One of the things I love learning about is words. They say that women speak twice as many words as men, so I guess I’m just normal.
Have you heard of etymology? It refers to word origins, from the Greek words etymos (true) and logos (word). Get it?
As Irl and I go through the Biblical Financial Studies with Crown Ministries, etymology is coming into play in my heart again.
The primary financial principle of the studies is that according to the bible, God and we have different, unique parts that will never overlap. God’s part is Owner, Controller, and Provider. Our part is to be faithful with what has been entrusted to us, either directly (possessions in our name) or indirectly (other people’s).
I’m struck by that word, provider. I first encountered its etymology at a worship-leading workshop conducted by Windsong Christian Music Ministries, Inc., taught by Ministry Director Roy Fabella. He told us the word comes from two Greek words, pro- (before) and videre (to see). So provide means to see before. I looked it up again recently, and it seems that the Greek pro- can also mean ahead. So it also means to see ahead.
Christians love to use that word, provide.
Back in 2004, after a fire that ravaged my childhood home and killed my mother, my father was hospitalized for over 3 months. For the first two weeks of those months, he was in the ICU, and because of the extent of his burns, they had to clean and dress his wounds in the operating room. Just in case you don’t know what that means, it means every time they needed to change his dressings (which was often, of course) we would be paying for use of the operating room. Plus the surgeon’s fee. Needless to say, his bills climbed to the million mark very quickly. Plus the doctors’ fees. When we could no longer keep up with the payments, they allowed us to get the medicine ourselves instead of buying from the hospital pharmacy. This was actually a blessing, because hospital pharmacies charge significantly higher than drug stores. We also had to hire caregivers, because neither my brother nor I could take care of my father the way he needed care as a burn patient. Again there was a blessing here, because another patient in the hospital was the husband of the woman who owned a school for caregivers in the Philippines (we all met in the ICU waiting room).
And in spite of the stolen bank accounts (see my blog, Quit Claim), we were actually able to leave the hospital without any debts. The total we ended up paying would have been enough to buy a condominium unit at that time! But we got our father out, didn’t leave any bill unpaid, and had just enough to keep us going until income started to come in (pun not intended).
All throughout, we received encouragement: “The Lord will provide.” And it’s true. The Lord did provide: he had seen before what would happen, and so prepared the supply we would need to get through.
But lately, I’ve begun to question how I’ve been praying for provision. Sure, provision is almost synonymous with supply, but not, I think, when it comes to God. Provision with God, for me, has now come to refer to his sovereign omniscience: he not only knows all, but he has known it all before it happens. As a writer, the bible verse that speaks greatly to me of this is Psalm 139:18: “All the days of my life were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV, emphasis mine) One of the other descriptions of God in the Bible is that he “has seen the end from the beginning.”
But He didn’t stop with seeing. He also prepared the supply. When he called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, he had a ram prepared to be the real offering. I saw a cartoon once show it as a ram magically appearing beside a bush, but that’s not what the bible says: “Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horn in a thicket.” (Genesis 22:13 NLT, emphasis mine). That ram didn’t just suddenly appear, or even happen to catch its horn in the thicket at that precise moment. It had already been caught! The poor thing may have been there even before Abraham and Isaac got to the place of sacrifice, but in the tension of the moment, they would not have noticed it. The point is, it was already there. And it is this story where God is first called “Provider” in the bible.
I was suddenly struck by another verse Christians love to throw around: “My God shall supply all your need.” It’s also true. But I remember once catching someone with the context of that verse in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul had written that as part of his thank-you for the support they had sent him, assuring them of this truth.
I wonder if I’m going ahead of Mark in the lesson when I say that this is a great illustration of what Crown Ministries wants to accomplish: people being faithful with what they have given by also giving to those who are working to spread the good news about Jesus, trusting that God, having seen ahead that they would be chosen to do this, has prepared the supply for their own needs.
Could be, huh?
God, with his sovereign foreknowledge, has not only seen but also has prepared for everything that I will need. I love what Elisabeth Elliott wrote about this verse in her book, Solitude: “If God has promised to supply all our need, then it must follow that what He doesn’t supply, we don’t need.” So even not getting what we ask for is still God’s provision. I’ve seen some Christians who try to get around this with Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Lord, I’m delighting in you, so where are the desires of my heart?
Heck, I’m one of them. Or was, I hope.
The point is, God already knows what I needed yesterday, need today, and will need tomorrow. I no longer need to ask him to provide, He already has! What I pray for now is, like Abraham, to have my eyes opened to see the supply. But like Abraham, God will also control the timing of when I will see the supply. Would I, like Abraham, be willing to offer back to God what he has given me, and trust him to supply my need at the right time? Meaning, according to His timetable, not my due dates.
Argggh, I hate writing things that hit me hard…
Some of the questions in our Biblical Financial Studies homework involved verses that spoke of how God promised to supply all need:
- What has the Lord promised about meeting your needs? He will.
- Examples of supernatural provisions in the bible: I chose something that I personally had overlooked before, but for me is just as mind-boggling though maybe not as spectacular as the five loaves and two fish for 5000 men (plus the women and children with them): For all these 40 years, your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell (Deuteronomy 8:4 NLT). This was referring to the 40 years of wilderness wanderings of the Israelites, between leaving Egypt and entering the Promised Land.
- How does this apply to you today? I quoted a song from Alvin Slaughter’s album, Yes. Very simply, it says, over and over: HE’S ALREADY PROVIDED
That’s what I’m learning now when it comes to God’s provision. It isn’t something that still has to happen, it’s ALREADY done. He’s already provided. From the need for food and clothing, to the need for forgiveness, restoration, salvation, God has already provided.
We just need to accept the supplies He sends. Just as we need to accept the Savior He sent. The Savior He had provided himself to be even before Adam and Eve took a bite of that fruit.
In the bible, man as God’s steward is measured by his faithfulness: “Faithful in little, faithful in much.” But about God, as Provider, has already proven his faithfulness, so for him the sentence is reversed: “Since he did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32 NLT)
Oh gosh, this thing isn’t easy. But it’s not impossible. Because our Provider God supplies everything we need, including our faith that he will do what he says.
“For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)