Typically, I try to stay away from writing anything too personal in this blog. For one, it is not my blog, it is the United Baptist Church blog (so please UBC family feel free to contribute to it as God leads you), and second, I tend to be more private in my thoughts. However, sometimes God lays things on your heart and directs you to go against the norm, so I’m breaking tradition a little with this entry.
This year hasn’t been the best for my family financially. Thank God that our bills have always been paid and we haven’t had to suffer any true hardship. Still, a number of things just didn’t go our way and others didn’t work out the way we expected or would have liked. As a result, both my wife and I have felt frustrated numerous times throughout the year. Despite those frustrations, I feel like we did a better job of turning to God and putting our faith in him, and both my wife and I have found ways to be even more active in his service. While that has resulted in us being more fulfilled spiritually, it didn’t lead to any noticeable changes in the financial situation.
Recently, Pastor Pope charged the church with giving $250 above normal offerings for this month. Given all the financial obligations for us for this season, I knew that would be tough, but I also know that I haven’t been able to give the way I’ve wanted this year. I rarely ask God for money or anything of that nature, but I did sincerely ask him for something to shake loose so that I could contribute to the church. A couple days after I made that prayer, I got an email at work informing us that we’d all be getting a medical insurance holiday this year, which means that we would not have to pay our premium this month. About $280 comes out of each one of my checks for medical insurance, so between my two checks for this month, this random medical insurance holiday that I’ve never received before the entire time I’ve worked for the company just happened to cover the $250 I wanted to give to the church and the ~$300 we just spent on gifts for our girls. I immediately thanked God upon seeing that email and knew I had to share. This blog gives me the perfect opportunity to do just that. However, God also led me to use this story to make a couple of points about making requests of him and testimonies.
With regards to making requests of God, I think all Believers understand that if we want something, we should ask God for it. Matthew 7:7-12 clearly tells us just that. Matthew 7:7-8 in particular says:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8
However, God is not a genie, and there is a little more nuance to requesting of Him than just the “Ask and ye shall receive” that some like to quote.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Part of the reason I felt so strongly that God had granted my prayer was because I had faith that he would and alongside my request I was sure to give him thanks for everything he’s already done. In the midst of hardships, that can be hard, but we have to remember that even when we are going through low points, he’s still helping us along. Further, he knows our hearts. I only asked him for the money to contribute to the church, but he gave me beyond that and addressed what I truly wanted. What we ask and how we ask for it matters. Asking out of selfish desire versus genuine need makes a difference. Asking for something that will glorify ourselves versus what will glorify Him makes a difference. Either way He just might give us what we request, but in some cases we may find that what we wanted wasn’t what we needed. In other cases, we may find that what God gives is exactly what we wanted and needed.
We usually give testimonies as an act of gratitude to God for what He’s done for us and as a way of sharing God’s goodness with others. However, I think sometimes we forget how much our own faiths can benefit from our testimonies. We can never fully share with others the impact of what God does specifically for us. People might see the good in what we share, but they might not fully understand what it truly meant to us. For example, with my testimony, it’s difficult to describe how what God did addressed what I’ve been feeling for a while or how the timing of it all was so significant to me. If I had won $10,000 randomly, I would have been ecstatic and thanked God, of course, but that may not have impacted me the same way. While that would have been a great blessing and much more money than I actually received, it may not have spoken to me in quite the same way. It wouldn’t have come off as direct a response to my prayer as what He actually did, and I may not have thought to write this in response. Maybe that’s something that no one but me could fully understand, or maybe it’s the exact thing that someone else has had happen to them. I don’t know. That’s the funny thing about God’s blessings, we never know what form they will take or how they will impact us. Our testimonies are reflective of that, we never know what effect they will have on others or ourselves. We just need to give them freely and happily for God’s glory.
So in this holiday season, let’s make sure to be mindful of how we approach God and what we ask of Him. Let’s also remember to be free with our sharing of what He’s done for us, whether it’s the most major thing he could have done or something relatively small.
This season you may hear the question: “What do you get for the person who has everything?” That question is truly fitting when it comes to God, the ruler and owner of everything. However, if nothing else, we always have our gratitude to give.
in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Let’s make sure to give that in abundance.