Publication: Pastoral Letter, January 2016
Dear Friend in Christ:
Happy New Year! I pray that you had a wonderful Christmas season and that the presence of God very near to you and yours. We thank God for you and appreciate your friendship. As we enter 2016, I want to share a brief word of encouragement concerning the provision of the Lord in this new season.
A key to life is having a proper perspective on what’s going on and on Who is in control. There are many pressures that we face as we enter 2016: global terrorism, economy, upheaval, personal health, spiritual warfare, persecution of Christians, family breakdown, and other issues. But we’ve learned that God is not only Holy and Almighty and Creator, but He’s also our Father. He cares for us, He wants to have a personal relationship with us, and He has made a way in Jesus Christ for that to happen. We have hope, and we have much for which we can be thankful.
There is power in thanksgiving, praise, and worship when we are facing battles. We don’t just praise God to win the battle; we praise Him because we know that the battle is already won! One of my favorite Bible verses says: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). It’s not just according to our need, but according to His riches! His ability is unlimited.
The Lord reminds us in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament that He is not only able to meet our needs, but He is rich in mercy and compassion. When we are facing challenges, we need to build ourselves up in the Word. This means we need to know what the Word actually says and why we can trust it.
One secret of receiving God’s Word is the attitude in which we hear it. We need an attitude of gratitude in order to clearly hear His voice for what is ahead. This is why we need to regularly remind ourselves of what the Lord has done, not only in the Bible, but in our own lives.
In Psalm 103, King David reminds himself and us: “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed” (Psalm 103:1-6).
David’s heart is telling his own soul, “Don’t forget Who the Lord is and all that He has done!” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus not only tells us not to worry, but why we don’t have to worry: we have a Heavenly Father Who knows us and desires to provide for us. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God (personally pursuing and receiving God’s righteous rule of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit), and He will give you the things you need.”
One of my favorite Bible stories is in John 6, which tells us about thousands of people who followed Jesus out into the countryside. They were very hungry spiritually to hear His teaching and to be near Him. So, He taught them and blessed them. But they were a long way off from any town or grocery store or restaurant, and soon people were also now physically hungry. There was nothing with which to feed folks except that one boy had five loaves of bread and two fish with him.
Jesus told his disciples to organize the crowd to prepare to receive a miracle. The boy gave his little lunch to Jesus, and Jesus took it, blessed it, broke it into pieces, and handed it to the disciples. As they began to share with the waiting people, the food multiplied, all of the folks were fed, and there were even abundant leftovers!
Jesus wasn’t just ego-tripping on His ability to draw a crowd. He wasn’t there to perform for anyone. In fact, He had deliberately tried to go to a deserted place to escape from the crowds for awhile, but they found Him anyway. Seeing they were hungry, Jesus had compassion for them.
Jesus is also a great multi-tasker! He’s not only there to teach the multitudes, but He was still training His disciples. Jesus asked Philip, “Where can you get some food around here?” Jesus knew the answer, but He wanted to test Philip. And Philip said “You’ve got to be kidding me, Jesus!” Then, Andrew said, “This kid over here has five loaves and two fish, but that’s not enough for everybody.”
Of course, we have to think about the boy as well, because He offered His lunch to Jesus. Too often, we’re focused on the magnitude of the challenge, and we forget what we have in our hands. Sometimes, we also forget that we are in the presence of the Provider.
The Bible tells us that Jesus got the people in position for provision. It reminds me of the story of King Jehoshaphat from 2 Chronicles 20, where the Prophet Jahaziel said, “Don’t be afraid and don’t be dismayed, because the battle is not yours, but God’s. Therefore, position yourselves….” When the Word of the Lord comes, we must position ourselves in a posture of submission and expectation of what God has said.
The Lord hasn’t called us to understand everything about Him. There’s a lot that I don’t understand about God! But I know that I can have a relationship with Him by faith in Jesus. It is in relationship with Him that my knowledge and understanding of Him grow. It is not in grasping all of the eternal mysteries of God that I can then relate to Him. It is in relating to Him that He begins to reveal the mysteries of His love and Sovereign grace to me.
When Jesus told His disciples, “Get the people ready,” they didn’t stand around and argue with Him about it … they did it. Too many times, we want the Lord to speak to us, but we’re not ready to listen to Him. We want God to provide our needs, but we’re not in position to receive His provision. Position yourself!
Jesus took the bread, and gave thanks. This is very significant. When He took the bread, it was still just five loaves. There were still thousands of hungry people there. In the natural, it may not have seemed like enough for which to give thanks. But, just like King Jehoshaphat, just like young David facing Goliath, just like Abraham, Jesus could give thanks because of His confidence in God’s provision. Thanksgiving is an acknowledgement of God’s provision, whether your natural eyes see it yet or not.
THANKSGIVING BRINGS REVELATION
Thanksgiving will increase your own revelation of victory. Thanksgiving is a doorway for Christ’s Kingdom to be manifested here on earth, as it is in heaven. Thanksgiving is a recognition of God’s Sovereignty, His power, and His compassion.
Jesus gave thanks, He blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. At this point, it’s still just pieces of five loaves and two fish. But something amazing began to happen as the disciples moved among the crowd. As they gave what was in their hands, God gave them more. That’s a powerful lesson!
Even after feeding and fully satisfying the hunger of thousands of people, there were twelve baskets of food left over. Thanksgiving is an act of faith that unlocks the windows of heaven. It is a portal through which God pours His provision from above to His people on earth. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We thank God for what He has already done in eternity and then He reveals that provision here on earth. We offer up to Him whatever He has placed in our hands, and He freely gives to us according to His riches in glory. This is the divine economy.
We see a contrasting picture in Romans 1, where Paul gives us a picture of what happens when we deny or forget about God as Creator and then refuse to give Him glory and thanksgiving. People’s denial of God’s Sovereignty and His identity as Creator becomes the first steps in a downward spiral that lead to death and destruction. Rebellion and ingratitude lead to futile thinking; the hearts of the people become darkened. Arrogance replaces humility; people become deceived, thinking their foolishness is wisdom. Things reach new lows when God gives them over to their depraved desires. Sometimes, God doesn’t have to “smite you” with curses; He just allows you to get what you want.
Romans 1 goes on to describe how people in such a state will began to worship created things instead of the Creator. Perversion and separation from God result. To be separated from God is a terrible thing, because He is not only our Creator, but our sustainer. He is the vine, we are the branches (see John 15). To be cut off from Him is to be cut off from our very life source … our supply. Of course, Jesus came to restore that relationship between fallen mankind and our Creator, so that we could have life, and have it more abundantly (see John 10).
Romans 1 shows us that ingratitude leads to death. On the other hand, Psalm 100 and other places show that thanksgiving leads to praise and adoration of God, which produce a lifestyle of worship. This opens our hearts and minds to receive God’s revelation and wisdom. Instead of darkness, we receive light; instead of confusion, we receive peace; instead of fear, we receive love; instead of rejection and isolation, we receive acceptance and community; instead of wandering, we receive direction; instead of aimlessness, we receive purpose.
OUR PROVIDER IS OUR PROVISION
There was another time when Jesus took bread, blessed it, and gave thanks. It was on the same night that He was betrayed. He had communion with His disciples, and showed them that not only could He give them bread … He IS the bread. Jesus is not only our provider, He is our provision.
In Genesis 22, as Abraham was facing the terrible decision with regard to the sacrifice of his son Isaac. He told Isaac that the Lord will provide for them, and calls God, “Jehovah-Jireh—The Lord will Provide”. Indeed, God did provide for Abraham and Isaac, sending a ram that could be sacrificed in Isaac’s place. This was a clear prophetic picture of Jesus, the One Who came and gave His own very life as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. Jesus not only gives to us; the first thing He gives to us is Himself.
Whatever we face in 2016, here is the appropriate: response: “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We can be thankful; whether our natural eyes are yet seeing the provision, we know that He has already made the way for us. May His blessings and peace be with you in the New Year, and always!
P.S. Please see the card enclosed for more information on how you can receive this Bible teaching via a live recorded audio message, plus other resources. And please remember CSM in your prayers and giving this month. We face many challenges and opportunities for ministry in the early part of 2016. We are trusting God and our friends in these days to equip us for the mission.
All contributions to Charles Simpson Ministries (CSM) are tax deductible. CSM is a 501 (C) (3) organization as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.
Scripture References: Philippians 4:19; Psalm 103:1-6; 2 Chronicles 20; John 15: John 10; Romans 1; Psalm 100; Genesis 22; 1 Thessalonians 5:18[/fusion_text]
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.