Christian Living

More on Scarcity

I’ve been thinking more about scarcity this week. We ended up recording our podcast episodes on the topic in the midst of having our car’s engine die, needing to bake our MacBook (for the nth time), and finishing my first complete draft of book one in my fantasy series (and not having money for an editor). It’s been a stretch. Today is a “preach to my soul” sort of post.

It’s so easy to point to money or time as the problem. If I just had more money, I’d buy a better car or replace the engine without stressing. If I just had more time, I could get more done. If I just had more _____. What goes in your blank?

But circumstances aren’t the problem. The more I grow, the more I agree with Jon Gabriel who said, “There’s such a strong cause and effect relationship between what’s going on in the inside and how my outside is manifesting that that’s the only direction I look.” Our beliefs determine how we respond to circumstances and, over time, those choices determine the shape of our lives.

So what does it look like as a Christian to get rid of scarcity?

I think we have to start with who God is. Without that foundation, there’s no room for anything but scarcity. If I’m responsible for providing for myself, it’s scary when we don’t have money to buy necessities. If I’m responsible for providing for myself, it’s scary when there’s not enough time or money for whatever I’m worried about.

But when we start with God and His care for His children, we live in an abundant world. A world where God creates enough resources for us–whether that’s flat-out miraculous creation (just ask missionaries about that one) or provision through a job or provision through some other unexpected means.

After all, the essence of scarcity has to do with the future, with projecting the amount you have and the amount you need and getting trapped in the distance between those two.

I wonder how the disciples felt in Matthew 14:16 when there’s five thousand people and they tell Jesus to let the people go find food and Jesus tells them to feed the people. Did they freak out? Did their hearts race as they compared the amount of money they could pool together and the number of people? Not to mention the distance between them and any food. Or did they dismiss Jesus’ instructions as some kind of mystical teaching moment (a la martial arts masters: “A whole wave knocks you down, the spray just gets you wet.”)? Or maybe they realized Jesus was setting up for a miracle.

Even when they brought the five loaves and two fish, it wasn’t nearly enough. In fact, the gap between what they needed and what they had to meet that need was enormous.

But that’s the God we serve–He’s all about growing us, increasing our faith, making us into the people He’s designed us to be. He’s also the God who created the universe out of nothing. Proverbs talks about how God allows the wicked to collect money to give it to the righteous. In Psalms, there are verses about God’s abundant provision. He’s the owner of everything that exists. So when we look at our need, we need to look at what God has instead of what we have. And from that perspective, why would there ever be any need to go into scarcity? It’s as silly as a child whose loving, engaged parents are billionaires worrying about money.

Copy of blog_ Taking the easy road

Christian Living

what about faith?

Last week, I talked about when prayer doesn’t work and how that’s an indicator to look at ourselves, rather than prayer itself. One of the things I’ve struggled with over the years is whether I have enough faith. For some reason, it often comes up when people find out that I have a chronic illness and PTSD. Either revelation is enough to prompt them to ask about my faith. Do I just not believe God enough to be healed?

If you have someone in your life with a chronic illness or PTSD, pray earnestly before you ask them that. Chances are, they’ve heard it a million times before and it’s just as hurtful each time.

Ok! Off the soapbox now 🙂  So what about faith? Matt. 13:58 says that Jesus didn’t do many miracles in His hometown because of their unbelief. As we talked about last week, Jesus puts belief as a prerequisite for having your prayers answered. The Greek word He uses for “belief” in those verses (Mark 11:24; Matt. 21:22; Mark 9:23) is “pisteuo” which is also used for “faith.” Clearly, faith matters.

I was reminded this week that there’s a difference between biblical faith and belief of the grit-your-teeth and muster up feelings sort. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have faith. I do what I believe God’s calling me to do but I’m not all excited about it. Jennifer Kennedy Dean connected faith to action (Live a Praying Life, 154). It’s the way we respond to what God’s taught us, not how we feel about it. Feelings are fickle. Some days I am thrilled with what I get to do–but it’s not that way every day. I was reminded of that old quote (I have no idea who said it) about how you can tell me about your beliefs but if I look at how you spend your time and money, I’ll know what you actually believe. Actions speak louder than words and, thankfully, than our feelings.

I also really loved Jennifer Dean’s reminder that we have faith in someone, not something (Praying Life, 164). We can pray for specific outcomes, but ultimately, faith is about believing God is working our best–and the best for everyone who loves Him (Rom. 8:28). It’s not about specific outcomes or certain rituals (e.g., praying a specific way).

Faith in someone frees us up to truly surrender our circumstances. I mean, if I really believe that God is going to do more than I can ask or imagine, and that that more is in my best interest (vs. more in the direction of a nightmare), then I can let go. I don’t have to hang onto my life with white-knuckled, clutching fingers. I want God’s best, and I’m willing to give Him room to work His best, even if that means taking a different road than the one that looks best to me in this moment.

Faith comes from God, it’s not something we muster up (Acts 3:16; Rom. 12:3; Eph. 2:8). It’s something we experience as we grow with God. There’s no fast-track to faith. It’s all those moments of seeing God work that give us more faith.

I really love 2 Kings 6:8-23. The king of Aram keeps trying to attack the king of Israel and every time he sets up an attack, the king of Israel knows about it ahead of time. The king of Aram summons all his officers and asks which of them is on Israel’s side. They tell him that their “leak” is the prophet Elisha who knows what the king says in his bedroom. 😀 Of course the king decides to take care of Elisha so he sends an army that surrounds Elisha and his servant during the night. The next morning, the servant freaks out. He asks Elisha what they’re going to do now.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (NIV). Then Elisha prays for his eyes to be opened and suddenly, the servant can see the hills full of horses and chariots of fire.

The situation didn’t change: The human army was still there. The heavenly army was still there. What changed was the servant’s perspective. Suddenly, the need melted away in light of God’s lavish provision. That’s what faith does. It can “see” God’s lavish provision because we know who God is. Again, it’s not about seeing the “how,” but the “who.”

So often we live our lives in light of the visible. We stress over what we see. But the unseen is what we should be focusing on. Heb. 11:3 talks about how the world was made out of what is unseen–God’s command. The unseen is what determines how my life will go, not the seen. Just this past week we had another unexpected car expense but God provided with a bonus to my husband’s paycheck. He actually provided a week ahead of the bill, but we’ve often gotten bills and then gotten the finances to pay them.

Our needs melt away in light of God’s lavish provision. Faith in the who is what transforms a life of stress into one of joyful surrender.

Christian Living

Living in Lack

If you’re at all familiar with the self-help community these days, you’ll know that abundance and lack thinking are common topics. Living in lack means that you believe there isn’t enough of something for you to have it–it can be material things like money or cars, or intangibles like peace, joy, health, happiness, etc.–that there’s only a certain amount of x in the world and only a select few have it.

I was struck this morning listening to J.B. Glossinger’s podcast about lack thinking. He talked about some pretty convicting ways to tell if you’re in lack thinking–e.g., making fear-based decisions, getting jealous of people who do have that thing, or having a fixation on whatever you lack. This is a relatively new concept related to the law of attraction and other philosophies–new as in within the past 100 years. But it’s not new to Christians.

In Genesis 3, Satan convinces Adam and Eve that they’re missing something. They have fruit from all the trees in the garden–except for one. And, as Beth Moore says in Esther, the moment that warning switched from God’s gracious caution/protection to His prohibition, Adam and Eve were sucked in. Suddenly, God was the enemy, the one keeping them from something good. Suddenly, they didn’t have enough–they were missing something.

It’s easy to see things that way, isn’t it? Sometimes I look at my life and get cranky over my lack of health or stressed over our finances. Other people have x, y, z, so why can’t I have it too? Instead of seeing those lacks as God’s gracious protection or a result of some heart issue He’s trying to solve in me, I focus on the fact that I don’t have it now.

I love the fact that all Christians are God’s trust fund children. I love that our gracious God gives us more than we need. I love that when I have a lack in my life, I can choose to focus on who God is and watch the situation expectantly, knowing that my heavenly Father is never going to leave me hanging.

I also think it’s pretty amazing when you take a bird’s eye view of resources in the world in general–there’s always enough peace, hope, joy, love, etc. when we get those things from God because they’re fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to feel like there is limited money or limited food or limited medicine worldwide but more and more I’ve been able to see how God renews resources. I realize some of those resources are not as accessible as we would like, but they’re still available–it’s a distribution issue rather than a true lack of resources, if that makes sense. For instance, trees keep growing and providing the wood for paper and firewood, etc., etc.

Anyway! all that to say, we don’t live in lack. Or at least, as Christians, we don’t have to. We live in a world where God provides everything we need–the same way He provided everything Adam and Eve needed. Therefore, if I’m living in lack, I don’t need to point my finger at God–I need to point it at myself.