Thursday, January 30, 2014

Phil Johnson: "Sometimes the Lord's supply seems meager, but it is always sufficient"

I've been thinking about money. This is not so surprising for me at this time of year. I work in a school system that I value highly and enjoy. My colleagues from one end of the district to another are wonderful. Some of those are the people in Payroll. Our tradition is that we conclude the first half of the year before Christmas and we enjoy a long break from school, coming back the first week of January. In order to ease the Christmas giving frenzy, the payroll people work in a frenzy themselves to get our paychecks to us before Christmas instead of the last day of the month like usual. We're paid monthly.

This year we were paid December 18 and we will be paid again on January 31. So we will go six weeks between paychecks, and that is a stretch for anyone.

I am paid almost exactly enough to get by, with little to no surplus month to month. The job itself is a complete blessing. I work with kindergarten children as a teacher aide (now called para-professional.) It fulfills me professionally, because it gives me joy to be with children. It is clean, inside work. Ha, I've worked outside before and in very dirty jobs, and this is better, even when a five-year-old throws up on me. It is way better than picking the worms out of freshly caught cod in a freezing fish factory in Maine, which is what I did to pay the rent during college. Among other jobs. My school job also comes with health care benefits, which is a relief, not having had coverage for many years and whistling past the graveyard by on a promise and a prayer.

So the job has many benefits if not being cushy in the paycheck department. I was musing about this over the past week. I'm ending the month in very good shape. Projecting 6 weeks out is a hard things to do but I'm coming in for a precise landing and tomorrow when my paycheck arrives I'll not have wanted for anything. It takes discipline, self-denial, and constant prayer to make it through to the end of the month.

In the end I'm glad that my financial life is this way, I decided. My discipline flows from a relaxed reliance on the promise of God to provide for us. If I had more money I know I'd become spendthrift. I tend toward greed and selfishness. So with more, I'd turn to God less and I know I'd start to be greedy and selfish. I'd also begin to believe satan's propaganda that my comforts were self-acquired. I fear Him enough to know that when I get a glimpse of self-awareness, it's not a pretty picture, and to look back at Him.

I like turning to the scriptures to feed myself even if the fridge isn't stocked with everything I ever wanted. I know that it is HIM sustaining me. What a comfort.

Am I going to sing "In Christ Alone but send a few dollars extra just in case"? Am I going to pray, "I Need Thee Every Hour, except a bit of a cushion would be nice"? Or, proclaim, " 'Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus and my wallet"? What does it mean to sing, pray, speak, and think these things? It means what it means, trust Jesus to provide. Why do we sing "Trust and Obey" on Sunday and then go home and stress about finances on Monday?

So I was pondering these things. It'd good for me to live this way. Maybe other people can handle more money or more of a cushion, but the Lord knows, I can't. I'm blessed.

I decided to do some cooking and listen to Phil Johnson's latest sermon while chopping. His sermon is called "Not So Radical" and it is a message he is preaching through the Psalms of Ascents. He is up to Psalm 128.

Pastor Johnson explained that the psalms of ascents were songs the Israelites would sing on the way to Jerusalem. No matter what direction you approached Jerusalem from, and mostly the only way to go was the Jericho road, was uphill. You hiked. You climbed. You sweated. It was 3400 arduous feet uphill all the way. You did this three times a year. Grandma had to be carried in a cart drawn by an ox. The rest just hiked. These songs were songs they would sing in praise and anticipation of the worship festival to come, and would remind them of Who they were going to worship in the coming days.

Psalm 128:5 states the following:

"The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!"

Pr. Johnson looped back to verse 1 which opens with a message about how fearing the LORD brings blessing. He said,

"We don't hear enough about holy fear these days. Modern preachers like to encourage familiarity rather than fear, and that's why so much of today's worship is casual, flippant, man-centered. But Scripture is full of admonitions to fear the Lord. For many today, that is an unfamiliar concept."

Then he moved into explaining prosperity and blessing.

"The word prosperity here in our text speaks of the biblical concept of divine blessing, spiritual affluence, and material sufficiency. This kind of prosperity has nothing whatsoever to do with the worldly idea of mammon. The world's idea of prosperity is overabundance, opulence, luxury, self-indulgence--all dependent on material wealth. The Lord's definition of prosperity (by contrast) is full forgiveness, the imputation of perfect righteousness, and "grace to help in time of need"--all blessings of eternal value.

"Sometimes the Lord's supply seems meager, but it is always sufficient. He measures his blessings carefully, so that a glut of earthly prosperity doesn't extinguish our hope of heaven. And even that is a great blessing."

Sometimes the Lord blesses by sustaining with a large cushion, as He did with Job and Abraham. Sometimes the Lord blesses by sustaining exactly, as He does with me and perhaps with you. The Lord takes care of us financially and He takes care of us spiritually. What may seem meager is in truth perfection. I wouldn't make the trade for anything.

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all." (Matthew 6:31-32)

"So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:14)

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For further reading:

Phil Johnson: Not So Radical
(if the link still isn't working yet listen here at sermon audio)

9 Marks: Trusting God Through Unemployment

Our Daily Bread: God provides...but how?

Pastor Rick Henderson: The False Promise of the Prosperity Gospel: Why I Called Out Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer

16 comments:

  1. Elizabeth - this was definitely a word in due season for me! I have been struggling with my finances, stressed out because I don't have what I feel is a decent cushion. I have debt that has accumulated partly because of undisciplined, unwise money management but also because of circumstances where I did not see any other option. I have bid on several jobs within my department (I work for state government) that would be a step up in pay grade, but there is always a legitimate reason I am not hired--either experience or seniority. Over the past several months, God's been dealing with me at many levels (too much to go into here) but one area has been my finances. I've lived my life that if I give 10% to God, the rest is mine. Um, nope...it all belongs to him. I realize I want a 'cushion' so I can spend it on things I want and think I need. It has not only been very humbling but downright painful to look at how my heart has been far from God, focused on what I want. In fact, and I am ashamed to admit this, there have been times where my finances were tight, so I cut back (or eliminated) giving to the church. I don't do that anymore, but I have in the past. I am beginning to feel His peace as He refines my heart to be obedient to His word and pleasing to Him. I'm not stressing as much...my goal is to take steps to alleviate some of the debt load. If I get a promotion, fine; if not, I'll just buckle down some more. I am seeking counseling to get myself on track. I think of the parable of the wise manager, and I want to manage God's resources wisely and in a manner that pleases Him.

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    1. I'm so proud of you! Jesus loves His children's repentance, and He forgives instantly! He sees you as righteous, even when He has to chastise. It sounds like you are definitely on the right path.

      I struggle with giving to the church. If I tithe all my surplus it leaves me no ability ever to help friends and colleagues to meet needs, something that the bible says we should do. (Acts 2:45; Acts 4:35). If I use all my surplus to give and meet needs, it leaves nothing for the church, and salaries must be paid and the lights must stay on- I want to be part of that giving. (2 Cor 9:7).

      So I try to split the difference and be diligent about meeting needs *and* also giving to the church...but I wish it could be more for both.

      I am SURE that if you are praying to Jesus for the Spirit's help to be a wise manager, He will fulfill your prayer. Anything you ask in His name (i.e. according to His will) shall be granted to you. (Matthew 18:19)

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    2. Like you, I was struggling to work my way out of debt and praying for help and wisdom to know how to do that. One interesting way the LORD provided that help was to allow me to have an accident - I hit a deer and totaled my car. The insurance was enough to pay off the loan and the LORD brought a much cheaper car to me.

      Not exactly how I was thinking He might help, but His ways are not our ways - they're always perfect, and He is faithful.

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    3. I love your amazing testimony, Grace to You!
      I too, have many similarly amazing stories of how God answered my pleas for help, most of the times it is in odd ways, and not how I would have expected or thought of, which causes me to praise Him all the more (and odd testimonies are easier to recall) ;)

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  2. Ewww, gotta love plucking worms from cold fish! Ha!
    Love your story of faith and trusting God with finances and daily living, amen!
    Seems most of my walk with The Lord finds Him, always supplying my needs, with just enough. And on occasion a surprise or two of something above and beyond, to always keep me reaching and relying on Him.
    And I feel the same way you do Elizabeth, if I had overflowing abundance, my bet is that I wouldn't be wise with it, but likely selfishly indulgent!
    I am blessed beyond measure with Him!
    Thank you for another great post!
    Heather

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    1. Hi Heather,

      I loved your confidence in His supply, and I agree about the sometimes something extra :)

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  3. What about someone who recently gave his heart to the Lord who finds himself disabled with no income because he can no longer work and becomes homeless because he can no longer pay the rent. Is that God's provision? What does a believer do in this situation?

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    1. YES. That is God's provision. We don't know what He is doing and our external circumstances are never an indicator of either holiness or judgment. Case in point: Job. He lost all his children, his income, his cattle, his friends, his health. Was that God's provision? Yes. It was His plan. His ordination. His will.

      You asked, 'What does a believer do in this situation?' Do as Job did. Praise God.

      Now, sometimes a reduced circumstance IS due to sin on the person's part. If we do not work we do not eat. 2 Thess 3:10.

      The question to ask is not "Since I'm homeless and poor, is that God's provision?" It is "How can I trust and obey God when my external circumstances deteriorate? Here is one answer

      http://www.gotquestions.org/unemployment.html

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  4. This person was a hard worker and is suffering horribly from nerve pain. We all have sin in our lives so does that mean God will bless no one? How is it provision to have nothing? And this person has been praising God, praying and believing, but the situation hasn't changed in several months.

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    1. I'm very sorry for your friend's pain. We know from scripture that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. His timing is perfect and someday or some way the good will be revealed.

      Did you read the essay?

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  5. Great post Elizabeth. Money is something I think everybody struggles with. Our society often points to the rich as being greedy, but I see so many people who are poor or borderline poor who are very greedy. I think the apostle Paul summed it up best in Philippians 4:10-12

    10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

    Let's be content with what the Lord has provided, give back to His church and provide for our family and friends in need.

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  6. "If we do not work we do not eat."

    That would be nice if it were true, but there are countless able-bodied people who somehow manage to collect welfare, then go buy steak and salmon and other expensive food at the grocery while the rest of us have to make do with cheap cuts of meat or fast food because that's all we can afford.

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    1. The verse is from 2 Thessalonians 3:10,

      For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.


      This applies to Christians. As Pulpit Commentary says, given our fallen nature "idleness is the parent of many crimes."

      As God told Adam after the Fall, labor is a curse but it is commanded and expected. (Genesis 3). Even before the Fall, God set Adam in the Garden and told him to shepherd it. (The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Gen 2:15). In the very next verse, God said to Adam, "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, " First work, then eat.

      As for those non-believers who take advantage of the system to be idle, do not envy them. Proverbs 6:6 says, "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!" Therefore, to be a sluggard is UNwise.

      Proverbs 19:15 says "Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry."

      We are to remember to help the weak (Acts 20:35). We are supposed to help real widows (1 Tim 5:3), which just goes to show, even in the very first church, there were some who tried to take advantage of the generosity of others and live on the dole when they were able bodied. (1 Tim 5:1-11). God always deals with sinners. Do not be surprised when a non-believer does these things. It's what they do...they sin.

      If a believer does them, they will reap the consequences of their sin, if they do not repent.

      And, God's word is always true. :)

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  7. Elizabeth, WOW!
    Your responses here, are right out of the wisdom in God's word,versus using the opinion of man.
    Thank you for that!

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    1. Thanks Heather! God says it so perfectly, I love to share His word!

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  8. A word of encouragement:

    Luke 16:10

    -Carolyn

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