I just happened to be home when a company contracted by our electricity provider pulled up to trim trees growing under electrical wires running along the back of our property.
“Would you mind leaving larger hardwood branches behind for our firewood?” I asked one of the crew members.
And just like that, my dwindling firewood reserve was replenished! Several large branches trimmed from two large trees in ours and our neighbor’s yards produced two-plus face cords of hardwood. Like ‘wood manna’ from above!
The sense of God providing rose in me as I marveled at the daring worker climbing high into the branches of our towering silver maple. After strategically fastening ropes to secure his safety harness, he tied off one of the large branches for safe cutting and transport to the ground with help from his crew below.
We burn wood for enjoyment, so God’s provision in this case was more along the line of fulfilling a desire of my heart. (See Psalm 37:4, NASB). Nevertheless, a caption popped into my mind for this moment, “I abide, God provides.”
Abide, as from John 15 where Jesus tapped into the agricultural mindset of his followers to paint a picture of how God’s kingdom operates.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4, NASB)
A few sentences later, Jesus describes the destiny of cut off, no longer abiding branches - thrown aside to dry, be gathered and burned. Except here I will gleefully re-purpose these dead branches for fire fuel to warm our home on a winter evening in the future.
No feature of creation is beyond the reach of our all-providing God, even death. A fire’s ashes rejoin earth’s humus to spawn new plants and trees. Jesus restored Lazarus to life after four days in the tomb and shortly after Jesus shared his abide principle, his own death would achieve the ultimate, providing event of all time - restored relationship with God!
Note the order and roles. 1) I abide. 2) God provides.
In 2011, I themed a Christmas ornament with this same “abide” message. God has since worked abiding into my life. After drawing me through a season of waiting and learning to trust more in him, a “next phase” opened where I saw possibilities in developments I never would have considered before. I am still in that phase now, more accepting, even appreciative that the ways forward don’t often unfold as I plan or envision.
Linking my abiding with God providing also presumes that failing to abide dims my sense of God’s nearness. “Abide-failure” tends to cause pride and urgency toward self-preservation to rear up in me. Counseled Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NIV)
“These things” include anything we ask God to provide. (See Matthew 6: 28-32, NIV).
Seeking and abiding is not standing still. God’s first work for humanity was to tend creation as his image-bearers. Working, serving and tending is often where God shows us new possibilities.
In God’s provision is also a caution not to allow our abide to descend to pride, especially when life is going well. Unless I’m missing something, the Bible only sparsely connects our efforts with God’s provision. More frequent is how poorly most of us handle bounty.
Abide elevates our thankfulness to the Lord whereas pride turns us inward, attributing provision more to our own efforts, intelligence, entitlement and ingenuity than to God’s shaping of situations that yield benefit for us. Think about some of your greatest achievements and honestly consider how much you can truly attribute to yourself after discounting for other contributing factors over which you had little or no control.
Honestly acknowledging our lack of control over most of life can sink us to anxiety or draw us to giving Jesus’ abide invitation a try. Abiding prepares us to recognize and give thanks when the “Provide” trucks arrive unexpectedly to replenish our firewood reserve!
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good. His faithful love continues forever. (Psalm 136:1, NIRV)