I was out getting a cup of coffee the other morning and I began to think about all the ways that God has provided for my family over the last couple of years. There have been several occasioins when we had to make decisions with financial implications and simply trust that the Lord would ultimately provide for our needs. Ultimately, we know that God’s will for our lives will not be foiled and so we can make big decisions trusting that the Lord is sovereign. I believe that this is the general teaching of James 4:13-17:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Where we go, what we have, our business success, and everything else is within the scope of God’s sovereign rule. This is a source of great comfort as we seek to follow Jesus.
As I continued to think about this subject my mind wondered a bit. I started thinking about the various ways that well-meaning Christians interpret this truth. The common temptation is to move beyond a sense of God’s blessing, and feel as if you are invincible. Let me explain what I mean with a practical example. This fall I began my first semester of seminary at the Expositors Seminary. Our family has been preparing for this for quite some time, and we have saved up enough money to pay for the first year of school. The mentality that my wife and I have is that God has called me into pastoral ministry and this training is the next step in fulfilling this calling. Thus, if we are right, then God will ultimately make provision for me to be able to finish seminary. Now here is where the danger begins. The temptation is to move beyond a trust in God, and presume upon God to make provision for you on your terms. Let me return to my example. I would be presuming upon God if I had the mentality that God had to provide for me by cutting me a check for my tuition. God can provide for me by giving me a second job, or by forcing me to take a few semesters off, or by not allowing me to finish (or any other way He sees fit). My point is that God has promised to provide for us, not give us everything that we want. I think many Christians get confused on this point.
How many Christian upon buying a new car, or home, or HD TV have you hear say “Well, we really can’t afford it right now, but we are just trusting that the Lord will provide…” Christians with this mentality have moved beyond a sense of God’s blessing in their lives to a sense of invisibility (by this I mean that they think everything will turn out just the way they want it to because they are Christians). The fact of the matter is that the Lord is probably going to provide a lesson in personal finances and dealing with bad credit rather than hundred dollar bills falling from heaven.
So, as Christians, what should our mentality be on this subject. Well, I think a big hint is given back in James 4:17:
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
I hope to elaborate more on this point tomorrow (or later this week).
Before I finish this post I want to make it clear that I am not dealing with the manner by which God makes provisions for His people, but rather I am dealing with the mentality that we as God’s people must have towards God’s provisions. Going back to my example (Seminary). This past week God chose to use a special means to provide for my tuition, and it just goes to show you that we have an amazing God with and amazing plan.