As some of you already know and most of you can probably guess... my husband and I are among the thousands (or millions) who are going through financially difficult times. God is showing me so much, though, that I can't find it in myself to wish that this tough time had passed us by. I mean... sure it would have been nice if God could have shown me all this and still given us plenty of money at the same time... but that's probably more my fault than His.
Whatever the case is, it would take pages and pages to share all that He's shown me this year. Not surprisingly, a lot of it has to do with money and how it relates to our lives. More surprisingly, perhaps, is just how many areas of my life these prayers about money have taken me into.
Just the other day, I was asking God questions about Christians losing everything... about Christians being poor. In the Bible, God made it quite plain that He is very jealous of his glory. So I wanted to know how Christians going broke brings glory to Him!
He didn't answer.
So my next question was if/when God ever brings His people down low. The answer to that was immediate. He did it many times, the whole way through the Bible. It's illustrated quite well in Judges through 2 Chronicles.
My next question was when and why did He do it?
The answer to that was also immediate, but it was something I'd never thought about in this way... idolatry. After all, if His people are guilty of idolatry, then they're not bringing glory to Him anyway. Instantly I was reminded of previous times when I've seen how full of idolatry we Christians are – the main idol, of course, being money. I've seen it in myself, but at the time, I didn't know what to do about it. In my heart, I knew I cared too much about having this thing or that thing. I knew I thought much more about the things I could and could not have, than I did about the lost souls that surrounded me. I could deny myself those things, of course, but did that change the fact that my heart cared too much? No, it didn't, and I knew that the difficulty lay there. After all, “The Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) So I prayed the somewhat dangerous prayer of, “Lord, change my heart.”
Well... in that moment a few days ago, I realized that God HAS changed my heart! Somehow, over the course of this very rough year, God changed it! Can I describe the gratefulness I felt at that moment of realization?
But back to riches... as we know, Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Why? God doesn't have anything against being rich... in fact, His Word is filled with promises that He wants to make us rich! The reason is, of course, that money can be a trap... in two ways.
The first trap is the worries that we all-too-often allow into our mind and heart when we don't think we have enough. We've all been there and done that, even though we all (I hope) know that our Heavenly Father owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” and has promised that He will “supply all our needs, according to His riches in glory, in Christ Jesus”. We also, of course, are sometimes guilty of claiming that “wants” are “needs”... and of disobedience and pride, both of which get in the way of God's provision... and of putting material needs ahead of spiritual needs. (I'm 99% sure that God considers spiritual needs more important.) It can sometimes seem so complicated. But the simple fact is that God cannot lie, He has promised to provide for our needs, and He has told us not to worry about it. (Matthew 6:25-34) Thus, worrying about money and things is a trap.
The second trap is the lie that “if we had more money” things would be easier. I'm in a time of little right now, and I've been in times of plenty... and I've observed those who are more rich than I've ever come close to being. And NO ONE can convince me that having plenty of money gets rid of “the worries of the world.” No... the only thing that gets rid of that is trust in our Provider. The devil, however, doesn't want us to know that...so he does his best to keep us from fully realizing this... and to keep us forever working and striving for more or to keep what we have... which keeps us “too busy” to spend time with God... and so on. So once again, it's an issue of the heart, and therefore one that only God can fix, if we're willing.
And that's what He's been doing in me. I've seen it more and more in these last few months, but I saw it so clearly this morning. I was reading the Bible to my kids (we've been slowly going through the whole Bible – well, most of it – for the past three years now). We're up to Matthew 13, which includes the parable of the sower. I've heard this parable since I was a little girl, but once again, God showed me something new in verses I have read probably hundreds of times.
I read the parable to my kids. Next comes several verses where Jesus talks about those who hear and see, but don't understand. Then He said that His disciples could understand, and He went on to explain the parable:
He said that the person on whom seed was sown by the road (and the birds snatched it away) is that person who hears the Word and does not understand it... the evil one snatches it away.
Next is the person on whom seed was sown on rocky places. This person receives the Word, but does not find his/her roots in the Word and falls away when tough times come.
I'm going to skip ahead for a moment to the seed that fell on fertile soil. That person, Jesus said, is the person who bears fruit... that person that so many of us want to be, who is being used by God to bear fruit thirty, fifty, and a hundred-fold.
And now back to the seed that fell among the thorns. Jesus said: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the Word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful.” He did not say that the plant died... ie: that the person loses their salvation. He said that the plant did not bear any fruit! In that moment, I saw myself, as I had been and still am to a point. I saw myself as a struggling plant, knowing that the thorns of the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth were taking time and attention from Him... knowing that they should not be there, but feeling powerless to change it... wanting to be used by Him.
And then I saw exactly what God is doing in me...
He is weeding!