1 Sam 7:12- “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”
God had a pattern with the Israelites of setting up “stones of remembrance” after God had preserved or provided for his people in some amazing way. Needless to say, I need more rocks…
Let’s just say my time in seminary has been an emotional and spiritual roller coaster (and, we can throw in physical too if you count lack of sleep). Yet, despite the close calls and the near “calling it quits”, God has persistently and graciously provided every step of the way…
I preached a sermon yesterday on Ex. 17:1-7, where God provides for the people despite their rebellious, sinful, unbelieving spirits (if you are wondering if I belong in that category, the answer is a strong affirmative).
As I preached this passage, I shared briefly of all the ways God has provided for me despite my unbelief, distrust, and frustration (we aren’t so unlike those Israelites after all…)
All that to say, the grace of God has been on abundant display. And here’s the kicker… I didn’t do anything, nothing, to merit it. Actually, it was quite the opposite. I was the one who was unfaithful. I was the one who didn’t trust. I was the one turning to every other source but God for support and stability. Yet… and that’s a big “yet”, God still provided. Here’s a brief overview of the problem/provision scenarios that have played out. I have intentionally left out the names of the men and women God used to provide, either because they remained anonymous, and because they may wish to remain anonymous:
Problem:Fall 2011(a week before moving to St. Louis) I still did not have a place to live or money for tuition.
Provision: God provided a free place for me to live. The day before I was moving, God provided tuition money.
Problem: Winter 2011, near the end of the semester, I realize that I do not have enough money for the next semester.
Provision: I receive a phone call from someone who felt like God was leading them to support me. They paid for the remainder of my tuition for the spring semester.
Problem: End of spring semester during finals week, I found out that I was losing my job, my housing, and, again, I didn’t have enough money for the next semester.
Provision: As I am packing my car to move home (literally, getting ready to move home) God provided tuition and a new place to live. A week later, God provided me with a job.
Problem: At the beginning of this semester, my car was broken into, and they stole my books, laptop, school work, ipod, kindle, etc etc etc. And, insurance wouldn’t cover it.
Provision: Through several members of my family, I was able to replace the essential items that I lost so that I could continue my school work. My professors also excused my “stolen assignments” (that excuse only works once) or provided me additional time to complete them.
Problem: About a week after my car was broken into, it was vandalized, knocking off my side view mirror and cracking my windshield.
Provision: Someone anonymously donated enough money into my student account to cover my deductible.
Now, again, here’s what I want you to remember. I was not placing myself in a position of humble dependence on God. I was angry, prideful, and suffered from a severe case of entitlement. “God, I thought this was your plan. I’m doing everything I feel like you are telling me to! Why are you allowing this to happen?” Yep, I am a whiny little self-righteous jerk.
But, finally, here’s what I discovered. We often view the economy of God in terms of equal exchange of goods and services. If I have enough faith and keep all the rules, that will build up enough credit to receive God’s grace and mercy. And this thought process is from the pits of hell. We, although we may doctrinally disagree with this, so often live this way. So, here’s what I’ve realized. God does not require our obedience or faith in order for him to be able to show us grace, mercy, provision, goodness, etc. Rather, he provides these things for us SO THAT we will have faith and obey. You see, in Romans 2:4 Paul asks us, “… do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Notice the order here. The riches of his kindness LEAD us to repentance, which means they must come before our obedience or faith or repentance.
So, here I raise my Ebenezer, because it is by his grace,goodness, forbearance, and patience I’ve come this far. And, if anyone has any spare stones laying around, I could use a few more.