The Upside of Downturns By Larry Gadbaugh
Is there upside of the downturn you are facing?
Downturns get our attention.
What do you do when God calls you to expand your outreach, and your resources shrink? First Image (Pregnancy Resources of Portland) was on track for increasing the number of people we were serving throughout our city when the economy sprung a gas leak.
After doubling the number of life-giving ultrasounds we provided in the last year, and after upgrading two of our centers to become more accessible and attractive locations, we faced the likelihood of closing a center unless God provided miraculously within the next month.
We agonized: What does faithful stewardship of God’s resources look like in times like this?
Sometimes serving God is as easy as hang-gliding. Other times it feels like climbing a rock face one finger-nail at a time. God offers grace and wisdom to us in both situations.
God often empties out our stomachs to reveal what’s in our hearts. Think about Israel in the Sinai. Jesus in the wilderness. What I saw in my heart in facing the shrinking financial support was fear. It was time to return to basics.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [Heb. 11:6].
Our most crucial response was to turn from fear to faith in the goodness of God. Would we proceed as if God was present with us or not? So, we set a goal to seek the Lord together so that our faith in God would be stronger, and not weaker by the end of that month.
We focused on “Waiting on God” daily together. We dedicated a three day period when everyone was invited to fast and pray in concert together. We prayerfully informed our ministry partners about the challenge we were facing.
God answered prayer by miraculously providing the amount we needed by month’s end. Instead of closing a center, we were able to serve hundreds of additional women and girls.
Just as importantly, we were impressed with these truths:
(1) Priority One: Seek God himself first and we will find that God’s provision, guidance, and grace is sufficient for fulfillment of HIS purposes. Even if funding had fallen short, we would be able to discern future direction by faith and not fear.
(2) Hungering for God through fasting and prayer together invites God to replace our fear-fed appetites with confidence in his presence. Neither man nor ministries live by bread alone, but by confidence in the Living Word of God.
(3) While we measure what we can see and count, God treasures our faith and faithfulness. God is always working to move us towards Christ-likeness at the same time he’s advancing his work through us. We need to shepherd people in a ministry with both of these goals in mind.
(4) God uses the distress of the faithful who call upon Him, to arouse the rest of his people to prayer, giving, and sacrificial service. The Lord of the Harvest raises up partners to supply what we need for Kingdom advance, transforming each of us in the process.
Later that month, Jennifer, 13 years old, called me to pick up her donation of $267.32 she had raised from her lemonade stand. She also appealed to her church elders to ask the congregation to join her efforts, which they gladly did. I asked Jennifer, “What motivated you to raise this money and mobilize your church in this cause?”
“I have friends at school who I know are going to need the help of PRC. I want to make sure you’re there for them.”
It’s our stewardship and love for those who need Christ that ultimately makes an eternal difference.
There have been other seasons since that experience when we had to make decisions which seemed to take us backwards, rather than forward in serving our city for Christ.
But in both kinds of outcomes, we have experienced the confidence that our Father is transforming us as we pray, “YOUR Kingdom come, YOUR will be done.”
Larry Gadbaugh has been CEO of First Image (Pregnancy Resource Centers) in Portland, Oregon since 2001. Married to Diane for 41 years, they have five adult children and three grandchildren.
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