If you surveyed a random sampling of Christians and asked them whether they would accept God’s provision in their lives, it is likely they would all answer in the affirmative. It makes complete sense that someone who is committed to following Christ and being completely dependent on Him would accept what He provides. The bible tells us that God gives good gifts to His children [Matt. 7:11] and works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes [Rom. 8:28]. And this does not apply only to the areas of shelter, food and finances. God’s provision extends to our relationships, spiritual giftings, professions and callings. Why would anyone not accept such grace?
Plainly stated, God’s provision does not always look the way we envision. The bible gives us many examples that illustrate what it looks like for our needs to be met, but these may be far from what we might desire or expect of God. The conflict of accepting God’s provision rears its head when our expectation of what we need is different than what He determines it to be. Let us review the account of John the Baptist.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
John the Baptist came into this world only after an angel of the Lord appeared to his father and foretold his birth. The promise of a child to a barren mother is indicative of only the miraculous. John’s birth was nothing less than a manifestation of God’s supernatural power. How blessed that baby was! Not only that, his life’s mission was the subject of prophesies several hundred years before his birth.
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.
What an incredible way for John’s life to begin, and what an awesome purpose that lay ahead of him. He was to usher in the coming of the Lord by helping restore the relationships between fathers and their children. This, of course, is a foreshadowing of what Christ himself came to accomplish between us and His father. Knowing the importance of John’s life, the prophecies about his coming and the miracle of his birth, we could naturally expect that his life on earth would be full of blessing and provision. While the truth is that his life indeed was rich in both, it often appeared to be less than that. The disparity may be the difference between a focus on the temporal instead of the spiritual.
Between the birth of John the Baptist and his ministry as an adult, the bible does not tell us much about his life. We know that he grew and became strong in the spirit until he emerged from the deserts and appeared in Jerusalem [Luke 1:80]. Note that John did not emerge from a palace or a place of prominence among men. There is no indication that he had any wealth or even a home to call his own. We only know that he lived in the desert. The following account from the Gospel of Mark paints the picture of this man who dwelt in the wilderness, blessed by God and carrying the Holy Spirit even when he was in his mother’s womb [Luke 1:15].
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
This image of John the Baptist is not a pretty one. Even by the standards of that day, this was a man of meager means. We do not know much about his circumstances other than that he appeared to live as a wild man. There is no account of his having any property, a wife or children. While the bible indicates that some of his contemporaries had occupations in addition to their ministries, there is no such indication about John. He lived off the land in a manner that we may find impossible to imagine. As his story continues, we learn that John is imprisoned for the very thing to which God called him. And after his imprisonment and repeated interrogations by King Herod himself, John’s life ends when he is beheaded at the king’s birthday celebration.
I have found myself reading the scriptures and envying John the Baptist for having been the one to baptize Jesus and witness the Holy Spirit descend upon him. Not only that, He also heard the voice of God speak in that moment. In addition to baptizing Jesus, he led multitudes to repentance and restored fathers to their children. I have envied his faith to stand boldly until death in the face of the authority figures of the day, never compromising and never denying the truths about the God he served and the Messiah He sent. These are incredible things. However, I cannot say that I have envied the apparently insubstantial manner in which John the Baptist lived. Neither can I say that his imprisonment and death are things that I have had a desire to experience.
The question is, if God’s provision for me mirrored the account above, would I accept it? If I were called to do great things for God’s kingdom but suffer from poverty, solitude, imprisonment and death, would I count it a blessed life?
We must be careful not to apply the world’ standards to God’s provision. His provision could be a big house or a friend’s couch, a steak dinner or a bologna sandwich, an overflowing bank account or just some change in my pocket. He may call you to spearhead a great ministry or simply pray for one, to live boldly for Him or die boldly for Him. Not only may God’s provision appear nothing like the world’s definition, it may appear nothing like the provision we see in the lives of other believers. King Solomon and King David had so much, while the men who followed Christ on earth and were charged with carrying on His ministry after His ascension lived like vagabonds and largely died as martyrs. Who can explain how they all enjoyed God’s perfect provision?
When we release control and let God take charge of determining how we are provided for, we must be prepared for a radical change. This is not to say that one will surely come. This is to say only that we must be prepared for the possibility. Trusting God in this respect is allowing Him to teach us how to understand what His provision looks like and how it works. It means not comparing our circumstances to those of others. It means following Jesus Christ with the understanding that walking with Him may look different than we anticipate in many ways.
Now is the time to reassess our intentions toward and commitment to God. Now is the time to reassess whether we are following God for who He is or for what He gives. We must consider whether we are willing to allow Him to tear down our preconceived paradigms and show us the truths of His provision. We must determine whether we can commit to His will no matter how that looks.
Father, continue to change our minds and our hearts so that they are in alignment with Your Holy Spirit. Teach us to be content with Your provision, trusting that it is indeed perfect. Help us to seek You in times of need and to wait upon You for direction and sustenance. Father, forgive us for the times when we have rejected Your blessings because they did not appear as we think they should have. Increase our discernment so that we may know when and how You would have us move. Give us the humility to accept all things that come from Your hands with thankful hearts. Let our gratitude encourage others to be thankful as well. We ask these things in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.