Fragrant Offerings


This past December I officially began the support-raising journey I have for months and years been anxious about. College is ending and it’s time to head out into the real world. I’ve known for years now that my real world would look (and taste/smell/sound) quite a bit different than that of the average freshly graduated college student.

My real world setting: Asia, occupation: university English teacher.

The call to this work seems an obvious one to me, so much so that in the initial stages of support raising I found it surprisingly difficult to voice my journey, to put words to the ways the Father has woven this place and these people into my everyday thoughts, my most earnest prayers, my heart. To paraphrase a speaker I heard recently, “When I close my eyes at night, I see Asia.”

With the help of some patient and faithful friends and family members, I finally began to practice articulating my story—complete with an impressive-sounding call, need, strategy, and vision. That paired with an impossible-to-resist partner chart, colorful newsletters, and promising appointments lined up, I truly believed I was fully prepared to knock the socks off this support raising thing.

Yet as I began the journey, all the emotions and frustrations and fears built up to where at one point I straight up couldn’t catch my breath. I had let myself feel pressure to always be so completely sure, so confident in myself in order that others would be, too. Essentially I was convinced that if I did everything right, then people would want to support me and my ministry in Asia.

But I’m thankful for followers of Jesus who understood what is so ridiculous with that statement I just made. Paul was one of those, and his writings help bring so much understanding on this issue. As he writes to his supporters, it is clear he appreciated the full value of each participator in God’s ministry.

He saw his supporters as partners in the ministry, laboring alongside him for the same goal—

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1.3-5

Also, Paul never talks about his ministry. He never talks about getting support for himself. He doesn’t even want those gifts, not for himself anyway. Rather, Paul’s desire is that just as he has learned to be fully dependent and content in Christ, others might also experience what it is to be enabled only through Christ who gives strength in our weaknesses—

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4.12-13

Paul knew that others could see the sacrifice he was making living the missionary life, and he wanted his partners to recognize their sacrifice with equal importance and significance—

“They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Philippians 4.18

Most importantly, Paul understood what it is taking me far too long to grasp. The God and Father of all creation, the Author of every story, the Redeemer of his people, the Perfecter of our faith is the one who works, he’s the one who gets the glory. This ministry in Asia that I feel so drawn to? It’s God’s. Start to finish, and all the way through, it is his story. So yes, he alone gets the glory.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Philippians 4.19-20

By his grace, I believe deep down that the Father has given me a clear call to go, to sacrifice a comfortable life surrounded by my people and things that I have come to know and love, and to join him in the work being done there. And just as he worked in me to prepare me for that, I know he will move in others’ hearts to sacrifice in similar ways. To sacrifice daily coffee money, new car funds, or even perhaps that extra cushion each month. Because can’t our God meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus? Don’t we believe that in providing for those needs, he is blessing us for a purpose?

“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” 2 Corinthians 9.11-13

Let our giving—of our time, finances, and resources—be an offering to God. A fragrant offering, one that is acceptable and pleasing to him.

And as we give in obedience, let’s do so with thanksgiving! Praise him for the time, finances, and resources he’s given you. Praise him for the chance to give for the sake of his work all around the world. According to his Word, others will see those gifts and rather than heap affirmation and adoration on you and me for giving and going, they give all glory to God. Now that is a statement I can get behind.

About the Author


Rachel is Sarah Tarleton’s sister and is currently a senior in her last semester at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR. She grew up as an MK in Russia, and after graduation she is excited to start a new adventure and head back overseas, this time to Asia, where she will be teaching English to university students. Rachel loves investing in women; she can’t tell a story to save her life; and despite being an incredibly picky eater growing up, she has become quite the foodie and can’t get enough of Asian cuisine in particular.