Well for this morning, we return to the 11th chapter of Luke and our look at the familiar Lord's Prayer, or Disciples' Prayer as it is called. Let me read you these four verses, Luke chapter 11 verses 1 through 4.
"And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.' And He said to them, 'When you pray, say, “Father, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”'"
This is the 6th message on this model prayer. Amazing when you think about how brief it is that we could preach six messages and just be half way. But this prayer is a model for all prayer. It is a pattern for all prayer. It is therefore expansive and comprehensive. We could probably preach 100 messages on it. All we need to know about prayer is here. All that is required to unlock the true heart of prayer, which is worship, all that we need to know to have at our disposal the full treasure house of divine resources is here.
Now in our recognition of this prayer, we are aware of the fact that we're in the final months of Jesus' life when He responds to this disciple who asked to be taught how to pray. And this is the second time our Lord taught His disciples to pray. The first time is recorded in Matthew 6, many months before this in the Galilee ministry. And so we have compared the two prayers, the one from Matthew 6:9 to 13, the one here, and not wanting to leave anything out we've been putting them together so we get it all.
But today we come to verse 3, "Give us each day our daily bread." That petition also appears in the prayer in Matthew 6 and it is an important one. It is the first petition in the prayer that directs itself to our needs. We then come to a turning point, don't we, in this profound prayer. The prayer is divided into two halves. The first half concerns God and His glory. The second half concerns man and his needs. God then is given the supreme place and only when He is first does everything else fit into its appropriate place.
First of all, we are concerned in our prayers for God's glory, for God's kingdom, for God's will. And then we are concerned for our provision, our pardon and our protection. First we acknowledge God as Father, as holy, as King, as Master. And then we ask Him for provision, for pardon and for protection. In other words, we've learned that the honor of God is first, the honor of God is central. That above all things God is to be worshiped. When you do that, you're truly praying in the Spirit. Some people think that praying in the Spirit is babbling in some strange language, or pseudo-language. Praying in the Spirit simply means lining up your prayers with the Holy Spirit, and that means to be praying for the glory of God, the will of God and the kingdom of God.
Now we come to this second part and so we are in a transition as we come to verse 3. And we turn from God's glory to man's need, but we don't leave God's glory behind because we recognize that if our needs are to be met, God is the supplier. It's not an effort now to manipulate God. It isn't because we've buttered Him up in the first three requests that we can now sort of ask Him what we want. It's not the idea that we've sort of manipulated God with our concern for His glory and now He better deliver. It's not that at all. This prayer does not at all become selfish. This prayer is not at all man-centered. This prayer that relates to our needs is not at all indulgent. And we certainly don't give God glory to get something from Him. We don't pray to get what we want, somehow fitting into the formula only because we think it's going to deliver what we desire. In fact, that comes through if you just look at what these requests are with regard to us. Give us bread, forgive our sins, and lead us not into temptation. Wouldn't you agree that those things are not lavish, that those requests are not grandiose? They're not over the top? They're not luxuries? What we're really saying is You have to supply what we need for physical life, You have to supply what we need for our well-being, You have to supply what we need to be sustained spiritually. We cannot live if You do not provide our food. We cannot live spiritually if You do not forgive our sins. And we cannot survive if You do not protect us from temptation.
Nothing lavish about any of this, nothing luxurious. Jesus is not teaching us here to pray for things that are personal, as if they belonged only to us. In fact, it says “give us” and the very plural of us indicates that we're praying in a concert of prayer, not alone but with everybody else who's asking for the same thing. The lavish character of our prayer came when we prayed for God's glory and God's kingdom and God's will in all its fullness to come. And when it comes to us, all we're asking for is basics: feed us, forgive us, protect us. That's how to pray, Jesus said. He didn't teach us even to get beyond the basics.
There is in this part of the prayer a sense of humble dependence. There is a sense of humility here. There's nothing brash about it. There's nothing demanding about it. There's nothing that even comes close to saying, "OK, God, we’ve put You in Your rightful place and now we're going to rub the bottle and you jump out and deliver the stuff." There's nothing here about Jesus making you healthy, wealthy and prosperous. This prayer is not a gimmick that works. In fact, it is the humblest and most basic affirmation that God is the supplier of what we most desperately need. We can't live without food. We can't live spiritually without forgiveness. And we can't sustain that life without divine help. That's all we're asking and nothing more. God may choose to give more and we will accept it at His good and gracious hand. But we're not forcing God, we're not badgering God. We're not trying to talk God into some extravagance. It's just the humblest things that we ask for, the things that are absolutely critical to our life.
And there's another way to look at it. It is not just a petition or a series of three petitions. It is almost a confession. This prayer could be said in this sense: "We will not eat if You don't feed us. We will not live if you don't forgive us. We will not survive if you don't protect us." That is a confession and an admission. Lord... Another way to pray it would be, "Lord, we affirm that You're the source of our food, we affirm You're the source of our forgiveness, we affirm You're the source of our protection." That's what we're saying. We have seen God as the source, our Father. We've seen God as sacred, hallowed be His name. We've seen God as sovereign, Thy kingdom come. And from Matthew, God as superior, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Now we come to God as our supporter, or our supplier of all that is essential. We have to have daily food or we die. We have to forgiveness or we perish. We have to have protection or we would also fall into that state of perishing.
So we come to God then as our supporter. In a sense, even though we're turning to man in his needs from God and His glory, God is still the focus because this is not just a petition, it is an affirmation. It is a confession. The whole idea here is really, in a sense, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, because we're saying, "God, Your will in heaven is to care for Your children, do it. Do it, feed us, forgive us, protect us." And Jesus says really that's all you can ask for, that's all you can ask for.
Now let's break this request in verse 3 down into several little features. OK? Just break it down a little bit. Number one, the substance, what is it that we're praying for? Bread, see it there. "Give us each day our daily bread." What do we mean by bread? Well we mean more than cooked or baked wheat or flour. Don't we? What do we mean by bread? Well basically that simply stands for all the temporal issues of life, physical care; food, clothing, housing, basics to survive, to stay alive. Martin Luther wrote that bread was the symbol for everything necessary for the preservation of this life. Luther said, "Like food, health, good weather, a house, a home, wife, children, good government and peace." It's a way of saying, "Lord, if I'm to survive physically You have to be the source of my survival. And again, it's not the necessities of life, it doesn't talk about what kind of house or what kind of food, or what quality of life. It just says, "Lord, sustain my life because I cannot advance Your kingdom, I cannot do Your will, I cannot honor Your name, I cannot bring You glory unless I am alive."
In Proverbs 30 you have something of the same kind of prayer. Proverbs 30 verse 8, "Give me neither poverty nor riches." There's a wise prayer. "Feed me with the food that is my portion." Don't give me any more than You want to give me. If you give me too much, I'll be full and deny You and say, “Huh, who's the Lord? I'm a self-made man.” Or if You give me too little, I'll be in want and steal and profane the name of my God. Just give me what I need. Give me the basics. It's a simple petition for physical life and it's a precious thing to take to heart the reality that God is not only the God of great epics, He's not only the God of great events, He's not only the God of great world-shaking, historical interventions, He is not only the God who is infinite, He fills the endless universe with His presence, He is not only this vast, immeasurable God, but He is the God who cares about the humblest of His little children and wants to be sure they have bread to eat and a place to sleep and clothes to wear. That's why Jesus said back in Matthew 6 in that same Sermon on the Mount in which He first taught this prayer, Matthew 6:25, "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life,” your physical life “as to what you shall eat." You don't have to worry about that. "Don't be anxious about what you shall drink. Don't be anxious about your body, what you're going to put on. Is not life more than food and the body than clothing?" In other words, don't you understand that if God is committed that you should live and if He can give you the life, He can certainly figure out how to find the food and the clothing?
And as an example: "Look at the birds in the air. They don't sow, they don't reap, they don't gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" God has put into place a very complex way to feed and sustain the birds. Don't you think He's going to meet your needs? "Which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to His life span?" That isn't what you do when you worry, you don't add to your life, what do you do? You take away from it. "And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow, they don't toil, nor do they spin." You don't need to worry about having enough to wear. God's not talking about having a fashionable wardrobe, it's just a matter of being sustained by the clothing you need. God will provide that. And if you don't think He does, "Then look at the lilies of the field, they don't toil and they don't spin, and I say to you, that even Solomon in all his glory didn't clothe himself like one of these."
"And if God so raised the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, oh man of little faith? Do not be anxious then saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' All these things the Gentiles eagerly seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.'" Here's what you do. "You seek first (what?) the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you." When you're saying, "Give us this day our daily bread," you're really saying, "God, I confess that if I live it is because You provide what I need, You sustain me." That's the substance, the stuff of physical life.
Look at the source. The source is implied, "Give us" is directed at God. God is the source of everything. The Creator, Sustainer of the whole universe, the God who is forming His eternal kingdom, the God who is infinitely holy and perfect, the God who knows everything that can be known, the God to whom the nations of the earth are as dust is completely absorbed in meeting every single need of all of His beloved children. He knows all the details. In fact, a sparrow can't even hop without Him knowing it. And the hairs of our heads He numbers. It is the trivial details of life He knows about and cares about. He is the high and lofty one and He does inhabit eternity and His name is holy, but He lives with those of a humble and contrite spirit. And you can cast all your care on Him, Peter says, for He cares for you. In fact, my daily bread is on His heart.
Back to that same Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 and in the following section after what I just read, verse 7, Jesus says, "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives and he who seeks finds and him who knocks, it shall be opened." In other words, to those who belong to God, you come, you ask, you receive. And Jesus goes on to say, "What man is there among you when his son shall ask him for bread would give him a stone?" No father would do that. "Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?" He won't do something useless and he won't do something harmful. "If you then as humans who are evil,” fallen, “know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?" If human fathers do good to their sons, how much more shall the truly good God do for His children?
So when you pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," this is not the request that's reserved for you when you're starving. This is not the request of the person who can't find the next meal. This is not the request of the homeless or the destitute. This is the universal acknowledgment of our hearts that all that we have that sustains our physical life comes from God. In 1 Timothy chapter 4 Paul says, "There are false teachers, hypocrites, teaching doctrines of demons, hellish lies and among them they advocate abstaining from foods." False teachers are saying that there’s some spiritual virtue in abstaining from certain foods. And Paul says, "Foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth." If you believe and know the truth, God wants you to enjoy the foods that He's prepared gratefully, for everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude. There are no dietary laws in the Christian faith. There are no dietary laws in the New Testament. God has created everything for you to eat and enjoy. Eating them is kind of a spiritual act. First Corinthians 10:31, "Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God." How do you eat to the glory of God? By eating and recognizing the source of everything you eat. It's amazing what God has given. I mean, if God wanted to He could have made the world brown and only one food, porridge, brown porridge and that would have been all it would take to sustain a human being and you could just spend your whole life in the boring, drab, brown world eating brown porridge and you could have survived. God could have made us so we could survive. But look what He's filled the world with. It's astonishing, isn't it? Absolutely staggering the textures and the flavors and the kinds of foods that fill up this world.
I did a little look at the Bible just to see what it says about all this; pretty amazing. It all started out in Genesis chapter 1 when God first created men, before there was death in the world, they were vegetarian. Genesis 1 verse 29, "I've given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth and every tree which has fruit yielding seed, it shall be food for you." You can eat everything that grows in the ground, everything. And so when you look at the Old Testament you see these grains and just going through the Old Testament, the fields of Israel had wheat, barley, millet, spelt, corn. What we call corn, Indian maize, was unknown. But all these cereal grains; and there are at least 200 plus references in the Bible to bread. Grain was often parched and eaten at lunch as a snack, like crackers. And then there were nuts. God provided nuts. Genesis 43:11 introduces the fact that we can have nuts and how delightful and delectable they are and nutritious they are. And then there are vegetables. I mean, just in Numbers 11:5 and 2 Samuel 17, cucumbers and leeks, and melons, and onions, and garlics, and beans, and lentils. And then you go further into the book of Exodus and you've got bitter herbs. And then in the New Testament you've got mint and dill and cumin and you've even got sweet cane to sweeten things. It's amazing. And then you have fruit: grapes, raisins, olives, figs, pomegranates, apples and whatever summer fruit is, referred to by Jeremiah and Amos. I mean, that's just a little smattering of what's out there in this incredible world of provision that God has made for us and that's in the vegetable area.
Then in Genesis chapter 9 verse 3, after the Flood, God opened up our diet to meat. Verse 3 of Genesis 9: "Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you. I give all to you as I gave the green plant." You can eat all the flesh of the living, animal world. That in itself is incredible. In the Old Testament they ate oxen and sheep and goats and cows, lamb. They preferred the stalled ox; meat was more tender. They liked the fatted calf. And a variety of game to be hunted; in just Deuteronomy 14:5 there are seven different game animals. And then fish, all kinds. It would just be enough to have one kind of fish. It all tastes pretty much the same to me anyway. I just make sure I put something on it. And there were even four types at least of insects to be eaten. And then there were fowl to be eaten, partridge, and quail, and pigeon, and turtledove, and yes, chicken, chicken. Well you remember, there was a rooster that crowed when Peter denied the Lord. What do you think he was doing but making sure there were eggs and chickens.
And then there's the dairy product, milk from cows and goats and sheep and even camel's milk. And there were curds, or butter, Genesis 18, way back in Genesis. And didn't Job wash his steps with butter, indicating that he was wealthy enough, he had so much butter he used it to polish his steps? The original wax. And Job also talked about cheese. And then there's honey in Deuteronomy 32 and there's eggs in Deuteronomy 22. And then to flavor all this you've got salt and mint and anise and seeds and mustard and cumin and on and on and on and on. And here we are in this world that God has just filled with all these textures and flavors and tastes, delights and some are hot and some aren't, some are medium hot, all this incredible world of foods. Does that tell you something about God? It's not a brown world and everybody eating brown porridge. God is so generous.
And then He picks out a people and drops them in the best real estate on the planet to grow all this, the land that flows with milk and honey; the perfect environment to grow, the land of Israel. Every single thing you've ever put in your mouth came from God, every single thing, all of it. James 1:17, "Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Everything comes from God. See, that's why when we read in 1 Timothy 4 about being thankful, when we read that all things are to be received with thanksgiving. That's why we pray before we eat. It isn't a prayer, "Lord, please hurry the waiter. Lord, please somehow sanctify this burnt meal." Or, "Lord, protect me from who knows what that could be dancing in my soup unbeknownst to me." That isn't what it's about. When we pray these kinds of things, it's really an affirmation. "God, I know where this comes from, I know." I don't know how you are, but I enjoy food. I thank God for taste. It would have been fine for God to give all of that and not give us taste buds. Then it wouldn't have mattered. But to accommodate all that, we can taste all the nuances. Sometimes you eat a meal, you say, "Ah, it's got a little too much something." How do you know that? Because that's how sensitive your taste is. What a gift. God is a supplier of every bit of that, all of it. And saying, "Give us this day our daily bread," is simply a way to affirm God as the source of it all. And when you pray, as we always do before a meal, it isn't that we're begging God, it isn't that we're desperate or starving. We're just saying, "We know where this comes from and this simple delight reminds us of Your goodness."
God even feeds the animals so we can eat them. For the carnivorous animals there's flesh to eat. The wolf has its prey. The scavenger has its carrion. The plant eaters have their herbage. The ox eats its grass and straw. The horses have barley and straw. You say we don't eat horses. A lot of people in the world eat horses. I had horse almost every day one time when I was in central Asia. Birds have seeds to eat, plants to eat. All the way down the food chain. And God sustains the whole thing through a remarkable means called rain, called rain. The earth, first of all, has all these nutrients built into the soil to accommodate this life and to make it flourish. And then God sends rain and sometimes we even see it, but it's rare. But we import it. California, Southern California is a state of underground rain. Our rain comes through pipes, but it is rain. It is rain because all fresh water is evaporated off the ocean, deposited in the land, rolls down off the mountains, fills whatever reservoirs and streams and ends up getting piped to us to grow our food. What a gift.
It's all a gift. No wonder in the vision that Peter had in Acts chapter 10 the Lord said, "Rise, Peter, and kill and eat." Peter said, "I can't kill and eat. I've got these kosher laws. I was raised to be devout in my Judaism. I...I can't eat those things forbidden in the Old Testament." And you remember what the message came to him? "Don't you dare call unclean what God has cleansed." God did give dietary laws to Israel in order to make it difficult for them to have social interaction with the Canaanites. Because they had such a bizarre diet they couldn't easily get together with those people and God did it as protection against the invasion of their idolatry into their lives. And as it turned out, they allowed themselves to be corrupted anyway, but it did prolong the process a little. And now, of course, all those dietary laws are set apart, there are no biblical dietary laws. You cannot support vegetarianism from the Bible. If you choose to be that, it's your choice. But it's certainly not biblical. "Rise, Peter, kill and eat." You can eat whatever God has made. I prefer some things over other things. I don't think it's a command you have to eat it all. There are some vegetables that there is no command that could make me...and my sweet wife knows those well and accommodates me. Thank you. I provided her recently a new kitchen to cook the things that I like and that she likes too. It's like 1 Chronicles 29:14. It’s 1 Chronicles 29:14 says, "All things come of Thee and of Thy own have we given Thee." We don't have anything He didn't give us, anything.
And so, when you say "Give us this day our daily bread," this is really what you're saying: "Lord, I know You're the source of this and I will not forget that and I will not be ungrateful for that." It isn't that we have to beg God to feed His own, He'll feed His own. It is that we have to acknowledge that it is He who is feeding us.
One of my favorite Puritan writers that I've read through the years and love is Thomas Watson. Listen to what he wrote. "If all is a gift, see the odious ingratitude of men who sin against their Giver. God feeds them and they fight against Him. He gives them bread, and they give Him affronts. How unworthy is this? Should we not cry 'Shame’ on him who had a friend always feeding him with money and yet he should betray and injure that friend?' Thus ungratefully do sinners deal with God. They not only forget His mercies, they abuse them.” Jeremiah 5:7 says, “When I had fed them to the full, then they committed adultery.” “Oh how horrid," writes Watson, "it is to sin against a bountiful God, to strike the hands that provide for us. They are like Absalom who as soon as David, his father, kissed him plotted treason against him. They're like the mule who kicks the very dam after she has given it milk. Those who sin against their giver and abuse God's royal favors, the mercies of God will come in as witness against them. If God gives us all, let His giving excite us to thanksgiving. He is the founder and donor of all our blessings and should have all our acknowledgments. All our gifts come from God and to Him must all our praises return." That is why evolution is such a heinous crime because it does not acknowledge God as the source of everything. It is even God who gives us the power to get wealth to produce the food and buy the food, Deuteronomy 8:18.
So what we're saying when we say, "God, give us this day,” or each day “our daily bread," is we know You are the source of our physical sustenance. We trust You for it. We're totally dependent on You. Even the richest person in the world, even the biggest landowner in the world, the biggest food producers in the world, in order to have any food have to trust in God to sustain His creation, to bring the rain, to keep the balance of seasons, to make the crops grow, to sustain the animal life. He upholds all things by the word of His power. And if you want to get a look at the world where He didn't do that, read the book of Revelation. And in the book of Revelation you'll see what's going to happen in the future, probably the not-too-distant future when the sun goes dark and the moon doesn't give its light and the tides are terribly disrupted and the seasons fail and the seed turns poisonous and the fresh water turns bitter and the crops all fail, just because God brings judgment on the normal order. God can hold the rain and make a famine anytime and you see it somewhere in the world most of the time. And it happens in the most pagan of places, those who know not God at all and who are steeped in idolatry.
So we look then at the substance being bread and the source being God. The supplication: Let's just think about that for a minute. The supplication is “give,” give. This is really childlike. It's like going to your mom or dad and saying, "I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I know you have the food and I know you love me, so I just...I just need to tell you that I need it." That's how God deals with us. It's not a matter of trying to force Him. It's not a matter of trying to get His attention or wake Him up. Psalm 37... By the way, Psalm 37 is just a great Psalm, but there's one verse in Psalm 37 that relates to this. It's verse 25. And here David says this. This is so great. "I have been young and now I'm old. I have been young and now I'm old." This is so good, here's his life experience. Yet through all these years I've seen a lot. “One thing I haven't seen, I have not seen the righteous forsaken or His descendants begging bread. All day long He is gracious and lends." Wow. David says, "I've lived a long, long time and I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed, his children, begging bread." God takes care of His own. We are His sons. He will not give us a stone instead of bread. He will not give us a snake instead of fish. There are many things an earthly father will not do and a heavenly Father in even a greater way. But the spiritually dead, the godless, the Christ-less, the pagans, the unfaithful, those who reject the gospel have no guarantee of anything. And that's what I was saying earlier. The nations of this world that suffer famine most frequently, that lack the bare necessities of life, are almost totally those that have no knowledge of God and Christ. Because God takes care of His own. When they come and say, "Give," He responds. Psalm 33: Listen to verse 18, "Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His loving-kindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord. He's our help and our shield. Our heart rejoices in Him because we trust in His holy name." He'll keep His own alive when others around are dying.
Over in Psalm 37 verse 19...well verse 18, "The Lord knows the day...the days of the blameless and their inheritance will be forever." And he's talking here about those again that are the Lord's, the righteous. The Lord sustains the righteous in verse 17. Verse 19: "They will not be ashamed in the time of evil and in the days of famine. They will have abundance but the wicked will perish. The enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures. They'll vanish. Like smoke, they vanish away.” God doesn't promise to take care of those who don't recognize Him. God isn't obligated to feed them or provide for them. He may choose to do so.
You say, "Well then why in a nation like America where there are so many godless and Christ-less ones, so many who have rejected Him are we so blessed with the material things?" And the answer is: This nation was founded on Christian principles that are still residual in our understanding of man and the dignity of man created in the image of God and is the residue of those Christian roots that have given us the perspective toward humanity that we have. And that's why we're humanitarian and philanthropic because of those Christian underpinnings which we're so rapid now to reject. And I will tell you, as this culture becomes more defined in its multi-cultural perspective, those will be diminishing and diminishing and diminishing and it's going to be harder and harder importing cultures that don't have that perspective to be committed to sustaining those kinds of things. But God does promise to care for His own. And when He does that and they dominate a society, then that kind of care that God gives to His own and that they share with one another becomes a defining characteristic of that society even when it abandons the truth.
In verse 17 of Job 5, "How happy is the man whom God reproves. So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. He inflicts pain, He gives relief. He wounds, He also heals. And from six troubles He will deliver you, even in seven evil will not touch you.” The first one in: “In famine He will redeem you from death." There's that promise again. God is going to take care of the physical needs of His own. Listen to Proverbs 10:3, "The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger." The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger.
There have been times throughout the history of redemption when God has done this miraculously, when God has provided manna from heaven or water from a rock; or God has provided food for a prophet from ravens, or oil and grain for a widow supernaturally. Or Jesus made breakfast by creating it on the shore of Galilee. But for the most part, God provides through the normal means, work and sharing. And I don't want to get into all that, that's another subject. We work and if you don't work you shouldn't what? Eat, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 to 12, if you don't work you shouldn't eat. So that's the means He uses. But He's filled His world with plenty of food for those who work. But for those who can't work, who are infirmed or young or old or have tried but have become destitute, He supplies through others. "If you see your brother have need and you close up your compassion, how dwells the love of God in you?" And what does James say in James 2:16? If you see your brother is hungry and you say to him, 'Be warmed and be filled,' what good is that? He doesn't need a speech. He doesn't need a few words of encouragement, he needs food. That kind of faith is dead. So God uses work and He uses sharing in the community of faith. Reaching out to the poor is part of the Old Testament, part of the New Testament to those who have little. Wherever there's a people of God that have a strong influence in a society — you see that in western society — there's tremendous concern for caring for people's physical needs. That has always marked this nation because of its Christian roots, and Europe as well because of its Reformational Christian roots, and, of course, way back even into Judaism. Those things were in the fabric of being Jewish and still remain there.
You take nations that have never been under the influence of the Bible, it's completely different. Take India, for example, just as one illustration. I've been to India and know something of the character of it, although you could pick a number of other places. India seems to be the fountainhead of corruption. I say that because Hinduism is the utter antithesis of monotheism. It is the greatest opposite that exists because you have one God which is the true religion and you have 330 million, at least, in Hinduism. You can't get more extreme than that. Hinduism is the fountainhead of Shintoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Taoism, and on and on and on, it all comes out of Hinduism...New Age. It all comes out of Hinduism. It's loosely connected even to animism. And Hinduism is a partner to the occult. The whole network of religions has left a legacy of deprivation.
In India where all this centers, six out of ten people, for example, in Calcutta live in the street in the sewer. I've been there, stood there, walked there and watched the sewer run along the gutter, people living there. It's the sewer and it's where they wash and it's beyond description, horrible. Fifteen to twenty million die every year. Twenty-five million more are born. The population keeps expanding.
People say, "Well, India doesn't have the natural resources to take care of these people." Of course it does. The natural resources in India are staggering. The animal population alone is adequate to feed and clothe the entire nation. The problem is not resources, the problem is religion. They worship these 330 million deities, the supreme deity being Vishnu, Brahma or Shiva, depending upon what aspect of that deity you refer to. But to illustrate the problem, within that religion the cow has a very interesting place. You know, you've seen the cows, you're driving down the street and you hit the people before you hit the cow. They're all over the place. You're driving down the middle of the street, there's cows everywhere. They are the personification of all that is rotten in that religion. Everything that comes from the cow is sacred, including the dung and the bodily fluids. Pious, lower-class Hindus may be seen catching those fluids from the cow and sipping them. Killing a cow is worse than killing a person so that eating a cow is worse than cannibalism.
Homes are provided for old cows which have ceased to give milk and rest homes are not provided for old people. If cows...the current cow population was killed, the whole nation could be fed five times. People are reincarnated, however, as animals and all those cows are somebody's aunt or uncle. And people are ascending or descending through an interminable ladder of incarnations to reach nirvana and so somebody is in that animal and it can't be killed. Cows eat, by the way, 20 percent of the food supply of India. Mice and rats eat 15 percent. And they won't kill the mice and rats either because they might be killing a relative. And in order to reach nirvana which is some kind of salvation, you have to get rid of this endless cycle of births, finally reaching the pinnacle. And how you live determines whether you go up or down. It determines whether you become a cow from being a rat, or become a rat from being a cow, you're either going up or down. If a person slips out of humanity back into the animal kingdom, he may have to be reborn as many as 84,000 times before he gets back to the human level again and can march on toward nirvana.
The social effects of this are staggering. Every person is in their karma and you can't do anything to deliver anybody from whatever they're in because that would be to tamper with the karma. They're trying to get there...trying to get to nirvana and if you tamper with that you're going to hinder the process. So you don't help the people that need help, you don't rescue the people that are hurting. You don't deliver the people that are suffering because if you did that you would prolong their agony because they wouldn't then be paying for their past sins and have to go backwards again. So misery is what they’re due, that's their karma. Leave them alone in their misery so they can pay off their past sins and move out of that level of misery into another level. So a starving woman or a staving child on the streets dying is merely paying for sin and you don't dare help them. You don't even kill a worm; it might be your father. A Hindu looks at a beggar and feels no compassion at all.
Every cow eats enough food in India for seven people. There are about 200 million cows there. That's enough food to feed a billion 200 thousand people. There's enough food produced in India that if you took the cows out and had them not eating it, they could feed everybody on the continent of Antarctica, Australia, Africa and Europe. It's not a food issue. God has filled this world with provision. It's a religion issue and God has no obligation to care for those who don't care for Him. But, where they care for Him, He cares for His own: Those who are His sons and those who live righteously before Him. To us He says, "Why you worried about what you eat? Why are you worried about what you wear? I'm going to take care of it. I clothe the grass, don't I? I clothe the lilies. I feed the birds. I'll take care of you. You spend your time seeking first the kingdom.” You're prepared to put God first in your life, you're prepared to be His child, and walk in obedience to Him, He promises to meet your needs.
I'm not saying He's going to give you more than that. He may. I have more food than I need. I don't ask for that. That's not a part of my prayer life. I have more house than I need. I have more car than I need. That's because Galpin Ford gives them to me to use and don't charge me anything. If God chooses to give me that, He can do that. I can't seek that. Jesus said, "Just ask for what you need and be thankful for that." And what comes beyond that, and that includes all of us, doesn't it? We're really over the top here in this country. But we don't need to feel guilt about that. This is part of the legacy of what it means to have some Christian foundation. But listen to Psalm 84, "The Lord is a sun and shield.” Verse 11: “The Lord gives grace and glory." And I love this, "No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Just live your life the way a Christian should live your life and God will give you blessing.
Now when we see here the word "give," this does not mean that our only responsibility is to pray. "I'm going to quit my job and go into deep prayer and ask God to provide everything." No, that's not it. You earn your bread by the sweat of your brow. If you don't work, you don't eat. You pray and fold your hands and you may starve after you've drained everybody around you who then feels obligated to serve you. And when they find out you're just leeching on them, you may run out of options. Prayer is never a way out of responsibility. You work and you seek the kingdom and God graciously provides.
I want to add one other note. This is the general principle. That is not to say that there may not be an occasion when a Christian might starve because he gets up in the mountains and nobody finds him and God's not necessarily going to send ravens to feed him. This is not the age of miracles. And there may be Christians living in African famine areas that are hit with starvation. That's true. Hebrews 11; listen to verses 36 to 40. Some of God's choice servants of faith were tortured, verse 35, some experienced mocking, scourging, chains, imprisonment, were stoned, sawn in two, tempted, put to death with the sword, went about in sheepskin, goatskin, destitute, afflicted, ill treated, men of whom the world was not worthy wandering in deserts, mountains, caves, holes in the ground. Look, persecution, hatred, rejection can come. There have been Christians in prison who starved in prison today. But that will never happen to you until it's your time. We're all going to die and some believers may die of exposure or starvation. But if you're faithful to the Lord, He'll be faithful to that very end and when it's your time, you'll go but no sooner, no sooner. The general promise still stands, God provides.
So when we say "Give us this day" or "Give us each day our daily bread," we're saying, "You're my source, God. All the physical needs of my life come from You. I know it. I'm so glad that I'm Your child. I want to walk uprightly, I want to walk righteously and enjoy the fullness of Your blessing."
And, you know, it's really good that God doesn't give it to us in a lump sum. You see what it says, "Give us each day our daily bread," double emphasis on daily. He didn't give us a lump sum. It's day to day, to day, to day. He doesn't give us everything in one lump sum. I don't think it would be good for us. We're like the children of Israel. We pick up our manna a day at a time. This doesn't mean you shouldn't save for the future. Of course you should because that's one way God provides for you in the future. But it's wonderful to know that God's not going to give you a lump sum now and maybe forget you when your lump runs out. He pays attention every day.
So the substance is bread, the source is God, the supplication is give and the schedule is daily. The schedule is daily, bread literally for the coming day. You know, I know in our house and Patricia and I do this every meal we ever have, we just stop and thank the Lord. Somebody might say, "Ah, that's kind of a ritual." It's not a ritual. It's a recognition. Never out of mind where it all comes from. Praying with my little granddaughter last night and thanking God for my house and our home because it's from Him, all of it's from Him. We have utter dependence on God for everything. If God willed, we'd have no bread. He could withhold the sun and its influence. He could stop the rain. He could make our land barren like some lands in the world so that farmers with all their modern implements and chemicals couldn't raise a crop. He could blast the crop. We're absolutely in the hand of God and it is the supreme folly of this twentieth century to think that we're not, that man somehow has captured the sovereign control of this physical universe to produce everything apart from God. They're going to find out when the descriptions of the book of Revelation take place. We can't live a day without God. We can't take another breath without God. We can't eat another meal without God. Even the clothing we wear.
You say, "Ah, I don't wear clothing from living things. I wear polyester." Polyester comes from oil that God made, so isn't it a good thing every day...I mean, isn't it a good thing every day to say, "God, I know where it all comes from," so it's an everyday element of our praise?
Father, we thank You this morning for all that we have. We're so grateful for it all. And You've given us so much more than so many. Not only in our part of the world today, but in our part of human history, compared to years past when things were so basic. And we understand that with all the stuff come complexities that are not all good. So teach us how to be humble stewards and to lay our treasure back in heaven. It all comes from You. We want to return back to You what is rightfully Yours. Thank You for our daily sustaining grace, food and clothes and a home and our physical life and well-being. You've been so generous and it is so delightful, all the colors and the fabrics and the tastes and the designs, it's just amazing. And we know You gave it all to us. And we praise You for it in Christ's name. Amen.
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