‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 13. Provision – a Different Set of Rules
Mt 13:12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
And Now: We have been considering the way the Lord meets the various needs of life that so often impose uncertainty on us, and we’ve just done it by reference to the life and ministry of Elisha. We noted the amazing range of daily needs that cropped up, each and every one of which the Lord met, and we challenged ourselves as to whether we let Him do that in our own personal circumstances. But it crosses my mind that sometimes we fail to remember that life in the kingdom of God works on very different rules from life in the world. Let’s check some of these out.
The ‘Having’ Principle: Our starter verse above is an instance of this that comes in the context of the Parable of the Sower, which provoked the disciples to ask Jesus why he used parables. The above verse follows Jesus referring to “the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom.” (v.11) I like the way the Message version puts it: “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears.” Insights and Understanding. Sometimes people say, “But I don’t seem to get anything out of the Bible,” to which the reply has to come, “But how much time do you spend reading His word, thinking about His word, studying it, meditating upon it, waiting on Him in prayer for understanding?” The absence of these things reveals the heart. The disciples had chosen to follow Jesus, to stick close to him and learn of him, that is what being a disciple is about. This is about provision which overcomes uncertainty, the uncertainty that fills so many minds. ‘Having’ comes from being in his presence.
The ’Giving’ Principle: Check this out: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Lk 6:38 NIV) The Message version puts it, “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity,” and Easy to Read version puts it, “Give to others, and you will receive. You will be given much. It will be poured into your hands—more than you can hold. You will be given so much that it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.”
The whole question of giving reveals in quite an amazing way the state of our heart. Many people don’t give because they feel insecure. It’s not that they don’t have anything, it’s that they fear losing what they have and God not turning up to provide more for them. The whole of these recent studies has been about the certainty of God being a provider, but it is a learning process and the Bible clearly teaches that faith can grow. Now I confess to not believing we should just throw our money haphazardly around at charities etc. but instead seek the Lord for wisdom how to bless others, yes the church obviously, charities He may put on your heart, but also be open when He puts a specific person and their need before you. This takes us on to:
The ‘Using’ Principle: Did you note in that Lk 6:38 reference the phrase, “For the measure you USE it.”? God doesn’t only want us to have open, generous hearts but to also purposefully use what He has given us and when we do, He will multiply it. Jesus’ parable of the ‘talents’ is the classic teaching on this. Matthew records Jesus speaking about a man handing out bags of gold to his servants (Mt 25:14- older versions refer to ‘talents’ being a monetary value) with the expectation that they would each use what he gave them. You probably know it well enough for me not to expound on it. Luke spoke of the same story (that Jesus probably told more than a few times around the country) but had the man handing out ‘minas’ (Lk 19:11-) and it is in this context Jesus teaches, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away,” (Lk 19:26) which appears to have a much wider meaning than simply insight and understanding that we saw in the context of explaining the Parable of the Sower. This implies it applies to all the talents, abilities, resources, opportunities that we have. Will we let God have access to them for them to be used by Him as He sees fit?
Example: Elijah’s Widow: We have already referred previously to the widow who Elijah stayed with who had, “only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug.” i.e. she was at the end of her resources. Nevertheless the prophet presses her: “first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” (v.13,14) He asks her to make and give away to him the last of what she has, but adds that when she does that, God will bless her resources. She responds with faith and it happens.
Example: Boy with a little: “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish.” (Jn 6:9) At the feeding of the five thousand it is John who points out that Andrew (who seems good with people) finds a boy with the resources that Jesus then uses to feed the massive crowd. We tend to lose him in the midst of the miracle but the fact of the matter was that this boy will willing to give Jesus his supplies, and a miracle ensues.
And So? And thus we see the principle of the kingdom being worked out – when the need arises, give what you have into Jesus’ hands and leave the rest to him. Uncertainty was the name of the game with Elijah’s widow – whether she could survive, whether she could trust the prophet. It was also behind the small boy’s offering – what could so little do, and can I trust Jesus? In both cases faith overcame uncertainty. When God’s word comes, when the Son is on the scene, can we trust Him? May the answer be in the affirmative so that our uncertainties may become an opportunity for Him to transform the situation and reveal The Certainty. Amen? Amen!