God is a Loving Abundant Provider

Can you imagine standing there when Jesus turned the water into wine? The scripture says in the book of John that six stone water jars used for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons, were filled to the brim. Filled to the brim? By my calculation that would be between 120 and 160 gallons of wine. We don’t know how many guests were at the wedding, but that is a lot of wine.

Abundance is part of his nature. He fed the 5000 men (not to mention women and children) and guess what?—there were baskets of food left over. I believe we must be totally convinced that God is an abundant provider—not just sometimes when he is in a good mood but as a part of his nature he provides “more than enough.” It is how he does things.

Jesus and his party were accused of living in celebration and luxury. Maybe it was true. Why was he welcome at parties with the gluttons and drunkards? This would have been the wealthy people of the community in Jesus day. Maybe they invited him because they were hoping he would turn more water into wine? I don’t know.

What does it mean when the scripture says he delights in the well-being (sometimes translated prosperity) of his servant? “…The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant” (Psalm 35: 27).

It means it makes him happy to bless you financially and otherwise! God wants to give you the desires of your heart. Let me qualify that by saying that as you get closer to Him the desires of your heart are the same as the desires of His heart and your plans are the same as His plans. He wants to give them to you: May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed (Psalm 20:4).

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Be Fruitful

The spirit of poverty makes us feel trapped where we are. God does want us to advance. Take the promotion at your job. Start taking classes to get a better job. If we have an advancing mindset, our current financial situation doesn’t matter. Think of Joseph’s prosperous soul regardless of his circumstances. We can’t just wish we had a better job; we need to take steps to get one. We observe that Adam and Eve were quickly assigned the task of naming the animals. They were not to let things the way they were but to bring advancement.

Consider this…God is a loving Father who creates unfinished things so those he loves may have a meaningful existence, purpose and a sense of accomplishment in life. For example God created corn but he leaves it up to us to put it in rows and feed the world with it as stated in Psalm 104:14:

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate–bringing forth food from the earth.

He created everything to grow and reproduce. Again in Genesis we find that God created plants that produced after their own kind…plants with seeds in them and fruit with seeds. This is a part of his divine nature that he wants us to take part in. It is his will for us to advance. People without an advancing mindset will not innovate and improve their life. In certain parts of the world which lack a Christian worldview, villagers will carry buckets of water for miles each day. They will do this for many years without ever attempting to dig a well in the place where they live.

What was it that caused Wilbur and Orville Wright to want to fly and discover the laws of flight and the airplane? Were they just bored with the train, or was there something in the hearts of these two Christian men that caused them to want to advance? And look at what has happened since then. The entire first flight of the Kitty Hawk was a shorter distance than the wingspan of a modern 747 jet. Amazing.

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How Christianity Changed the World

In Alvin Schmidt’s profound book How Christianity Changed the World,  he documents the amazing advancement of society due to the influence of Christianity. Women were oppressed in cultures prior to the coming of Christianity. Slavery, which was quite common before Christianity, has been almost virtually eliminated from the civilized world. There was little interest in the poor, the sick and the dying until early Christians ministered to these needs. The first hospitals were started by Christians. Education came into maturity under the influence of Christianity. The commandment against stealing redefined the concept of private property and property rights. The rise of modern science has been directly linked with the biblical understanding of the world. Schmidt documents and gives hundreds of examples of how Christianity has caused society to advance.

A few years ago we moved into a house that had more room for our growing family. It was not a new house so most of the appliances had been there for a number of years. One day after church my wife came and told me the oven stopped working. We were having people over for lunch so we went to plan B and I cooked the meat on the grill. From that time on my wife and I resigned ourselves to not using the oven ever again. I guess it’s not God’s will for us to have an oven. Is that how we responded? No! What is our intuitive response when something like this happens? Get it fixed or get a new one. We got a new one…better than the old one and added a microwave too. In addition, we did a lot more improvements to the house to make it better. This is an example of an advancing mindset.

Understand that God wants you to advance

We only have to look at the beginning of the Bible to find out God’s heart on this. We discover that soon after Adam and Eve were put on the earth they were commissioned to advance and bear fruit.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

Be fruitful!

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The Christian Worldview is Better

Picture with me the invalid man beside the pool of Bethesda who had been there for 38 years. Healing was actually within his eyesight but he was never able to get into the pool to receive it. It is very likely he saw others healed but never had a chance to be healed himself until Jesus came along one day. This is a prophetic picture of how the spirit of poverty paralyzes many Christians. We think there should be more, but we just can’t get past where we are in our finances.

Having served as a youth pastor for a number of years, I found the study of world religions and a biblical worldview helped me to understand and answer the worldview questions of teenagers. If we look at world religions today, we find the idea of things never changing is more closely aligned to the Hindu worldview than the Christian worldview.

Darrow Miller in  Discipling Nations  states: “Hinduism has at its core the idea that a person is assigned a place in life. It sees perfection as a state of resignation and complacency. This causes people to withdraw from the world and not attack its evils. There is no hope or desire to change their present situation. There is no rationale for why people should be helped. The poor are poor because of what they did in their past lives, and the way out of poverty in the next life is to suffer in this one. The caste system in India is an example of a society in the grip of such Hindu fatalism. “Don’t interfere with the workings of karma,” we are told. “Leave the destitute in their state.” It is not a coincidence that few advances in science, innovations and cures for diseases are coming out of Hindu India.

According to Miller this same fatalism…feeling like things will never change…is found in other non-Christian world religions. In Thailand for example, the peasant is labeled “jaak-con” meaning “destined to poverty.” This attitude enslaves the poor in poverty. In some African languages there is not even a concept of “distant” future. This means there is not a category to define things getting better. In the heart of Buddhism is suffering and death. The goal of the Buddhist is not to combat suffering and death, but to escape from them into a spiritual state (Miller).

In contrast the Christian worldview is one of advancement. Poverty is rooted in the rejection of Christianity. The gospel is good news. It brings self respect and a self worth and causes people to desire to advance. Can we permanently settle in our minds that God wants us to advance? Although this thought is embedded in Western society, which has its origins in the Christian worldview, this is not an idea of Western society; it is a biblical, Christian idea!

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Do You Have a Christian Worldview?

Do you have a Christian Worldview? At first glance, some of us might be slightly offended at this question but lets see what this means.

The spirit of poverty leaves us feeling like things will never change—that we can never get ahead and that we will always be at that same job …building widgets. “This is our place in life and that is the way it is,” we tell ourselves. “Our finances will always be out of control. The money just keeps coming in and going out and we are never able to have dominion over it. Things will never change.” This is called fatalism with no hope for change in the future, and it is contrary to the Christian worldview.

To be honest, in the past I actually felt more spiritual or thought it was more spiritual to be in financial lack. I saw it as my cross to bear. In my mind, suffering for the sake of the gospel included not having sufficient resources. I was shocked to find that this mindset has more to do with a Hindu worldview than a Christian worldview. Listen to what Darrow L. Miller has to say in his book Discipling Nations:

Hindu society actually values ignorance. Imagine you are a development worker who wants to teach poor people in India how to read and write. After all, you reason, illiterate people have little chance of improving their lives. Yet when you get there and begin to grasp the Hindu culture, it slowly dawns on you: In the Hindu system, encouraging the poor to learn is asking them to sin. Hinduism, for its part, has no rationale for why people should be helped. This system asserts that the poor are the poor because of what they did in their past lives, and their quickest way out of poverty in the next life is to suffer in this one. 1

By comparison, I realized the Christian worldview is one of advancing and growing. The Lord does not want me to languish in the same place in any area of my life. He desires to provide the necessary resources so there can be growth and increase in our lives.  If we look at world religions today, we find the idea of things never changing is more closely aligned to the Hindu worldview than the Christian worldview. God wants you to advance.

I hope you asked the Holy Spirit to teach you to prosper. He is a good teacher. He wants you to advance.

 

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Will You Pray the Same Risky Prayer?

I guess by now you might realize what challenge I am giving to you. Would you be willing to pray the same risky prayer that I did, “Holy Spirit, teach me to prosper?” Will you take God at His Word as we are studying it?

I want to caution you not to think about getting a second or third job and working twice as hard to become prosperous. If this is what you are thinking, you are missing the point. Maybe if you had five jobs, then you would have more money. You just would not sleep. No, this is not God’s will. This is poverty thinking. I like to think of the example of a farmer with his crops growing while he sleeps at night. He works hard during the day, but his seed is growing in the nighttime while he is sleeping.

I love the scripture found in Ecclesiastes 2:26, “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Peter Hartgerink is from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Here is his story: When I first heard this teaching on prosperity I was starting a new Information Technology consulting business.  Over the next years, I realized that God was speaking to me and telling me he wanted to prosper me both financially and spiritually. This was a new thought to me. Since then many things have changed in my life. 

When I began my business I thought of it only as a means of funding what I thought was my real ministry, which was church-planting. I have since learned that I am better at business than I am at church-planting. That used to bother me but now I see that it’s simply a matter of developing the areas in which God has given me grace instead of striving to be something I am not. I have learned to take a more entrepreneurial approach to life. I now see that managing finances with skill, wisdom, integrity and generosity is a godly calling. I want to be like Joseph, a man who can give out to others and sow funds into Kingdom purposes because I have learned to steward finances faithfully and well. 

The teaching in Brian’s book is one of the main influences that helped me to get to where I am today. I especially appreciate the emphasis on giving as a key to keeping our hearts free from materialism and greed. 

Prosperity of soul will cause us to prosper in all areas. It is a revelation. It comes out from within us. It is not the result of our striving. What could Joseph have done to promote himself from slavery to the second highest government official in all of Egypt? It could not have happened by his own effort. The Holy Spirit is a patient teacher. There is a proverb that states the path of the righteous is like the dawning sun, shining brighter and brighter until the full day. Let faith for biblical prosperity grow inside of you and nothing will be able to contain it.

Your finances are not the responsibility of the government, your family or the church. If you feel like a victim of fate, the lack of opportunities, the choices of others or circumstances beyond your control, I want to encourage you to take a fresh look at your situation. It might seem like you are in a hopeless, financial cycle and you cannot do anything to change it. It may feel like this is your lot in life. But you can do something to change your financial condition. Your finances are your responsibility. It is great if others help, but the responsibility is yours. You are the one who must believe in God as El Shaddai.

You are currently reaping what you have sown in your finances. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you what changes may be necessary. You will hear more of my story in the blogs to come.  I am sure yours will be different, but just as exciting. Pause now, find a quiet place and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to prosper and let your adventure begin.

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The Christmas Tree Story

One year God blessed us with a magnificent Christmas tree for our home. The tree was on a special sale because the growers were phasing out this particular kind of tree. It was a huge tree, and fortunately we had a cathedral ceiling in our living room or it would not have fit in our home. It looked like a tree that cost a hundred dollars, but in actuality, it only cost us fourteen dollars—honestly!

The tree was so big we did not have enough of Christmas decorations to cover it. We had to go out and buy more decorations. We decorated the tree and then got ready to enjoy the Christmas season with our family. We were set for a great holiday season. There was only one problem. I discovered that when people came into our home to visit and saw the towering tree, they always commented about how big it was. However, this wasn’t the problem. The problem was my reaction.

Their comments often were, “Wow, what a huge Christmas tree.” When they said that, the spirit of poverty would rise up inside me and I felt like I had to apologize for having such a big tree. I had a compulsion to tell them that I only paid fourteen dollars for the tree or they would think I had paid a lot of money for it. So, out of my mouth would come the words, “Yes, it was on sale and we bought it for only fourteen dollars.” I began to hate these words coming out of my mouth. It happened more than once. It was like an automatic response that I could not control. Something in me had to apologize for God’s blessing. I did not like my response, and I began to think I needed some type of deliverance or breakthrough.

I could not help but notice the same thing in other areas of my life. If I was wearing a jacket that my wife bought at a secondhand shop for a few dollars and I received a compliment, immediately the response would come out of my mouth that it was used and we bought it for only a few dollars. I could not let people think that God had blessed me with something nice. I began to cry out to God for deliverance. The spirit of poverty says it is more spiritual to be poor or act like you are poor. It was obvious to me that God was teaching me this was not true.

I started to pray for this spirit of poverty to be broken off of my life. Part of the answer was to realize I had to let people think that I had paid a hundred dollars for the tree. It was extremely difficult for me to do, but finally after someone else commented about our large tree, I was able to bite my lip, swallow the apology and say, “Yes, God blessed us with a big Christmas tree. God loves me and a big tree was an expression of His love for our family.” Feeling freedom come over me, I knew I was making progress. The Holy Spirit was changing my beliefs, renewing my thoughts, and changing my actions all the while He was teaching me to prosper.

This does not mean we purchased a huge Christmas tree every year after this. Some years we did and some years we did not, but God used this experience to teach me to not apologize for His blessings. God was changing me in answer to my “teach-me-to-prosper” prayer. Ah! There is a better way. Somehow this seemed like a path that a good and loving God would provide for His children. The Holy Spirit was teaching me to prosper.

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Holy Spirit, Teach Me to Prosper (part two)

God gave me a practical plan. I realized that when I went to the bank, I would often withdraw over $100 in cash. I would take out $120 or $150, whatever was needed for the time. I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to start asking for a one hundred dollar bill from the bank teller, whenever I withdrew over $100 from the bank. If I withdrew over $200, I asked for two one hundred dollar bills. The idea seemed kind of silly and a little bit embarrassing to me. Would God really tell me to do this? But, the impression would not go away so I decided to obey.

It was hard at first. I felt really self-conscious and embarrassed asking the bank teller for the one hundred dollar bills. “I can do this,” I kept telling myself. “God wants me to do this. He is teaching me to prosper.” So from time to time, depending on my personal business, I would have a hundred dollar bill or two in my wallet. Eventually, I started to get a little more comfortable with it. This continued for a few months.

One Sunday morning, I was sitting in our local church service with a one hundred dollar bill in my wallet. After the speaker shared his message that morning, it was announced there was going to be a special offering taken for him. I immediately stiffened up because I knew in an instant what God wanted me to do. God was saying, “Okay, Brian, now that you have become accustomed to having a hundred dollar bill in your wallet, I want you to put that one hundred dollar bill in the offering.” I admit it was a struggle. For some reason, it is much harder to depart with a hundred dollar bill than a hundred dollar check. There is something about seeing it go. But I did it. It was an act of obedience, and it felt good.

God spoke to me immediately and said, “I will take you seriously in this venture if you take me seriously. I will bless you with hundreds if you are willing to give hundreds.” You see, I was thinking in terms of receiving hundreds from God (which He wants to do), bur He was thinking of me giving hundreds to His work.

If you are considering praying this same prayer, “Holy Spirit, teach me to prosper,” do so at your own risk. This lesson has been so real that I can honestly say without bragging that since that time we have given away that specific amount of money, one hundred dollars, many times and more. We have been blessed. God is giving us more money and we are giving more money away than ever before. By God’s grace this principle continues to work in us and through us. Go ahead and pray that prayer…”Holy Spirit, teach me to prosper!” Just do it.

Coming on the next post is another humorous example of the Holy Spirit teaching me to prosper…The Christmas Tree story.

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