Ever have a time when you felt God had let you down, completely? I have.
Shortly after planting the first church we had gone through all the money our previous church had given us as a departing gift along with the money we had saved for a down payment on a house. We emptied the savings account, put the money into checking and mailed off the bills. We had pocket change to buy our kids an ice cream cone, but not enough to get them for ourselves.
God had supplied zilch!
In the midst of my despair, the Lord gently spoke, “I’ve taught you to abase (go without) and now I’ll teach you to abound (have plenty). Two days later the windows of heaven opened. This was God telling me that he was TEACHING through lack. That’s a very important lesson.
Paul wrote, “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Yet, I needed to hit empty to learn to function with less than I thought necessary. My point is that sometimes my vision gets in the way of his vision and having everything I think I need keeps me from looking at things through God’s eyes.
Not having what I think I need can lead to innovation if I assume that he already supplied all I need. I’m forced into a different paradigm—this is where creativity blossoms.
Innovation and Supply
Jesus made some pretty astounding statements in John 15…
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit… ‘These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain… ‘whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”
His goal for us includes bearing lots of fruit—that will remain long after we depart the planet. It also includes joy which can be difficult to come by during winter when everything is brown and rainy, or when you’re burned out and lack sufficient leaders to accomplish whatever you’re trying to do. In those down times its hard believe his words promising that the father will give us “whatever you ask…”
A Higher Purpose than I Can See (at the moment)
Along with the suffering church in first century Rome, we’re told, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…”
God created the world through his son. Jesus is creator and creative. Part of being fashioned into his image is to become more creative today than yesterday. And, tomorrow is another new opportunity. However, we’re prone to copy more than to create. We read a book and imitate the author, especially if they are outwardly more successful than we are. Not good!
God often strips us back to bareness in order to press us toward innovation. I’ve got dozens of stories about forced innovation, mostly having to do with Jesus “painting” voids onto the canvas of my life.
It is in those voids that we learned to multiply and train prospective church planters through small groups. It was the crowds being forced to sit on the floor in the aisles and on the platform, even outside looking in the windows that gave enthusiasm to our first church. It was after our church opened a free clothing store only to get ripped off by the swap meet crowd who stole stuff that the lady who started it began distributing food bank groceries in a government housing project which led to “crafts day” for little kids and a microchurch for their parents. The saga continues to make the point. Jesus shapes us as much by withholding what we don’t need as by supplying what we do.
Values drive narratives and narratives drive behaviors. Telling these stories generates even more creativity. In the end it comes to doing what he asks with what he supplies. Paul wrote, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. “
His words bring me back to Jesus’ promise of joy. We get joy when we live in fulfillment of our created purpose and part of that includes becoming more like Jesus in the area of creativity. Let both supply and the lack of it drive innovation and you’ll be a happier person.
To hear an expanded version of this on the podcast click here.
Please comment, especially with stories of how God guided you through the way he supplied, or not. Use the comments box below…