Learning the hard way (3)

Judges 13:7 NCV

The angel who announced Samson’s birth said he was to ‘be a Nazirite,’ which meant that he was to be dedicated to doing God’s will. But Samson was careless about his spiritual life. He prayed only when he was in trouble. He was impulsive; he did whatever he felt like doing. How often can we be like that too? We can end up refusing to follow God’s plan for our lives because our plan seems better. And we can easily fall into the habit of only praying when we need something. God can become just an afterthought and a convenience to us. We turn to Him in desperation when things get tough, but when everything’s all right we ignore Him. Only when Samson was captured by the Philistines, his eyes gouged out, and he was grinding grain at a mill like an ox, do we read that he turned to God and prayed. He said: ‘Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more’ (Judges 16:28 NIV). Why did he wait until everything fell apart before turning to God? Just imagine what Samson could have achieved if he’d turned to God right from the start. God shouldn’t be our last resort. We should be turning to Him with everything, all the time. He’s the One who can bring change to our situations, and He’s the One who loves us more than we can ever know. The psalmist said, ‘Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labour; blessings and prosperity will be yours’ (Psalm 128:1-2 NIVUK). We’d save ourselves so many problems and spare ourselves so much pain if we’d take time to invite God into the situation.

2 Kings 18:17-20:21; Luke 1:57-66; Ps 139:13-24; Prov 13:25


2 Peter 1:3 NIV

Ever felt stressed out because you don’t think you have what it takes to live like Jesus? Maybe you’ve felt under pressure because, however hard you try, you don’t feel good enough for God? The good news is that God’s already ‘given us everything we need for a godly life.’ Everything we might possibly need to be able to live God’s way, we already have access to. These are things like wisdom, strength, peace, courage, and love. He equips us to be able to do the things He’s called us to. The Holy Spirit lives within us to guide, instruct, and transform us. The Bible says: ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?’ (1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV). We just need to listen to the Spirit’s promptings rather than doing the things we want to do. God hasn’t left us to do everything on our own. He cares about each of us, and provides us with what we need. Paul encouraged the church in Philippi by saying: ‘My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19 NIV). And that can encourage us too. It’s worth remembering that God’s given us ‘everything we need’, not ‘everything we want’. There will be things we pray for that we don’t get. They might not actually be good for us, even though we think they would be. So when we’re worried that we can’t live God’s way or we’re frustrated because God’s not giving us the things we want, let’s remember that God sees the bigger picture and He’s already provided everything we need.

2 Kings 4:18-6:33; Mark 16; Ps 80:12-19; Prov 13:13-16

God and your money (5)

Matthew 6:33 NLT

When it comes to money, the Bible teaches that: (1) God wants you to have enough to meet any size of need you may face. Think about it: Employees are mainly concerned with one thing – getting their paychecks. Employers, on the other hand, have a bigger need. They must have enough money to cover everybody’s paycheck. And here’s the good news for both employer and employee: “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” (v. 8 NLT). (2) Many times God will send you to a particular place or person in order to meet your need. During a time of severe famine when people in Israel were dying of starvation, God said to the prophet Elijah, “Turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith…I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there” (1 Kings 17:3-4 KJV). And that worked well for a time – until “the brook dried up, because there had been no rain” (v. 7). God arranged it that way, because He will never permit you to depend on anybody or anything other than Him. He will dry up your “brook” in order to send you back to your true source – Himself. Here’s what God told Elijah next: “Arise, get thee to Zarephath…and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman to sustain thee” (v. 9). God used unlikely things like ravens, a brook, and a poor widow to meet Elijah’s needs. So stop trying to figure God out! Trust the One who “hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7 NLT) to use whomever, whatever, wherever, and whenever to meet your needs.

Soul food: Heb 9:1-11:16; Mark 10:35-52; Ps 97; Prov 12:1-3

God and your money (3)

Hebrews 4:16 NKJV

When you have a spiritual, physical, relational, or financial need, God says He will meet it. But some of us have a hard time believing this. After all, Jesus condemned the rich man for overlooking the poor man sitting on his doorstep. And God hasn’t changed His position on that issue. Jesus told the story of a man so busy making money that he had no time for God. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:20-21 NLT). And He hasn’t changed positions on that issue either. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple because they were ripping people off. He went so far as to call them “a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17 NKJV). Does that mean God is interested in meeting our spiritual needs but not our material ones? Let’s be clear; your spiritual needs should always be your highest priority, but let’s allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves. When it comes to God and your money, Jesus said: “Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT). Note the word “everything.” When you’re in right standing with God, you can pray with confidence and ask Him to bless you in all things!

Soul food: Heb 1-4; Mark 10:13-22; Ps 88:9b-18; Prov 11:27-29

Money (3)

Philippians 4:19 ESV

When we have a spiritual, physical, relational, or financial need, God says He’ll meet it. But some of us struggle to believe it. We worry because we doubt whether God will really provide for us. But Jesus said: ‘Don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need’ (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT). God is our Provider. He cares for us, and looks after us. The psalmist wrote: ‘The LORD is my shepherd, I have all that I need’ (Psalm 23:1 NLT). Shepherds care for their sheep. The sheep are dependent on the shepherd. The shepherd takes them to food and protects them from attack. We can rely on God as our Shepherd too. We might be tempted to think that God’s provision is only for our spiritual and emotional needs, but He also cares about our material and financial needs. We might not get everything we want, but God will ensure we have everything we need. Paul wrote: ‘My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.’ God is often called Jehovah Jireh; this means God who provides. Abraham first declared that God was his provider when an animal was provided to be the sacrifice (you can read the full story in Genesis 22). Sometimes we can be afraid because we don’t seem to have enough to get by, but when we take our problems to God, rather than trying to figure out everything ourselves, we can have peace and rest in the knowledge that God will provide.

Heb 1-4; Mark 10:13-22; Ps 88:9b-18; Prov 11:27-29