Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Number of Faith

I have to admit, when it comes to believing God for His provision, that provision has often had an exact number in my head. Maybe it's because I think in numbers, or because of my belief that it is important to be specific with your prayers. To me it is a different prayer when you pray, "Lord thank you that you are taking care of me" versus "Lord thank you that I am safe as I drive to work today. Your angels surround me and Your word says that even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I don't have to fear because You are with me. Thank You for being with me as I drive today." As you get specific with your prayers, your faith arises and you begin to declare the promises of the Lord. You also get to see specific answers to praise God for.

For instance, recently I was praying for my friends marriage. As I prayed I felt led to ask the Lord to intervene in a 180 degree turn around. It was hard for me to imagine the situation ever changing for the better, but as I prayed specifically for their communication skills and for breakthrough, I also prayed that it would be a "suddenly" work of God. One week later, my friend called to tell me the miracle that God had done in her marriage. God had brought them to a place of agreement in an amazing, suddenly way. I was so glad that I hadn't prayed a little, "Jesus, bless their marriage" prayer, but had been specific. Because when God answered, not only was my friend's marriage transformed, but my faith soared. I wasn't just happy for my friend, I was charged to believe that God could move any mountain. It is amazing to see God move on anyone's behalf, but for some reason when His movement answers a specific prayer from your heart... it blows you away.

I have seen this many times in my finances as well. Most recently, I saw God answer as I was preparing my grocery list yesterday. I had spent some of my grocery money already and as a result I was having to plan my meals on a relatively tight budget. To be specific, I had $85 to buy meals for 13 days. It honestly seemed a little impossible. I finished making my list, and as I sat there looking at my list I was really doubting that I could buy all of the ingredients and items on my list for what I had left in the grocery budget. Then in my spirit came this verse from Psalms 37, "I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging for bread." All of a sudden, faith sparked in my heart. I even wrote the verse across the bottom of my grocery list. I will not lack. My children will have food. Thank you Lord for Your amazing provision.

Inspired, I got my calculator out and began to add up the cost of my groceries. Do you know that I had exactly enough money for my entire grocery list, including tax? I sat there amazed, and even more amazed when it actually worked as I checked out at the grocery store. I just felt God's smiling at me: "Why do you worry, little one? I know what you need."

Yet even in God's amazing faithfulness, I can sometimes get bogged down in the specifics. If God doesn't provide in exactly the way that I have asked and believed, I can sometimes feel like He didn't come through. For those of you who don't know, my husband and I have embarked on a very thrilling adventure this year. Matt started his own graphic design business and through the transition of this year we have had to believe God for His provision on many occasions. However, on some of those occasions, God hasn't met my numbers.

I have pondered this dilemma a lot. Why is it that sometimes He will provide to the dollar as He did with my groceries, and other times it looks like He hasn't provided at all? People often speculate on this issue as to whether you had the right amount of faith, or didn't have faith, or maybe you are missing God. I know I have asked these same questions on occasion. But last week I had an epiphany.

I was sitting with our books and looking at my budget and I started talking to God about my budget. "Lord," I prayed, "I need $x.00 by the 15th of this month. I am just believing you for the money to meet our budget." My prayer was quite a bit longer than that, but at the end of it I sat quietly and I so clearly heard the Lord speak to my heart and say, "I am not locked into your numbers." Honestly, it was like He had just tossed me a water balloon which burst all over my perfectly planned budget. In that moment I realized that God had never promised me to provide the exact numbers of my budget. What He had promised me was that He would always provide. He had never promised me that I could spend money however I liked and that He would pay the bill, but what He has promised is that if I walk by the Spirit I will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. In other words, sometimes what I perceive as lack may just be me missing the Holy Spirit and overspending. Sometimes, His provision just doesn't work with my numbers.

As I sat there reeling from the effects of His words, the questions began to come in my heart. Have you ever lacked for food?
No
Have you ever lacked for shelter?
No
Are you clothed? Are your children clothed?
Yes
Is there anything that you truly need that God hasn't provided?
No.

And I realized in these questions that many times when I am questioning God's lack of provision (or my perception of it) what I should be reminding myself of is:
Am I starving? Am I naked? Am I without shelter?

Then God is providing for my needs, it just looks different than what I think it should look like. My heart turned in such a dramatic way that day. Instead of expecting God to match my numbers with His provision, I am asking Him for the wisdom to match my spending to His provision. And that turns out to be as simple as, if He doesn't provide more than $85 to spend on groceries, then I don't spend more than $85 on groceries. If I actually need something beyond that then I believe Him for the provision that need before I spend.

I know that Matt's and my financial situation is a little extreme right now. Most people take out loans to start a business and we are doing it without loans. In fact, we have joked that we are working our way through starting a business the way that some people work to pay their way through school without loans. It has been such a huge learning curve for us. I've learned so many lessons, but many of them are lessons that it will be so much easier to share once we have walked through this valley a little further. That is one of the reasons why I haven't been writing lately. It is easier to write on the other side then when you are down in the middle of it all. But through every lesson, we have seen God in His faithfulness and I will be excited to share from this season one day.

In the mean time... we do not lack. Both in the specifics and in the big picture, God is taking care of us. I know that He cares about my budget and that even the concept of having a budget is a thought from His heart so that we can manage well what He has given us. However, I think all of us need the reminder that though we work with our numbers and our salaries, our commission checks, our paychecks and our budgets, God's provision goes beyond our numbers.

It is just a wonderful truth that I am beginning to realize, and that is: we may believe God for a specific number in provision, but you can't really put a number on His provision. The key is in believing and not necessarily the amount you are believing for. So go ahead and ask, believe, seek, and knock... but if He doesn't answer immediately, it may be because He is busy sneaking in the back door to surprise you. God will always answer, it just may not come from the direction you were expecting, and it may not always fit neatly into your numbers :)

God bless until next time.
Tracy