Live Joyfully while Trusting God to Meet Your Needs
Several years ago, I listened to a song by David Meece from one of his albums. The words he expressed to God jolted me straight up out of my chair. This is what I heard.
I had a lot of dreams that never came true, Things I could have done, but never got the chance to do, When I couldn't see the path of the storm, your wisdom wouldn't let me go that way, And it broke my heart, but now my heart can say...
Thank you for the times you said no, Thank you for the doors that you closed, All the ways you never let me go, and the things you never gave me, So many times I didn't understand, and wouldn't let you take my hand, Now I want to fall at your feet and thank you for the things you never gave me.
That song never hit the top 40 and never will. Thank God for the things He never gave me?! It is diametrically opposed to the human mindset, especially the American mind. But, it’s exactly in line with what Jesus said should be true of His followers.
At the end of Matthew chapter 6, we read these words:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:31-33, NLT)
Those verses are from a sermon that Jesus gave to His followers. In that sermon, Jesus described a stark contrast between what the world does, even good people in the world, and what the lives of His followers should look like.
Regarding God’s provision, Jesus basically said Christians should thinkdifferently. Don’t let your needs dominate your thoughts. Your heavenly Father knows them. He cares for the creatures in the natural world so they lack nothing. He will care for you. Give yourself to the Lord first. Pursue what matters to God—His honor and His purposes—more than your own. That’s what it looks like to live as Christ regarding money. God’s provision to us is not only for our needs but also for us to use for His purposes.
Out of my study, I believe God has 4 lessons for us to learn today, and they are tough ones.
Lesson #1: God’s provision is His to give and take away. Regard it humbly.
We need to understand several facts about this lesson.
Fact: Everything we have comes from God.
There isn't anything we own that we did not receive from God. Think about it. Being in America is something I received—by birth and by grant from the government. Same goes for where you were born or where you live. What we consider as advantages to function well in society and prosper through work — height, attractiveness, intelligence, natural talents — those are all gifts. We received them.
Yet, we humans boastfully live as though we had anything to do with our genetics or privileges at all. We tend to think of ourselves proudly as the originators of our material possessions. And, when they are stripped away, we resent being stripped of our "rights." But, the truth is: everything we have comes from God.
Fact: What we have is not a measure of our goodness or our faith.
Jesus told the disciple Peter not to compare the path he would follow with that of another disciple named John. So it is with how God provides for us. We see a faithful believer who is struggling financially, and we point fingers at her. “If you were living right, you wouldn’t have this problem.” That’s not biblical. How God chooses to provide for you or me at any time in our lives is His sovereign choice. We are to give ourselves first to Him and trust Him with our daily needs as we do the work He gives us to do.
Paul understood this well. He writes in his letter to the Philippians these words…
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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 everything through him (Christ) who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)
Paul, super apostle, in the will of God, working hard, doing exactly what God purposed Him to do. He should have plenty and be well-fed. Right? This same Paul—went hungry. Sometimes lived in want. If God saw fit that Paul would be in need sometime in his life, you can bet the rest of us might also.
I laugh, though, about being content when having plenty. Of course, I can do that. Who can’t? But, can I be content with only pancakes daily for 2 years like Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17? Sure, if everyone else is only eating pancakes. But, what if they are eating prime rib? No way.
Twenty years ago, in the midst of a lean time, a friend filled our freezer with venison. I learned how to cook it like beef, and we ate it every night for 3 months. And, we thanked God for the gift. But, I often wished it were beef or chicken.
Is it possible in my American culture to be content? What about in your culture? Someone will always have more than we do. Of course, someone will always have less than we do as well. But, who cares about that!
Trusting God to take care of you and me in whatever manner He chooses is something we have to learn if we are going to live as Christ.
Why did God let Paul go hungry at times? Someone once said,
"God is in the human development business. How is God going to teach us faith if He never allows us to have needs?!”
We want to grow in our faith and mature as Christians so we pray, "Lord, make me a godly woman." But in the back of our minds we are thinking, "Don't let it hurt too much!"
I heard someone once say that God’s method of learning is to prepare by instruction (knowing His Word) and then to learn by experience (living what you believe about God). Christians having needs is part of God’s plan. So, when God removes our comforts and strips away our support, we whine and forget to trust in His goodness. By crying "help" and giving up our self-sufficiency, we actually begin to depend on God and think of Him as God Almighty—as an essential to our lives, not just an appendage. Don’t let anyone deceive you by equating prosperity with your faith walk with God. Our provisions are not a measure of our goodness or our faith.
Fact: God determines our provision—the how, when, and why
Most of the time, God’s provision is going to come through people, not miraculously appear from the sky. People design products and services to sell. They take the risk to start businesses and hire workers, including you. People buy farmers’ crops. And, people provide meals for someone in a time of need.
God chooses how He provides for His own. We must learn to trust whatever manner He chooses.
God determines our provision—the how, when, and why.
Fact: It belongs to God. Hold onto it loosely.
I heard Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll say this,
"The God who gave the water has chosen to take the water. It's His sovereign right! He gives the child; He can take it away. He gives the business; He can take it away. He gives the house; He can take it away." (Chuck Swindoll, sermon series on Elijah)
How do you like that? That’s hard to take, isn’t it?
Back in the 1980s, God gave us the opportunity and funds to build a beautiful log home next to a Christian camp in south Dallas. A couple of years later, He restricted our provision which forced us out of that house and moved us to a different town. Then, through an unexplainable, quirky series of events, He gave us that house back which provided income for us for a few years until we sold it to that camp for staff housing when they asked for it. I experienced a lot of pain during that time and wondered, “What are you up to God? Didn’t you give us this house?”
It was His to give and take away.
I am humbled now as I recall what happened and see how He accomplished 2 purposes. 1) Getting me to a place where I had the opportunity to develop as a minister to women far more than I would have if I had stayed in that house and 2) providing for that camp’s needs through our hands.
Lesson #1—God’s provision is His to give and take away. Regard it humbly.
Lesson #2: God’s provision is always enough. Receive it gratefully.
According to the dictionary, “enough” means “as much as is needed or can be tolerated.” I think I can tolerate quite a bit, don’t you? But, maybe God knows better.
Look at what God says through Moses about this. At the end of 40 years of nomadic life in the desert, with manna in the morning and quail every night for supper. No house or farm. No new shoes or clothes. Moses tells the people in Deuteronomy chapter 2,
"During these forty years, the Lord your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.” (Deuteronomy 2:7 NLT)
Now, compare this to what he tells them about their new land in Deuteronomy chapter 8,
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land…with streams of water… with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey;…where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9a NIV)
With little or with lots, they "lack nothing." Isn’t that bizarre? What is he saying? I think it’s this: When you have the Lord’s provision, you lack nothing that you need at this time in your life. It’s what you have, not what you don't have. Rejoice at what you have instead of complaining about what you don’t have.
What was enough for Jesus, the God of the Universe in human flesh? During His ministry, He didn’t have a 10,000 square-foot house and servants to care for His needs. God continually provided for Him, often through women. And, it was enough.
Our hope is to be in our God. Not in prosperity—current or future.
God’s provision is always enough. Receive it gratefully.
Lesson #3: God’s provision is meant to be shared. Give it generously.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul writes about the offering being collected for the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering terrible hardship. Paul references the Macedonian Christians in northern Greece who have collected money for this cause. These are the same people Paul is writing in Philippians chapter 4. Let’s see what Paul says about them.
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. (2 Corinthians 8:1-7 NIV)
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
I want to read this passage in The Message —
Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives. (2 Corinthians 8:1-7 The Message)
Oh, my. That is so radical. Extreme poverty giving generously. That goes so against human nature. When Paul referred to their rich generosity, he used the same Greek word in Philippians 4:19 for God’s riches. “And, my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Here’s the key: God’s riches to us are supplied through us to meet another’s needs. Those early Christians are an amazing example to all believers including you and me of the dynamic difference that God’s grace can make in the mindset of His people when it comes to provision. They gave themselves first to the Lord. Gratefully receiving and generously giving comes from the overflowing joy of knowing Jesus Christ and what He’s doing in our lives. Whether you are the receiver or the giver, how you do both should be different than what the world does. That is to live as Christ.
God’s provision is meant to be shared. Give it generously.
Lesson #4: God’s provision brings Him glory. Praise Him openly.
That’s what Paul did in his letter to the Philippians. We, too, should take every opportunity to do that.
When we live as Christ and trust God to meet our needs, we can live joyfully through anything.
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the fullness of His joy. Then, live in that joy!
I’m Melanie Newton, and you’ve been listening to Satisfied Series 5. I hope you will join me for another series and continue to be satisfied by His love.