THE WORKERS AND THEIR WORK
Let us be clear that we must not only bear the burden of our own personal needs, but of the needs of the work as well. If God has called us to a certain work, then all financial outlay connected with it is our affair. Wherever we go, we are responsible for all expenses relating to it, from its inception to its close. If we are called of God to do pioneering work, though the expenses of rent, furniture, and traveling, may amount to a goodly sum, we alone are responsible for them. He is not worthy to be called God’s servant who cannot be responsible for his own needs and the needs of the work to which God has called him. Not the local church, but the one to whom the work has been committed, must bear all financial burdens connected with it.
Another point to which we must give attention is a clear discrimination between gifts intended for personal use and gifts given for the work. It may seem superfluous to mention it, and yet it needs emphasis, that no money given for the work should be used by the worker to meet his personal needs. It must either be used to defray expenses in connection with his own work, or be sent on to another worker. We must learn righteousness in relation to all money matters. If there is any lack in connection with the work, the worker must bear the burden, and if there is any surplus, he cannot divert it to the meeting of his own requirements.
When I had just begun to serve the Lord, I read an incident in Hudson Taylor’s life which was a great help to me. If I remember it correctly, this is the gist of it: Mr. Taylor was in St. Louis, U.S.A., and was due in Springfield for meetings. The carriage taking him to the station was delayed, with the result that when he arrived there the train had already left, and there seemed no possible way for him to keep his appointment. But, turning to Dr. J. H. Brookes, he said, “My Father runs the trains; I’ll be there in time.” Upon inquiry of the agent, they found a train leaving St. Louis in another direction, which crossed the line going to Springfield; but the train on the other line always left ten minutes before this train arrived, as they were opposing roads. Without a moment’s hesitation, Mr. Taylor said he would go that way, in spite of the fact that the agent told him they never made connections there. While they waited, a gentleman came to the station and handed Mr. Taylor some money. He turned to Dr. Brookes with the remark, “Do you not see that my Father has just sent me my train fare!” meaning that, even had he arrived in time for the other train, he could not have taken it. Dr. Brookes was amazed. He knew Mr. Taylor had quite a good sum of money in hand, which had been given him for his work in China, so he asked, “What do you mean by saying you had no money for your fare?” Mr. Taylor replied, “I never use anything for personal expenses that is specified for the work. The money earmarked for my own use has just come in!” For almost the first time in the history of that road the St. Louis train arrived ahead of the other, and Mr. Taylor was able to keep his appointment at Springfield!
MAKING OUR NEEDS KNOWN
As we have already said, an apostle may encourage God’s people to remember the needs of the saints and of the elders, but he can mention nothing of his own needs or the needs of the work. Let him only draw the attention of the churches to the wants of others, and God will draw their attention to his wants. Let him be concerned about the needs of the saints and elders, and God will use the saints and elders to draw the attention of the churches to his needs.
We must avoid all propaganda in connection with the work. With utter honesty of heart we must trust in God and make our requirements known to Him alone. Should the Lord so lead, we may tell to His glory what He has wrought through us. (See Acts 14:27; 15:3-4.) But nothing must be done by way of advertisement, in the hope of receiving material help. This is displeasing to God and hurtful to ourselves. If in any financial matter our faith grows weak, we shall find it fail when difficulties arising in connection with the work put it to the test. Besides, if we know anything of the power of the cross to deal with the self-life, how can we resort to propaganda for our work and so take things out of the hands of God and carry them on by our own efforts?
I know of works which, at their inception, were on a pure faith basis, and the blessing of the Lord rested on them. Soon the workers felt the need of extending the work, and actually extended it beyond their usual income. Consequently, they had to resort to indirect advertisement in order to meet their liabilities. Let us beware of extending the work ourselves, for if the extension is of man, we shall have to use man-made methods to meet the new demands. If God sees the work needs extension, He Himself will extend it, and if He extends it, He will be responsible to meet the increased needs. It is because human methods are employed to extend a work, that human means must be devised to meet its fresh requirements; so advertisement and propaganda are resorted to in order to solve the problem. Circular letters, reports, magazines, deputation-work, special agents, and special business centers have been means much used of Christian workers to increase funds for the work. Men are not willing to let God extend it in His own time, and because they cannot wait patiently for its spontaneous development, but force an artificial growth, they have to resort to natural activity to meet the demands of that growth. They have hastened developments, so they have to devise ways and means of procuring increased supplies. The spontaneous growth of the work of God does not necessitate any activities of human nature, for God meets all demands which He creates.
Advertisement has been developed to a fine art in this age, but if we have to take our cue from businessmen and use up-to-date advertising methods to make our work a success, then let us give up our ministry and change our calling. The wisdom of the world declares that “the end justifies the means,” but it is never so in the spiritual realm. Our end must be spiritual, but our means must be spiritual too. The cross is no mere symbol; it is a fact and a principle which must govern all God’s work.
We must let the Holy Spirit hinder us where He will, and not seek to urge things forward by touching divine work with human hands. There is no need for us to devise means to draw attention to our work. God in His sovereignty and providence can well bear all responsibility. If He moves men to help us, then all is well, but if we seek to move men ourselves, both we and the work will suffer loss. If we truly believe God we shall leave the matter wholly in His hands.
We are all trusting God for our living, but what need is there to make it known? I feel repelled when I hear God’s servants emphasize the fact that they are living by faith. Do we really believe in God’s sovereignty and in His providence? If we do, surely we can trust Him to make our needs known to His saints, and so to order things that our needs can be met without our trying to make them known. Even should people conclude from our manner of living that we have a private income, and in consequence withhold their gifts, we do not mind. I would counsel my younger brethren in the ministry not to talk of their personal needs, or of their faith in God, so that they may the better be able to prove Him. The more faith there is, the less talk there will be about it.
(The Normal Christian Church Life, Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)