Following Jesus requires holding tension.
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly lest you be like him.”
“Answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 26:4-5)
“Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3)
Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Two crucial components of mission-minded money appear to contradict one another. As people with a mission, we’re called to take risks with our money. At the same time, building liquidity (access to cash) is vital so that we have the flexibility to do what God is calling us to do.
This is a tension.
How can I take risks while sitting on a pile of money?
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Knowing the Seasons
Missions seem to come in waves.
You’ll be living your life minding your own business when suddenly you hear a call. Jesus invites you to lay something down or step into something new.
It sounds scary.
It might sound impossible.
Hopefully, you decide to say “yes” and step into the story God is writing through your life.
After a time, life stabilizes. What once seemed risky, now seems like normal life. Often this is because the risks of the move were more perceived than real. If not, you begin to reap the provision God promises you and you recognize his care for you.
Jesus’ ministry was one of knowing what season he was in. For a time, he went only to the Jews. Then he recognized a time to go to Samaria and the Gentiles. For a time, he told people not to tell others who he was. Then he rode in a Messianic parade. For a time, he taught his disciples. Then he sent them out.
A Narrow Road- Two Ditches
If we don’t take time to recognize the season that we’re in we can fall into one of two ditches. We might try to live a life of all risk all the time. We might if we’re not at constant risk of financial demise, we must not be walking in God’s plan for us.
This ditch is the result of pride and self-absorption. We think we’re so indispensable to the kingdom that if “I’m not on mission, the kingdom won’t come.” As if the Kingdom is dependent on our work for it to expand.
We have to remember that God is always on the move. We just get invited to help.
On the other side of the coin, we must remember that we are called to do good works that God prepared in advance for us to do. We’re not called to EVERY good work. Some things are simply not our call.
Sometimes we must enter a period of waiting.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t things for us to do. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have work to do in us. Paul says, “I’ve learned what it is to have much, and I’ve learned what it is to have plenty.” (Philippians 4:12)
If Paul was on mission. (Try to argue that he wasn’t). Why would Paul have ever had much? Perhaps even Paul had seasons of waiting, seasons between risks. Jesus “often retreated to quiet places to pray” (Luke 5:16).
However, we can get used to the quiet place and miss the call to reengage risk when it’s time. We get used to the money being there. We get used to the comfy savings account and we cling to it, instead of deploying it.
This is still pride. It’s self-preservation. It’s the idea that “I need to be safe.” Faith is the certainty of things unseen. (Hebrews 11:1)
To leave a season of plenty behind to step into the unknown is the call of every Christian.
Keeping in Step with the Spirit
“If we live by the spirit, we should keep in step with the spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
A living vibrant relationship with the living Jesus Christ is crucial to determine whether we’re in a season of mission or in a season of waiting.
When you find yourself with extra cash, instead of spending it, locking it up in real estate equity or retirement accounts, or even giving it away willy-nilly, prayerfully consider what the cash is for.
It could be that it’s time for you to buy a new dryer. (We need a new dryer)
It’s possible it’s time for you to contribute a little more to your retirement account.
It could be time for you to give to other mission-minded organizations or individuals.
But it could also be cash that God plans on using six months from now.
We should constantly scan the horizon to see if a season of mission is coming.
Sometimes while we’re on mission God tells us it’s time to pull up stakes.
Sometimes the mission has run its course.
The sermon on the mount eventually ended. Jesus’ crowd disappeared after he preached some tough sermons. Jesus’ life eventually ended (then subsequently began again). Paul left Rome and Ephesus and Corinth etc.
These seasons are difficult. Sometimes God calls us into things and they don’t pan out. Sometimes they’re just over.
What do we do with that?
Was I wrong about the mission?
Did I miss the call?
Did I do it wrong?
We should certainly take time to review our actions. Ultimately, we have to remember that Jesus is Lord. He can tell us to stop doing things as much as he can tell us to do them.
The mission isn’t always about the mission. Sometimes there are things God wants to do IN us instead of THROUGH us.
Many mission-minded believers are guilty of continuing the mission well past its season under the auspice of “faith”. Burnt-out pastors, decaying churches, and unfunded nonprofits don’t recognize the lack of liquidity and cash for what it is: the seasons changing.
If our aim is to please the Master we must continually ask “Is this still the game? Is this still the mission? Or do you have something else for me to do?”.
Here are three ways you can pay attention to the seasons:
- Notice your money balances- When you get a raise or a windfall of cash instead of immediately thinking about how you’ll spend it or even deploy it. Pause. Is this a sign of a new season? It might be or it might not be, but when the winds of your finances shift is a good time to ask this question. If no matter what you do you can’t seem to get the funding you need. Maybe God is trying to tell you something. Maybe there’s a new mission.
- Spiritual direction- I can’t speak highly enough about spiritual direction as a discipline. An outside perspective is invaluable when discerning seasons. While I’m a proponent of formal spiritual direction, even getting lunch with a mentor or spiritual mother or father once a month can give you someone to reflect back to you on what they see God doing in your life.
- Pay attention to your emotions- How is the mission making you feel? Do you feel energized? Or are you irritated, annoyed, or disgruntled? We shouldn’t serve our emotions. God can teach us through uncomfortable circumstances. But ignore these emotions at your own peril. Emotions serve as an idiot light, telling us to look around and ask why we’re doing what you’re doing. Is it still God? Or are you being stubborn?
We should be ready and eager to do every good work. That’s why liquidity is so important. As Christians, we don’t want to miss an opportunity to serve Jesus because we’ve locked wealth away in barns (read: your 401k).
We also don’t want to fight a battle Jesus isn’t fighting.
What kind of season are you in?
Is it time to maintain liquidity or get on a mission?