The way that people, even church people, understand God is all over the map. To some, God is the violent dictator crushing people under his feet. To others He’s like a capricious child, subjecting the world to His whims. Still others believe him weak and impotent or removed and distant.
This series is designed to help you encounter the God we wish you knew, the God who is personal, present, caring, and powerful, the God who fills the void in your soul.
What word or attribute best describes your personal experience with God, and why did you choose that word?
How you react to the concept of God as Father depends largely on how you grew up.
Some of us had a dad with all kinds of issues. Maybe your dad wasn’t there for you, and you were raised by a single mother or passed around into foster homes. Maybe your dad had his own hang-ups or addictions or he was abusive.
You wish you had memories of a good father, memories of fishing with your dad and drinking black cherry sodas while you munched on onion and garlic potato chips, memories of shooting baskets in the driveway or getting dunked in the pool. You wish you could remember just one time seeing your dad crack open a Bible or listening to him pray an authentic prayer.
And some of us were fortunate enough to have that kind of a dad.
How has your experience with your own Dad shaped your understanding of God as Father?
Have a volunteer read 1 Timothy 5:8.
No matter what kind of dad you have or had, there is one thing we can all agree on: there is an unmistakable connection between love and provision. If you truly love someone you will find great joy, great satisfaction, and great delight in providing for them.
The words “I love you” are cheap and meaningless unless they are backed up by action. The apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 5:8 that if someone has the ability to provide for his family but refuses to, he is worse than someone who is far from God.
In other words, it’s unthinkable, unconscionable for someone to neglect to provide for those he calls his own.
When you think about the people who have provided for you throughout your life, who sticks out, and what did that person do to make such an impact?
Have a volunteer read Matthew 6:25-34.
Jesus begins by saying, “…don’t worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?” And then He give two examples of our good, good heavenly Father provides.
He points people toward a bird in a tree. And they were probably thinking, “We don’t have time to go bird watching. We’ve got real problems: mortgages and credit cards and utility bills and college tuition.”
What are the things in your life that worry you and stress you out the most?
Jesus continues: never mind that stuff for a second. Just look at the bird doing barrel rolls over there. Whistling and chirping. Notice that there are no wrinkles on the birds face; no signs of high blood pressure; no migraine headaches; no therapist next to him. And this little bird has no off-shore bank account, no multi-million dollar life insurance policy, no barn filled to the brim with birdseed.
In fact, this little bird is always just one worm, one cockroach away from starvation, but the bird has no anxiety. Learn a lesson from that little bird. Birds don’t worry if there will be enough cockroaches or worms tomorrow.
Built into this little bird is a basic reliance on the good, good Father. Every day the little bird banks on this good, good Father’s character, this good, good father’s identity, this good, good father’s providing hand. And every day the bird learns again that the good, good Father won’t let him down and can be trusted. This little guy has learned to trust the heavenly Father to take care of Him one day at a time.
What keeps you from trusting God with the things that worry you?
Jesus gives a second example for people who aren’t into birds. Jesus says look over here at a little flower, a lily, the one that’s swaying back and forth. It has it’s lovely petals outstretched to heaven.
Check out this little flower. It doesn’t have any contingency plans. It’s not on the brink of emotional collapse. It’s not in a frenzy about how it looks. It’s stunning in it’s beauty, yet its never even had an appointment with a fashion consultant.
This little flower knows that God is going to provide its needs. He’ll rain on it. He’ll cause the sun to shine on it. This little flower has learned over time that the good, good heavenly Father’s character can be trusted and His identity is sure and His provision is real. God wouldn’t think of letting the little flower down.
Jesus continues, “And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you?”
And of course, that’s a rhetorical question. Of course He will. The flower will come and go, but you’re valuable in an ultimate sense.
Part of Jesus’ message here is that God sees you as valuable. How does the fact that God sees you as valuable impact how you perceive yourself?
Have you ever felt like you’ve been let down by God?
Have a volunteer read Philippians 4:4-20.
Paul writes these words…
“Rejoice in the Lord always.”
“Do not be anxious about anything....”
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
…while imprisoned. In fact, in addition to this he had suffered beatings where he was left for dead; shipwrecks; imprisonment; hunger; thirst; and homelessness.
So what’s included when Paul says that God will meet your needs?
First, it includes your physical and material needs.
And notice that the promise is needs, not wants. Contrary to what prosperity theologians teach, God hasn’t promised perfect health and riches. We may want a fancy car or big house, but that doesn’t mean we need them.
And this isn’t an excuse to be lazy or wasteful. It doesn’t mean we just pray for money and God drops it in our bank account. God also calls us to be good managers.
What it does mean is that God loves you so much that He is working behind the scenes to arrange for His infinite resources to come and rescue you or provide an opportunity or answer a prayer to meet your needs, and He can do that in so many different ways.
It doesn’t always look like a divine act. It may be an unexpected check in the mail, a friend who offers to help fix your car, or a cart full of groceries left on your doorstep. Often it is those with the fewest resources who have learned to trust God the most.
What are some of the ways you have seen God’s provision in your own life?
Second, it includes relational and emotional needs.
God knows when you need a friend, an ear, an arm around the shoulder. God knows when you need an extra touch of His presence, some encouragement. God knows when you’re just worn out and you can’t go another step. God knows when you’re fearful of the future because you’ve lost someone you love very much. God knows when you’re worried about the results of the medical test.
Third, God knows the deepest needs of our souls.
Joni Eareckson Tada is paralyzed from the neck down due to a swimming accident in her late teens. One night shortly after the accident, all of her friends and family had gone home, and she was lying in her bed, terrified, lonely, and depressed.
One of her best friends had hidden behind a couch in the waiting room so that she could come back in when visiting hours were over. That friend crawled hand and knee past the nurses station, climbed into Joni’s bed, and laid there and began singing a hymn that said, “Man of sorrows, what a name for the Son of God who came. Hallelujah, what a Savior.”.
Joni said of that night, “The comfort of being reminded that Jesus knew sorrow, that Jesus knew loneliness.” He knew what it ways to be without. He knew what it was not to be able to move when He was hanging on the cross, brought her incredible comfort.
What need in your own life do you want God to meet?
God often works to meet the needs of His children through others of his children. In other words, God meets the needs of His people through us, His people.
Think through the things that you know people in your life are praying for. You probably even heard a few during this meeting. You won’t be able to do something about all of them, but there is probably one or two of those prayers that God can use you to answer.
Make a plan to do something to be the answer to that prayer this coming week. Think through specifically what you will do and when you will do it.