God’s Preparation Plan
Part 7

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As Americans, we are particularly inclined toward self-reliance. Personal ownership and independence rest at the heart of the American dream, but God does not call His people to be self-reliant. We certainly have a responsibility to seek to provide for our own needs (1 Thess. 3:6–12), but in the earliest days of the church, the people also “felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. … There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need” (Acts 4:32b, 34).

This is God’s preparation plan for His people: Christians caring for the needs of one another. Among His people, God often uses the surplus of some to meet the needs of others. When raising money for the needs of those in the church at Jerusalem, the apostle Paul explained:

Give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough”  (2 Cor. 8:12b–15).

Therefore, investing in the needs of others is a kind of heavenly insurance policy. It is our best means of preparing for whatever may await us in the future.

However, our generosity ought not be limited to Christians. Contrary to a popular narrative that, during a time of national crisis, Christians should be prepared to kill and to heartlessly deny provisions to people in their time of greatest need, we should be prepared to share with everyone—even those who foolishly refused to prepare for times of difficulty. After all, what better opportunity will we be given to minister to others? If we are prepared to meet people’s physical needs, we will likely gain the opportunity to provide for their spiritual needs as well.

Of course, such generosity may risk producing times of great discomfort. Nonetheless, may we be like the church in Macedonia who was so eager to provide for the church in Jerusalem that the people gave beyond their means. The apostle Paul explains:

They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do” (2 Cor. 8:2–5).

It may cost us our comfort and security, but we should be prepared to share our abundance with anyone in need. Moreover, we should resist the temptation to go “off the grid” and isolate ourselves because we may be an important part of God’s plan to provide for others, and because we should always want to remain in a position where we can minister to others and fulfill our great commission (Matt. 28:18–20). Ministry ought to be our priority, not material possessions or self-preservation.

As stewards of God’s resources, our responsibility is to dispense God’s provisions in a manner that is consistent with His heart. If He pleases, God may always choose to grant us more provisions. Certainly, the God who preserved the Israelite’s clothes and sandals in the wilderness can preserve our equipment if He pleases (Deut. 29:5). The God who used two loaves of bread and five fish to feed 5,000 men can multiply our supplies if He pleases (Matt. 14:16–21). And the God who supplied the widow’s jar of flour can stretch our provisions if He pleases (1 Kings 17:8–16).

When we are generous to those in need, we accurately represent God’s heart, and we participate in His preparation plan. It may not conform to conventional wisdom, but God’s preparation plan is based in selfless generosity, not self-centered hoarding. Paul concludes:

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, ‘They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever” (2 Cor. 9:6–9).

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Biblegateway.com.