I was always tempted to envy those people who held down the same jobs for thirty years and who lived in the same houses. It was never my lot to do this, since God always seemed to move me around over the US and the world. For many others though, the concept of living in a family home and retiring from a lifetime job has been an accepted way of life. For some, a certain mentality has developed around this. We might call it “the Johnny Lunchbucket approach to living.” The goal of these folks was to get a good job with excellent benefits. At that job they supposedly “earned” their bread, and through that job all earthly needs were to be met. Although in reality none of us ever earned a loaf of bread in our whole lives, since bread is a miraculous gift of God.
This whole approach to life with all its ideas of earthly security has crumbled to pieces in the last few years. What does Johnny do when he has just turned fifty, and there is suddenly a termination slip in his next pay envelope? What does he do when his beloved company goes “belly-up,” or when his retirement fund goes bust by fraud or mismanagement? What does he do when his formerly cheap health insurance becomes too expensive to afford? Multiplied thousands have experienced one, or all of the above in the last decade.
It seems that God is out to teach all of us that he alone is our source for everything. God promises us that in the end-days he will shake all things: “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb. 12:26-27). We should not be surprised when things begin to shake. This whole era in which we live may someday be called the “Jello Era.” of human history. In this shaking and quaking era God wants us to run to him and to trust in him as never before.
Over the last twenty to thirty years, my wife and I have learned some principles of the Lord’s provision through our own struggles of faith. Let me share some of them.
THE TWO MITES
There is the principle of the two mites recorded in Mark 12:42-44. One day while Jesus and his disciples were at the Temple, he pointed out to them a woman who had just
walked up to the treasury and cast in two mites, which were very small coins. Jesus was amazed and delighted at her offering because he knew that she had given everything she had to the Lord, even her whole living. The Lord knew that her act took an enormous amount of faith. Some might question how the little woman would get her supper that night, or where she would sleep. Based on what I have experienced of God and his marvelous supply, I will guarantee you that the little woman didn’t go hungry, and neither did she have to sleep in the street.
This reckless abandonment of oneself to God is a very important principle in the teachings of Jesus. I used to think that Jesus gave his rigorous teaching about selling all you have and giving it to the poor, just to test the rich young man who came to him. Later I learned that Jesus made the principle a part of all his teaching. We see it in Luke 12:33-34, where Jesus says to all of us: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The early church took Jesus seriously and many promptly sold their real estate holdings and laid the money at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:34-35). They apparently understood something we no longer understand today. For sure, they knew God didn’t want them to be penniless and homeless, because he had also commanded them to give to the poor and to practice hospitality. They fully understood that God would provide them more, and probably even better things than they had given away. All they had to do was take the plunge of faith. I remember the words of an old Christian song that sums up this principle very well:
Give what you have, and the Lord will give you more.
Give what you have, there’s plenty more in store.
If you give what you have it will open heaven’s door;
If you give what you have to the Lord.
This principle of the two mites is central to the teaching of Christianity. It is a key to our understanding, and we will be greatly hindered unless we can grasp it.
THE TIED COLT AND PREPARED ROOM
There is also the principle of the tied colt and the prepared room found in Mark 11:2 and Mark 14:12-16. When Jesus was ready to make his triumphal entry into Jerusalem he sent his disciples with instructions to go to a certain place, find a colt there, untie it, and bring the colt to him. It took some faith to untie that colt. Why in the world would a colt which had never been ridden be tied anyway? All this was God’s special provision
And can you imagine a large upper room prepared, furnished, and unused during Passover in Jerusalem? Those who have lived in Israel know full well that there is not even a closet in crowded Jerusalem that is not in full use. Jerusalem is a city that is compact together – and packed! It was not built with unused rooms in mind, especially during high holiday seasons, when Jews from far and near travel to the city in accordance with Gods law.
Both these episodes simply illustrate the careful concern our Father has for our daily needs. He has prepared for us in advance. The Bible assures us that he has even prepared a table in the presence of our enemies (Psa. 23:5). The colt and room tell us that God always has something far better than we think. Furthermore, we should not be quick to panic and accept the good in place of the best. We should not even be surprised if God chooses to go super deluxe for us.
THE RAVENS AND THE BROOK
There is also the principle of the ravens and the brook. The prophet Elijah once predicted a three and one-half year drought in Israel. It came about just as he said, and things got pretty tough for everyone, including the prophet. God made provision for him at the brook Cherith. There the ravens were instructed to bring him his food morning and evening (1 Ki. 17:6). We learn from this story that God can supply us in funny and peculiar ways. The raven is an unclean bird. When God works a miracle don’t ask where the food came from or who brought it. Don’t ask what kind of food it is. Eat it and shut up! If God provides it, it is good for you.
God can be quite humorous in the way he does things for his elect. I remember that in the early days of my ministry my wife and I were literally down to the last dollar. Our shelves were bare, and to make matters worse, one of our children was about to have a birthday. Both of us were down in the basement agonizing about it, when suddenly in an unexplained surge of faith I said, “Honey, the Lord will supply us if he has to mobilize the birds!” At that precise instant our doorbell rang. When we opened the door there stood a positively perplexed church member holding out a very large steak. She mumbled something about not knowing why she had brought it over. Upon seeing this sight I burst out with an expression of sheer delight, but one that she has probably wondered about until this day. I said, “You are a funny looking bird!”
Yes, God can do things in unusual ways, and he can utilize the creatures he has made if he so chooses. On one occasion Jonah desperately needed a submarine, but submarines were not invented yet, so God prepared a great fish to save Jonah from the deep. What does it matter how he does it, so long as he does it?
But there is the question of what to do when the brook dries up. That happened to Elijah. Do we moan and groan and pray for the source to be revived. No! When one source dries up we move on to the Lord’s next exciting adventure.
THE CRUSE AND THE BARREL
Elijah went straight from the ravens and the brook to the cruse of oil and barrel of meal (1 Ki. 17:8-16). The brook was dry but the cruse and barrel, he soon found, were almost empty. The prophet could have said, “Just my rotten luck – a dried up brook, and now an almost empty barrel!” Yet the prophet knew that little is much if God is in it.
We can learn from this story that one faith person around can deliver many others. I wonder sometimes how many of the good things we enjoy have come about because of the strong faith of others around us. As the prophet began the cruse experience he found a poor woman and her son. The woman was getting ready to take the last handful of meal out of the barrel and the last few drops of oil out of her cruse. Her plan was to gather a couple of sticks, build a fire, make one last little cake, eat it and then die of starvation.
At that very moment Elijah came upon the scene. The prophet told the poor woman to first make a cake and give to him. Then she and her son could eat what was left. Perhaps it was the sparkle in the prophet’s eye or his foolhardy confidence. The poor hungry woman relented and made a cake for the prophet. Guess what? The barrel never ran dry and the cruse of oil never failed – not for the whole duration of the drought.
What else can we learn from the cruse and the barrel? I will share one thing about the cruse. Never look in it! If you get nervous and do so, it will scare you half to death, because it will be almost empty. Also, as soon as you peek, the supply will probably dry up. God just works like that. He always seems to go from the little to the much, and always works on the principle of simple faith. Remember the rule – don’t look; don’t worry – just keep pouring!
Well, there are many more little principles about God’s supply. There is the one about never telling your needs to anyone but God. There is another one about waiting upon the Lord. The Lord always seems to be painfully slow and his supply comes at the very last moment, when all but the faithful have given up. We should remember that waiting does not mean doing nothing. It means progressing on in faith, standing firm, occupying. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul speaks of this: “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
God does not want us to be idle busybodies. He wants us to work (2 Thess. 3:10). However, he does not want us to worship our work, or to have faith in it rather than in him. He is delighted when we can come to depend wholly upon him. He can provide through jobs or when necessary, through ravens. He can be a dwelling place for us, a high tower, a secure fortress. He can supply us in famine and keep us safe when the storms rage – even when the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea.
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem (original publication date, 1992).