Last September my family and I took a trip to Colorado for my brother’s wedding. It was a big, long, and expensive (for us!) trip. Earlier in the year, I put money aside from our tax return in order to pay for the trip. However, while we were out there, I couldn’t help but get nervous during purchases. Should we try to scrimp a little more? Cut corners and spend less? I couldn’t help but think these things even though I knew that the trip was already paid for because of the money I had set aside. But what if we need that money for something else? I kept arguing to myself.
Ultimately the trip was great. We didn’t go bankrupt. Memories were made. But as I drove the long trek home from Colorado to North Carolina I couldn’t help but marvel at the financial lesson. How many times do I ask God for provision in a circumstance only for Him to remind me that He has already provided for that circumstance? Too many times!
I pray, “God, please provide the funds for this good work you would have me do!” Only for Him to chastise, “Look in your wallet, I’ve already provided what you need for the first step.” But that’s where I get nervous and say, “But what if I need that money for something else?”
Or how about, “Lord, I feel you calling me to serve in this way, please provide me with the time and energy to do so!” And He shows me how maybe I’ve been spending the extra time and energy He has already given me in fruitless ways. But then I get nervous and say, “But what if I need that time and energy to help me unwind and rest from all the other stuff you’ve called me to do?”
Or maybe when I say, “Lord, please provide me insight on what I can write about to encourage others!” And He says, “Remember that little lesson I taught you over six months ago in Colorado and you haven’t written yet?” And that’s where I could say, “But maybe I should keep that one in my back pocket for another time I don’t know what to write…” Fortunately, I didn’t say that (this time!). 😉
Maybe you never have the above prayer conversations with God, but I do. More than I’d like to admit. It’s painful to think about how many opportunities I’ve allowed myself to miss because of the fear of spending what I have and being left with nothing. But ultimately that kind of fearful thinking is a form of idolatry. I’m putting my security and peace of mind in my provision—not my Provider.
I can’t help but think of the woman described in 1 Kings 17. There was a drought in her land and she was a widow. The prophet, Elijah, was directed by God to go ask her for some food. So here is what happened:
“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.1 Kings 17:12-16
So when God, through Elijah, asked for a loaf of bread the woman didn’t say, “Sure I’ll make you some bread—provide the ingredients!” She used the provision she already had, trusting that God would replenish it. She didn’t leave herself a safety net when God asked her to use up what she had—she only had God’s promise. I’m sure as the days went by it got easier and easier for her to use up her current day’s provision, trusting that since God was faithful the day before, He would be faithful again.
Now, this is not an argument against savings accounts. Far from it! A good steward knows when to spend AND when to save. If we are only doing one of those things, it’s truly possible that our provision has become our idol. If we are only saving or only spending then we are no longer listening (and obeying!) the Lord’s instructions. Rather, we are listening to (and obeying!) our feelings that are tied to the provision: comfort from holding onto it, or satisfaction from spending it.
Also, when I keep asking for provision, instead of moving forward in faith, I am proving to Him that I depend more on what God provides than I depend on God Himself. For example, if I keep asking God for encouragement, even after I’ve already been given some, then I’m idolizing the good feeling I get from a morale boost. If I keep asking God for direction, even though if I have enough direction for the moment I’m in, then I’m idolizing control and understanding of the future. Or, most obviously, if I keep asking God to provide financially or physically, even though He’s already provided what I need today, then I’m idolizing the security found in those things.
So I need to keep moving forward in steps of obedience! Not get caught up or slowed down because I want more provision than what I truly need in the moment! How about you? Have you been praying for provision and ignoring the fact that God has already provided? Maybe the provision isn’t what you wanted it to look like. Maybe the provision requires some sacrifices on your part. Or maybe the provision is just for the very first step while you wanted the security of provision for a whole project! Don’t let yourself slip into disobedience by being afraid to act in faith with what you already have been given.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”Matthew 6:33
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:19