How God Provides
The pastor stood before the congregation and said "I have bad news, I have good news, and I have more bad news." The congregation got quiet. "The bad news is: the church needs a new roof!" the pastor said. The congregation groaned. "The good news is: we have enough money for the new roof." A sigh of relief was heard rippling through the gathered group. "The bad news is: it's still in your pockets."
In the face of some real financial crisis or need, haven't you heard some fellow Christian say something like, "Don't worry, God provides." We hear that and we relax. We give it all to God and think our work is done. But is that really how it works?
Baptist teacher and preacher Tony Campolo tells of being invited to speak at a ladies meeting. There were 300 women there. Before he spoke the president of the organization read a letter from a missionary. It was a very moving letter. In the letter the missionary expressed a need for $4,000 to take care of an emergency that had cropped up. So the president of the organization said, "We need to pray tha God will provide the resources to meet the need of this missionary. Paster Campolo will you please pray for us?" Tony Campolo, who is very outspoken said, "No." Startled, she said, "I beg your pardon." He said, "No, I won't pray for that." He said, "I believe that God has already provided the resources and that all we need to do is give. Tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to step up to this table and give every bit of cash I have in my pocket. And if all of you will do the same thing, I think God has already provided the resources."
The president of the organization chuckled a little bit and said, "Well, I guess we get the point. He is trying to teach us that we all need to give sacrifically." He said, "No, that is not what I am trying to teach you. I'm trying to teach you that God has already provided for this missionary. All we need to do is give it. Here, I'm going to put down all the money I have with me." [He later wrote reflecting on his offer, "I only had $15 in my pocket, so I wasn't too worried about that."] So he put down his $15 and then looked at the president of the organization. Reluctantly, she opened her purse and took out all of her money, which was about $40, and put it on the table. One by one the rest of the ladies filed by and put their money on the table, too. When they money was counted they had collected more than $4,000. Tony Compolo said, "Now, here's the lesson. God always supplies for our needs, and he supplied for this missionary, too. The only problem was we were keeping it to ourselves. Now let's pray and thank God for His provision."
Indeed, God provides, but regularly God provides through the resources God has supplied to each of us. We must recognize that God has blessed us with many things, including money, things that can be utilized to serve the purposes of God in our world. In other words, we have the means to do God's work. What is asked of us is to have the willingness, the generosity, the eagerness to use what God has already given us.
We are in the season of Lent, a season of re-evaluation of our priorities and needs. Lent has also been a customary time of service, of meeting the needs of others. It is expected that someone will ask, "How can we do this?" I think we already know the answer to the question. God has provided everything we need. It's right there in our pockets! I am proud to serve a church that has learned this lesson, a church that understands how God provides in this world. Folks at Bethany, you have stepped up and reached deep, time and again, to sustain the ministry we share together.
I hope you are aware that we are a tithing congregation, that ten percent of our income goes to the denomination to support various ministries in our Capitol Area Region, throughout the United States, and around the world. In addition, our Christian Action Committee distributes close to $2,000 annually to individuals in need and to other helping organizations in our local community. And there are always other efforts of caring that we are called upon to support - Warm Nights, the Oxon Hill Food Pantry, Week of Compassion Disaster Relief, Church World Service Blanket Fund, Warm Clothing for the Homeless, and the Christmas Boxes for Children. Bethany has not shied away from its responsibility to do what it can. We know God provides. It is right there in our pockets! Bless every one of you and keep up the good work!
~ Dr. Bob