Faith and Wisdom. Throughout the past few weeks, I have prayed for these gifts/traits to saturate my mind and decisions. I want to walk in complete confidence because that is the only way to please Him (Hebrews 11:6), and I desire to demonstrate discernment because that is the only way to reflect Him (Proverbs 1:7; 3:7). No doubt, I have been keenly aware of the necessity of both faith and wisdom as we have faced circumstances unfamiliar to our generation; and I have noted that both qualities originate in the character and work of God. So, my refrain: “Lord, give me faith and wisdom; Lord, give me faith and wisdom; Lord, give me faith and wisdom!”
That simple, yet significant, prayer has found its way to my lips as we have evaluated current ministry and planned for future ministry. One area that I have specifically spoken these words over is our church’s finances. Now hear me clearly - our God has been good to us and has blessed us mightily over the past few months in particular! He allowed us to enter into this uncertain season in a strong position, and He has worked through you the past few weeks to ensure that the church is well-resourced to fulfill its ministry. We even look like we will reach our Annie Armstrong Easter Offering goal of $65,000, a feat almost unthinkable a few weeks ago. I say to you that our Lord deserves all praise!
With that being said, I do hear the economic thunderclaps in the distance. The financial storm clouds are darkening the horizon. Offices have been closed, stores have been shuttered, restaurants have been limited, oil prices have plummeted, and companies have dissolved. I do pray that the storm will pass quickly and perhaps even skirt around us, but the reality is that there will be some impact. In this new economic context, we have sought to dramatically reduce expenses even though we know that some of this will occur naturally since certain events/programs will not take place. And to date, we have been quite successful in our efforts without hindering our ministry goals or our mission partnerships!
In addition, we did apply for and receive funds through the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program. Basically, these resources will enable us to cover most of our personnel costs for eight weeks. Our deacon leadership, our treasurer, our finance committee chair, and our staff all examined the various aspects of the program and decided that it was only prudent to accept the assistance. I was particularly convinced after Senator Bill Cassidy and Rep. Mike Johnson provided details of the program to us Louisiana faith leaders on a conference call following the bill’s passage. They assured us that accepting the money in no way allowed for governmental intrusion into our faith practice. There were no strings attached. Louisiana Baptists and Southern Baptists echoed those sentiments as well. And of course, receiving what we believe will be an eventual grant did not violate church-state separation. Remember, we do pay employee Social Security taxes to the government now, and as Sen. Cassidy remarked, this money should be viewed as an employee tax credit. The government has understandably inflicted financial hardship on businesses, and subsequently churches, and this is their way of mitigating that damage. As Russell Moore stated, the church calls the fire department (a government entity) when the church is burning down; and in this case, the church accepts the help as well.
Again, we believe this example strikes the balance between faith and wisdom. I personally have never doubted that God would provide for our needs! My faith is in Him for He has always been faithful! But I also know that He takes care of His children in different ways. He might grant the Israelites favor among the pagan Egyptians so that they make their exodus with silver, gold, and clothing. He may even move upon the heart of a Persian king to provide timber for the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. And now? The Lord showed His graciousness by opening the U.S. Treasury resources to be used for Kingdom purposes! Could you call that redemption? I think so! You see, just as my own acceptance of a stimulus check does not convey faithlessness on my part, neither does it mark our lack of faith as a church. Instead, it allows us to be faithful stewards of all that He gives. And as He provides the resources, we must be generous toward others . . . especially toward our missionaries, our church plants, and our ministry partners who have seen their financial situation compromised. Actually, I hope that we weather this storm so well that we will be able to provide critical assistance to others in the days ahead!
May I ask you to pray with me for faith and wisdom? We are going to need both as we move into a “new normal” and as we navigate these times. Let’s collectively ask Him to make us as “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). You are loved my friends! And you are missed!