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By Ryan Peter
Psalm 65 (NET)
1 For the music director; a psalm of David, a song.
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion.
Vows made to you are fulfilled.
2 You hear prayers;
all people approach you.
3 Our record of sins overwhelms me,
but you forgive our acts of rebellion.
4 How blessed is the one whom you choose,
and allow to live in your palace courts.
May we be satisfied with the good things of your house –
your holy palace.
5 You answer our prayers by performing awesome acts of deliverance,
O God, our saviour.
All the ends of the earth trust in you,
as well as those living across the wide seas.
6 You created the mountains by your power,
and demonstrated your strength.
7 You calm the raging seas
and their roaring waves,
as well as the commotion made by the nations.
8 Even those living in the most remote areas are awestruck by your acts;
you cause those living in the east and west to praise you.
9 You visit the earth and give it rain;
you make it rich and fertile
with overflowing streams full of water.
You provide grain for them,
for you prepare the earth to yield its crops.
10 You saturate its furrows,
and soak its ploughed ground.
With rain showers you soften its soil,
and make its crops grow.
11 You crown the year with your good blessings,
and you leave abundance in your wake.
12 The pastures in the wilderness glisten with moisture,
and the hills are clothed with joy.
13 The meadows are clothed with sheep,
and the valleys are covered with grain.
They shout joyfully, yes, they sing.
Many of us are going through tough times financially. It feels as if this has been a long season of financial strain. But through this time, God has done some amazing things in our hearts, bringing us closer to him and closer to understanding what’s really important to him and how he really works.
This weekend, God led me to this Psalm. I love the imagery in it – how, after God’s rain, the pastures glisten with moisture, the hills are clothed with joy, and all the valleys and sheep sing for joy, because God’s provision has come.
It’s quite funny that despite all of our technology and our culture which believes that we, as mankind, can really do anything we put our minds to, we’re actually hugely dependent on the earth doing what it was created to do. We still need rain to fill our dams, water our crops, and therefore provide us our food. In the city we perhaps don’t think of such things, but farmers will be thinking of such things all the time. At the most basic level, a farmer will plough the ground, plant the seed and then wait for rain to water it so that it can grow.
This principle is true in our lives of business and work as well, and even our Christian lives of holiness. With all the books and competing philosophies out there, and the general culture of human arrogance, we forget that it’s actually God who sends the rain and makes our businesses / work life grow. This isn’t a superstitious belief, it’s a simple law of nature. If God decides that tomorrow the rain won’t come, we’re in big trouble.
Sacrificing to the gods of this world
All the books and philosophies out there are bent on telling us how we must not only plough and plant when it comes to our work life, but make it rain as well. And if you can’t make it rain, if you can’t even make it grow, then you’re not smart or good enough. But even the world needs God to send rain.
It reminds me of what we know from ancient times – farmers would sacrifice to the necessary gods to send rain. Baal was one of these gods (and you’ll see that Baal pops up quite often in the Old Testament). In modern times, our little sacrifices to the systems of this world to make it rain and see our businesses or careers grow are much the same. We work longer hours than is probably necessary; we spend less time with our family; we spend less time with our church; we’re spending much less time in the presence of God that we can actually really afford to; we’re answering emails at midnight from our phones; we’re reading some new article on how to be a success; and we’re constantly going back to our fields and ploughing and planting again, in case maybe we did it wrong, because God has still not sent the rain.
Not that working hard or even working late (when appropriate) is all that bad. But, if most of us are honest, we often do such things out of fear that the rain won’t come. God isn’t sending the rain and what if he never does? So maybe if I sacrifice a little to some other god, just a little, I’ll be able to cover all my bases.
We do the same with our Christian lives as well, transforming what was a gospel of freedom into a gospel of works. Making our disciplines in the Christian life the formula that will bring fruitfulness, rather than realising it’s the Spirit who produces fruitfulness (Galatians 5) and our disciplines are nothing more than ways to get us to walk in the Spirit.
When it’s God’s provision, there is joy, as the Psalm shows us. When God produces the fruit, there is abundance. There is peace. The trouble is that all these little sacrifices to the so-called gods of provision send drizzles now and then. It works, kind-of. We’ll take the little drizzles though, because that seems better than nothing. But things don’t grow as they’re supposed to and all we do is tire ourselves out.
“Unless the Lord builds the house the labourers labour in vain.” (Psalm 127). “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord in Zecheriah 4:6. It’s not a matter of us just waiting patiently for the Lord to send the rain, but it’s a matter of us entering into worship so that we will live by the Spirit and then the Lord will send the rain. As counter-productive as that may seem. We can’t rely on human wisdom to see fruitfulness in our businesses, careers or Christian walk. We need the wisdom from the Lord. As crazy as it may seem, an hour in the Lord’s presence will bring real rain and fruitfulness, rather than us using the time we should be spending unto the Lord to answer that “important” email or work on that new proposal. The email can wait, we need the Spirit to go about our work every day in a fruitful way. Time spent in the Lord’s presence is never a waste, although the world will disagree. After all, its gods and the sacrifices to its gods are much more easier to manage – you don’t have to walk in a relationship, listen to the Spirit, and action what God says in obedience. You just need to follow the formula.
Blessing for all
In this time, God has challenged me to get into his presence and find that he will send the rain – both on my own financial struggles and the fruitfulness in my Christian character, life and holiness. This Psalm has been a great encouragement for me to remember that God will send the rain, by His Spirit, in the right season, and the result will be joy -“You crown the year with good blessings and leave abundance in your wake.”
Taking the last few verses of this Psalm into mind, when God sends his rain (and He will), our businesses will glisten with moisture, there will be enough provision, and all will shout for joy. The great thing about the imagery here is the rain is not just for us, but for all. God sends his rain down and blesses all. When he blesses us, we are to bless others, so that all may shout with joy and glorify God. And joy can be ours now, in Christ, as we worship Him and make Him our all in all, our number one treasure, and not our bank accounts, possessions, our status, or even our ability to provide.
Workshops at Cornerstone Church
Next Saturday, 19 January, Paradigm Shift will be at Cornerstone Church Bedfordview with subsequent workshops following on 26 January and 9 February. You may remember Jeff Schroy from Paradigm Shift‘s talk at an Exchange breakfast in October last year (click here for more on that event).
Paradigm Shift trains churches in providing effective, long-term solutions to the poor in their communities. The programme specifically targets entrepreneurs who are making about R150 a day and provides them with business training, microloans, mentoring and discipleship.
“The programme targets individuals who turn to entrepreneurship as a way out of poverty. It aims to help these entrepreneurs grow their businesses beyond subsistence,” says Paradigm Shift‘s website.
This first workshop is a great opportunity for those who can benefit from the programme and / or those who want to help train the poor in running succcessful businesses.
It’s an open event so feel free to extend invitations to anyone you feel may be interested.
Click here for a map to Cornerstone Church Bedfordview