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  • Writer's pictureM.B. Christiansen

Abundant Stuff: A Devotional Thought

Updated: Jan 29

Recently I have been working my way through Genesis in my daily devotional time. Every morning I get up, fill a cup of coffee, and spend some time first in prayer (to talk to God) and then reading God’s Word (to hear him speak to me). This has been my habit for nearly ten years, and often as I read God’s Word with an open heart and a teachable spirit there are small nuggets I glean; things which are not the main point of the text, but which are little details that one might easily miss. Things of this nature don’t warrant a full article, so I have decided to share these thoughts as they come up in shorter little devotional posts.

As I’ve been working through Genesis, and particularly following the narrative of the lives of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph), I have been struck by how the faithfulness of God often manifests itself in and abundance of stuff.

Before I go any further I want to clearly and categorically reject any kind of “prosperity gospel” theology. The popular (highly Americanized) idea that following Christ will result in tangible blessings of riches, fame, and good health is at best a shallow draw to try and attract people to the Christian faith. In fact, Jesus offers the opposite, imploring his disciples to deny themselves daily, take up their cross, and follow him (Luke 9:23). The eternal reward for following Jesus will undoubtedly be worth the sacrifice, but on this side of heaven Jesus seems to anticipate that following him will make life measurably less comfortable, not more. Rejection, hate, and persecution can be expected in the Christian life, and the idea that material blessings and material comforts should be expected is not a biblical concept.

The point is not the material blessings, but as I have been reading the stories of the Patriarchs I have noticed the recurring pattern that virtually all of them (starting with Abraham) were, in terms of material possessions, loaded. By the time Abraham arrives in Canaan he is travelling with a massive caravan of servants and caravans. The lives of the Patriarchs are filled with shortcomings and unflattering moments, and yet they continue to accumulate an abundance of stuff.

Indeed, at every step throughout the narrative the accumulation of stuff is almost always recorded. Jacob especially stands out. The material blessings are clearly not because of the Patriarchs’ character or merit, and yet God continues to bless everything they touch.

This contrasts greatly with the image we are used to of a humble servant as the Christian ideal.

It is precisely this jarring contrast that caught my attention. It is fascinating, and I think the reason for this detail is to demonstrate how profoundly easy it is for God to provide virtually anything we want or need out of absolutely nowhere.

God’s people find themselves enslaved by Pharaoh. God intervenes by sending ten plagues, and after the conclusion of the plagues not only do the Hebrews simply walk out of Egypt as a free people, they do so with a plunder of Egyptian wealth. They are in need of sustenance during their wilderness wanderings, and God sends manna every morning and causes water (to satisfy the entire nation) to flow from rocks. They arrive at the promised land and God goes before them and virtually hands them the entire region. They need simply to walk in and claim it.

The stuff isn’t the point, and I think the point is that it isn’t the point. The point is that God can provide anything you need at any time, seemingly with no effort whatsoever. The Patriarchs are simply living and following God and the stuff just kind of shows up to illustrate to them that they need only follow him and he will provide not just their basic needs for survival but abundantly.

The material possessions aren’t the motivation for their faithfulness, and the fact that it is unasked for and yet continues to show up, I think, is the point. Material possessions are nothing to God, so we shouldn’t spend our time focusing on them. I can say with some certainty that I will probably never be rich, but I can say with absolute confidence that I will never not have what I need. I might not always have what I want, but a Kingdom focus makes the material possessions we surround ourselves with totally irrelevant to our quality of life and the joy we have. The point is that material comforts are not the point.

A Practical Takeaway

This hits particularly close to home to anyone who has lived through hard times where they’ve had to trust in God’s provision. Living on a youth pastor’s salary we’ve sometimes, in certain seasons, had an abundance, but we’ve always had what we needed. Even during the seasons in which we have needed to stretch our resources and cut down on expenses, we have always had enough.

The point is that God can provide whatever we need and promises that he will. If what God chooses to provide is abundantly more than we need, give thanks! But if God chooses to provide simply what is necessary, we should embrace that with equal joy. In both cases, God has faithfully provided.

When you put your trust in God’s faithfulness and his provision it allows you to look back and see that God does provide. It is easy to say that when things are good. God could theoretically provide against seemingly impossible odds, but it is another thing entirely to see the evidence of God’s provision. It is when you are actually in need that God shows up. We have seen debt erased. Seemingly “coincidental” scenarios have just happened to provide for an unforeseen need at just the right time.

A friend recently reflected that the question which helps one to trust in God’s future provision is simply this: “when has God not provided?”

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