Over 20 years ago, I pulled up in front of my parents’ home. My wife was beside me in our car and our three children, all under the age of five, were seated in the back. We had less than $5 in the bank and there was even less in my wallet. We were a family in transition and not sure where God was leading us. Across the state, we had left behind some special friends and experiences. God had worked in our lives, bringing change and renewal. However, the path ahead was not clear. In fact, it was not even visible.
The next several years were filled with trials and growing. I worked a seasonal job for several years. I enjoyed the work, but I had to find other employment every winter. God always provided and I found something to do to provide for my family. We were without health insurance for six years. Again, God provided, as we were relatively healthy and without major incidents. With three growing boys in the house, that is a miracle in itself.
We never had a lot of money, but God provided us with places to live, some in neighborhoods where we would never have been able to afford a home. One of our homes during this time placed us in an area where my annual salary was probably equal to what our neighbors made weekly. No joke. And yet we rented a two-story, historic house, on over an acre of land, for a few hundred dollars a month.
With as little as we made, God also allowed us to be generous in giving and, in the process, showed us His faithfulness. This came about, primarily because of an error on my part. Our church had a missions’ conference, and, as part of the event, we made pledges to support the missions’ efforts of the church. As I mentioned before, we did not have much money, so we pledged to give $25 per month for missions.
When we returned home that day, we pulled out our copy of the pledge card and were shocked to discover that I had pledged $25 per week, not per month. My initial response was to contact someone and notify them of the mistake. However, my wife and I discussed it, prayed about it, and decided to honor the pledge. We really did not have the money to cover it. But we decided to see how God would provide. And everything was smooth sailing. Well, not exactly.
As I mentioned, I worked a seasonal job. That year, we had a rainy fall season, and so I did not work as much as usual. Then, winter came along and though I found work, it was about half of the income I normally made. Rent was due in a couple of weeks. I knew that if I made out the check for our tithe and missions’ pledge, we would be $200 short for rent. I told my wife. We told no one else, but we prayed for God’s provision and wrote out the giving check.
Following the service that week or the next, we returned to our car in the parking lot (which we left locked). We found an envelope on the front seat. When we opened it, we found $200 in cash inside. To this day, we have never discovered who it came from or how they got it into a locked car. Yet, once again, God had shown us that we could trust Him for our provision.
This past Sunday, our pastor taught from Matthew 6:19-34. In this passage, Jesus teaches us to store up treasure in heaven and to not be anxious about our lives. He concludes this section by saying, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34
God is not on His throne, wringing His hands and wondering how we are going to survive. I, on the other hand, find myself frequently concerned with the future. In fact, I find that I worry more now than when I had less money and possessions. Isn’t that something? It is really not surprising though.
When I made less, owned fewer possessions, and had very limited resources, I had no choice but to trust God. It is not that I did not worry. I was, and am, far from perfect. But then, I knew that there was nothing within my power I could do to create something out of nothing. It was either trust in God or live in despair. Now, with more resources, I somehow think I am the one making it all happen. How quickly we can forget that God is the provider of all things. Also, what we have today can be gone tomorrow (check the stock market today?).
Jesus clearly teaches us to seek Him first and He will take care of the rest. In a world that believes that we control our own destiny, this is a radical departure. It is a call to not hold onto the possessions and treasures of this world. We cannot allow them to rule our hearts. By releasing these things to God, it gives us freedom. It also allows us to be more radical in our trust and giving, and therefore, storing up treasure in heaven.
When we seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, His work in our lives shapes our priorities and builds our faith. God becomes bigger in our eyes. It is not that He actually becomes bigger, but we see Him for more of Who He really is. Our focus begins to shift from our abilities, or lack thereof, to the character and unlimited resources of the eternal God.
As a result, He can then pour out His love and generosity through us, even if we do it by mistake. I am so glad I made that mistake years ago. Because it taught me that God was faithful. I can trust Him, always. However, it is a lesson that I have to learn over and over again. I have a short memory. I think we all do. That is why we are reminded about God’s faithfulness and urged to stir up each other to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).
We need to tell the stories of how God works in our lives. And then tell them again and again. It reminds those who listen, as well as us, of the goodness and faithfulness of God. It reminds us that He is worthy of our trust. And when we trust Him, He will always come through. It may not be according to our timing and expectations, but He will provide us with what we need. And it will be better. He has promised (Romans 8:28).
Together for His glory…