There are thousands of Scriptures that I love, and try and base my life on: I guess we all have our ‘favourite’ verses or passages, that have particular significance in our lives. Some that may have been spoken over us as prophetic words, that have really proved to right theologically AND accurate prophetically. I love the promises: I mentioned in another post that I’d heard that there are 6,300 of them in the Bible – and ALL of them are ‘yes and amen in Christ Jesus’. That ‘s good news when things aren’t going according to plan, aren’t going well, or when you seem to be in a particular season of ‘enemy attack’….
There are a few Scriptures that, on a ‘human’ and spiritual level, scare me, if I’m honest! Matthew 7:1-2 would be in that selection –
- 1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Years ago, that verse took root in my spirit, and has, I hope and pray, changed how I think when I hear others judging people, or when I read something about another person, Christian or not…. the thought of God judging me the way I judge others is really quite horrific!
Among the Scriptures I love, I suppose because I’ve had to live it for 37½ years, is Philippians 4:19:
- 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
along with Matthew 10:7-8:
- 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a]drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
It hasn’t always SEEMED that God supplies ALL – according to my time-frame, at least! – in fact, it’s sometimes the opposite. At the ‘end of the day’, though, it HAS to happen, because ‘ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.’ (2 Cor 1:20). And, because dear Pastor Samuel Lamb, (and a posse of 4 other incredible pastors), in Guanzhou, China, drove into me in 1987, on my first visit it to him, that ‘It’s NOT POSSIBLE FOR GOD NOT TO ANSWER PRAYER!’
The last 21 months – since the bizarre and totally unexpected hospitalisation with massive pulmonary embolisms in August 2014, through which I KNOW that God saved my life (‘You’re a very lucky man to be alive, Mr Bennison’ said TWO consultants): I’m as sure as I can be that, having just returned from a fantastic trip to Cali, Colombia, with the youngest team I’ve ever taken – Peter McAvoy, Grace Uitterdijk, Carly Brown, and Caroline Maridor – and with Latvia and Romania coming up, it was an assault of the enemy….. as I was advised not to do any long-haul flights due to the DVT causing the pulmonary embolism, I spent almost 4 months in Romania: at which point, money I was expecting from regular supporters, began to ‘dry up’….
One of the ‘problems’ with living this way (which, then for 35½+ years, had worked relatively well!), trusting God (I hate the term ‘living by faith’ – surely we all live by faith, don’t we?), mostly through through the kindness and sacrifice of friends and supporters, is that you don’t always know when the support stops, for whatever reason. I budget based on what I know is regularly committed to me through Stewardship, the great organisation that process gifts for ‘little’ people like me, who don’t have their own ministry organisation (I’ve never wanted one – I think often the organisation takes over the ministry), and through them I’m able to get the gift aid back. Unless I check the list of people every few days, I don’t know who’s cancelled and who hasn’t….
In the bank I worked for, pay day was the 18th of the month: I don’t miss banking at all – I hated it, to be honest, but I was on a reasonable salary (no big bonuses for the pleb staff in those days!!) – which was hugely boosted by a subsidised mortgage of 2½% (in an era of 14% mortgages – people who’ve taken out mortgages in the past few years, you probably can’t even conceive of such an interest rate!), discounted loans – and as you’d expect, my salary was always in my account on the 18th. I don’t miss the bank at all: I don’t regret having ‘given in’ to God’s ‘requests’ for me to quit and go into ministry – though I fought him for 4-5 years before I did, as I’d got used to being paid, and liked the money! – and there is absolutely no way I’d ever go back on these past 37½ years, of moving into a zero-salary, and 15% mortgage (loaded 1% as it was a re-mortgage)… BUT – when the going gets tough, every now and again (probably less than a dozen times in those years) on the 18th, I think… ‘If I was still in the bank, I’d be getting my pension today!’ – having retired probably 10 years ago or more, with a nice house, good pension – and probably being as bored – and boring (you perhaps think I am anyway!) as anything! I’d NEVER swap the last 37+ years for those 9 years for all the money in the world. And my 9 years does give me a pension in 1½ years’ time – I think it’s £37 (about US$50, AUD $60) a year!!! I can’t wait to get it, it’ll half fill the petrol tank in the car – once!
Soon after the hospitalisation, I headed off to Latvia, which went well, but was more expensive than I expected: and then to Romania. I’d been told that accommodation was all sorted out: a place of my own, small, but ok. Then….I discovered that I had to rent it, when I wasn’t expecting that at all! With Stewardship, it’s not like earning a salary, which of course is generally monthly: I get varying amounts each week: with a salary, you’d notice if it one month it was 25% down the next month. Weekly, with the amounts different every week, it’s not so easy to pick up on changes. And this is where the squeeze began…. it was ‘interesting’ having rent and bills in two places, and, if you don’t know Romania, it’s a pretty expensive place to live, despite the (still) massive poverty in many parts of the country, high unempolyment, and low salaries. And – I was aware that money didn’t seem to be going far, and by November /December I’d realised that three significant monthly gifts, all long standing (over 10 years), some £300, had gone…. one, sadly, was because a good friend had died and I hadn’t heard, one lost his job, and the other the circumstances had changed significantly….. it’s quite a shock to not know your ‘salary’ has shrunk considerably!
It was the beginning of something that I’m now fairly sure that God initiated – it’s been likened to me as a ‘Job’ thing by other people: but, as often with something ‘positive’ (that doesn’t necessarily seem positive!) that also doesn’t seem like ‘God supply all of your needs’, the enemy jumps on it, and exacerbates the situation, making things at times, almost impossible… some of you might now want to tell me that he can’t go outside of the boundaries God fixes for him. I agree. But he’ll have a good try, as if he didn’t, we wouldn’t be warned to look out for the ‘prowling lion’ who wants to destroy people whose lives are – maybe – just a little more ‘radical’ (I think that word is ‘NORMAL’!) than many others.
So many friends in ministry are under immense attack at the moment: for some, it seems constant. A few years ago, a lovely friend who hadn’t long been a Christian, and was reading his Bible like it was going out of fashion, said to me one evening, ‘What’s the difference between your story and Job’s?’ I knew what was coming next but I wanted him to tell me why he’d asked.
- ‘Well, Job was a good man, Satan hated him and wanted to destroy him, so GOD initiated Job’s trials… ‘have you considered…?’ (Job 1:8). God gave him limits, but Job lost his money, his possessions (you’ve lost yours 4 times pretty much, my friend added), his home (4 times, too), his children, his wife, friends, his health…. What haven’t you lost out of those things? (Health = knees, I guess!). In it all, Job still declared ‘I know that my redeemer lives….’ (Job 19:25) – you say different words, but still declare the power, and the blessing of God’ – and then….he got it all back, double…
I feel I’m in another of those ‘Job’ times – or, perhaps more, in Jesus’ parable of the talents….or a bit of both!!