That’s our mantra as missionaries, right? Every missionary wants those stories of how God miraculously provided for a need. We’ve all heard them and have fittingly given God the glory for them. There’s something so special about knowing that a need was met so miraculously it had to be God.
We’ve experienced his mercy on so many occasions. He’s provided us with vehicles, housing, funds for projects, etc. And we love praising him for those times. In my life, I’ve seen God provide so much that I don’t even doubt he will do it again. I’d like to believe that’s called “faith.”
I have complete trust and confidence that God can provide. But I have discovered recently that my complete trust and confidence that God will provide has made me an “entitled missionary.”
In many areas, I have gone from gratitude for how he’s provided in the past, to an arrogant expectation that God must provide in the same way in the future. After all, am I not serving him? Did I not give up a plush life in the states to suffer hardships on the mission field? Did he not promise to provide what we need?
Missionaries need the same things everyone else does. Food, housing, transportation, clothes, education, and dare I say it, a vacation? And most people, while they trust that God will help them with those things, are not expecting God to drop them out of thin air or to lay it on someone’s heart to give them. But I find myself falling into that selfish way of thinking.
I can blame some of my misconception on history and most of it on my prideful heart. Historically in my life, people have given to us, whether it’s slipping a $100 bill into my hand after a church service or handing us the title to their car. I cannot be thankful enough for those people and those gifts. But in a way, those blessings have caused me to expect it. So, when our plea goes out to our Heavenly Father to provide us a vehicle while on furlough, I have full confidence that he will do it…
…until he doesn’t. And we’re faced with his silence.
When his answer doesn’t meet my expectations, I get mad at God for not doing a better job of providing for his “servants.”
Does that make anyone else cringe? It makes me cringe. What kind of entitled person thinks they don’t have to work or pay for what they get? I’ll tell you what kind: the entitled missionary. The one who thinks they deserve the best that God can do just because of their vocation. That attitude calls for repentance, big time.
I am no more deserving than anyone else. God has already blessed me far more than I deserve and if he never meets another of my physical needs, he has already done enough to be praised for eternity.
Pride tells me I deserve more possessions, more attention, more accolades. Truth tells me to be thankful that I didn’t get what I really deserve. What I deserve is hell. In his great mercy, God has spared me from that, and he owes me nothing—not a car, not comfort, not good health, not an easy life.
I cannot allow my presuppositions about missionary life to taint my view of God. I cannot put God in a box and expect him to act just as I expect or as I’ve seen him do in the past. Just because God told Moses to strike the rock and the need was met, doesn’t mean God will do it that way again. I need to trust in his goodness and provision, even if it’s not what I have come to expect from him. And that doesn’t mean God cares less about my needs than before.
There’s a certain validation that comes with those stories about when God provided. It’s as if it affirms we are in God’s will, and he blessed us because of it. We prayed, and God provided. It’s concrete proof that we are where he wanted us, doing what he wanted us to do.
So, what does it mean if we are stuck fending for ourselves? It seems shameful that a missionary would pray for something, but God refused to display his power for them. Does that mean God is displeased with us? Are we out of his will? Do we not have enough faith?
The short answer is, no.
The long answer, I think, can be found if we go back to Paul’s letter, before he promises that God will supply for all of our needs. Paul tells us that he’s learned the secret to being content. He knows how to be in need, and he knows how to have plenty. His validation does not depend on what God provides for him. His strength lies in Christ, regardless of his circumstances. His worth lies in what Christ did for him, not what he does for Christ.
So, when I am tempted to think myself deserving because of my job title, may I be grateful for God’s provision in the past (and future) but remember that God already supplied my ultimate need and spared me what I actually deserved.