I’m not going to go into all the details, but the past six months have been a stretching experience at the small church where I pastor. Many other small-town pastors can attest, finances are precarious at best at churches our size.
Some time in the late summer 2016 as things were getting tighter and tighter, I began to pray the Lord would give our church $10,000 over and above our regular giving. I didn’t really know where it to come from, but I did start checking the church mailbox nearly every day expecting a check to come in the mail from who knows where.
Believe it or not, the money came. And half of it did show up in the mailbox as I had hoped. In fact, the Lord was quite faithful to lift us out of the immediate financial squeeze through the faithfulness of our members and the unexpected generosity of others.
This past week, I was reading through the book of James and came to one of his slap-you-cross-the-face remarks in chapter 4: “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2). As I sat and prayed over this verse, I remembered all of the ways I had prayed for God to improve our financial situation at the church, to send money, to help us begin to have resources to sow into the kingdom of God. I had asked, and God had given. Psalm 50 tells us the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and he’d proved it.
As I sat there reading James words, “You have not because you ask not,” another thought began to sink in. I had spent so much time praying for something that would eventually be burned with fire. Money just gets spent. For months, my energy was consumed with begging and pleading for cattle–when I could have been praying for sheep.
Money is not eternal. The sons and daughters of God are.
How quickly our minds are drawn away from things eternal to things temporal. Money is not wrong. In fact, we were desperately pleading for the Lord to give us money to support missions and ministry partners. However, my desperation over money to build the Kingdom should be far surpassed daily by my desperation over Christ’s lost sheep.
You have not because you ask not.
I pray those words will never stop ringing in my ears. I prayed for money; the Lord gave us money. What if I had been praying for sheep? What if I had been as expectant every week to find new sheep as I was in going to the mailbox looking for a check?
I wasn’t wrong to pray for cattle. I would have been better to pray for sheep.