons of fruitfulness.
This is one my sister taught me. You can read about it here if you didn’t catch it last week. Basically just because our finances are troubled right now doesn’t necessarily mean we are doing something wrong. It may just mean that this isn’t the season of fruitfulness, but rather a season of sowing. Take a step back and look at your finances and ask yourself - are you in a season of reaping or sowing right now? I have no idea why it works like this but we can have months with no extra giving and then in just one week we will get several gifts come through.
2. You can’t outgive God.
Sometimes we seem to forget that God has access to unlimited resources and we look at what we have in our account and think: that’s our lot. When actually God is incredibly creative in providing for us when we step out in faith.
3. The Holy Spirit can guide all of your spending if you let Him
When you live not knowing how much money is going to come in and when you have a choice. You can either make decisions based on what you know and can control (or have to take out lots of credit), or you can begin to develop a relationship where you ask the Holy Spirit to guide your spending and spend by faith. This applies to all areas of our spending (from developing a budget to shopping at the cornershop) but I’ll give you a practical example. When I am buying things online for homeschool or things like vitamins for teams to bring down, I will go through my Amazon cart and bring each item before the Lord and see if I have a peace in my heart or not about each item. If I don’t have peace then it gets deleted or saved for later. I still remember a book I was convinced we would need several years ago and I ignored the ‘no’ from the Holy Spirit and we still have not used it!
4. There is grace for the mistakes
Now I may still be beating myself up about the book I bought disobediently, but God has long forgotten that! It can be easy to think that God is a Father waiting to say: ‘I told you so!’ when we make a mistake but that is not true! Yes God wants us to include Him in our spending so we can make wise decisions and prosper but He also wants to help us out when we mess up - whether that is just buying too many clothes that were on sale or buying too many things on credit cards. The key here is for God’s grace to cover our mistakes so we don’t repeat them, we have to repent - actually reflect on and identify our spending errors and then make a plan to do things differently from now on. For example, I try to have a list before I go to the mall so I don’t buy things off the list. If I see something I think I need I will try and not buy it then, but see if I still think I need it a week later (most of the time I don’t!).
5. When everything starts breaking down, it is often a sign of breakthrough
One of the things we have noticed in our house is that when things start breaking down or we start experiencing spiritual attacks on our finances, then often breakthrough is just around the corner. So now we actually laugh and start thanking God that His provision is on the way when things start to break down!
6. There are times to communicate and there are times to trust
This point refers specifically to fundraising for us. There are times when the Holy Spirit encourages us to communicate our needs or fundraise for something and there are times when God has called us to not tell anyone and to just trust that He will provide. A huge example of this was when we finally found ourselves $18,000 short after Brexit exchange rates suddenly dropping when we were buying the building for our church. You can read all about that story of God’s miraculous provision by clicking for part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here!
7. Having a vision and a budget is freeing even when you have no idea how the money is going to come.
When Mark and I first moved to Peru we used to have an argument every day over what we were going to eat for lunch. It was exhausting and annoying. I wanted to make a meal plan but Mark didn’t want to be tied down to one. Eventually we tried out the meal plan and haven’t gone back since. I can be totally flexible with it, but having a meal plan has eliminated the arguments and stress and tired conversations of ‘what are we going to eat today? No I don’t fancy that…’! Similarly with our money, I thought that having a strict detailed budget would be restrictive but it is actually freeing! If I know we have a budget of $50 / £30 a month to spend on clothes for the family then I don’t feel guilty about buying the kids some new t-shirts to replace the ones with holes and stains! If I know we have a budget of $100 /£70 a month towards rest and relaxation time as a family then we can decide how it is spent within the freedom of those limits. That means we don't feel guilty about spending time as a family away from our ministry and work. I can see now how budgets can bring freedom rather than restrictions!
8. Know how much you need and pray it in specifically!
The other great thing about keeping a record of your spending and knowing your budget each month is that then you can pray specifically for the difference. We will often tell our kids: okay, boys, we are praying that God would provide $500 this month - let’s pray for that! So we do and God answers!
9. Don’t give for the wrong motives or out of compulsion.
We live in a country where there is a lot of need and over the years we have been asked regularly for help or donations. I take seriously Jesus’ command: ‘give to those who ask of you and do not turn away those who are in need’ (Matt 5:42), but I also try and ask God in each case how much we should be giving and what.
Sometimes when you sit down with people who think they need a certain about of money they actually need less and just need help reframing their circumstances and finances.
Sometimes we offer people work around the house in exchange for some money. Other times the person is just being lazy and doesn’t want to work or has been too proud to accept a job they would prefer not to do, and actually the kindest thing is to give them a meal and encourage them to get back to work!
People have asked us for loans and sometimes you know they are unlikely to be able to pay them back but the amount they are asking for is just too much to give to them and so you have to find a compromise.
If I start to feel manipulated into giving then I take a step back and really ask God what I am meant to be giving. When I give, however, if it is someone who I am not discipling, I leave it with the person and God how they end up spending the money. And if someone comes to the door asking for money I will often give them food goods instead.
10. Past testimonies are important.
Every month when I look at the lack going forward I have to keep reminding myself that God has been faithful for 10 years and He will continue to be faithful! That doesn’t mean He will do things in the same way - for example, right now we have lost some of our monthly support from last year but God is giving us some creative ways to raise funds through Mark teaching online courses on discernment and prophecy (let me know if you are interested for the next round!) as well as opening new relationships. When things look extra tight and I wonder if we are going to be in trouble financially I just have to keep remembering that He has got this and His promise to us is that if we seek first His kingdom, everything else we need will come. Those past testimonies are my personal revelations of a faithful God and are important faith boosters when the enemy tries to speak lies and fear.
So what’s some of the wisdom that guides you when you are making decisions about your finances? Let me know in comments!
I'm loving Brian Simmons Passion Translation right now - many of the Bible verses in this post were taken from that version. Do check it out if you haven't already!
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