Faith or Foolishness?

May 14, 2010 | President's Slice
By Joe Hale

Recently I asked the director of one of our newer schools to tell me what the school really needs to take its “next step” and move to the next level.  This was in light of the effort of our Development Department to raise funds for that growing school.  The answer came back:  “20 million dollars.” On one hand, I had to chuckle, as this seemed like quite a chunk of change for a “next step,” especially considering the reality that the single largest gift ever received by NICS is $100,000.  Yet there’s something in me that says “you go, guy!” to this director.  Though it could be argued that the goal is impractical, unattainable, and would only result in disappointment, I wonder if we sometimes miss out on God’s blessing because we so want man to see us as successful, so we just assume that God would only do that which is reasonable to us.

Was this director’s answer faith or foolishness?  There is a fine line between the two!  Is $20 million more than God can afford?  Of course not.  I’m also aware, however, that if we took this same approach across our network of schools, each director defining their “next step” in this manner, the total need of the ministry right now would be approximately $400 million.  Did I mention the largest gift we’ve ever received is $100,000?

So, what are we to do?  How should we pray?  Should we attempt another fund-raiser, announcing our need of $400 million?  What if only $25,000 comes in (again)?  Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if God would just give us the amount that He wants us to trust Him for, and then supply that exact amount!  Ah, then we (or God?) wouldn’t be set up to look bad!  The faith-life is just not like that, is it?

In light of these questions, here are a few thoughts which are important to consider:

1. God is unpredictable and full of surprises.  God takes joy in doing things in a way that makes our jaws drop.  Think of the children of Israel facing the Red Sea, wondering how God was going to keep His promise of protecting them, when suddenly the sea starts to part! Or the “what in the world is this?” from the children of Israel as manna appeared.  Or “let’s see how far this sack lunch can go!” God loves to meet our needs in ways that we don’t expect.
2. God does expect us to give our all.  I remember when our first school had a great need ($50,000), which seemed to me like $50 million back in those days.  I called churches, trying to find 25 churches that could give $2,000 each!  “Not a bad plan,” I thought, but I ended up with a two-thousand dollar phone bill and one commitment of $2,000.  Then the phone call came from the home office, telling me that one person (a farmer from Iowa) sent a gift of $50,000!  Were my plans and effort wrong?  I don’t think so.  I believe God is pleased to see us make every effort to do our part; there’s no merit in laziness.  However, at the end of the day, He gives us what He wants us to have, and He gives it to us in His own way.
3. We should earnestly seek the heart of God regarding our needs.  As best we can, we need to discern the difference between our wants and our needs.  This is not so easy, and individuals may come up with differing answers.  For example, my answer for “next step” needs for the school mentioned earlier and the director’s $20 million answer differ.  I don’t see this as a problem.  We’re all gifted differently.  I would never ask that director NOT to pray for $20 million if God has put that on his heart.  At the same time, I’m praying for what God has put on my heart.
4. We must believe that God is able.  If we had the tiniest grip on the amount of God’s riches, surely we’d know that there’s little difference between $20 million and $20,000 in His storehouse.  It is His ultimate wisdom that knows what is best for us, what we really need, and how well we can be good stewards of what He supplies.  The only time that God takes joy in withholding something from us is when it accomplishes in us “His good pleasure.” He just knows what is best for us… ah, what a comfort!
5. We joyfully accept and become good stewards of God’s gifts as He supplies them.  We are not to be stewards of what He has not given us.  I’ve often said, “If I read in the paper of one more donor giving another $50 million to Harvard, I’m going to croak!” I’ve often asked the Lord why He has not given NICS donors who give on this level who could see what we’re doing and invest in Kingdom work that really makes an impact on the world for Christ!  It’s paramount to saying, “God, you could really help your own cause out here, if you would.”
And I continue to pray for that, and God continues to supply as He sees fit in His infinite wisdom.  To date, we still await that first million-dollar donation.  So, is God not faithful?  Just the opposite!  Should I stop praying for this?  No!

A couple of years ago, God clearly put it on my heart to assess the financial needs of the NICS ministry, looking at every school’s needs, the needs of the home office, and the needs related to expansion.  The total added up to $25 million.  In reality, the need might be much greater than that, but as best I could see, that was close to the actual, present needs for each school to take a “next step” in expansion and growth.  I have no idea how God is going to provide our needs, but I continue to pray, and ask you to join me that God will, in His great sovereignty, and in His wonderful own way, bring resources to this ministry that will allow us to touch the world for His glory!  Is that faith or foolishness?  In my quiet little corner, I continue to ask God for a $25 million miracle.  Shhhhh!  (someone might think I’m a fool)
 

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