This week's Bible Study - September 20, 2015
God's Promise of Provision
Quotes of the Week:
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
What do you think about when you think about provision? The word can have many meanings, but in our context it could be about meeting needs or supplying means, etc. At some point in our lives, we all are in need of having someone or something else providing for us. When we are born, we are unable to take care of ourselves and though we age and learn more, it is quite some time until we are able to provide for our own needs. There may come times in our lives, due to sickness or other medical issues, where we are unable to provide for ourselves as well. In this lesson, we learn about God's promise of provision.
I believe we would all agree that God is not about meeting all of our wants and desires, but we should all be able to see how God has tangibly met our needs in the past and how we can rely upon Him in the present and future. There is some responsibility that we play into this as well, as we cannot waste what we have been given and expect to be given more and more and more. Similarly, we cannot necessarily choose our own path in life and expect others to provide for what that entails. This goes against what many expect in this age of self entitlement. Additionally, God's provision does not mean that sickness and death would not enter our world. There will come a time when we all face death and the fact that some lose that fight for life does not mean that God does not provide. Admittedly, this is a difficult pill for us to swallow when death seems to come prematurely.
The author of this Psalm is David and in it, he recalls his own experience of God's provision. In his time of need, he called and the Lord answered. Isn't it amazing to realize that the God whom we pray to hears us, and answers? In this situation, David had feared for his life, and the Lord had provided safety, as well as delivering him from the internal uneasiness that he had. In praying to God, David often found release by voicing his concerns to God and giving Him control of his situation. When we are able to give our situations to God, we can release ourselves of many worries.
David continued to say that there are others who have sought God in the same manner. He writes that those who look to the Lord are radiant and their faces are never covered with shame. The more that we focus on the Lord and seek Him, the less we are drawn to the things of this world. Does this mean that we will never stray? Certainly not. The familiar hymn, Amazing Grace, says "prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the Lord I love". We sing those words in church and while we are not proud of this fact, we resonate about the draw of the world. However, when we seek the Lord, that draw is minimized.
Have you ever noticed how your perspective becomes when you are focused on things of this world? It doesn't even have to be the sin, but simply the events of our day. It is nearly impossible to watch the evening news without hearing of disheartening things that are happening in our world. For some, these events are happening right in the middle of their communities. We can't pull ourselves out of the impact of the world, but we can certainly seek God to give us inner peace in the middle of the world falling apart around us.
The Psalmist writes that he has fears, but that the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and He delivers them. We may not be physically removed from the issues in life, but we can have that inner peace. Perhaps the key to peace is thinking less of ourselves and our particular situation and focusing more on the Lord.
The passage continues to encourage the reader to taste and see that the Lord is good. Have you ever had something that tasted so good that you felt like others at your table should have a taste? We love to share our experiences with others in many different areas. We love to talk about our own experiences so that others can understand what we have experienced. We love to talk about our exciting vacations and show pictures to others so that they can somehow experience part of that experience with us. At work, I have heard people share with each other about home projects, cars that they have purchased and many other things that show that we want others to experience things with us as well.
Have you ever considered why those of us who are believers are so often negligent in sharing our experiences with others? When we think of the peace that we can have in the midst of conflict, why are we reticent to tell others? We know of the tremendous impact that we have personally has and for us to not share is ultimately selfish of us. We know that we are blessed and are able to take refuge in our Lord and we know that the Lord could likewise provide refuge for them.
The Psalmist continues to reiterate that we, as holy people, are to fear the Lord. When we get our priorities correct, we know that He will take care of our needs. He even writes that those who fear Him lack nothing. When we are focused on what we don't have, are we truly focusing on the Lord, and are we truly relying on Him, or are we complaining more about what we have.
The passage speaks of the lions. When you see a lion, it is a picture of strength. From a human standpoint, we see people and their situations and we may assume that they have it all together. They may seem to have a great family relationship, a great career and be financially independent. However, looks can be deceiving. Even the strong lion can grow weak and hungry. When we put our trust in this world and the things of this world, we need to understand that they are not consistent. However, when we seek the Lord, we lack no good thing. It has always been a point of amazement to me to see how young children and elderly adults both can have a very similar relationship with the Lord. It isn't based on your income, your place of residence, your culture or your age. At all points in life, we seek the Lord and put our trust in the eternal, knowing that He has our eternity in His hands.
As this passage comes to a close, the Psalmist encourages others to listen to him and he would teach the fear of the Lord. As we grow and mature as a believer, we learn more about what the Bible says, even when we may think we understand pieces early on. However, as we learn more and more, we come to a more full understanding of the fear of the Lord. We are certainly in a life of continuing education.
The Psalmist begins to tangibly explain a few of the things that may relate to the fear of the Lord. He writes that if you love life and desire to see many good days (which should relate to each of us), then we should keep our tongues from evil and we should keep our lips from telling lies. Isn't it amazing that he puts so much emphasis on to the words that we use? How prevalent are lies in our lives? We all know what it means to lie - we have done it. We all know what it means to be lied about - we have all had that happen. It's part of being human, unfortunately. However, we need to take a look at our own lives and ensure that we are speaking truth, without coloring the truth with our own situation. This is important for us, but it is also important for those around us. Our lives should be about truth and when lies are being shared, we need to seek truth. Have you ever truly thought about the impact of lies on a person's life and how a character can be destroyed? Seek the fear of the Lord and speak truth.
Along with speaking truth, we are to turn from evil and do good. This is the essence of our role in salvation. We are to put our faith in Jesus Christ, but our lives should also change in specific areas where we have allowed evil to take root. Are there areas of your life that you know are 'evil' and that you know you need to change? Again, we are prone to wander, but that does not excuse our wandering. What area of your life needs to change from evil to good today?
We are to seek peace and pursue it. What are the areas of conflict in your life? What would it mean to have peace? Unfortunately, for people like myself (who hate conflict), peace is not necessarily the absence of conflict. There are times when we need to do something to promote peace - we may need to ask forgiveness for our own past wrongs, or we may need to forgive others for what they have done. However, you can only do so much. Romans 12:18 says "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." There will come times in life where you have done all that you can do, but the 'other side' wants to continue conflict, despite what you might do. In those cases, it is more important that you do what you can do, and if there are no efforts from others, you may have to be willing to distant yourself from others who seem to be focused on conflict.
I don't know where you are in your life right now. Perhaps things are going well and you feel relatively at peace and if that is your situation, you can thank God for what He has done and is doing. However, I do know that there are others who are in very difficult situations right now. It may seem as the world has let them down, which the world is prone to do. In no way do I want to simply say 'the church answer' and if you were to 'truly' fear the Lord, things would magically work out.
What I have learned, though, is that by seeking the Lord, we can find some sense of inner peace, despite the circumstances. You may still be sick, have relationship issues or have lost your job, but even in the midst of that crud, you can learn much about the fear of the Lord. We would like to think that if we were to pray a certain prayer, it would fix our situation. Unfortunately, there is no neat process by which these things are 'fixed' or that things would work out as we would hope. In our world, we have sin and decay and disease, and things can and do in fact get ugly at times. We can't really 'pretty' up what we face in the world, but we do know that even in the midst, God is with us and provides for us.
If you have experienced the gracious presence of the Lord, you know of the peace, comfort and the presence He gives us through the Holy Spirit. If you have experienced salvation, you know of the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus Christ. When it is all said and done, aren't these things much more important eternally than the other things we deal with in life. Again, this isn't to discount any of those things that are very real to all of us at times, because at that particular point, we may find it hard to focus on anything else. But, if our lives didn't have the pain and hurt and heartache - and we weren't forgiven, would that be better? Of course, we would like to have it all, but in putting all of our preference on today, we would be trading eternity for what we have here and now.
If you want to seek the Lord, are you doing what you need to do? Have you repented from areas of your life that you know to be wrong, or are you still hanging onto something you know to be wrong? If the Lord is speaking to you about something right now, this is likely something that you need to change - are you willing to do that? Are you speaking truth in your own life and are you seeking truth when others around you speak? There are some things in your life that you have no control of, but there are things that you certainly will be able to control. You can't cure your situation or immediate circumstance, but you can make changes where you know that God has called you to change.
In the end, we know of the presence of the Lord. Even in the midst of our situations, believers know of the surpassing greatness of what He offers. Our prayer for you is that you will truly seek the Lord and that His presence would be real in your life.