Overflowing

I really like paradoxes, and I always appreciate how our view of things is usually completely opposite of the way God sees it and knows it to be true. Realizing that God’s view is more liberating and freeing than ours is always a refreshing awakening. An example of this comes from John 6:1-15 when Jesus feeds five thousand men. That statement alone is impressive, given that Jesus’ trade is carpentry and not the culinary arts, and it leaps out even more when you consider what he had to work with: five loaves of bread and two fish.

So here’s Jesus and the disciples with the equivalent of an Israeli Lunchable. This is where the key differential comes in. The disciples look at what they have and see scarcity. Jesus looks at it and sees abundance. The disciples’ skepticism would only accomplish sitting there hungry. Christ’s optimism brings about service to the people in a miraculous way that moves them to belief. Cool story. Great. What does this have to do with us? Everything.

You see, we’re really good at convincing ourselves we don’t have anything to offer people. We say, “We just can’t really afford to do X or Y at the moment,” while we’re simultaneously paying off our DirecTV bill and putting down payments on a house and two cars. Tell me how that adds up. “We’re going to have to cut back on giving this year,” and then turn around and tell people what our vacation plans are for the summer. I don’t get it.

There’s a guy here in Searcy named Charlie who lives on a disability check. He’s a few years older than me, and we go out to lunch once a week. He always double-checks if we’re going to Subway on Thursday, and the answer is always yes. (We’re on the Jared diet…get excited.) He helps me realize I will always have money for that even while I’m trying to convince myself otherwise. He enables me to see that saying “no, I can’t afford it” would always be a lie. Rapidly becoming my favorite Proverb is 3:27-28: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’—when you now have it with you.” God makes it very clear that as long as there is money in my checking account, Thursdays at Subway can (and should) happen.

It’s up to us: view what we have as sufficient or inadequate. We pray for provision when we already have what we need. For example, if a mission trip costs $1,200 in expenses, and you have $1,275 in your bank account, what is going to be coming out of your mouth? “God’s opened a door,” or, “I can’t go on the trip because I don’t have the money.” That latter response is synonymous with “I’m scared to flirt with bankruptcy.” Yeah, Heaven forbid you wouldn’t have any money. Then you might actually have to, you know…rely on God for what you need. That’d be awful…

Much love.

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14 comments
  1. Frank B said:

    I have been reading your posts all summer and each time I read one I am overcome with thoughts. Good thoughts. Whenever I think of truly relying on God the Lords prayer comes to my mind. One line in particular jumps off the page at me. Matt 6:11 says “give us this day our daily bread.” How can I pray this with a straight face knowing full and well that my pantry is full and I have food for many days, let alone today. Wealth and riches are not a sin, but reliance on them is. The parable of the rich young man in Matt 19:16-30 is truly a sad story. This man had the opportunity to look Jesus in face and ask him what he had to do to enter into eternal life. Imagine that opportunity. If I could ask Jesus what exactly I had to do, I would. Jesus answered the man, and the answer was too much to overcome. Give up your wealth and your dependence on your wealth and come and follow me! What seems like a simple act, turns into the greatest obstacle of all. Truly relying on God instead of yourself.

    Thanks Nelson, keep up the good work.

  2. Cole Yoakum said:

    Hey buddy, Good thoughts.

    A few summers ago I had nothing, and not like “I have 1250 in my bank account that is promised to other things.” Nothing.

    In fact, I had a lot less than nothing. I made a deposit into my meager checking account on a friday afternoon and left for a road trip that night. Along the road to Pennsylvania I was buying gas, buying food, and spending money on the provisions that I needed. Later the next week I found out that my Friday check didn’t go into my account until Monday morning, and by that time I was $900 in the negative ($35 fee everytime you overdraw).

    I called and asked for help, they wouldn’t help me. I asked for forgiveness, they said sorry. Thanks Regions. I was broke. Super broke.

    That summer I was walking to work across town, recycling aluminum cans for gas money, and finding the cheapest food on the shelves to keep me moderatley fed. It should have been awful.

    But it wasn’t. I made it through. Walking was good for me, I began to appreciate money more, I spent more quality time with my girlfriend (now fiance) than I would have otherwise. It was a good summer. I have so many great stories about that summer. I’ll share one.

    My girlfriend and I had made pancakes, but realized we had no syrup and we had no idea how much that costed. We wen to Harps and stared at the shelf. $3. We didn’t have it. Just then a friend of ours who works at Harding asked what we were doing, we told her. She said, “Come over to my house!” So we went. She took us into her kitchen and showed us how to make homemade syrup, sending us home with three jars.

    • Nelson Shake said:

      Just now getting around to seeing all of these comments…

      Coleman, thank you so much for sharing this. I absolutely love stories like these…there’s something about hearing how people have found contentment and joy when “less” is the norm. I’m grateful you gave me (and everyone else) this little window into this time in your life.

  3. joshua h said:

    I enjoyed the post. Attempted to comment on a previous one, but was on vacation in Colorado and didn’t have a great wireless signal.

    I agree with you assessment of the situation, but I would take it one step further (in regards to skepticism / optimism). I would say that instead of Christ being optimistic, he simply sees reality. Instead of the disciples being pessimistic, they were blinded to reality. Christ sees things as they actually are (i.e. He KNEW that God could make Filets-o-Fish and a large fry for all the crowd if He wanted to). “For now we see in a mirror dimly. but then face to face, now I know in part… things are all dark and confused now, in comparison of what they will be…” (1 Cor 13:12).

    We definitely have a God that “is too small.” We constantly put limits on God that aren’t actually limits at all. Instead of putting God to the test and seeing his goodness and generosity pour down on his people and the world, we assume he cannot accomplish great things (showing our doubt that the book of James points out) and therefore show our lack of faith and trust.

    I have enjoyed your posting. Keep working out your salvation in fear and trembling.

  4. Ron said:

    My wife and I live in a constant state of blessed provisions. As meager as our attempts are at serving God, He recognizes our commitment and blesses us accordingly. Well actually God amazes us continually with his providing love for our obedience. This is one area where I tell others that there is no law of science or equation that you can point to and say this is why it happens. It is all about faith.

  5. Sarah Kyle said:

    This summer has very much been a summer about God providing for me.

    Honestly, I could say that it has been one of the hardest summers I have faced in a while, but I can see God’s hand in everything that happened.

    A couple of weeks before I was supposed to head to an internship in Texas, I started developing what I was told were ulcers. I was also fatigued all the time for no reason, so they did bloodwork. It looked like I may not be able to go to Texas after all, and would have to return to Colorado for the summer.

    I went down to the internship, and for two weeks learned a lot about life and God’s children, but then because of continued health problems, financial difficulty, and a hard tugging on my heart, was brought back to Searcy.

    Once in Searcy, God provided me with a job, a free meal ticket for a few weeks (as I couldn’t be paid for a few weeks.) He provided me with a place to stay, and the very very little money I had in my bank account seemed to stretch for 10x the time it should have. I loved the work in Searcy, and it turned out to be exactly what I felt God was calling me to this summer. On top of it all, he provided a way for me to still receive my internship credit. A true blessing.

    But I was still having the health problems. My stomach was still constantly hurting, sometimes so much I had to have help walking up the stairs to my apartment. I would get done with work and live from my bed. It didn’t matter what I ate, so I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe the doctors in Searcy were wrong and I didn’t have ulcers at all.

    But I wasn’t ready to leave Searcy despite my parents thoughts that I may need to fly home to Colorado to get the medical tests that doctors in Arkansas weren’t ready to perform. As long as certain parts of my life were in Searcy, I told God that I would do everything I could to not leave, no matter what that meant.

    And then that part of my life left. Hurting in about every way possible and with a very gracious boss who allowed me to work from home, I finally conceded and flew home for what was supposed to be a couple of tests. My symptoms worsened enough for me to get into a specialist sooner than expected anywhere, and because of that doctors caught a living time bomb in my system- not ulcers at all, but a giant tumor called a hemangioma on my spleen and a large cyst on an ovary, both of which I found out could have ruptured and killed me during any of my activities in Searcy or home if I hadn’t been aware of them.

    After countless tests, even ranging down to a PET scan to check for cancer, I began to wonder how I was destroying my parents finances. I knew that things were kind of tight before my medical issues, and I couldn’t even imagine what this was costing them, even after insurance. I felt awful.

    It was then that God revealed something truly amazing and beautiful. My parents were willing to pay whatever they needed to pay, or be in debt however much they needed to be in debt- but God had another blessing left in store. We found out that my dad’s insurance has a cap on how much you can spend out of your own pocket in a year, and they have to cover the rest. So basically, after a couple of the tests, it didn’t matter what needed to be done anymore- it was free.

    This entire summer, God has provided for me to become the person I am now, and for my health and safety. If things had not taken place exactly the way they unfolded, I may not be here. In accepting my state of poverty for the first 2/3 of the summer, he never let me go without food or a place over my head. He then went an extra step and provided enough money to take care of the financial obligations that had sent me away from Texas. Every person he put in my life allowed for me to find out about a life-threatening condition that otherwise probably would have just kept under the radar or under the guise of something far less serious.

    Praise God. Keep posting!

  6. Lee Hastings said:

    Hey Nelson – how have you gotten so smart in so few years!!! Keep it up – I really enjoy your reasoning. lee h

  7. Matt Goodhart said:

    Great thoughts Nelson. I often find myself saying those exact words that I can’t afford it when I and those around me know darn well I can. I’ve started looking around at church for things I can help with such as packing christmas stockings for the poor or necessity bags for children and I’ve discovered that even after doing these things and donating what I have, my bank account really looks no different than it did before. If it looks a little low, maybe thats just going to be one less midnight Wendy’s run. Those kids are thanking me, and so is my body. Its astonishing to think what could be accomplished if everyone thought a little less selfishly and actually gave 10% of what they own.

    Just a thing I noticed the other day as I was perusing baseball statistics, cause I have that kind of time on my hands, the New York Yankees payroll this last year was somewhere around 200 million dollars. If each player on that team donated 10% of what they make in a year, that would be 20 million dollars. Think about how much good could be accomplished with 20 million dollars. Even if they donated just 1%, thats 2 million dollars. That is more than a lot of people make in a lifetime of work. If I, just one person with my pitiful college budget, can make a difference in children’s lives by giving them a christmas with presents, what can a whole town of people do, or a state of people, or an entire nation of wealthy individuals do if they think less selfishly?

    • Nelson Shake said:

      I’m glad you brought up the whole 10% thing. It always interests me how we got onto that magic number, especially when you consider that the early church gave way more than that.

      Just another legitimate reason to hate the Yankees. Go Boston.

      Random fact: Americans spent $21.4 billion on ice cream in 2004. Imagine if we skipped Klondikes for a year and helped the people around us with that money instead…

  8. Sweet job on this post. I think it’s your best written one so far. And perhaps most affecting, as well.

    I think that everyone is always afraid of being in a spot where you’re not in control and where you see what your faith is really made of. It reminds us too much of our frail humanity and how much we need to be saved.

    I don’t see how you can’t get an A for this blog for that class project of yours. And if you’re proff is reading this, “Nelson should get an A+++++ for this blog.” So says another writer/theologian/online publisher.

    • Nelson Shake said:

      Haha…I ‘preciate it, my friend. Final grades have already been determined, though. Just tying up loose ends with these posts.

  9. Daniel said:

    Awesome post Nelson. I’ve been thinking a lot about this the last 2 weeks, particularly Luke 14, in which Christ talks about the cost of being His disciple, and its been extremely convicting. We are suppose to give up everything. Paul says in Philippians, I have considered everything lost for Christ. If we are found to be faithful in the little things, then God will trust us with bigger things, so the more He calls us to give up, the more trustworthy we have been found. It is only with this mindset that we can even start to comprehend how loosing our life for Christ is the greatest privilege we will ever have. And yet, we look to take care of our own needs before we consider the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world. Thousands of churches consider themselves lucky to have 1 Bible, they tear out pages and hand them out to the people and take turns reading them. Not to mention that there are Over a billion people that have never heard of Christ. while there is 1 pastor for every 200 people in the U.S. As christians we talk all the time about how our goal is to become like Christ, but we don’t want to become poor like Him. The King of Kings, made Himself poor for our sake. He poured Himself out, even unto death. There is nothing wrong with earning a large paycheck, Paul said we are to be content with much as we are with a little, but God blesses us so we can show the world that our investment is in His kingdom and not in material things, where moth and rust destroy.

  10. Chris Cochran said:

    I think that my hesitancy to give has more to do with my perception of the dynamic being created as imbalanced than it has to do with my attitude of plenty or want.

    People have a desire to be in relationship with others. To know and to be known. To care and to be cared for. Giving produces a Godly positive responses in both the giver and the receiver when giving is in the context of deeper relationship. I think the Godly positive response that is produced in givers is violated when givers accept the positive response in a context other than deeper relationship. I am asked for money daily from people I encounter in the town where I live. I feel like I would be doing them a disservice by handing them money and feeling self-righteous. I feel like God’s intention for me in these situations is for me to have relationship with the other person: to get to know the other person and treat them with respect and the humanity they deserve, allowing them to maintain their own dignity. I also think that God intends for me to maintain a balance in my life and form relationships that are sustainable to me and other people around me.

    I know this is a tangent from the point that our attitudes determine whether we see the glass as half-full or half-empty, but I think it is an important tangent becausee it relates to the action of giving that was discussed in the post. My lack of giving is more often related to a perceived imbalance in the giving relationship than it is to my perception of my wealth.

    • Nelson Shake said:

      Tangent or not, it’s definitely closely related. In fact, one of the later articles for this class project focuses on exactly what you just mentioned, so I’m really glad you brought this up. I think you’re right on-target with everything you’ve said here.

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