Thursday, April 03, 2008

Recognizing God's Hand in Our Lives

With the overabundance of "prosperity gospel" churches so popular today, I often wonder if we, as Christians, have forgotten that all things come from God and that He truly knows better than us what we need. We buy into the notion that God only wants good things for us, His children, and if we pray hard enough, good things will surely come our way. If this is true, I wonder why such a benevolent God would let His only son suffer unbearable torture and die such a lowly death. I know that Jesus died for our sins so that we may live, but honestly, did He die so that I might have a million dollar home, all the latest name-brand fashions, and the front parking space every time I go somewhere? I THINK NOT!

But it sure is a nice thought though, isn't it? I want to go on a 10 week European vacation, so I'll just pray as hard and as often as I can. Oh, and I'll also try to be as good of a person as I can. Surely then God's favor will pour down all over me and instead of just a 10-week vacation, I'll win a 12-week vacation from some sweepstakes that I didn't even have to enter. Wow! Or, I really want our business to just boom over night so that Eric can just run things from home, if he feels like it, or hire someone to do it for him if he doesn't. Since this is in my control, the only reason it isn't happening yet is because I have not been praying for it enough. So, if I just control the amount of time I spend in prayer, I will get God to give me what I want.

Personally, I just cannot swallow that, and hearing similar things preached (in some "mega-churches" and on talk shows)tends to just make me roll my eyes. But yet I can understand how appealing this idea sounds. I know how it feels to be at my very lowest and my very poorest. How I would have loved to believe during those times that I was actually in control of the situation and I could just DO SOMETHING to gain God's favor. When everything in our lives is out of our control, doesn't it feel nice to think we can take back the driver's seat and stop this crazy train. Unfortunately, we can't. I know that is not a pleasant thing to hear, but it is true. God's timing is not our own, and he puts us in seasons of our lives where we will suffer and know true pain. Then again, he also puts us in seasons of our lives where we will just be surrounded by good and everything will be right with our world. This is where trusting God comes in; not just trusting Him to give us good, but trusting Him to give us the best for what we need at this point in our lives. His wisdom is beyond our comprehension. Why would we believe we could manipulate it?

Let's remember that God's hand is constantly at work in our lives, whether we can feel it or not. It is not always easy to recognize, but it is always there. There is proof after proof of this throughout the Bible. Here is a favorite of mine: "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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 who gives me strength." (Phil. 4:11-13) Also, obviously I challenge anybody who doubts that the hand of God can bring anything but wealth and prosperity if we just want it enough to read the book of Job.

To bring this to a personal level, Eric and I have felt the hand of God in our lives so much so that we would be crazy to doubt it. Sometimes it has been as subtle as receiving a phone call from someone with a sympathetic ear when we really needed to talk, or funeral luncheon leftovers being dropped off for us by a neighbor at a time when the extra food really came in handy. Other times it has been as blatant as a slap in the face, such as when I worried for weeks over telling Eric that I was pregnant with Gracie because we were just on the precipice of growth in the business. The very day after I told him, he received a phone call from a very good client that we had thought we had lost, telling him they had more work ready for our company. I swear I could see God shaking His head, rolling His eyes, and tsk-tsking me for my lack of faith.

When we were financially at our lowest of lows, we never sought immediate relieve because we knew God's plan for us would unfold on his time schedule, not ours. However, we were constantly reminded that while he may have us in this season for a purpose, He would always provide for our true needs. We were provided with wonderful hand-me down clothes for all of our children at a time when they were truly needed. A neighbor, one whom we do not know very well, brought us a roast from her freezer that she was not going to be able to eat, as well as a $50 grocery card one Christmas. I could go on and on. Did any of these things bring us into prosperity? Nope, not at all. But our hearts sure were made richer. Did we have control over these circumstances, both the good and the bad? Nope, definitely not. But we did have the discipline to do the best we could with what we had, and to work as hard as we could at all times, and to be truly thankful and humbled when needed.

We have been blessed enough to feel God's word in action. "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matt. 6:26-34)

We also have been blessed enough to realize God's provision comes on His terms, not ours. We have NO control over it. When we try to control it, or even believe that we can, we lose. Yet when we discipline ourselves enough to trust in His perfect timing, He does provide in the way that He sees best.


Anonymous,  9:55 PM  

Amen and Amen!! All we have around here are those prosperity preaching mega churches, or the smaller wanna be's. Its all about "living your best life now" and God wants you to be blessed, so if you want that mansion, He wants you to have it too!

Gee, I guess the christians in China and other countries that are being persecuted dont really "get it" or something. Maybe they dont have enough "faith"?!!!

Right now we are hoping to meet with likeminded families because this is all we are getting in the churches around here!

Bythe way, my name is Jennifer and I have been stopping by your blog all day. Your grocery planning has inspired me to start a budget and try shopping for two weeks at a time. The only problem is fruit and veggies, dont even know if they would last two weeks?? Hmm I guess its worth a try!

Kate 11:47 PM  

Jennifer, thank you so much for your beautiful, encouraging words.

Sandi in FL 9:00 PM  

OOOOOOOOO, another AMEN here! I highly recommend this sermon by Voddie Baucham. SOOOOO worth a listen!

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