A Poverty Mindset of Ministry: I don’t have enough syndrome.

adminAll Sermons, Day to day applications, Servant Leadership

We all have heard about the prosperity gospel and none of us sitting here actually like it. Well mostly. I might want to take a look at it if I can get my hands on that BMW next week, because of something the prosperity gospel promises. Right?

Jokes apart, we do realise that prosperity gospel is a dangerous mindset. But there is an even more dangerous mindset that can afflict us, and that mindset is the poverty mindset. Last week Pastor spoke about some poor people considering getting help as their right. Let us try and find out what poverty mindset is especially in the field of Christian Ministry.

If I ask you to take a few minutes and list out all the things you don’t have enough of, I am sure we all can come up with a decent list of things. The list might contain things like time, money, love, health , energy etc… If I become more specific and ask you to list out things that you don’t have enough of, because of which you are not doing enough ministry, the list might get shorter, and might contain items like talent, skills, knowledge, courage, time, freedom, faith etc., etc.

The fact is all of us worry about what we do not have. When we are asked to do something, the first thing that comes to our mind is what is it that we do not have that might prevent us from doing that task.

Let us look at the bible and see a few passages

1 Kings 17:8-12 (NKJV) Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

The widow knew what she did not have. She was clear that what she had was little and she was prepared to have a last meal out of it and then peacefully die. She had little and the famine was not helping. She knew she did not have enough to spare for the prophet. Let us see what happens after that.

1 Kings 17:13-16 (NKJV) And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ ” So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah.

Yes, God did a marvelous thing and replenished whatever she had. Her poverty turned to plenty because she was willing to offer what little she had for the man of God. But the blessings did not stop even there. Later on in 1 Kings 17:17-24 (NKJV) we see that the Lord raises up her son from the dead, and that miracle makes her testify 1 Kings 17: 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth.”

What can we see from this story? The widow was first worried about how little she had. How she did not have enough for herself, let alone share it with the prophet. But when the widow willingly offers up that little to the Lord, we see the little , small offering of the widow being rewarded multiple times. When the focus changed from what she did not have to what could she do with what she had, it resulted in a great revelation and a great miracle.

A similar situation repeats in the life of Elisha who took over from Elijah. 2 Kings 4:1-2 (NKJV) A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.” So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”

The pattern is the same. The prophet asks “what do you have?” and the woman starts her answer with “I have nothing in the house…”. The focus is always on what we do not have. We know that in this case also, after the woman realises what can be done with what she has, the situation turns around.

2 Kings 4:3-6 (NKJV) Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors–empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. Here too the learning is the same. The widow’s initial focus was on what she did not have, but when the focus is turned to what she can do with what she has, God blessed the little and it became plenty. You will notice that it is not the oil that they run out of, they run out of vessels and only then does the oil flow cease.

Actually we see this repeated multiple times in the life of the Israelites. They constantly focused on what they did not have enough of. They constantly ignored how much the Lord has provided them with. You would recall the story of their grumbling for meat in Numbers Ch 11. They were being bored to death by the tasteless manna that they were getting. Their focus was not on what they were getting, but on what they were missing out. First the people complain Numbers 11:4-6. Hearing that Moses joins the complaining brigade. Numbers 11:11-15. Moses complaint was on two counts. First that the Lord has placed a huge burden on him and he did not have enough help Numbers 11:11 (NKJV) So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?. The second complaint of Moses was that he did not have enough food to give them. Numbers 11:13 (NKJV) Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’. Moses was also being focused on what he did not have enough of. He did not have enough of help, he did not have enough to feed all the people with meat. It is interesting to see the Lord’s response. The Lord once again asks Moses to turn his focus on what he has. Numbers 11:16-17. He asks him to pick 70 elders to help him. And after that the Lord tells Moses that He will provide meat for the Israelites. It is interesting to note that Moses is not quite convinced about the second offer. For Moses asks again in Numbers 11:21 And Moses said, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ You see, it is difficult to turn our attention from what we do not have. We all know how this story ended up. The Israelites got what they wanted, but had to deal with God’s wrath after that. As for Moses, his initial focus was on what he did not have enough of, but when the Lord turns his focus away and asks him to focus on what he has, then many other elders are enabled and filled with the same spirit that was with Moses.

Going to the New testament, Jesus faces this “I don’t have enough” syndrome multiple times. Let us look at a couple of instances.

Mark 6:35-43 (NKJV) When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.” But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?” But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish.

You see the pattern very clearly. The disciples saw a very clear problem. They did not have enough food to feed the number of people who were there. And when Jesus tells them “You give them something to eat”. Their response is exactly the same as that of Moses when the Lord told him He is going to feed the Israelites with meat. Their response was we do not have enough money to buy food for such a large number of people. That is when Jesus asks to focus on what they have at hand. Jesus asks them “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus is asking them to turn their focus on to what they have rather than being focused on what they don’t have. And we know the result. Not only everyone was fed, there was surplus left over.

Jesus not only had to deal with the “I don’t have enough” syndrome from others. He was also told that He did not have enough. A classic example is that of the Samaritan Woman.

John 4:10-14 (NKJV) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

When Jesus tells the Samaritan woman what He can offer her, her first reaction is to point out what Jesus does not have. Jesus did not have anything to draw water with.

So let us summarise. All of us have the tendency to focus on what we don’t have enough of. We hold back ourselves because we think we don’t have enough of time, or money or skills or talent or popularity or energy or .. the list can go on.. This can apply to us doing things for the Lord too. We sometimes hold ourselves back from the so called ministry because we think it is too big. We think we don’t have enough to participate in the ministry. But what does Jesus say ministry is?

Mark 9:41 (NKJV) For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. He is not asking us to move mountains (though He says we CAN do it if have faith). Any small act that we can do with what we have will be rewarded according to Him.

So that is the message from the Lord today for us. The fact is that God knows what we do not have already. Because all that we have is given by him. Hence he knows very well what we do not have. This morning, God is asking is to stop worrying about what we do not have enough of, and focus on what we can do with what we have already.

Let us pray.


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