Thursday, October 28, 2010

The "Self-made Man"

You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But  remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. Deuteronomy 8:17–18.

Ever notice we tend to blame God when things go wrong—“Why has God let this happen,” or “why is He doing this to me?” Yet we congratulate ourselves when things go well! A sign of our typically perverse human nature.

We are all aware of the “self-made man,” who has worked hard and provided abundantly for his family and others, claiming credit for his achievement. Does a man deserve praise because he has fulfilled his duty to provide for his family? It is certainly preferable to indolence, but, as our text reveals, his work is useless without God’s provision.

I recall in younger years, I questioned the appropriateness of giving thanks to God before meals when I had worked hard to put food on the table. It suddenly dawned on me that without God’s power to infuse life into the dead seeds, I would have no food, however hard I had worked to provide some.

Following that reasoning to its logical conclusion, I am often overwhelmed at God’s provision in every corner of my life; for family, food and even comfortable furniture—always thankful for that comfortable bed at the end of a tiring day!

God warned the Israelites of the same trap. In the desert, God’s provision was clear, He provided manna, clothes that never wore out, and feet that never swelled. The land they inherited grew bunches of grapes so large, they were carried on a pole between two men (Numbers 13:23). Then, in that situation, it would be easy to believe in their self-sufficiency.

Now, in our time of relative prosperity, it is easy to forget God’s role in supplying our needs. But thankfulness has a positive side effect: it is a source of security in adversity. Recognizing God as our source in plenty, He is still our source in want. Instead of blaming God in our lean times, we have peace, knowing He will still provide for us (Philippians 4:6–7).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Persistent Faith for the Hard Times

Watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4:9.

In some ways, the Israelites had it easy! They saw and heard miraculous things not matched in our experience. Have you seen a pillar of fire or cloud following you each night and day, or water gushing out of impervious rock? Have we experienced a parting of the Jordan’s waters, or a siege and fall of Jericho in our lives?

Wow! With evidences of God like that in our history it would be easy to trust God wouldn’t it? Perhaps not. As a child, one of the inconsistencies I could not understand was the fickleness of the Israelites in the face of such great miracles. I was sure that if I had that sort of experience, I would have no difficulty trusting.

But as I grew older, I found that every adversity carried its own temptation not to believe; however much I had experienced God’s deliverance in the past. The resolution of past difficulties looked easy in retrospect and maybe it had nothing to do with God. Or perhaps this difficulty is my fault and so God will not answer. You can probably add your own excuses not to trust.

What we believe about past encounters with adversity will add or detract from our trust in God for the present. If God was present then, He will be with us now. Each occasion we trust God for the outcome builds faith for the next. Our difficulty arises from the ability to choose what to believe: whether everything happens by chance, or God is involved in our experience.

We may not have the spectacular experiences the Israelites had, but a lifetime of recognizing God acting on our behalf—in good times and bad—is an enduring legacy, not only for us, but also for our children and grandchildren. Their faith will gain that positive starting point as they embark on a lifetime of walking with God.