Advent Podcast Day 3: “God with Us”

December 5, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Matthew 1:17-20

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 5, 2017, and you are listening to Day 3 of my new series of Advent podcasts. You’re listening to “Emmanuel,” a song written by Michael W. Smith and performed by a young Amy Grant on her 1983 Christmas album, modestly called A Christmas Album. Still my favorite of her three holiday albums. You need to hear this song in the context of the album, because it includes this nice transition into “O Little Town of Bethlehem”—set to a very different melody from the traditional hymn. I’ll have to play that in a future podcast.

But I’m playing this song because I’m reading the angel’s words to Joseph in Matthew 1 starting with verse 20—after Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant—and that Joseph is not the father.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

When I was a young man back in the ’90s and early 2000s, my favorite band in the world—by far—was a female rock trio called Sleater-Kinney. I really loved these guys. I still do! I’ve seen them in concert several times. On one occasion, I arrived at the concert venue when the doors opened. We were nearly the first ones in the theater. So I left my friend Keith to hold my spot in front of the stage while I went to the lobby to the concession stand. And who should be standing there—right in front of me, ordering hot tea and lemon, but Corin Tucker, the lead singer and guitarist in the band. She was inconspicuous because she was still in her street clothes. The handful of other people in the lobby didn’t recognize her. But I did.

“O.K., think Brent. What are you going to say to your rock idol that isn’t going to make you sound like a complete idiot.” That’s what was going through my mind! I was nervous. I didn’t know what to say. I felt like doing what Wayne and Garth do in the Wayne’s World movie when they meet their hero Alice Cooper: fall at his feet and say, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

So I was tongue-tied… And then… Someone walked up to Ms. Tucker and said, “Are you Corin?” And then of course she started to talking to him. I missed my chance! Ugh.
Read the rest of this entry »

Advent Podcast Day 2: “Humanity’s Biggest Problem”

December 4, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24-25

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White, and welcome to Day 2 of my new series of Advent podcasts. This is another song from Jon Anderson’s wonderful 1985 Christmas album, 3 Ships. This is an original composition called “Where Were You?” I can’t say enough about this record. It’s one of my favorite albums, Christmas or otherwise.

Years ago, I heard an interview with actress Patty Duke, who struggled for decades with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. She said, “What a relief it was when I received the diagnosis! I finally had a name for this thing that had caused so much harm in my life!”

I can only imagine… Healing can’t take place until we know exactly what the problem is!

During this season of Advent, it is fitting for us spend time reflecting on a problem that harms all of us human beings. The Bible has a name for it: sin. It is a problem over which we are utterly helpless. You can hear Paul describe this helplessness in his words from Romans 7: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

I’ve never been in Alcoholics Anonymous, but I admire the organization and its twelve steps. I had a professor in seminary who had a friend in AA. In fact, his friend’s AA group met in his church’s basement. One day my professor was was in the narthex of his church, about to walk into the sanctuary for a church service, when he saw his friend emerging with other members of his AA group from the basement. His friend saw my professor, motioned to the basement door, and said, “That’s where church happens!” Read the rest of this entry »

Advent Podcast Day 1: “The Bible’s Sneak Preview of Christmas”

December 3, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Genesis 3:1-7, 15

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Welcome to my sermon podcast. This is the first Sunday in Advent, and today I’m beginning a series of short devotionals each day through Christmas. Of course, I’ll continue to podcast my sermons here as well. Each Advent podcast will feature some music from my extensive collection of Christmas records. You’re listening to Jon Anderson, the lead singer of the band Yes, and his version of “Three Ships”—from the amazing album of the same name, which came out in 1985. I might also occasionally feature snippets of audio from movies and TV specials. Regardless, I pray that this new series of devotionals will be a blessing to you.

Today’s scripture is from Genesis 3:1-7 and verse 15.

Where does the Christmas story begin? You might say it begins in the gospel of Matthew, chapters 1 and 2. Matthew tells the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective and features the evil King Herod and the magi from the East who come following a miraculous star. Or you might say that it begins in the gospel of Luke chapters 1 and 2, which tells the Christmas story from Mary’s perspective—which features Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist, along with shepherds abiding in the fields—this is the scripture that Linus famously reads in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

You might even say that the Christmas story begins in John’s gospel, which tells us that in the beginning the Word—that is, God’s Son, the second person of the Trinity—was with God and the Word was God, and that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Although the Word is eternal and had no beginning, John tells us, the “Word becoming flesh” happened when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ was conceived in Mary’s womb and was born at Christmas.

But the Christmas story doesn’t begin in these three gospels of the New Testament. It begins much earlier. In fact, it begins… near the beginning—in Genesis 3. Read the rest of this entry »

On Philippians and finances

November 30, 2017

I wrote the following article for my church’s weekly email blast. 

Two weeks ago, I preached on Philippians 3:2-14, including Paul’s words in verse 8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” In the sermon I challenged us to consider ways that we’re not like Paul: While we have many opportunities to prove that everything is a “loss” compared to the “surpassing worth” of knowing Christ, too often we show that we treasure other things and other people more than him.

One obvious way we do this is by failing to tithe—that is, to give ten percent of our income to the Lord through the local church. This is a biblical standard for giving. As I said in my sermon,

If I fail to give ten percent of my income—a tithe—to the church, yet go to the movies when I want, and have all the data for my smartphone that I want, and have all the clothes that I want, and eat at Chick-fil-A as often as I want, how am I showing that money and possessions are a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ?

Brothers and sisters, if this describes you, I’m inviting you to change. Even more, I believe the Lord Jesus himself is calling you to change.

While none of us would question the need for Christians to pray, to worship, to give time and energy to serve Jesus, and to read and meditate on God’s Word, too many of us have come to regard financial stewardship—giving money to church—as an optional extra feature of faithful Christian living.

We give, but only if and when we perceive we can afford to give.

Yet the clear message from scripture is this: we can never afford not to give! It’s as necessary for our souls as prayer!

Paul himself makes this point in Philippians 4:14-20. In this passage, he thanks the Philippians for their generous financial support of him while he’s in prison. (In the first century, prisoners literally had to pay for their own room and board!) But he wants to make clear that he doesn’t need the money. As he’s already told them, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content… In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (vv. 11b-13).

What Paul wants, he says, is not their money; he wants a “profit that accumulates in your account” (CEB). He’s no longer talking about money. He’s talking about a spiritual profit in their heavenly account—blessings that God will give them because they have been generous in their financial giving. However this “profit” manifests itself in their lives—whether on this side of heaven or the other—it’s far better than anything they can purchase with money.

Not only that: As they give generously, Paul promises that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (v. 19 ESV).

The same is true for each of us who believes in Jesus Christ. As we submit our bank accounts to the lordship of Christ, God is faithful to supply our every need and to bless us spiritually. I can testify from personal experience that this is true. And I know many of you can, too. We have learned from experience that God is faithful as we give faithfully to him.

And starting this Sunday, on Stewardship Commitment Sunday, I want the rest of you to learn this as well.

I want you to commit to tithing. If you believe you can’t do that, I want you to take a definite step in that direction. Can you commit to eight percent? Six percent? If you’re already tithing, prayerfully consider whether our Lord wants you to give more than a tithe.

Whatever your decision, I want every church member and regular attender to fill out the Estimate of Giving card that you received last month. We will also have extra copies printed out on Sunday.

Sermon 11-26-17: “Rejoice in the Lord Always”

November 30, 2017

Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Does “always” really mean always? If so, I suspect most of us struggle to obey these words. Our main problem, as I point in this sermon, is that we usually rejoice in our circumstances: “I got the job, therefore I rejoice!” “She said ‘yes,’ therefore I rejoice!” “The tests came back negative, therefore I rejoice!” But notice Paul says to rejoice in the Lord. If we are in the Lord, we always have reasons for joy.

Sermon Text: Philippians 4:4-13

My sermons are now being podcast! My podcast is available in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

The family and I went to my in-laws house in Snellville on Thanksgiving. After the meal, I stayed awake watching football as long as I could—without being rude—before creeping back to the spare bedroom and taking a nap. When I woke up, everyone—my entire family and my in-laws—were no longer watching football. They were watching a movie on the Hallmark Channel. Maybe you’ve seen it? It was that one about this man and woman who meet but don’t get along at first. In fact, they don’t even like each other. But over time they start to secretly fall for one another. But they can’t tell each other, because there are all these obstacles that stand in the way of their relationship. And then, at the very end of the movie, all the obstacles are removed. They finally say, “I love you.” They kiss. And it’s clear they’re going to live happily ever after.

Have you seen that one?

Actually, this one was almost exactly like You’ve Got Mail except it was set at Christmastime. At the end of the movie, the woman gets everything she wants, including a big promotion at work, the perfect Christmas gift, and the man of her dreams. So of course she is deeply happy! She has reason to rejoice! If she got passed over for the promotion; if she lost her job; if her Christmas wishes went unfulfilled; if she didn’t end up with Romeo, well… she would be not be rejoicing. And we the viewers would not be rejoicing.

Because our ability to rejoice depends on… how things turn out. We need the “happily ever after,” or something reasonably close to it, in order to experience joy. That’s because we rejoice in our circumstances—when you get the promotion, when you fall in love, when your dreams come true. If the circumstances are bad, not so much.

Yet notice Paul’s words here in verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord”—when? “Always.” And as if that weren’t clear enough he repeats it: “Again I will say, rejoice.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 11-19-17: “That I May Gain Christ”

November 29, 2017

In today’s scripture Paul considers everything he’s lost as a result of following Christ. From the world’s point of view, it’s substantial. Yet Paul says he counts it all as loss in comparison to what he’s gained in Christ. Too often, I can think of many things in my own life that don’t seem like “rubbish” in comparison to Christ. What about you? How can we learn to treasure Jesus the way Paul does?

Sermon Text: Philippians 3:2-14

My sermons are now being podcast! My podcast is available in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Sadly, each passing week seems to bring new allegations against celebrities who have used their power to sexually abuse, harass, or rape people. In the case of Harvey Weinstein—one of the most powerful and influential Hollywood producers over the past 30 years—friends and associates like Ben Affleck and director Quentin Tarantino have apologized publicly because they knew this stuff was going on and they never said anything or did anything to stop it. They didn’t even confront their friend about it. And the truth is, there were dozens or even hundreds of powerful people in Hollywood who also knew about Weinstein’s behavior, and none of them did anything about it. Weinstein’s behavior was, in one report I read, Hollywood’s “worst-kept secret.”

Why the silence—not on the part of Weinstein’s victims—I totally get that—but on the part of his many powerful friends and associates? Why didn’t they do anything or say anything to him? Why didn’t they hold him accountable? Because Harvey Weinstein had the power to make or break their careers in Hollywood. He had the power to do great harm to their careers, or contribute to their success—as actors or filmmakers. He had the power to make their Hollywood dreams come true or prevent them from coming true. Because of their connection to Weinstein, many people won Academy Awards who otherwise wouldn’t have won them!

So these friends and associates decided that they had too much to lose. And they weren’t willing to risk losing it—even for the sake doing the right thing, telling the truth, being people of integrity.

How very different, by contrast, is the apostle Paul, as we see in today’s scripture! He was willing to lose everything that the world placed a high value on—everything that made him “somebody” in the eyes of the world. Why was he willing to do that? That’s what this sermon is all about. Read the rest of this entry »

Unanswered prayer is not a challenge to God’s sovereignty, Mr. Campolo

November 22, 2017

This article made the rounds recently on a United Methodist-related Facebook group of which I’m a member. Bart Campolo, the son of prominent “progressive evangelical” Tony Campolo, describes how he lost his Christian faith incrementally. The process began during his ministry with the urban poor, when he found, time and again, that God wasn’t answering his prayers.

“It messed with my theology,” he explains. “I had a theology that said God could intervene and do stuff.” But after a period of unanswered prayer, Bart admits: “I had to change my understanding of God. Sovereignty had to get dialed down a bit.”

Campolo admitted that changing his view of God’s sovereignty was “the beginning of the end” of his faith. Why?

“Because once you start adjusting your theology to match up to the reality you see in front of you, it’s an infinite progression. So over the course of the next 30 years…my ability to believe in a supernatural narrative or a God who intervenes and does anything died a death of a thousand unanswered prayers”.

Campolo continued: “I passed through every stage of heresy. It starts out with sovereignty goes, then biblical authority goes, then I’m a universalist, now I’m marrying gay people. Pretty soon I don’t actually believe Jesus actually rose from the dead in a bodily way.”

Campolo went on to say that “progressive Christianity” is a stepping stone to atheism for many others.

Maybe so. But if Campolo believed that God’s sovereignty was proven (or not) by Campolo’s perception of God’s ability to answer his prayers, then I wonder how orthodox he was to begin with.

Speaking from my own experience, the “higher” your view of God’s sovereignty, the less concerned you are with whether or not God grants your petitions in prayer. Why? Because your overriding concern is that God’s will be done, not your own. If something other than your petition comes to pass, you can trust that God allowed or enabled it for good reasons—and the ultimate outcome of not granting your petition will be better for you, for your neighbor, for the world, or for God’s kingdom than otherwise. Whether you can grasp even one of possibly millions of reasons that God didn’t grant your petition is beside the point.

And why should you know what those reasons are? Who do you—a finite, sinful person—think you are? To put it mildly, what do you know that God doesn’t? Who are you to judge what God “ought” to do? It’s preposterous when you think about it—at least for those of us who believe in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and providence.

After all, from God’s vantage point, which transcends time, only he foreknows the myriad and potentially eternal consequences of granting or not granting your petition.

In his masterful book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller discusses chaos theory and the famous “butterfly effect”: that a butterfly flapping its wings in China “would be magnified through a ripple effect so as to determine the path of a hurricane in the South Pacific. Yet no one would be able to calculate and predict the actual effects of the butterfly’s flight.”[1] No one except God, that is.

Now, if even the effects of a butterfly’s flight or the roll of a ball down a hill are too complex to calculate, how much less could any human being look at the tragic, seemingly “senseless” death of a young person and have any idea of what the effects in history will be? If an all-powerful and all-wise God were directing all of history with its infinite number of interactive events toward good ends, it would be folly to think we could look at any particular occurrence and understand a millionth of what it will bring about. The history-butterfly effect means that “only an omniscient mind could grasp the complexities of directing a world of free creatures toward… provisioned [good] goals… Certainly many evils seem pointless and unnecessary to us—but we are simply not in a position to judge.”[2]

Elsewhere, Keller has said these helpful words:

At the very least, we need to approach the “problem” of unanswered prayer with great humility.

Besides, in his model prayer for us, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In his 30 years of drifting toward atheism, was Campolo praying for that? Because if he were, he would have found that God answered his prayer about 10,950 times. Had he been praying for other bare necessities, he likely could add hundreds of thousands more answered prayers for things he routinely took for granted.

“Yes,” the skeptic might say, “but Campolo was going to receive his daily bread anyway—he lives in the most prosperous country in history, after all. He didn’t have to pray for it, and he probably didn’t most of the time.”

That’s probably true. And yet, someone who believes in God’s sovereignty also understands that nothing in the universe “happens anyway”—not apart from God’s providential grace. That you were born in a prosperous country into a middle-class family, that you enjoy life and breath with which to serve the urban poor, and that you receive something so humble as daily bread—all of these are gifts “from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

If we forget to ask our Father for these gifts, yet he gives them anyway, can we at least remember to say thank you?

(And thus concludes the grumpiest Thanksgiving message you’ll likely read this year! 😉)

1. Timothy Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (New York: Dutton, 2013), 100.

2. Ibid., 101.

Whatever we’re thankful for is paid for by the blood of Christ

November 17, 2017

I wrote the following for my church’s weekly electronic newsletter. This insight comes from John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 51-54.

Paul writes the following, in Romans 2:4-5:

[D]o you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

One of the things that we’ll be celebrating on Thanksgiving next week is what Paul calls the “riches of [God’s] kindness.” But consider Paul’s words above: We are living right now in a season of mercy, the purpose of which is to lead us to repentance.

Paul’s point is something like this: God gives us one amazing gift after another–our lives, our families, our friends, our health, our possessions. And God does so in spite of the fact that we’re sinners who, according to God’s Word, deserve only death, judgment, and hell. When we consider how kind and merciful God is to us, our hearts should melt. As a result, we should repent and be saved.

But notice what happens if we don’t repent: We are “presuming on” God’s riches and “storing up wrath” for ourselves on Judgment Day.

The only thing that saves us from this wrath is the blood of God’s Son Jesus.

Therefore, those of us who are Christians ought to remind ourselves that every gift that God gives us is paid for by the precious blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The gift of my wife or husband is paid for by the blood of Jesus. The gift of my children is paid for by the blood of Jesus. The gift of this warm, safe home is paid for by the blood of Jesus. The gift of this delicious meal is paid for by the blood of Jesus. The gifts of love, laughter, and friendship are paid for by the blood of Jesus.

Remind yourself of this truth next Thursday. Let it melt your heart. And be thankful!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sermon 11-12-17: “Being Thankful in a World of Evil”

November 15, 2017

Last week, in the wake of the Sutherland Springs shooting, more than a few tweets called into question the effectiveness of prayer. What good is prayer when these kinds of massacres become routine? After all, the victims were already praying when they were shot. What good is faith if God doesn’t seem to intervene? This sermon is, I hope, a Christian response to these kinds of questions.

Sermon Text: Philippians 2:1-11

My sermons are now being podcast! My podcast is available in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Last Sunday, around the time that we were gathered here at 11:00 for worship, some of our brothers and sisters in Christ were gathered at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, when a gunman, armed with a Ruger military style rifle, walked into the church and fired his weapon. Within minutes, 26 of our brothers and sisters, ranging in age from 5 to 72, including eight children, were dead. Another child, by the way, named Carlin Brite Holcombe, hadn’t yet been born when he and his mother, Crystal Holcombe, were killed.

They were not so different from us… Small town, like Hampton. In church worshiping, singing hymns. Praying. The pastor of the church and some of his family happened to be out of town that day. A guest preacher was filling in. This guest preacher and his family died. But one of the poignant details that stood out to me was this: the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter—who didn’t go out of town with her father—chose to go to church. Because, after all, that’s what Christians do on Sundays; that’s what her mother and father raised her to do; that’s what she wanted to do; because she loved Jesus, and people who love Jesus go to worship on Sunday. So that’s where she was when she was killed.

A day or two after the shooting, we Americans were arguing, as we always do in the wake of these tragedies, about gun control on the one hand and second amendment rights on the other—and I promise I have no interest in discussing these questions. But it was in this political context that Michael McKean, a talented actor and comedian whom I admire, tweeted a controversial message. He was apparently disappointed that so many politicians, including President Trump, urged Americans to pray for the victims of Sutherland Springs—while taking no further action. So he tweeted, “They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.”

They had the prayers shot right out of them. A lot of people found these words insensitive, to say the least. He later retracted it, saying he didn’t at all mean to attack people’s faith. Read the rest of this entry »

“If we starve, he will be our everlasting, life-giving bread”

November 14, 2017

I’ve never been tempted to believe the prosperity gospel. I suspect that if I did believe it (and to be clear: I don’t!), I would hold fast to Jesus’ promise in the Sermon on the Mount about God’s faithful provision in Matthew 6:31-33:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Of course, the moment I write this, I’m reminded that Jesus has just said that we should not lay up for ourselves “treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (vv. 19-20).

But still… Matthew 6:31-33 is the word of our Lord Jesus. It’s true. At the same time, however, we have Jesus warning his disciples that they will face persecution and even death on account of their faithfulness to him (e.g., Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 6:22; Luke 21:16-18; John 16:33, among others). We see in the Book of Acts and throughout the apostles’ letters examples of great suffering and death among the saints. Paul himself writes, in Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”

Presumably, each of these troubles will come to Christians at least sometimes. Paul himself describes ways in which he experienced nearly every one of them in 2 Corinthians 12:16-33.

So how do we reconcile Jesus’ promises in Matthew 6 about the Father always providing for us with the expectation that disciples will experience trouble—even to the point of hunger, nakedness, and death?

John Piper explains this with eloquence in his book Don’t Waste Your Life.

What, then, does Jesus mean, “All these things—all your food and clothing—will be added to you when you seek the kingdom of God first”? He means the same thing he meant when he said, “Some of you they will put to death… But not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 16:16-18). He meant that you will have everything you need to do his will and be eternally and supremely happy in him.

How much food and clothing are necessary? Necessary for what? we must ask. Necessary to be comfortable? No, Jesus did not promise comfort. Necessary to avoid shame? No, Jesus called us to bear shame for his name with joy. Necessary to stay alive? No, he did not promise to spare us death—of any kind. Persecution and plague consume the saints. Christians die on the scaffold, and Christians die of disease. That’s why Paul wrote, “We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

What Jesus meant was that our Father in heaven would never let us be tested beyond what we are able (1 Corinthians 10:13). If there is one scrap of bread that you need, as God’s child, in order to keep your faith in the dungeon of starvation, you will have it. God does not promise enough food for comfort or life—he promises enough so that you can trust him and do his will.

When Paul promised, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” he had just said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13, 19).

“All things” means “I can suffer hunger through him who strengthens me. I can be destitute of food and clothing through him who strengthens me.” That is what Jesus promises. He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). If we starve, he will be our everlasting, life-giving bread. If we are shamed with nakedness, he will be our perfect, all-righteous apparel. If we are tortured and made to scream in our dying pain, he will keep us from cursing his name and will restore our beaten body to everlasting beauty.[1]

Do you see the radical God-centeredness of this perspective? I never encountered this in any seminary class or United Methodist-oriented Bible study. Why not? What’s wrong with us? Don’t we believe this is true?

Jesus’ great promise of the Father’s provision in Matthew 6:31-33 isn’t mostly about us; it’s about us in relation to our Father: our Father will give us whatever we need in order to continue to glorify him in whatever circumstance in which he places us. That’s all Jesus promises—yet that’s everything we need.

1. John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 94-5.