In March 2016, I was working in my makeshift office (what used to be our oldest daughter’s bedroom) when the Lord spoke. There wasn’t an audible voice – but it was so clear it might as well have been.
“Mark, I am the provider.”
“Yes, Lord, I know you are a good provider and you have taken care of us over the years.”
“Mark, I am the provider.”
“Yes, Lord. You are our provider.”
All too similar to Jesus asking Peter if he loved him, God said a third time, “Mark, I am THE provider.”
Then it hit me. He was telling me that He wasn’t just a good provider. He was saying that He is the one and only provider. It was a call to live my life completely different. In humility, submission, and dependence in everything.
A change in identity
One of the roles and identities that I held was that of provider. Provider for myself, my wife, my kids, my employees, etc. I started working at age 12 with a paper route and for the most part have had a job – or three – continually since then. I’ve always been a hard worker, willing to do what it took to make the money needed. I have started and run a few businesses. Never did I make a lot of money but enough to be a decent provider.
Being a provider was something that was measurable and I could do relatively well. As a bonus, it felt good to be a provider. I had people dependent upon me, and there is a certain ego boost that goes along with that role.
But that day, the Lord was removing part of my identity. He was telling me that He and He alone is the provider. No longer was I to operate in that role. This was not necessarily a nice revelation. In fact, I’ve had to struggle through the process of releasing and increasing my dependence. The biggest struggle has probably been humility.
It has taken a few years for me to learn how to walk in complete dependence on Him. There are still days that I think I want to take back that control and be a provider again, but really I don’t.
4 new principles to live by
In starting Blue Fire Legacy, the Lord gave us four principles with regard to finances:
1. No debt
2. No regular employment – the ministry is to be our first priority and full-time endeavor
3. Don’t charge for services
4. Don’t beg
We’ve had various comments when telling people about these four requirements. The general response is along the lines of, “Well, that kind of puts you in a tight spot” or “Then how do you pay your bills?”
The first principle of no debt is relatively easy and comfortable. We spent the first 23 years of our marriage carrying some level of debt, and for many of those years, way too much debt. I had become a master at the zero interest credit card game. If we wanted to buy something and didn’t have the money, we could always borrow it and pay it later. Much like most Americans today.
In 2012, we started the process of paying down debt using the principles taught by Dave Ramsey. With the sale of the business in November 2015, we were able to pay off almost all of the debts that we had. The rest were paid off when we sold our house in August 2016. After years of being slaves to the lenders, we are more than happy to never go back in debt.
The uncomfortable part of no debt is the inconvenience often caused by not using a credit card. We have to be aware of how much money is in the account before pulling out the debit card to pay for things. This would be easier with a regular income and buffer funds, but in our situation – void of such, it requires more planning and great dependence on the Lord.
No regular employment
The second principle of no regular employment sounded really nice as well. Previously, we had always worked regular jobs along with ministry positions. This worked well economically since the ministries rarely paid much, if anything. The downside was having to balance a job with ministry needs and demands. To think that we could focus only on ministry was really appealing.
The reality of paying bills on a minister’s salary, if one is even available to be paid, however, can be challenging. And in the early days of the ministry, there wasn’t enough to keep us busy full-time. So I would pick up handyman jobs or a consulting job here and there. This was okay as long as I made ministry appointments and tasks the priority and the jobs just filled in extra time.
As the ministry has grown and become a full-time commitment, there is no longer much room for these side jobs. There hasn’t been for months, really since last fall. This means that we are more dependent on the Lord and donations to the ministry than ever before.
The third principle, don’t charge for services, is great for marketing but does have a couple drawbacks. The first, obvious drawback is that we don’t have money coming into the ministry from the services provided. If you multiply the hours we spend counseling and coaching times a standard rate like Dallas used to charge in her private practice, it would be a substantial sum of money.
The second is a concept that if people don’t have anything at stake they will be less committed to the process. We have found that this is the case with very few of the clients we have worked with over the past couple years. The reality is that those we are supposed to work with are very motivated to do the work. They may not have money at stake, but they have their mental and spiritual well-being on the line, as well as the ministries they have been called to hanging in the balance. This is generally enough motivation.
The great part of not charging is that we get to come alongside people who have no financial means to be able to get the help otherwise. We have been told many times that if we charged they would not be able to see us.
The final principle, don’t beg, has been the hardest. What constitutes begging? What is the difference between making a need known and begging? These are not easy answers to obtain. We (Dallas and I, as well as our board) have spent much time discussing and debating these questions without super clear answers.
I have to admit that we have violated this principle a couple times in the process of learning what it means. When we have, the response was sufficiently poor to know that we stepped out of bounds. Fortunately the Lord is very gracious and forgiving as we stumble in our lack of understanding.
The principle of don’t beg applies to money as well as engagements. Most ministries have a fundraising program and a marketing plan to get connected with the donors and recipients of their services. I don’t believe that these programs are inherently bad or disallowed in Scripture, but for us, they are not allowed. We are completely dependent on the Lord to provide finances, clients, and speaking engagements. He often uses people who know us to provide the connections. Other times He just makes it happen through what we call “Divine appointments.”
Walking it out
As we have been walking out the reality that the Lord is THE Provider, there have been many stories worth sharing. In the coming months we will share some of the stories of His amazing provisions intertwined with our other devotional blogs. For more you can also read 5 Life Truths About God’s Provision.
The learning process has been steep and we’ve stumbled a few times along the way, but we are experiencing the Lord in amazing ways. We have grown, changed, been uncomfortable, struggled, grown some more, remained uncomfortable . . . well, you get the idea.
What about you? Has the Lord spoken to you about dependence on Him? Are you willing to give up the control and trust Him instead? I encourage you to walk out, in faith, whatever it is that He is directing you to do. Obedience is most often hard, but so worth it as we journey in relationship with Almighty God.
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