The subject of God’s provision and, indeed just how He provides, is one that is often made a great deal more complex than it really should be. We can testify that God provides in the most simple ways – sometimes so simple that people fail to see God’s hand at work in their lives.
Of course, you will read or hear of complex formulas that guarantee provision from God – providing of course that you subscribe to this or donate to that. But God’s bountiful provision is free. Always free. We just need to ask.
We have, now, countless tales of miraculous provision. Over the past two years of ‘living by faith’, we have experienced a great deal of how God works when it comes to His faithful provision. But, until very recently, I haven’t been able to put a finger on why sometimes God answers my prayers and why sometimes He appears not to. I have not discovered some formula nor a cosmic ordering system. To be honest, I am yet to see the provision I have asked for – but this post is a step of faith in the God, who also provides. What I have discovered is something personal to us. A reason why our prayers haven’t been answered, no matter what words or methods we used.
Before all that, I would like to build up some background, or none of this will make much sense. Part of the reason why I am recording our experiences is for other people who have been, and will be called to undertake similar acts of faith. For this is what we are called to do. An act of faith. To believe what God says and get on and do it, regardless of what troubles and obstacles you encounter along the way. Our experience is that God has given us a great pile of jigsaw pieces, some of which we can make a picture from, the rest are yet to be revealed. Every now and then we find a home for another piece and the picture is enlarged. When you have no finished picture to work to, like in a normal jigsaw, you have to trust God. It is a little like a treasure hunt at times. Last night I found some treasure. The picture is not yet complete but my guess is that we will instantly recognise it the moment it is, for God puts these things into your heart as you go along so that when a little more of the picture is revealed, there is a resonance in your spirit.
We started Cornerstone knowing that we didn’t have the means to complete the task. God had said that He would provide. We claim no benefits or have any regular income. God had said that He would provide. And He does. He always does. Let me explain how He provides with a couple of examples from our own experience.
About 18 months ago we were feeding a lot of people from our home. The cooker in our kitchen was ancient and showing fatal symptoms. I had asked God for a new cooker. Someone gave us £300. They didn’t say what it was for but we figured that the cooker was vital because of the people we were feeding. The only trouble was, we couldn’t afford a new kitchen so whatever cooker we got would have to fit exactly into the base unit and the hole cut in the work surface. Ordinarily you would measure the dimensions and do some research online to find the right replacement, but I got up one morning and something very strange happened to me. I saw the handle of a chisel. It was an orange handle. It appeared to glow and swell before my eyes. Strange. Then I saw something else that was orange and the same thing happened. And then something else. Curiouser and curiouser.
Then I just felt we should get in the car and go and find a shop with an orange sign. So we did. We pulled up outside B and Q in King’s Lynn. Not the first choice for buying a cooker, especially when there were other stores close by who specialised in white goods. Still, the sign on the store was appearing to do the same glowing pulsing thing, so in we went. And, sure enough, we found a cooker. It wasn’t on display. It was in a box, in the middle of the floor. I simply knew it was the one for us. Nothing else in the store ‘felt’ right. I can’t explain it any other way. So, we tracked down someone from the kitchen department and asked the vital question – how much was it? The guy looked quizzical as he inputted various things into his computer. He said he couldn’t find it on the system. Then something odd happened. He added it to stock so we could buy it. I asked again for the price knowing we only had £300 to our names. He then made a price up. £265. He said it seemed about right. He took us to the till and we paid and then we were putting into the back of the car. When we got home I fitted the cooker. It fitted into the base unit perfectly and the hob felt like it was made for the hole in the work surface. I thanked God. It all worked and was very lovely and nice. Later that day I looked on the B and Q website and discovered that not only didn’t B and Q stock this particular brand of cooker, but when I found it on other websites it was retailing nearer £600! Sometimes it’s just like that.
My second example happened in the last week or so and came whilst I was on the trail of God. I had been really seeking Him about why provision for Cornerstone had stopped. He was providing for us at home but rarely for anything Cornerstone related. We had realised something wasn’t quite right some months ago and have spent a great deal of time seeking Him about how to get back on the right track. I will cover some of this later on but I wanted to set the scene for this wonderful example of how God works with His ‘on the job’ training. I find He teaches me from every day stuff that is going on as much as He teaches me directly from His word. Sometimes.
Anyway, I was on His trail, hunting down answers and He was teaching me about all sorts of things. We had a couple of days of pretty intense opposition to what we are doing and somewhere in the middle of all this, fed up with our carpets being knee-deep in cat hairs, I asked God for a vacuum cleaner. I asked Him for decent one – a Dyson or something with that sort of cyclonic suction. I simply said ‘please can we have a vacuum cleaner – a decent one that works’. Now, at this point I should say that our history with vacuum cleaners isn’t good. We had a Dyson but despite their claims of never losing suction, it lost suction after it was used to clear up plaster dust at Cornerstone. Someone then donated a nearly new Panasonic one so we used that. Then someone else gave us a rather nice Henry the Hoover. So we gave the Panasonic to a family we knew who were desperate for one. Then the lady who gave us the Henry decided she wanted it back again! (yes! that’s what we thought!). So, all we had was the now defunct Dyson. So I prayed.
We try to make a habit of not telling anyone what we are praying for but sometimes things come out. The person we had given the Panasonic to came to see us at home. I had to apologise about the state of the hall carpet. Later that day she was wracked with guilt and offered us the Panasonic back. I declined gracefully and said that God was going to provide.
Now I should say that there was some other stuff I was praying for too. I expected God to provide. He does. I ask, He provides. Mostly. I had prayed for the vacuum cleaner and just knew He would provide. This was on the Wednesday or Thursday. On the Saturday evening we planned to go to a local boot sale in the morning up the road. With a budget of less than £20, I gave God a list of things I needed and expected to find everything at the boot sale. I did two complete circuits of all the stalls and couldn’t find anything I wanted. Caz had seen a vacuum cleaner for £20 so I went and took at look at it. I had the same feeling as I did in B and Q about it not being the one for us. Now I was cross. I started mumbling under my breath to God – moaning and whining and I suddenly I was aware of the Holy Spirit softly saying ‘Let me provide’. So, I yielded. My anger and frustration faded and God’s peace returned to my heart. I found Caz and said I was off home. She and Becky continued looking around the boot sale, I went home smiling.
About two hours later we were sitting down at home when Caz received a text message. It was from a friend of ours who had just downsized from one caravan to another. They now had very little room for storing things. As a result their vacuum cleaner was too big and they asked if we would like it, as they were getting a smaller compact one. We naturally said yes please. When the vacuum cleaner turned up it was a nearly new Dyson with all the attachments and do you know what? Its cyclones work awesomely. Better that our old one ever did; better than the Panasonic and better than the Henry too! Provision. Abundant provision.
So, two nice examples. But what about the real stuff? The stuff that faith is made of? Well, as best as I can, I am going to explain our experience. This won’t be everyone’s experience and this isn’t a blueprint for whatever your situation is. However, there are some basic principles that we must adhere to when asking for God’s provision. Let me first differentiate between our day to day existence and a specific calling you might have on your life. God will provide for you (if you let Him) without you even realising it. He already has. If you have somewhere to live and a job, you may feel that it was all your own achievement, but it was actually God that made it all possible. We simply fail to see Him or acknowledge His hand in most areas of our lives. Once we get that perspective right, we start to acknowledge God in our lives. Our gratitude towards Him is always well received. Every mouthful of food, every cup of tea has all been provided, in advance, by God. Take some time to read from chapter 6 of Matthew’s gospel. Verses 25-34 teach us about God’s provision. You can take it absolutely literally for it is true. It requires trust, but that is all.
If you have a specific call upon your life you should already be living according to Matthew 6. It will help you to understand how God works.
Our specific call, as I said earlier, involved a short-fall. We were never going to have enough to finish Cornerstone when we started. We also had some personal debts. So we started in the negative. We didn’t worry though. God had spoken to us through many people, all of whom had said the same thing – that God would provide all of our needs and that we would need to pray for each individual item or need. When we started we just figured that it would be like a shopping list. To some extent it was. Provision of material items that we needed such as coffee machines, ovens, crockery and the like flowed in. And, around the time the money ran out, the provision of materials also stopped. It took some time to figure out that we had got a bit ahead of ourselves. God had called us for something specific and we was to do it all by His lead, and one step at a time. His steps, His timing. But, we thought we knew best and basically started second-guessing what we thought God wanted to do in the long run and started doing those things. It may well turn out that those things we started doing God will want us to do in the future, however, it wasn’t time. So, we had to get back to the right step; the right track; the right timing. That has taken around 5 months. Each issue has taken painstaking acknowledgment and then repentance before we could deal with the next issue.
Last week, I believe, we finally got somewhere near to where we should be. And the final issue was a biggy.
I hadn’t really noticed it but, because of so much unanswered prayer over provision for Cornerstone, I had allowed fear to creep in. Fear that we had got it wrong. Fear that God wouldn’t provide. Fear of bailiffs knocking at the door. Fear of opening bills. Fear of knowing the full extent of the financial burden we had. I had been burying my head in the sand and just praying generalised prayers. Then the Holy Spirit convicted me about it. He showed me that a fearful thought would come into my head and, instead of rejecting it, I would entertain it. I would open the door and welcome the fear. It would become part of me. No wonder prayers weren’t being answered.
Here’s my confession – I might come across as brave and courageous but really I was always a coward. Doing what we are doing is so out of my comfort zone that if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit to encourage me I would be lost. Most of the time I mask my fear but it has been there and very real…until last week.
John’s first epistle says this:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” [1 John 4:18 NKJV]
This scripture pierced me. It cut me down, opened me up and exposed the root of fear living in me. I stopped and allowed God to fill my heart with love. What do I actually mean by that? I told myself that God had called us to do this; that He will never desert us or lead us into a situation that we couldn’t overcome; that He had said He will provide; that nothing could ever separate me from His love…nothing. Even fear. From that moment I choose simply to believe. And, from that moment, any thought that entered my head that had any element of fear attached to it, I simply rejected it. I made it obedient to Christ. I practiced this. I resisted. And, do you know what? Fear left me. I now fear not. It was a choice all along. Nothing more. Just like in the Garden for Adam and Eve – believe what God had already said to them, or believe Satan’s lies.
It was a real watershed for me. It might seem simple to you but this was major. An internal battle that had raged for decades in me. Gone. The real power of the word of God. I felt different. I felt enabled. Without the fear I was able to see the remaining issues and address them. My heart felt different – full of God; full of promise and hope. Then everything was obvious.
I sat down and collated every bill, every outstanding invoice and started a simple spreadsheet that had our day to day budget, our personal debts and Cornerstone’s debts. I accurately recorded it all and guess what I discovered? It was no where near as bad as we had been thinking it was! By doing this simple thing, instead of burying my head in the sand, I felt empowered. I could suddenly see the way ahead and the mistakes we had made and strange things happened.
One of the personal debts, when I read the letter properly, I noticed that they had invited us to apply for a grant to pay off the debt…so we applied for it. One of the Cornerstone debts, when I started going through the paperwork, I realised that there was a very significant discrepancy between what they say we owe and what we have actually paid – in our favour. There had been a major mistake made on the gas and electric supplied to Cornerstone and so I felt led to make a complaint and now they have sorted out the error, again in our favour. The fear had kept me from looking at the paperwork and yet the moment I did, the fear had no power whatsoever.
And with that burden removed not only did I feel lighter but I was ‘seeing’ better. I sat down and started seeking God properly about provision. I worked on the principle that now there was no fear in my heart, there was more room for Him. I asked if there was anything else that was stopping us for receiving His blessing. There was one thing – now dealt with. Then I started praying about how we should be praying and I kept being reminding of the vacuum cleaner as if God was saying just do it that way and you will be fine. But what did that really mean? Then it hit me – I was specific. I wanted a Dyson and one that worked well. That’s exactly what we got.
“…what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” [Matthew 7:9-11 NKJV]
If any of you have heard of the Moravians you will know that they started a prayer meeting that ran continuously for 100 years. They had a little practice that I have borrowed. They had a bowl with Bible verses in it that they would pull one out each day and that would be their text to meditate upon and pray about for that day. I created a spreadsheet and typed into each cell a single chapter from the Bible. For example GEN 1 is Genesis chapter 1. I treated each Psalm as a chapter. When I had completed all of chapters of the Bible, I printed out the sheets and then cut each cell out until I had 1,188 small pieces of paper. I then put these into a jar and when I need inspiration or whatever, I pray and pull one out. Whatever comes out I trust that God has ordered it so and read and meditate whatever is there. You will be surprised at just how relevant what I pull from that jar is to whatever situation I am in. I don’t use it every day like the Moravians and you can’t use it like some oracle. But when I am seeking God I will ask Him for guidance and pull a scripture from the jar. This is what happened yesterday:
I felt that we had (as Caz would say) ‘all our ducks in a row’. That we had got back to where we should be. That I had dealt with the fear issue and been obedient to whatever God had shown us. But I wanted to be sure that it was now ok to start really praying for specific amounts of money and specific items for Cornerstone. I was looking for confirmation. Now, I would never recommend putting God to the test. The Holy Spirit once said to me when I was asking for a sign about something ‘there will be no sign’, in other words you need faith and not a sign. But on this occasion I felt inclined to double check that we were ‘in the right place’ with God, so that our prayers would not only be heard but that they would be answered.
So, I prayed and asked for God to show me what He wanted to say to me about this. I pulled from the jar JUD 1 – that is Judges chapter 1 – the prelude to the establishment of Judges in Canaan after the Israelites had conquered the land. But, although a few verses seemed to be significant, I could not see what God was actually saying. Here’s what stood out to me:
“The Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” So she said to him, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South (the desert), give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.” [Judges 1: 12-15 NKJV]
I puzzled with this for a while. Got fed up, confused and finally went to bed early not entirely sure what God was saying to me. The reality is I was being a bit silly and couldn’t see the wood for the trees as you will see.
I slept for a while but woke up still troubled. I went downstairs and started praying about it again and (unusually) asked God for another scripture that would explain what He was trying to say to me more clearly. What happened next made me laugh. I put my hand into the jar and pulled out JOSH 15 (Joshua chapter 15). I started reading expectantly. When I got to verse 16 I couldn’t believe my eyes!
“And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah my daughter as wife.” So Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife. Now it was so, when she came to him, that she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. So she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South (the desert), give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.” [Joshua 15:16-19 NKJV]
Almost identical texts. You could have knocked me down with a feather. And suddenly it all made sense.
God was telling me (twice) that I could now ask for His blessing. He had given us the land and now, if we ask Him, He will give us what we need in abundance. And that is just how God is with us. In that jar of scriptures there is 1,188 pieces of paper. After prayer, I pulled two chapters that both have exactly the same story of a child asking a father for something and getting more than they asked for. The odds are astronomical. But then, so is God.
N.B. I did find online an excellent sermon by Charles Spurgeon on this account. It is well worth reading and can be found here.