“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19).
When we read promises like those we often forget the struggles experienced by the early Christians who wrote them. Take the one I have just quoted – Paul was in prison when he wrote it.
We can do one of three things when faced with promises like that. First, we might try harder to have faith, and hope that by so doing we will experience more of God's promises. This way frequently results in disappointment.
Secondly, we may feel guilty and suspect we are not holy enough. We might try harder for a while but it all becomes too hard work.
Finally, though, there is the way that listens carefully to what Paul was saying. "In Christ Jesus" is a key phrase. Our experience will be the same as that of Christ. When we think about him we realise that his life was far from easy – he ended up dying on the cross – and yet he knew that God was with him, providing all his needs.
The solution is to realise that God has already provided everything you and I need. He has been working in our past preparing us for this moment; he has given us the scriptures and lives of "Faith-Heroes” to learn from and guide us. God is with us in the present (“Emmanuel”) to strengthen us, especially through God’s people as we keep in touch; he provides for us in the situations we find ourselves in; we experience his providence ("God-incidences") and his answers to prayer.
If we sense we do not have enough, maybe it is because we have so much that our eyes are blinded to it. Maybe we take it for granted. Perhaps we are looking for the wrong things, Maybe we need simply to watch and pray that God will open the eyes of our hearts and imaginations.
The moment of Jesus' greatest need was when he was dying on the cross and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me". But that was also the moment of the greatest answer to prayer. For shortly afterwards, he cried out, "it is finished". And with those words he ushered in the gift of eternal life. And not long after Christ rose from the dead. His deepest longings were indeed met, but even Christ had to wait.
Let us not focus on what God is not doing. Let us focus on what he is doing, and be thankful.
So then, how has Christ prepared you for this moment? How has Christ prepared us as his church for this moment? What resources is God already giving you and us all? In what ways are we rich? And as you look at all that God is doing, what might he say about the future?
St Laurence was a deacon in the Church of Rome in the third century during a time of persecution. The Roman magistrate ordered Laurence to bring into the church all its riches. He did not refuse: instead, he thought about what the riches of the church truly were. So he filled the church with the poor, the lame, orphans, and widows. “These,” he said to the magistrate, "are the riches of the church”. Laurence could have prayed that God would rescue him. Instead he walked the way of love and bore witness to the power of the gospel.
What are your riches; what are ours? This Lent as we fast, watch and pray, may God open our eyes to the riches of his kingdom.