In the previous three Bible sessions on Worry (Parts 1, 2, 3), I presented the principle of depending on God’s provision, and he’ll take care of you. But one has to wonder: Is this for everyone? Does this only apply to people of prosperous nations? Yet, during this COVID crisis, many people around the world, including our own country, have lost their source of income. Some are about to be evicted from their home for lack of rent or mortgage payment. And there are those who have to go a day to several days without food. Where is God’s provision? I don’t pretend to be a theologian, but that doesn’t prevent me from expressing some thoughts.
Jesus was talking to his disciples (his inner group of followers) when he stated,
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” [John 14: 13-14. NIV].
Also, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” [John 16: 24. NIV]
Do you see the common phrase? “. . . in my name . . . .” That seems to be the key. Based on this reflection, I think my next Bible series will be “What’s In a Name?” The concept of “name” in the Bible has different connotations than what a name does in today’s English-speaking culture. Meanwhile, what do we do with this concept of God’s provision as it relates to what is going on in our lives?
In the series on Worry, I mentioned God’s promises: his valuable (like gold) and numerous (“mega,” literally) promises from 2 Peter 1: 4. But look at verse 3: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” [2 Peter 1: 3. NIV]
Let’s look at that verse. We immediately see “His divine power.” As stated in “What? Me Worry?”, God is the source of all things. Then it says “has given us everything we . . .” what? We need! Not want. Not dream about. What we need. And what kind of “need?” For life and godliness. This word for life in the original language of the New Testament – being Greek – is the word from which we get “zoology.” Physical, biological life. And then what else is God’s power the source of? Godliness – our spiritual life. So in summary, God is the source of our physical life and our spiritual life, and we can call on this power through God’s valuable and mega-numerous promises (there are a lot). Well, that sounds nice.
Let me take you somewhere else in Scriptures. Head to Hebrews 11. This is known as the “Faith Chapter” as it talks about faith and what it looks like. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” [Hebrews 11: 1. NIV] That pretty well sets the tone for a chapter on faith, doesn’t it? You look this next part up. Hebrews 11: 32-35a gives a list of additional people who were noted for their faith, and the passage speaks of how they were triumphant in their faith. People of faith conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames and escaped the edge of the sword. What else? Their weakness was turned to strength, and they became powerful in battle, routing foreign armies. And then what? Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Wow!!
Look at what you can do through your faith in God’s power if you just had the faith! If you stopped there, you would have a good backing for health, wealth and success through faith theology, wouldn’t you? However, it doesn’t just stop there. Let’s read on to verses 35b-39a:
“Others were tortured . . . . Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith . . . .” [Hebrews 11: 35b-39a. NIV]
These were ALL commended for their faith. Well, the first part was cool. We’re not too crazy about the second part quoted above, though. How does that fit with God’s power giving us everything we need for physical and spiritual life through his promises?
I warned you at the beginning that I’m not a theologian. However, let’s consider something:
For one thing, we may need to re-define what is important in our lives. Is death the ultimate downer? Jesus had twelve disciples. Judas, of course, went his own way, likely due to greed. Judas killed himself and was replaced, so Jesus still had twelve disciples. Of the twelve disciples, history and legend tells us eleven were killed by those in power within various societal structures (such as government – but don’t go there). John was the only one to die naturally at an older age. Do you suppose the disciples prayed that they themselves would live? I suspect so, but I am only surmising. Yet we do have record of a prayer of Jesus prior to his arrest, “trial” and execution. Did Jesus pray, “YEAH! BRING IT ON!” He didn’t, did he? Jesus himself wasn’t looking forward to what was to come with his beatings and death on the cross.
“[Jesus] withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond [the disciples], knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’” [Luke 22: 41-42. NIV]
Per those listed in Hebrews 11 as well as the lives of the disciples – and the very prayer of Jesus as he faced death in the face – death isn’t as important as following God’s will or his plan. Check out the conclusion of “What? Me Worry? – Part 3.”
Let me give you a larger picture of my being unemployed for ten months that I had mentioned. I was just graduating from Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky with a Master of Social Work degree (and yes, I was married and we had three children, ages 12, 8 and 5). I had a job all lined up as the Program Director of a Christian therapeutic group home for boys with behavior deficits in Redding, California. My wife had given her notice of resignation at her work as a Day Shift Supervisor (Registered Nurse). We were packing and were all set to head out to Redding, California that Tuesday in May of 1988.
HOWEVER, the Saturday before we left (two days), I received a call from the group home agency. The Director told me that, due to financial problems on their part, my position is no longer available. Boom. Just like that. Suddenly no job. We couldn’t stay as we had given our notice to vacate seminary housing. What to do? We called my wife’s parents in Washington State and told them of our situation. They invited us to stay with them until I was able to find a job. So off we went with me driving the rental moving truck and my wife following behind for 2,400 miles. The kids came, too, by the way. When we arrived in Washington, our savings had dwindled to $45.
And that’s where the introduction and conclusion of “What? Me Worry?” found us. While I was filling out applications for pastor or social worker almost anywhere (do you have any idea how far Guam is?), we were able to assist the Baptist church in which a grew up with conflict management, organization, and the working of committees. As our ministry in that Baptist church grew to a close, a job contact came in. Do you know where I ended up at the end of ten months looking for work while helping out this little church? I became employed as the Program Director of a therapeutic group home in (where?) Redding, California – but with a different children’s agency. Same position, same kind of agency, same town in California, but with a different agency! You should be getting goose bumps about now. God’s plan was for me to work in Redding, CA as a Program Director in a group home agency, “but wait, let’s pause for ten months while you do this other thing for me.”
Where am I heading with this? We often have a difficult time seeing our lives through God’s eyes. Were my wife and I calm after receiving that telephone call on a Saturday in Louisville, KY? No, but we didn’t fly to pieces, either. Stress? Oh, yeah. After the HUGE disappointment, it was time to plan for next steps. Is it easy following God’s plan? Not usually. Just look at the people of faith I cited earlier in the Hebrews passages. Sawed in two? I hope not.
Dedicate your life, your family and all that you are or have to God. If you are about to lose your home, that will certainly impact your life and cause you lots of stress. But it’s not the end, either. If you are starving, see if you can tie in with a community organization or a house of worship for guidance (if you don’t have that kind of relationship already.) As I concluded in “What? Me Worry? – Part 3”, look for ways God is PERMITTING adversity to come your way, and see where God’s work is being done through those difficulties. Then ask, “How can I be a part of God’s work in that adversity?” And no, it isn’t easy.