Those Who Minister Out of Their AbundanceNovember 18, 2016
And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance. — Luke 8:2,3
When our ministry purchased a large facility in the city of Moscow, we had one year to pay off the entire building, or it would revert to the hands of the seller. We had paid a very large deposit, and by faith we were believing to completely pay off the balance on time so we wouldn’t lose our total investment.
The deadline for paying off the balance approached. The Moscow church and our ministry partners had given generously, but we still lacked what we needed to finish retiring the debt on the building.
It was exactly at this time that God spoke to a pastor of a large church in the United States and told him, “You have a lot of money in your church bank account right now, and Rick Renner and his ministry are believing for the finances to pay off their building. What good is your money in this account when they need it in Moscow? If you’ll give what I tell you to give, I’ll multiply it to you more times than you can ever begin to imagine.”
In obedience to the Lord, this pastor met with his board of directors, who unanimously voted to give a gift of $700,000 for the Moscow Good News Church building. They had no idea that this was the exact balance owed on the building. The pastor purchased a plane ticket and was soon on his way to Moscow. The following Sunday, he stood on the platform in our auditorium and said, “The Lord has sent me here to give you a $700,000 check for your new church facility!” Then he handed us the check, not knowing that he was handing the exact amount needed to completely pay off the balance on the building.
What words could ever be sufficient to express how grateful we were to this pastor and his church for this phenomenal act of generosity? And how can we ever appropriately thank all the partners who have sowed their finances for so many years into the work of our ministry?
My wife and I and our team may be the ones who are doing the actual work on the front lines of the ministry, but we can only do that work because of the resources entrusted to us by faithful partners. When we all stand before Jesus to be rewarded for what we have done for Him in this life, our partners will be as richly rewarded as those of us who worked on the front lines, for they financially empowered us to do the job!
You see, even though my wife and our team are anointed to lead this work, there would be no television outreach if we had no partners to pay for it. There would be no church-planting, church-strengthening organization if there was no financial support to underwrite the costs involved in this work. There would be no missions support for pastors and evangelists in these less fortunate nations if there were no people who designated monies for this special purpose. Although we are called and anointed to lead this thrilling work, others must be just as called and anointed to support it with their finances. That is why I say that all of us are truly working together to see God’s purposes for this ministry accomplished.
I could write an entire book about the miraculous provision we have seen God supply for our ministry over the years. But when I stand back and review the times God has come through in miraculous ways to empower us financially, one thing is clear: His supernatural provision has primarily been delivered through the hands of men.
This is the principal way God provides financial support for the work of the ministry. He uses people — those who work very hard at their jobs, who earn a living at their profession, who believe Him for promotions and bonuses, and who love Him so much that they consecrate a certain portion of their income or assets for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
God also used people to supply money for the expenses of Jesus’ ministry, although money to pay taxes was once miraculously provided through the mouth of a fish (see Matthew 17:27). In Luke 8:2 and 3, we find that Jesus had ministry partners who gave of their own substance to support His ministry while He was on the earth. Those verses say, “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”
Notice that Luke 8:3 says that these women “…ministered unto him of their substance.” The word “ministered” is the Greek word diakoneo. As noted earlier (see August 21), the word diakoneo comes from the Greek word diakonos, the Greek word for a servant whose primary responsibility is to serve food and wait on tables. It presents a picture of a waiter or waitress who painstakingly attends to the needs, wishes, and desires of his or her client. It was these servants’ supreme task to professionally please clients; therefore, the servants served honorably, pleasurably, and in a fashion that made the people they waited on feel as if they were nobility.
Luke uses this word to picture the attitude of the women who served Jesus by financially giving to Jesus’ ministry. These women believed it was their God-given assignment to painstakingly attend to the needs, wishes, and desires of Jesus. Their supreme task was to provide what He and His disciples needed to fulfill their ministry without hindrance. Furthermore, the tense used in the original Greek indisputably means that these women did this task consistently and regularly; in other words, they habitually donated money to Jesus’ ministry. They were faithful partners on whom Jesus could rely.
The verse goes on to say that these women ministered unto Him of their “substance.” The word “substance” is the Greek word huparchontos, which is the word for goods, possessions, or property. The word huparchontos would only be used to describe individuals of great wealth who possessed large fortunes or enormous assets. This lets us know that these were wealthy women.
The King James Version says these women “…ministered unto him of their substance.” But in Greek, it actually says out of their substance. This implies that these very wealthy women may have donated funds out of the income they earned on properties they owned.
But precisely who were these wealthy women who supported Jesus’ ministry? Let’s look very carefully at Luke 8:2,3 to see what we can find out about these women whom God used to financially support Jesus’ ministry.
1. ‘Certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities’
First, Luke 8:2 tells us about “…certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.…” This was an unnamed group of women whom Jesus had healed from various sicknesses or delivered from demonic powers. Afterward, these women supported His ministry with their financial substance.
Notice that this verse says these women “…had been healed of evil spirits.…” The word “healed” is the Greek word therapeuo, an old Greek word from which we get the work therapy. This carries the idea of repeated actions, such as a patient who visits a physician over and over until the desired cure is obtained. This seems to suggest that these women had been so severely demonized that although they were helped when they first came to Jesus, they had to keep coming back again and again until, finally, they were completely freed. It may have been Jesus’ constant, tender, compassionate attention that caused them to have such grateful hearts, producing in these women a firm commitment to support His ministry with their finances.
The verse also says that they were healed of “infirmities.” The word “infirmities” is the Greek word astheneia, which emphatically depicts physical frailties, weaknesses, sicknesses, or a state of ill health. The word “healed” (therapeuo) is applied both to the women’s deliverance from demonic spirits and to their freedom from illnesses. Just as the Greek suggests frequent visits were made to Jesus before they were finally and completely delivered from demon powers, it also implies that these women made recurring visits to Jesus before they found total relief from their physical maladies. The use of this word therapeuo lets us know, then, that it can sometimes take time before a healing is completely manifested in a person’s life.
No wonder these women were such avid financial partners with Jesus’ ministry! It was through His compassionate touch that they were set free from demons and restored to full health!
It is simply a fact that the best partners in the world are those whose lives have been changed by one’s ministry. These women are vivid examples of people with grateful hearts who want to do what they can financially so the ministry that helped them can reach out and touch others’ lives as well.
2. ‘Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils’
After mentioning the first unnamed group of female supporters, Luke now gives the first recognizable name in this group of women. He says in verse 2, “…Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.”
Many tales have been told about Mary Magdalene working in the prostitution business before she met Jesus. However, there isn’t a single New Testament source that records Mary Magdalene as a former prostitute. One thing is clear, though: She was possessed with an entire infestation of demons before Jesus touched her life. Both Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9 affirm that she had been delivered of seven demons.
When Luke tells us of Mary, he identifies her as one “…out of whom went seven devils.” The Greek word for the phrase “out of whom went” is exerchomai, a compound of the word ex, meaning out, as to make an exit, and the word erchomai, meaning to go. But when these are compounded together, forming the word exerchomai, it takes on the meaning to go out, to drive out, or even to escape.
The word exerchomai implies that these demons may have been so entrenched in Mary that Jesus had to literally drive them out of her. It is possible that when these seven spirits left her body, they literally fled in order to escape the fierce pressure Jesus was exercising on them. Once they were gone, Mary was freed.
The Bible has no concrete record of Mary’s deliverance from these seven demons. However, it does let us know she was so thankful for what Jesus had done for her that she remained committed to Him to the very end of His ministry. Mary was present at the crucifixion (John 19:25). After the crucifixion when Jesus’ body was being prepared for burial, Mary was among those who prepared His body for burial (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55). She was among the first to see the empty tomb (John 20:1), and she was the first to see Jesus after His resurrection (John 20:13-17). Finally, she was the first to preach that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead (John 20:18).
Evidently Mary Magdalene was also a wealthy woman who used her money to financially support Jesus’ ministry, for she is listed in Luke 8:2,3 along with the other well-to-do women who gave out of their assets to support Jesus’ ministry.
3. ‘Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward’
As Luke continues to name the affluent women who financially supported Jesus’ ministry, he tells us next of “…Joanna, the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward…” (v. 3).
Luke gives us very important insight into this Joanna by informing us that she was the wife of Chuza, who was the “steward” of Herod. The word “steward” is the Greek word epitropos. This word signifies a person who has been entrusted with the guardianship or supervision of another person’s belongings. This was no low-level servant; rather, Chuza was a high-level dignitary who had authority to make decisions on behalf of Herod in regard to his personal fortunes. One of the rare uses of this word in the Greek Old Testament Septuagint is where it is used to describe Joseph’s oversight of Potiphar’s household.
The fact that Chuza held such a prominent position in Herod’s household tells us that he was highly educated and was accustomed to managing massive sums of money. As the chief manager of Herod’s personal fortune, Chuza served as the king’s chief adviser regarding his personal financial matters. No doubt, a man in this position had many opportunities to increase his own personal wealth as well, for he lived in the atmosphere of affluence and had many high-ranking political connections as Herod’s steward. Some have speculated that Chuza may have been the nobleman of John 4:46-53 whose son was healed by Jesus.
Chuza’s wife was Joanna — a woman whose life had been dramatically touched, affected, and changed by Jesus. If Chuza was the nobleman of John 4:46-53, as some suggest, it is easy to imagine how grateful Joanna would have been to Jesus for saving her child from death. Certainly a person so impacted would want to use her fortune to make sure others could receive the same touch of God.
The Bible doesn’t tell us how Joanna made her first connection with Jesus, but it apparently changed her life. After that encounter, she saw it as part of her responsibility to give of her personal substance to financially support Jesus’ ministry. Joanna was also with Mary Magdalene and the other women who visited and discovered the empty tomb after Jesus’ resurrection (see Luke 24:10), which lets us know that she was faithful to Jesus to the very end.
4. ‘Susanna, and many others’
This is the only reference to Susanna in the New Testament, and we know nothing more of her, except that she ministered to Jesus out of her substance. This implies that she was another wealthy woman who used her personal resources to support Jesus’ ministry.
Susanna is listed with “many others” who supported the ministry of Jesus. The word “many” is from the Greek word polus, which means very many and speaks of a great quantity. So in addition to these women whom Luke specifically names, there were also many others who supported Jesus faithfully with their personal finances. These were givers who considered it their responsibility, their service, and their assignment to make sure the needs of Jesus’ growing ministry were financially supplied.
We rightly focus on Jesus and the great works He did while on earth. But think of the reward that is laid up in Heaven for Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and all the others who gave of their substance so that those life-changing meetings could take place! Today these individuals are experiencing rich rewards because they gave of their personal income to help advance the ministry of Jesus. They were His ministry partners — and in Heaven, they share in the rewards for the results reaped by Jesus’ ministry.
If your life has been touched and changed by a specific ministry, it is right for you to desire to give to that ministry to show your gratefulness and to make sure others receive the same touch you received. So when God calls you to be a ministry partner, never forget that what you do is vitally important. The gifts you give from your personal income and assets can make an eternal difference in other people’s lives.
Please don’t let it bother you if your name is never put on a building or if people never know that you were a big giver to a ministry. Instead, rejoice that you are among the “many others” who gave to Jesus’ ministry but were not mentioned by name. Most importantly, never forget that Jesus knows who you are and what you have done and that an eternal reward is awaiting you!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve You with my income and assets. I only want to give more and more with each passing year. Please give me wisdom to know how to increase my personal wealth so I can become an even bigger giver to the Kingdom of God. It isn’t important to me that other people know what I’ve done, for I know that You see the seed I’ve sown and will reward me for what I have done. Help me to never use funds designated for Your work on anything else, Lord, but rather to make the advancement of Your Kingdom the highest priority in my life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am a significant giver to the Kingdom of God. God’s Word promises financial blessings to His children. Since I am God’s child, I have a right to be financially blessed. From the financial resources that God entrusts to me, I purpose to be a major giver and a source of great blessing to the work of the ministry. Souls are waiting to hear the Gospel message, and I am going to use the resources God gives me to make sure the life-changing message of Jesus Christ reaches as many people as possible!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Is it a desire of your heart to be a big giver to the work of God? What ministry has God used to touch your life so dramatically that you want to serve that ministry with your finances?
2. What ministry or ministries do you support with your finances right now? Can you write down five reasons why you sow into these particular ministries?
3. Are you satisfied in your heart that you are giving to these ministries as often as God desires you to give? Or is it time for you to believe God for the financial ability to rise to a whole new level of giving?