"The Blessed Life." How eagerly we seek it, and how elusive it can seem! Rare are the times when we actually reach those "ideal moments" we long for in life: sipping a piῆa colada on a tropical beach, taking a year's sabbatical to pursue a passion, or enjoying the luxury of an overflowing bank account! Far more common is the struggle to overcome, the sense that we are barely keeping up.
Lean times in my family's life caused me to look more closely at what the Bible says about the blessed life, especially concerning finances. I knew that Jesus wanted us to have "life abundantly" (John 10:10). But beyond putting Jesus first, what else was required? We are tithers, we love to give, and we had some pretty wild testimonies of God's provision already. But something felt "off." What would Jesus do if He faced lack?
All Sufficiency in All Things
In a well-quoted scripture, the Bible says that we are to have “all sufficiency in all things.” (2 Corinthians 9:8). The apostle Paul, a tentmaker, often chose to provide for himself rather than to burden those who should rightfully have supported him. (See 1 Corinthians 9, esp. v. 11 & 14). I have always believed that the “higher road” is to live this way: providing for your own needs so that your ministry is unhindered and not a burden to others (there are, after all, a huge number of deserving yet cash-poor ministries out there, as you already know. Why add to them?)
Working a steady job in order to do ministry is a noble goal. However, “tentmaking” is not the only way to do ministry. The apostle Paul also states in various letters that he wants others to receive the reward of contributing to ministry and sharing in ministry partnerships.
The Roles of Faith and Partnership in Ministry
In most modern cultures today, we celebrate independence and self-sufficiency, and frown upon dependence or “communism,” i.e., the sharing of our possessions. The Acts 4 church looks pretty scary to a selfish world. While I do not suggest we adopt Marxist ideals, I am convinced that Christians in particular are largely missing a very important principle of faith: that of a radical, interdependent life of giving and receiving.
For example, as a product of my modern culture, I buy into the deception that I should meet all of my own needs, not burdening you. This is a good and justifiable goal, until God decides to do something different! When my well-paid job is cut or my family goes through a rough stretch financially, I can no longer meet all of my needs: I no longer have “self” sufficiency in all things. It seems I have failed somehow, that God has stopped blessing me. My pride becomes wounded as I begin to require assistance from others in order to live the life He has created me to live.
Ironically, God allows situations like this in order to stretch our faith and grow partnerships. If all our sufficiency came from ourselves, where would our faith be? He deals with our pride: are we as good at receiving as we are at giving? Humility comes at personal cost! He also uses these kinds of situations to challenge the Body of Christ. The kind of power the early church has for thousands of salvations is linked to the kind of reciprocal relationships where no one says anything is his own. (Acts 4:32-35).
The True Meaning of "All Sufficiency in All Things"
The truth is that “all sufficiency in all things” refers to a sufficiency of God’s GRACE, which is expressed in various forms, not all of which are financial. Look at the scripture in context:
And God is able to make all grace
The abundance I have for every good work may be a financial overflow, or it may be the grace to be content with less. It may mean I am blessed with a good job that pays all the bills, or it may mean that God sends others to help me when things are lean. It may mean that I exchange my abundance of zucchini for your abundance of tomatoes, so that we can both make dinner.
In fact, at one point Jesus needed to make dinner for 5000 people. (See Luke 9). All that was available to Him were 5 loaves of bread and two fish. How did Jesus deal with lack? He blessed the little He had, broke it, and gave it. Because He trusted God with the blessing, the little that He had was supernaturally multiplied until it became sufficient for all.
The point is that as I abide in Christ, God makes all kinds of graces available to me. He may give me the grace to cope with struggles or lack. Or He might impart the grace to abound financially for a time. The blessed life is not a life free of financial troubles, but a grace-filled life of trusting dependence on God. (More on that here.)
Walking through times of lack are never fun, but it does become filled with examples of God’s grace that abounds to us so that we have “all sufficiency in all things.” Because of what we have experienced, I have a little book full of testimonies of God's supernatural provision for our family - a book that would not exist, had we always been "self-sufficient!"
Here are some of my entries:
All of these things were amazing in their own right. None of them happened because I was “self-sufficient in all things.” All of them happened because God’s grace gave me the sufficiency I needed at the time. (To read more on this topic, click here.)
Although it has been hard at times, I have been the recipient of God’s grace in what can only be called “Body ministry.” I have learned, slowly, that giving is not only financial. That my giving will at times be in the form of a service or a ministry rather than a check. That God will use my family’s struggles to challenge others to give, so that all of us get to share in the blessing and the joy that generosity brings. That God does not always require the recipient to “pay back” a gift; He often reimburses the giver from another source.
As in Paul’s time, we may not always see churches that excel in this kind of giving. But like Paul, I believe there is a “fruit that abounds to your account” when you are generous. (See Philippians 4:16-19). It is more blessed to give than to receive!
I may not have millions to give, but I have something. I give of that "something" until God gives me something else! As I trust God, my needs are met - even if by unusual means. And what I give may be the very thing that someone else needs in order to have “all sufficiency in all things.”
© Deborah Perkins / His Inscriptions
Deborah Perkins is passionate about restoring life-giving communication with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions.com. A seasoned ministry professional, she enjoys life with her hubby, three sons, seven chickens and one sleepy cat in New England. To contact her directly, please click here.
Free Link to the Subscriber Resource Library when you join His Inscriptions!
A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.