As many of you will know in the last month we have become aware that the giving to St Barnabas has dipped. To some extent this was expected, with such a focus on our incredibly ambitious Go and Grow project. I don't for a moment think that our committed people are consciously diverting their giving from regular support for St Bs towards Go and Grow, and yet at some level this has probably been happening. The result has been a near meltdown in our regular finances with a deficit of £25,000 in just two months. And there is no doubt that some of us have been rattled by this, as the consequences are potentially devastating.
However at this point we need long memories, because we've been here before. It was quite a few years ago, but we went through a period when the giving dropped through the floor and we faced massive cuts in the church's ministry. Back then we prayed, we informed the congregation, we wrote to everyone, and we even cancelled coffee one Sunday (that last gesture backfired, but the sentiment was well-founded). Amazingly the finances turned around, the church responded magnificently and we saw God provide everything we needed.
This month we faced something alarmingly similar, and while we never want to presume, I want to walk the walk of faith remembering that God will always provide for the work that he has asked us to do. This time the crisis coincided with our month of adventure when we've been crying out to God for his presence and his provision. With the colossal deficit growing by the day, we needed some kind of miracle to get us back on track. And we got one!
We have just had the initial figures for March and astonishingly we received £96,000 a surplus of £24,000, all but cancelling out the financial sink hole of the first couple of months of this year. We have no idea how this has happened, when we only informed the church of the crisis just over a week ago.
So I am praising God for his wonderful provision. And I am so grateful to St Barnabas, this extraordinary church that I am privileged to serve. We are not completely out of the woods, because we ran a deficit through the autumn, and so are still a little behind. But this is very very good news. Once more God has proved himself to be faithful.
But there is another amazing footnote to this story. Less than twenty four hours after hearing the good news of the financial turnaround, I got a phone call from someone who went on to say that he and his wife were giving us a a large six-figure capital gift. I was speechless. Whilst it won't materially pay into our regular running expenses, it will make a major strategic contribution to the future of the church. What amazing generosity. While reeling in awe at God's provision, first through the March giving figures and then through the capital gift, an incident in the gospels came to mind. There is an account of when Jesus healed a man of leprosy, a miracle so amazing that it hadn't been seen in Israel since the days of Elijah and even then the one healed was a foreigner. As a result Jesus had to go into hiding, such was the Jesus-mania that gripped the region. Later on, as if to emphasise the extent of God's munificence, Jesus repeats the miracle, this time with not one but ten lepers. Is anything too difficult for God? Is any obstacle too large for our God?