Sunday, October 10, 2010
God's Faithful Provision - Part 2
Another meditation on Luke 12:22-31 and Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 50
There are times when we wonder, “Since God knows our daily needs and since He promises to give us those needs anyway, why then should we ask for them?” The Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 50 gives us reasons why we ought to ask God for those needs.
First of all, in asking God to provide for our daily physical needs, we are acknowledging that He alone is the source of our daily provision. By praying this request - "Give us this day our daily bread" - we are actually confessing that God is our faithful provider. As in the words of James 1.17, we are acknowledging that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
And we ought to pray this daily, just as we need to ask forgiveness for our sins daily. Yes, God has promised to provide for us and to forgive us our sins, yet He also expects us to plead for these things so that we are reminded daily that He alone is the ultimate fountain of everything good.
When we pray that God would take care for OUR BREAD we admit that God is the rightful source and owner of that bread. On our own we have no right to it, but by virtue of our faith-union with God's Only Begotten Son, the Father granted us the right to ask for and to access and enjoy it. As the Great Creator and Sustainer of all things, He is the true owner of everything in this world.
You must recall that immediately after the creation of Adam, God gave him all things. Adam was also given dominion over the entire creation, which he had the right to use in serving God as His Maker and covenant Lord. But you also remember that Adam lost that dominion in the fall. Because of his sin, he lost the right to all things, being rejected and disinherited by the righteous judgment of God.
Since then, no natural man, dead in his trespasses and sins, has any right, such as the children of God might claim, to the things of this world.
So the perspective of this petition is clearly the perspective of those who are recipients of the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. You pray this request as the children of God redeemed by Christ Jesus our Lord. Scripture tells us that all things are Christ's. He is the One Whom God appointed heir of all things, according to Hebrews 1:2. And through the blood of His cross He also reconciled all things unto Himself.
That means that before the face of God you and I have a right to the things of this world only when we have been united by faith to God in Christ. Unbelievers are usurpers of what rightly belongs first to God, then, in and through Jesus Christ, to us His children. Have you ever thought that way?
This truth must set us free then from being greedy or envious of others. In Luke 12.15, our Lord Jesus tells us, “Take care, and be on your guard against all kinds of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Since we also confess in Lord's Day 10 that all things come to us, not by chance, but from God's fatherly hand, we must be very thankful when God takes care of our needs.
I say this because there are times when we receive from God what we've been asking that we forget to thank Him or appreciate His kindness. There are times when we already receive what we prayed for yet we keep on grumbling or worrying, unsatisfied with what God has already provided. Oh, our sinful heart easily leads us away from God to focus on ourselves and the stuff of life. We easily fall into the trap of turning God’s provision into an idol.
But God's provision is intended not only to make us realize that He is the source of everything good. He also wants us to recognize that apart from His divine blessing, “neither our work and worry nor His gifts can do us any good,” as Lord's Day 50 puts it.
Let me cite one example. When God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt they failed to thank and love the Lord in return. Instead they grumbled and wished to return to Egypt. They've been crying out to the Lord for freedom from their oppressive Egyptian taskmasters. Yet when God heard their cry and brought them out of slavery, it did not do them any good.
Later, when God enable them to enter the Promise Land and enjoy the fruits of the vine they also forgot the Lord. They forgot to thank Him. They forgot to love Him back. And they failed to keep His law. Instead, they enjoyed the benefits of being in the Promise Land without seeking the favor and blessing of the One who, in the first place, has brought them there. They enjoyed the promises of God but they failed to keep His commandments.
Such is so common even among us. And we need to fight daily against this greed and materialistic tendency in us by the power of God’s Spirit. And so through this prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” the Holy Spirit reminds us that it’s in God alone that we find ultimate satisfaction in this life. It is not in the material things that we have but in the fact that in Christ God has accepted us and adopted us as His children. And with that privileged status God has promised to provide. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8.33).
When you and I fail to realize that it is in humble recognition that God is the source of all good things and that the way to receive and enjoy these things is through our Lord Jesus Christ, we may be the wealthiest and most successful person in the community yet we can be at the same time the most unsatisfied and restless person.
Until our heart finds satisfaction in God alone through His Son Jesus Christ, our worldly success and convenient life could not do us any good. In fact if all our effort are only aimed at success and convenience in this life we are just spending our time and energy on wrong pursuits which ultimately lead to frustration and destruction.
Jesus said to His disciples in v. 29, “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.” He doesn’t mean, of course, that you should not work to earn your keep. He is but reminding us not to get worked up over food, clothing, shelter, even money. Let your Father take care of those things for you. He knows that you need them and He will give you those things at the proper time.
Do you know what you need to do? Do you know what you should be pursuing more in this life? See verse 31. You should be seeking the kingdom of God above all else. When you pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” your focus should not be on the bread but on the Giver of the bread. You should be seeking His glory and praise in and through your obedience to Him.
The other goal of our praying the fourth petition in the Lord's Prayer therefore is to seek God's honor, God’s glory, "by giving up our trust in creatures and possessions and to put our trust and confidence in Him alone." In our old nature, we tend to think that we provide everything for ourselves and we own things ourselves. We make our livings. We earn our wages. We buy our food and all kinds of stuff. We buy pieces of land and we build our house. Why do we need God? That's our old nature.
The wise man in Proverbs 30 knows that. So he prays saying, “…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (30:8b-9). We would be wise to learn from this prayer and to really believe it and seek to live it out.
As redeemed and adopted children of God, we pray, “Lord, thank You that You provide for our food and clothes and shelter. You care about those things. You even blessed us with many things that we can live without. Help us therefore not only to believe in Your promise that You would supply our every need but also to learn to put our confidence in You alone and not on ourselves nor on the things that You’ve given us.”
This is the kind of prayer that you and I ought to be asking God always. Our focus must be on God and His kingdom, that is, His righteous sovereign rule over us His people. We recognize that everything is from Him and by Him and for Him, even our possessions, and we must give a careful account for the use of these things.
The reason why God wants us to focus on seeking His kingdom is for you and me to be busy in living out the kingdom principles and standards in our daily lives – principles of righteousness and justice, love and mercy, grace and truth, joy and obedience, freedom and self-control. These are the stuff that we want to see more and more evident in our life at home, in school or work, in the church and in the community.
If you seek to live as a kind employer or as an hardworking employee this week, you will be concerned with truth, righteousness and justice. As you think of your role as a husband or wife, or thinking of how you can be an obedient child to your parents or a diligent student in school, you would never worry about what you would eat, or drink or wear. You would, however be thinking of how to express love to your wife or respect to your husband, or how to honor your parents or faithful to your employer.
If your life orientation is centered on pleasing God and doing what He commands you to do, you would not be worrying about the same things that many people in this world worry a lot.
SO, What is your life goal? Is it loving God and your neighbor as yourself? You will discover yourself that when your priorities are set toward the building of God’s kingdom, the Lord would grant you all that you need pertaining to life and godliness.
It doesn’t mean, of course, that all will be well all the time. But even in the most difficult and trying moment in your life, when your eyes are set on Christ, you would learn to trust God, knowing that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8.28). “Seek God’s kingdom,” our Lord says, “and these things will be added to you” (v.31).
May we never forget that the Lord’s daily provisions are intended not only for us to know that He alone is the source of all good things, but also for us to recognize that these things are for our comfort and motivation to put our trust in God alone. In Christ, He is your gracious Almighty Father.