Of Finches and Faith

“My God shall supply every need of yours according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Many Christians remind me of house finches. I speak as an expert here, both in house finches and nervous Christians. Outside one of my former offices, the lovely but nervous little birds made their annual nests and raised the next generation. Every spring I watched their courting, nest building, and fledgling-raising.

The next time you are in a pet store, notice the finches. Their eyes are on the sides of their heads. This arrangement gives them a nearly 360 degree view of the world around them. A cat or an owl has eyes that face forward. They are hunters. The finch is lunch and knows it. So with its carefully placed eyes it twitches its head from side to side, up and down, very quickly and almost unceasingly. Why? It always fears what might be creeping up on it.

Remind you of anyone?

We live in an age of fear. One reason is that we are able to see fearful things with more clarity and more camera angles than ever before. The disaster in Japan is one of the latest examples. Terrifying tsunamis have been occurring for millions of years, but never before have we had a helicopter filming it from above as it roared ashore. Camera phones give us unprecedented access to disaster as it happens.

We had some media insulation from the two greatest American tragedies of the 20th century, The Great Depression and WW II. Unsettling news took days, or even weeks to reach the general population, and even then only in grainy black and white. Today catastrophe and apocalypse sell, and we have plenty of each in real time. I was watching the recent tornado hit Tuscaloosa while I was talking to my son who lives on the University of Alabama campus. With all of the catastrophe coverage, it’s no wonder we tend to worry about what might be creeping up on us.

Against this unsettling apprehension the Bible presents us with God’s fierce desire to provide everything we need. Eden was perfectly suited for Adam and Eve. God’s provision of animal skin clothing (Gen. 3:21) assures us that even after The Breaking God still takes care of us. Throughout the Bible we find consistent reminders of God’s desire to bless, nurture, and supply our every need.  Jesus said God knows what you need before you ask. He included a petition for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer. The examples are too numerous to cite here.

Without question all of the people in the Bible, about whom we know anything in detail, faced extraordinarily difficult times. Yet in its honesty and transparency the scripture records their stories as examples of  intertwining faith and Providence. Have faith God will provide and you will walk with calm in midst of calamity.

The idea of God’s provision for us has suffered, for many thoughtful Christians, at the hands of the prosperity peddlers. That kind of proclamation is simplistic and always seems to me to make God sound like the customer service center at a Wal-Mart. To borrow a line from Morgan freeman in Bucket List, “I’ve had baths that are deeper.” I’ve never quite understood how so many people can fall for an assurance of health and wealth when the very founder of our faith ended up on a cross.

But we must never let the abuse of a truth prevent us from accepting the truth, and the truth is God really does supply every need. It’s a very good thing to remember Paul  wrote this verse when he was in prison. He had discovered depths of provision the American dream can never provide.

You must occasionally take out and look again at important propositions and decide if you really believe them. God’s meeting your needs is one of those propositions. Do you believe He will supply all your needs? And if so, are you going to live today and every day with that assurance?

Certainly this conviction is one of those “battles that does not stay won.” You have to fight for it, and push back against the fear of failure, or loss, or other forms of tribulation. But God truly is always better and stronger than the worst the world can do to you. He will supply your needs. Now for all you nervous finches, live like you believe it.


Dr. Terry Ellis

May 15, 2011