The One Who Provides – A Portrait of God (11)

I have been working on a new book project for a while, Portraits of the King: 20 Biblical Pictures of God. It consists of short expositions of Scripture portraying the character of Yahweh, our God. This and related posts are chapters from this book.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 – Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)
God provides clothing even for the flowers

Photo by Quaritsch Photography on Unsplash

I have grown up in relative affluence compared to our brothers and sisters across the world; even when my parents did not have jobs as children, we still lived in nice houses and always had food on the table. As an adult, God has continued to provide for me and, now, for my family. Things have been tight at times; it has not always been clear how it would work out, yet God has always provided us with clothes, food, and a place to sleep. When we moved across the world with a 1-year-old daughter and 4 suitcases of clothing, God provided us with furniture, kitchen equipment, clothing, toys, and a car. When we moved house with a newborn and a 4-year-old, God provided us with houses to stay at while we searched for a place, and ultimately provided us with a nice house in the place where we were called to ministry. God has never failed to provide for us; it hasn’t always been pretty—sometimes it has seemed last minute—but God has never failed to uphold his promises. Despite God’s faithfulness, I confess I have often felt great anxiety over where we would sleep and what we would eat (maybe not so much what we would wear, but that reflects my sense of fashion, or lack thereof, more than faith). However, despite my faithlessness, God reveals himself to be faithful.

He is the God who provides, not only for my family, but even for the lowliest creatures in his creation. God is not distant from this creation but is responsible for all the goodness that punctuates its sorrows; he feeds the birds of the air, so much less valuable than humans made in his image. The flowers grow beautifully, again a work of God. The analogy with clothing suggests that their beauty is an act of extravagance on God’s part: he didn’t need to make them so beautiful, but it was his good pleasure to cloth them with glory greater than the richest of kings. Grass is fleeting; the small birds in question will live far shorter lives than humans, yet God gives gracious attention to them. How much more will he look upon and show kindness to those whom he has made his children, for us whom he has adopted in his son?

God is not reluctant to provide for us, or stingy in his care, but he delights to clothe and feed us as a father does so for his children. A good dad does not reluctantly give his children sustenance; instead, he delights in providing them with everything they need. Similarly, it is God’s delight to fulfill his promises, to provide for his children. This means that we don’t have to fight tooth and nail for what is ours, to climb the corporate ladder, or beat down doors to provide for our families. No, God delights to give all that is needed to those who seek him. This is not a promise of great comfort or extravagance but of contentment and sufficiency. That will look differently for each Christian, yet it is a promise we can rest in. The purpose of this great kindness from God is that we would be reckless or wholehearted in our pursuit of his kingdom: seek first the “kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Jesus promises. Don’t establish your career, and then seek the kingdom, or build a house, buy some land, make an investment, and then seek the kingdom. No, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, then everything else will fall into place. We must not strive for these things as the Gentiles do, hedging out bets and investing in contingencies: God demands action now. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back,” Jesus reminds us, “is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). That is, Jesus demands our all: we cannot postpone following him, even for otherwise good things. Jesus warns that the cost of following him will be steep: we will be like our master, who himself didn’t have a fixed address (Luke 9:58). To the one who would first farewell their family, would tie off loose ends, would even bury their father, Jesus says, “follow me,” don’t turn back now (Luke 9:57-62). “Take up your Cross,” give up everything, Jesus calls us (Luke 9:23-27). Yet when we seek first the kingdom, God will not neglect us; he is the God who provides.

This is hard to wrap our heads around in a world that seems entirely inside the box, a controlled system that we can analyse, where inputs have definite outputs. We know that money doesn’t grow on trees and that we won’t stumble upon valuable treasure in our backyard. No, money comes from jobs, certain jobs pay more than others; houses require immense amounts of money to buy, and renting is costly and requires a good track record. Where is there room for God to break in and fulfill his promises when things seem so mechanical? If we don’t aim for the top, seek the highest paying job, invest in property, etc., what are we going to do when we can no longer work? Where is the money going to come from if we don’t pour ourselves into acquiring it? Yet we would be foolish—I am foolish—to buy into this lie. The world is not a closed system; God continually acts within the created order to achieve his purposes and guarantee his promises.

Nature seems closed, organic, yes, but mechanical in its predictability (at least to the Modern mind). Nevertheless, within this apparently “closed” system, God is responsible for feeding the birds and clothing the flowers of the field. God can work in unusual ways to ensure his promises are fulfilled: he may rain bread from heaven, provide abundant meat (Exodus 16), bring forth water in dry places (Exod 17:1-7), and even dispatch animals to bring sustenance to his beloved people (1 Kings 17:1-7); money may not grow on trees, but apparently it can be found in fish (Matt 18:27). The complexities of the modern world have not boxed God out; he still provides in unusual and miraculous ways. Fundamentally, God is a good, good Father. He delights in giving good gifts to his children and never fails to fulfil his promises. We must not be anxious, for he has promised to take care of us. We must not be dissuaded from seeking first his kingdom by the steep cost, for God will not fail us; we will be uncomfortable, we will not necessarily see the how the next steps will work out, and we may even die! Yet God will provide for us and our families so long as we are on this earth, and in death will pour out the abundance of the riches of his presence upon us. God is our provider and sustainer, and he will not forsake us.

Portrait 1 – (God is) The Beginning

Portrait 2 – (God is) Unpredictably Gracious

Portrait 3 – (God is) The Self-Revealing One

Portrait 4 – (God is) Great in Mercy

Portrait 5 – (God is) The Sovereign Saviour

Portait 6 – (God is) High and Lifted Up

Portrait 7 – (God is) Incomparable

Portrait 8 – (God is) Among the Exiles

Portrait 9 – (God is) The Unbelievable Saviour

Portrait 10 – (God is) Home

Portait 11 – (God is) The One Who Provides

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