Much has been said and written about the way God provides for us financially. The teachings on this subject range all the way from the traditional teaching that involuntary poverty is a great blessing that God wants most of His people to experience to the "name it-claim it" teaching that God will make fantastically wealthy anyone who merely has "faith," says the right words, and plants enough of his money in the right "good ground ministry."
However, I suspect that most of my readers experience something that is in between these extremes. We are neither grindingly poor nor fantastically wealthy. We give our tithes and offerings to God and expect Him to take care of us according to His promise. God has always provided us with what we need to survive; in this sense, He has never let us down. But we never seem to have quite enough to accomplish what God wants and to do what we want, too. There have been many times when we had to make difficult choices between suffering personal want and disappointing creditors or other people dependent on our ability to pay because, it seemed, God was late in answering our prayers and providing our needs. And, for most of us, there have been times when we have suffered painful losses because God didn't provide what we asked for in our prayers or didn't come through "on time." And all of this has left us with questions about whether we can really trust God and take his promises to hear our prayers and to give us what we ask in His name literally.
But the answer to these questions is found in the words of the promises themselves. In Matthew 6, after commanding us not to worry about food and clothing, those things that the Gentiles run after, because the Father knows we need those things, Jesus said: "But seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you as well." Matthew 6:33 (NIV). The promise is not, as it is often read, that God will give us the finances we need to "support" His kingdom. (God's kingdom is His work and doesn't need our support.) No, it works in the other direction: If we are first seeking God's kingdom and righteousness, the things we need will be added to us.
Now what is God's kingdom? Here is where we often get into trouble interpreting this verse. Is God's kingdom the local church program? Is it a "good ground" parachurch ministry? Is it a "ministry" at all? No! The kingdom of God is within (and among) us. Luke 17:21. Only those who do the will of the Father enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 7:21. The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. I Corinthians 4:20. In short, the kingdom of God is wherever God is King. It is as I seek to make God King in my life, to bring others to recognize him as King, and to seek His righteousness in Jesus first for myself and then for those within my influence, that he has promised to add to me all the things I need.
Here, then, is the explanation of our common observation that God usually seems slow and somewhat inadequate in meeting our "needs." God has committed Himself to provide what we need only as we seek His kingdom. Everything He is doing is directed toward building that Kingdom, within us individually and among us as His Body. None of the good things God does for us are intended to make it easier or more convenient to live our own lives as we choose. All of God's work in our lives is directed at making us dependent on Him and obedient to His voice as King.
Jesus' other promises to give us what we ask in prayer reveal a similar purpose. In John 14:12-13 and 16:23-24, the key words are "in my name." These words do not instruct us to pray for whatever we would like to have, add the magic words "in Jesus' name" at the end of our prayer, and wish really hard He will deliver. Instead, they tell us that, whenever we pray what He has authorized, we act in His name and He will certainly deliver. We must listen to Him and depend on Him to pray correctly. If we do so, we pray "in His name" and have His promise that we will receive.
Likewise, in John 15:7, the promise is that "if you remain in me and my words remain in you" -- this showing the need for a living relationship with Jesus and dependence on Him -- we may then "ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." But if we live in Christ and His words live in us, His wishes will be our wishes. We will be asking Him for what He wants, because we want it, too. And He has promised to give us what we ask, because we have made Him King by asking it. It all works together, and it is all about God being King. We can't expect to receive if our purpose in asking is to make our rebellion more comfortable.
Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman
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© 2003, 2017 Ian Johnson and Jonathan Brickman
God is King, explaining His Kingdom, which works on principles opposite those of the world.
Faith is believing God's Word is more real than what I see.
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