The group writing project What I have learned from Stress, initiated by Robert Hruzek’s on Middle Zone Musings really caught my attention this month because I don’t think that there has ever been a more appropriate time to talk about financial stress and the growing economic pressures we are all aware of at this time. For those who enjoy riding the roller coaster at 6 Flags the current economic crisis might provide excitement but for those who are watching their savings dwindle and their chance for retirement disappear it seems more like crashing into a mountain at high speed.
I have never had a stable income and for most of my life have had to raise my own support as well as support for the ministry I was involved in first as Medical Director of Mercy Ships and now as CEO for Mustard Seed Associates. This is commonly called living by faith. though I am not sure that faith has always come into the way I coped with this method of supporting myself. I well remember one occasion on which I needed to raise about $10,000 for a recruiting trip that a friend and I were making around Europe to raise awareness of the ship ministry. As the time of our departure grew closer my stress level soared. I lost weight because I couldn’t eat, I got irritable because I couldn’t sleep and worried myself sick because I was not sure where the money was coming from. The last of the money we needed for the first part of our trip came in 2 days before our departure date. As we travelled God faithfully provided all that we needed for the next step of our journey. It wasn’t the way that I wanted it to happen but it certainly taught me a lot about trusting in God.
I think that God is a strong believer in what I would call the “just in time” delivery system. So often we focus on what we think we will need next week, next year or even in ten years time and we get anxious when what we have accumulated doesn’t seem to be enough or when as in the current crisis what we thought we had suddenly seems to slip away. It is very hard to relax and trust that God will provide.
One of my favourite Bible passages about God’s provision is:. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (2 Cor 9:8, New Living Translation). I have learned over the years that God does provide for our needs and often God provides richly and abundantly far more than we can ever imagine. However God provides not so that we can accumulate for ourselves but so that we can share, otherwise what we already have is likely to go bad before we are able to use it.
When we face financial insecurity as many of us do at present, it is easy to focus on the seemingly scant resources we hold in our hands and our stress skyrocket. Trusting in God’s promise of abundance and generosity is almost impossible and so we can easily become tightfisted.and selfcentered. Yet often God’s miraculous provision only comes when we share the seemingly paltry provisions we hold in our hands. Like the way that God provided for the widow and her son who shared what they thought was their last meal with Elijah. Or like the way the young boy who shared his small helping of fish and loaves must have watched with awe and wonder as Jesus used it to feed thousands. The best way to deal with our financial stress is not to worry about how we are going to accumulate more for ourselves but rather to focus on how we can be God’s compassionate response to those who have less than we do.
I am convinced that God has a different way of doing multiplication tables. When I share generously of the provisions God has placed in my hand it often seems to multiply in awe inspiring ways that confound my understanding and that prodces joy not stress.
As we look ahead to what will probably continue to be financially insecure times, I think that all of us need to ask ourselves: What are we holding onto that God intends us to share? How can we reorient our thinking and remember we trust, not in the diminishing resources we feel we hold in our hands but in the God who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. (2 Cor 9:10)