Everyone finds himself or herself in a wilderness at some point: financial wildernesses, emotional wildernesses, relational wildernesses, health wildernesses, reputation wildernesses, failure wildernesses, unemployment wildernesses—the list goes on and on. In those moments, we are utterly dependent on God for well-timed help. If he doesn’t come through, we’re finished. For forty years, two million Israelites were in the wilderness, and God fed them supernaturally every morning with manna, teaching people who doubted him he can be trusted with everything they needed to survive. This is a lesson we need to learn too. In personal stories and applications of biblical lessons, Manna reveals how God specializes in making a way where there is no way. He proved it every day to the nation of Israel, never missing a day of being faithful. He was never late, and he was never early. He was always just in time. And he will be for you.
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When You're Out of Options, God will Provide
By Steve Farrar
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Steve Farrar
All rights reserved.
EMERGENCIES AND EXIGENCIES
"It is written: 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
— Matthew 4:4 (ESV)
At some point in your life, you are going to find yourself in a wilderness. You may be there right now as you're reading this book. There are many kinds of wildernesses: emotional, relational, health, reputation, failure, unemployment — the list goes on and on.
When you are in the wilderness, you are usually isolated and overwhelmed, and you are cut off from the normal supply lines of life that keep you going. It is in these times in the wilderness that you find yourself utterly dependent on God for a well-timed help. If He doesn't come through, you're finished.
For forty years, two million men, women, and children were in a holding pattern waiting to go into the land that God had promised them. The historical account is in Exodus 16. These Hebrew families weren't waiting in a city — they were wandering in an extremely rugged and remote wilderness. And God led them there on purpose.
In the wilderness, there was no source of food, so God fed them supernaturally every morning with manna. Manna had never been seen or heard of before. It was a supernatural provision of God that appeared on the ground each morning. The people were instructed to collect only what they needed for each day's provision. If they collected too much, it would rot and grow foul. God designed it this way so that the Israelites would be completely out of food when they went to bed each night. If He didn't come through with the manna the next morning, they would begin to starve. He was forcing these people who doubted Him to learn that He could be trusted to supply everything they needed to survive. All supply lines were cut off in the wilderness. Yet in forty years, not one of these two million ever went hungry. Each day they saw the mighty, supernatural, perfectly timed provision of God.
If you are in some kind of wilderness as you read this book, there is a word that will ring true to you. It is the word emergency. My copy of Webster's Dictionary defines emergency as "a sudden, generally unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances demanding immediate action."
Every night, when the mothers and fathers of Israel put their kids to bed, they were completely out of food. That's what you call an emergency. If the manna, the bread from heaven, wasn't there in the morning, every family in the nation of Israel would be in immediate crisis. But when they got up and went out of their tents, the manna was there, and it was there every time. God never missed in forty years.
Another word you probably don't use too often is exigency; the plural is exigencies. I mention both the singular and the plural because when you find yourself with one exigency, it almost always causes a chain reaction that burdens you with many exigencies. An exigency is a situation that calls for immediate action and attention. When you have a situation that requires immediate action and attention, other important things are going to have to be put aside and neglected until the exigency can be addressed. Suddenly you find yourself in an emergency of exigencies with pressing needs, pressing demands, and pressing requirements. And the problem is magnified when you look around and find yourself completely out of options. All of the normal supply lines that have always been there to help have been cut off. There is no pressure in the world like that kind of pressure.
What do you need in those situations? You need an immediate help, but it is not within yourself to come up with what is needed. You may be out of cash, out of a job, out of heath care, out of friends, out of family, out of health, out of emotional stability, out of luck, and out of options. You see no possible way out of these crushing and confining circumstances, whatever they may be.
But you are not out of a Savior.
His name is Jesus, and as we shall see, He is your sovereign Defender and Keeper. You may be out of options, but He is never out of anything. He is never out of answers, solutions, or power to immediately come to your aid and rescue you.
In these wilderness times of emergencies and exigencies, He calls us to come to Him just as Hebrews 4:16 describes: "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (ESV).
John Piper stated that the "traditional translation of Hebrews 4:16 hides from us a very precious promise ... the Greek original behind the phrase 'grace to help in time of need' would be translated literally, 'grace for a well-timed help.'"
That translation of Hebrews 4:16 has been manna for me for twenty years, and I can still remember the first time I read Piper's insight. I was having a particularly tough day dealing with some financial burdens that were upon me as I was seeking to steward well the openings that had come my way to minister to men. Our ministry was young, but the opportunities were many and the cash flow was minimal. On one particular day in 1993, I was struggling mightily to fight off discouragement. I knew the Lord had called me to do this work among men to help equip them to be spiritual leaders in their homes and churches. I was overwhelmed with the great opportunities that were coming my way in response to my book Point Man. But I didn't have the financial resources I needed to fund and hire additional staff. The Lord had obviously called me to this work, and the invitations to speak from churches around the country were pouring in. But I could not handle this all by myself. As the opportunities were growing, the supply lines were rapidly drying up.
As I sat in my study upstairs in our home pondering this most stressful state of events and trying to figure out how to pay the bills that were on my desk, my fax machine suddenly came to life. The cover letter was from one of my editors at Multnomah Books, Steve Halliday. In essence, it said, "Hey, Steve, I'm editing John Piper's new book, Future Grace, that will be out next year. As I was working on this chapter, I thought you might find it of interest."
The chapter Steve felt prompted to send to me contained John's observations of Hebrews 4:16. When I read the words "grace for a well-timed help," that was manna to me. In all honesty, I valued those words that day more than I would have a large donation check.
That verse was literally a well-timed help. My financial burden was not lifted immediately, but my spirit was. I knew that the Lord had prompted Steve to fax that to me. He knew nothing of my burden and financial pressure. I hadn't talked to Steve in many weeks. But the fact that the Lord moved him to send one chapter of the book that contained the six words "grace for a well-timed help" meant more to me than I can say.
In reading that chapter, I knew the Lord was letting me know that His eye was upon me and that He had not forgotten me. He knew the pressure I was under. He knew that I was experiencing an emergency and many exigencies. And Piper's words and the verse in Hebrews let me know that help would show up at just the right time.
Did the well-timed help come? Yes, it did, but in all honesty, I cannot remember what it was. But what I have never forgotten is the phrase "a well-timed help." The Lord will come through — not on our time frame, but on His. I survived that crisis, and you will survive yours — and it's all thanks to His manna, the well-timed helps that He tends to send at the last possible moment.
The wilderness is where the Lord does His most important work and His most painful work. When you are in the wilderness, He has your undivided attention. In the wilderness, you've got one thing on your mind: survival. When all the supply lines of life that have always been there for you are gone, you don't see any possible way to make it. You're out of options, and you're completely hemmed in. You don't see any way out because there is no way out.
But the God of the Bible specializes in making a way where there is no way. He can get necessary and immediate provisions to you. He knows who you are, He knows where you are, and He knows more about your situation than you do. His eye is upon you, and although you may feel that He is far off, He is actually very near. Perhaps you are in dire straits that threaten to undo and collapse everything in your life that is valuable. That's the wilderness. The Lord God knows all about it. He knows that you are completely out of options. He understands that you have come to the end of your rope. And to be candid, He prefers that you get to that point. He needs you at the end of your resources so you'll finally think straight about your situation.
Everyone depends on something. But everything, literally everything in the universe, is dependent on God. Why put your dependence on men, or companies, or the stock market, or the price of gold? Why would you depend on anything else than the living God? All things depend upon Him in the first place.
Dependence upon Him is utterly wise and rational, but it usually takes an emergency or crisis to get us to that point. For it is at this point of immediate need that we have no option except to trust Him. That is the place of wisdom, and that is the place of safety. As P. B. Power observed, "God loves trust; it honors Him; he who trusts the most shall sorrow least. If there were continual trust there could be continual peace."
Trust in the living God must be learned over time. We can't get into a microwave, push Trust, and come out three minutes later with continual trust for the rest of our lives. So from time to time He has us revisit the wilderness, and we find ourselves in another emergency that brings along its cousins of exigencies and pressing needs. And once again, we are hemmed in, with no way out, and we have no option except to trust and depend on Him and His promise. This is the real place of thinking straight, for you are now completely dependent upon Him. And in this place, He invites you to call upon Him with your whole heart: "Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me" (Ps. 50:15).
He knows how to rescue you in your wilderness.
He knows how to make a way where there is no way.
He knows how to provide a well-timed help just in perfect time.
He proved it every day to two million men, women, and children who wandered in a wilderness for forty years. He never missed a day of faithfully providing what they needed. He was never late, and He was never early. He was always just in time.
MANNA FROM HEAVEN
The issue was starvation. Having been delivered from the bondage of Egypt, God's people found themselves miles upon miles away from any inhabited city. They didn't have time to plant crops because they were on the move. Even if they did plant crops, it would have been a waste of time because the soil was so depleted it couldn't bear crops (Jer. 2:2, 6). It was a wilderness full of deserts and pits and characterized by intense and prolonged droughts. It was a land that no one would dare to cross because it meant certain death. That wilderness, simply put, according to the prophet Jeremiah, was a land "where no man dwelt" (2:6). Mainly, because there was no food. Without food and water, there was no possible way for them to survive in this wilderness, yet they did survive. They had nothing, but they were never without.
There were no markets full of meat, fish, and fresh produce. You don't find markets in a wilderness. There were no Costcos or Sam's Clubs where they could stock up for a month or two in advance. They were completely cut off from any normal sources of food for forty years, but they never missed a meal because He always came through with a well-timed help. Manna was God's supernatural provision that came down from heaven just in the nick of time every single day for forty years. It was a daily, sufficient, constant supply of God's provision. And it told every day of His limitless power and perfect faithfulness.
George Müeller wanted to prove to his generation that God was the living God and that His power was not limited. Müeller was a pastor who lived in England in the 1800s. He looked around the city of Bristol and saw the hundreds of orphans struggling to survive in horrific conditions. The Lord put it on his heart to start an orphanage where these children could be loved, fed, educated, given a trade, and introduced to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But the primary motivation for Müeller was not just to help the orphans. Müeller wanted to prove that it was possible to live off of the promises and faithfulness of God.
In order to prove his heartfelt belief that God would answer prayer and provide according to His promises, Müeller determined never to ask anyone to support the orphanage. He never made appeals, and he never sent out letters asking for donations. He was careful not to judge those ministries who did so, but he knew God was calling him to go about this ministry to orphans in a completely different way. He began with a handful of children, and within a matter of years he was caring for over two thousand orphans who were housed in the orphanage buildings built by donated funds. For sixty years he ran the orphanage without asking anyone for any money.
Believe me, this was no easy task. Müeller found himself in the wilderness of financial and spiritual drought on numerous occasions. But instead of panicking, he prayed. What Müeller did was remarkable. He did not count upon the normal supply lines that most ministries depend on for funding but chose simply to pray and ask God to bring in the daily needs to feed and clothe the orphans and keep the heat on. He recorded it all in his autobiography that sits next to my computer as I type these words. Müeller kept a daily diary of his financial needs, his prayers for God's assistance, and the financial gifts that were given. His records were meticulous. The subtitle of the autobiography of George Müeller is "A Million and a Half Answers to Prayer." The introduction to his book explained, "Without ever asking anyone for help but God alone ... he humbly claimed that the Lord had answered 50,000 requests, 30,000 of those in the same hour or day in which they were asked."
Now that's what I call well-timed help.
There are times when you will find yourself in the wilderness and you are completely out of what you need. That's when Jesus, who is the Bread of Life, supplies you, His child, with manna. Because Jesus is the Bread of Life on any and every level of your life, I want to offer this broadened definition of manna. Manna is any provision of God in any area of your life that is a well-timed help. Manna is a provision of the Lord Jesus Christ that comes precisely at the right moment.
I have no doubt you have seen Him do this as you look back over your life. Perhaps today you find yourself in a place of crushing pressure. You have a tremendous need, but you are completely out of resources. You see no possible way out of your dilemma. All supply lines have been cut off. You've been thinking you are finished. You remember what happened to you in the past. The Lord came through for you in some unforeseen way and kept you going. Then the inevitable happened. Before long, you encountered another difficulty in the wilderness, and once again you wondered how the Lord would get you through this latest episode.
It seems to me that is the essence of the Christian life. We walk through the wilderness from faith to faith, which is another way of saying from crisis to crisis (Rom. 1:17). The wilderness crises are times of affliction and hardship, and they are a normal part of the Christian life (Phil. 1:29).
There is a reason we keep going through these episodes of testing in the wilderness. Tim Keller summarized it well:
When pain and suffering come upon us, we finally see not only that we are not in control of our lives but that we never were....
[Suffering] can be an important chapter in our life story and a crucial stage in achieving what we most want in life. But in the strictly secular view, suffering cannot be a good chapter in your life story — only an interruption of it. It can't take you home; it can only keep you from the things you most want in life. In short, in the secular view, suffering always wins....
Excerpted from Manna by Steve Farrar. Copyright © 2016 Steve Farrar. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Emergencies and Exigencies 1
Chapter 2 Jesus Is the Manna 25
Chapter 3 Stealth Manna, Stealth Providence 49
Chapter 4 His Time, His Timing 75
Chapter 5 Red Leather Chair 103
Chapter 6 Getting Through It 129
Chapter 7 Little Sins 153
Chapter 8 Be Manna for Your Kids 183
Chapter 9 Consider the Work of God 205
About the Author 227