Have I gotten this provision thing all wrong?
Have you ever wondered where God was in the middle of a tough situation? Why He didn’t seem to hold up His end of the deal? Why you were suffering, and He was silent?
Many years ago, my husband and I packed the kids and a few household things, left the comfort of job and family and headed to seminary. We lived on a third of our previous income and had many rice and turkey dinners.
After seminary, our income increased, and so did our lifestyle. We bought a new house, picked out new furnishings, and accrued new bills. Month after month, we looked at our bills and determined we didn’t have enough for all our “needs” so we wouldn’t give God as much as we should. He didn’t really “need” it.
After several months of this, the Holy Spirit convicted us to stop. We had to put God first in our finances and that meant writing the tithe check before bills. So we did, fully expecting God to miraculously intervene and pay all our bills, even though we were $200 short.
Did those bills miraculously get paid? No! The tithe check bounced.
We had missed the mark on this provision thing. Was God failing us? Not at all. It was us! We had lived in disobedience for a while, and now that we decided to live in obedience, we thought God would come through and fix our mistakes.
Could He? Absolutely! But should He? Probably not. We had lessons to learn. We had wrong thinking God wanted to change.
Three Mistakes We Make When it Comes to God’s Provision
1. We believe provision will always come immediately.
Jesus teaches an important lesson on timing and patience in John 11:1-45. Lazarus, his friend, was sick. But Jesus didn’t rush to His side, and by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was dead. Everyone told Jesus He was too late. But Jesus said to His disciples: “for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe…” (John 11:15).
Jesus healed Lazarus later than His sisters would have liked, but the miracle they would experience was worth their frustration with His timing. In waiting, Jesus showed that they could trust Him to provide spiritually and physically.
The same is true for us today. Waiting on the Lord to provide can grow our faith and train our hearts in ways that immediacy won’t. God will always come through for us — just not always on our timetable. Remember, “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:10, NLT).
2. We believe if it’s not miraculous, it’s not from God.
Does God always provide with a miracle? Certainly not.
During seminary, God did provide a check in the mail from time to time. But He also provided for us through things like a free loaf of yummy bread at the food co-op. A cooler summer where the air didn’t run as much so the utility bill was lower. A friend offering to babysit or giving us a gift card for a movie.
After seminary, we lost sight of how God provides. We made unwise financial decisions then begged God for forgiveness and waited for a miracle to wipe the debt away. Fortunately, we have a loving Father who disciplines, rebukes, and teaches us to think differently.
Romans 5:3-5 says, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us...” As a family, we believed in the miraculous, but we needed to learn the benefits of perseverance. So the debts got paid, but through our obedience, hard work, and restraint.
Checks in the mail and extra hours at work are both evidence of God’s provision. After all, God is the one who gives us the ability to work and to save (Deuteronomy 8:18). So we can praise Him for both!
3. We confuse wants with needs.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).
When my kids were teenagers, they developed their negotiating skills by trying to convince me and their father of their needs. They needed a cell phone at 13 so they could call us to pick them up from practice. They needed their own computer so they could do homework and a new car so they would be safer on the street.
In reality, those were all wants. They needed shelter, food, clothing, and love. Too often, we also confuse what we want with what we need.
If God isn’t providing something you’re asking for, test if it’s a need or a want. The greatest need we have and will ever have is for God to provide more of Himself.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says if you “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, then all these things will be given to you as well” What things? Things like food, drink, and clothes (Matthew 6:25-32).
If we’ll seek God first, then now or later, miraculous or not, God will provide for our needs and wants in the perfect way that only He can.