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Friday-Need and Plenty

 

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

 

Philippians 4:12,13

 

They’re all around us! They’re everywhere. We can’t escape from them. They’re out to get us. There’s no defense. There’s nothing that can get them out of our life. We’re swimming in a world full of them. You know what I’m talking about.

 

Circumstances. Those things that happen to us without any planning or effort on our part. They just sort of popup and change our life. They get in between where we are and where we want to go.

 

We’ve got life all planned out. We know how we’re going to get from here to there. After looking at all the information and all the options, we’ve got it all figured out. And that “it” might be driving directions to our next appointment. Or our next job. Or even how to tell someone that we love them.

 

Yes, circumstances are all over the place. And the place where they most change up our life is with finances. Money. What we have and how much of it we’ve got. Circumstances sometimes bring money and plenty of money in. And sometimes circumstances send money out the door, bringing need front and center.

 

Need and plenty are both part of life. That’s just the way it is. There’s no way around it. Even though we think it would be so much better and easier just to stay on the plenty side of life, there’s no way to just hand-out there. There’s always ups and downs. There are always times where life’s going well. Things are easy. Money just seems to flow without a lot of work. You get an unexpected raise. A check is delivered that you had no idea was coming your way. You go to checkout and there’s a sale that you knew nothing about.

 

And then there are times that no matter what you do, money just isn’t coming in. No matter how hard you work, how many long hours you put in, there’s no income. Your wallet is empty. Your gas tank is empty. Your refrigerator is so empty that there’s an echo in it.

 

If any of this sounds familiar, then we’ll see the Apostle Paul as a friend. Someone we can relate to. Not the high and mighty spiritual giant that some people think of. But someone just like you and me. Someone who’s life gets pulled all over the place.

 

Sometimes Paul’s in need. He doesn’t have enough to do all the things he wants to. He can’t afford to travel. He needs a new coat but can’t pay for it, so he makes do with the old. He doesn’t have enough money to buy food, so he eats leftover popcorn and an opened Pop Tart envelope that was forgotten in the bottom of the drawer.

 

How did Paul learn all this? It wasn’t in his upbringing as the son of a wealthy family. It wasn’t part of his training as a tentmaker. It wasn’t even a course during his years in college. So, where did Paul learn this? I’m betting that my answer’s going to surprise you. It’s probably not what you’re thinking. It’s an unusual answer to be certain. But I think it’s something that we need to hear.

 

Paul learned this from God. Yes, the same God that loves Paul and us also will bring us need and plenty. Sorrow and joy. Times of sowing and times of harvest. It’s never only, always one. It’s both. They both are gifts from God. From the very beginning of Paul’s life with Jesus, it’s been both.

 

I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.

 

Acts 6:16

 

Not exactly the message I want to hear from God. How about you? Are you excited about the possibility that God wants to show you how much you’ve got to suffer for his name? But that’s the truth. Paul’s life would be a swing that goes back and forth between need and plenty. Swinging between times of lots and times of less. Swinging from failure to success. And the funny thing about a swing, you’re always moving back and forth. You never just stay on one side.

 

Yes, Paul’s life as a Jesus follower was going to be filled with the certainty of God himself. His love. His protection. His guidance. But Paul’s time in this world would also swing when it comes to the things of this life. There will be uncertainty when it comes to having enough.

 

The question is how we react when the bottom drops out and we fall into need. Will we revolt in anger about God and why he’s left us all alone? Will we turn away from God because we can’t see how we’re going to make it>

 

And then when God pours out a blessing that we just can’t hold, will we forget him? Will we be distracted by things and turn our eyes away from the one who not only gives us life and things we need, but gave us himself on the cross? He’s the good God of need and plenty. Will we trust him?

 

Noodling Questions

 

  • Describe times when you went between want and plenty.

  • How can we better prepare to be more flexible between plenty and want?

  • Where do our emotions go when money and things come and go?

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