As human beings, we tend to have a bit of trouble keeping our eyes and thoughts concentrated on the things that God would have us focus on. We have short attention spans and a variety of physical needs and desires that provide ample distraction from higher pursuits. We tend to focus on the future and often times let ourselves get distracted by either fantasizing about posessions or pursuits that are out of our reach or perils and potential trials that are out of our control. The further we slip down the slopes of fantasy/avarice/greed or worry (for that is what those two distractions often lead to), the less we are able to follow God’s will in the present. Often, we don’t trust God to provide for our needs, let alone our wants or desires and so we allow ourselves to be tricked into dissatisfaction with the blessings we currently enjoy.
I have been struggling with the notion of God providing for me and my wife a lot lately. Perhaps it is simply an overactive Chauvanism Gland, but I have, on many occasions, convinced myself that the burden of provision lies solely with me. I look at the bills coming in and the taxes due and I despair, for I take the task of providing quite seriously. I pay lip service to the notion that God will provide for our needs, yet I secretly think to myself “God ‘provided’ me with skills and talents and it’s up to me, and only me to apply those skills and talents in order to provide for myself and my family”. This line of thinking has led to many a restless night and many a tearful prayer on my part. I sometimes have my breath taken away from me when I think of the scope of the debt I owe for college, cars and credit. I find myself thinking “I got us into this mess, for God to get me out would almost be like a copout on His part. It’s up to me to provide! … Crap, we’re screwed.” What a horrific line of thought!
It was while in the midst of one of these funks the other night that I turned in utter desperation to the mini-concordance in the back of my study Bible. “God, I don’t know what to do!” I prayed. “Please, just help me.” I scanned the concordance for entries pertaining to the word “provide” and 1 Timothy 6:17 caught my eye:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment [emphasis mine].
I quickly began to scan the rest of 1 Timothy 6 and was floored by its contents, particularly verses 3-10 and17-19:
3If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
“[G]odliness with contentment is great gain“. How I ache for those both! How often have I “pierced [myself] with many griefs” in my pursuit of Things and how different my everyday life would be if I did good, was rich in good deeds and generous and willing to share?
After a brief spiritual “Eureka!”, my eyes were drawn back to verse 7: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” Hastily, I flipped back to Job and my eyes lit up as I read Job 1:21-22:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
I don’t know if Paul was actively paraphrasing Job, but the similarity was too much to pass up.
Verse 22 explicitly points out that Job had the correct attitude towards God in spite of all that had befallen him. He did not know God’s purposes or why he had been allowed to suffer such tragedy, but his response was ultimately the correct one.
“Naked I came… and naked I will depart”. How different would our lives be if we were to adopt just such a posture in our daily lives?
The story of Job also offers me great hope, for through his suffering and questioning, God made Himself known. As Job puts it in Job 42:1-6:
1 Then Job replied to the LORD :
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.” [emphasis mine]
Job actually got to see God through his experiences. Had God not allowed Satan to torment and bring low Job, he never would have had an intimate encounter with God Himself. Not only that, but through Job’s suffering and as a result of their words, even Job’s friends heard directly from God! (Job 42:7-9)
We have no ability to have a Heavenly perspective on things and it is impossible to fully know the mind of God, but I find it incredibly heartening that, time and again, God has provided for His people and, most importantly of all, through that provision, His people have gotten to see and experience Him.
Now, as always, the critical component becomes applying this to my daily life. I need to stop worrying about providing and simply look to see God in the ways He provides for my needs. There’s a notion I definitely need to bind to my forehead and stamp on my doorpost…