Trust and Obey
Last Sunday night, five of us attended an event called Hymns & Hops. It is a monthly gathering of people in a large brewery in Taylors, South Carolina. The gather to eat, drink beer, and sing hymns: not contemporary praise choruses or modern hymns—no, old songs, like “There is a Fountain Fill with Blood” and “I’ve Got That Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart.” It was hard to believe on many levels.
But it has emboldened me to call forth another old gospel song and use it as the frame work for my message today on this wonderful line in the Prayer of Jesus: “Give us today our daily bread.” Or, as the Good News Bible puts it, “Give us today the food we need.”
The Lord has given me a message today of trust and obey: to trust the Lord for the food we need and also for other things we need, and to obey the Lord when we are called to answer the prayers of other people for what they need.
Thank you, Michael, for playing this piece for us. I pray that this message and these words of Jesus will inspire you to ask for what you need and to hear what others need. God bless us all as we pray together, in these words of our Lord:
Our father/creator in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth (as it is in heaven). Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil. Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Amen.
What do you need today?
Perhaps medicine for an ailment, or a friend who understands your quirky life, or a place to live. I’ve been looking at houses, townhouses, apartments, and undeveloped land for two years, look for just the right place to settle down. What are you looking for?
Your heavenly father knows your needs before you even ask, Jesus taught us. But still, Jesus taught us to ask for what we need. “Give us today our daily bread” is part of the most widely known and repeated selection of the teaching of Jesus. It translates into this fundamental rule of life: ask for what you need. Ask God the father if you are a believer. Ask the moon and the stars if you are agnostic. Ask your neighbors, your friends, your boss, your kids: ask for what you need.
Don’t hide your needs under a bushel. Don’t bury your needs in the ground. Don’t ignore what you need.
What do you need? Do you need prayer, or a friend to travel with you, or a car that is more reliable than the one who have, or a person in authority to intercede on your behalf in a difficult situation. What do you need?
This prayer we pray each week calls us to speak our needs into the universe. Do you need a scholarship, or a new job, or your own place to live? Speak it. Announce it. Declare it.
There are many inspirational things about AA meetings. I especially like it when somebody stands, as somebody does almost every meeting, and says something like this: “Help me celebrate today. Today, I have been clean 22 years!”
But another thing about AA gatherings is how often people announce what they need: I need a ride. I need a room. I need a job. I need a doctor. Most of the time, before the meeting comes to a close, somebody says, Where do you need to go? I have an unused room. Can you drive a truck. Here is the name of a doctor; tell the receptionist I sent you.
Sometimes prayer meetings, Bible studies, and worship services work that way.
But often now, because we are hesitant to declare what we need. We don’t want people to think we are needy people. When we come to church, we want people to think we are doing fine, have it all together, don’t need to beg for anything. But you and I know that is not the case.
Friday night Jan and I went to hear the wonderful comedienne, Leanne Morgan. She entertained a full house of more than 2,000 people in Greenville and has two more shows today. You know the secret of her success as a comic? She is frank about her own foibles, her own failures, her own silliness, even her own stupidity. She laughs at it, and we laughed with her. She does not pretend. She does not put on airs. She does not focus on the faults of others. She is open and honest and funny about it all and her fans love her!
I’m not promoting church as a comedy club, although we all know laughter is the best medicine. Proverbs 15:15 reads like this: “The one who has a merry heart has a continual feast.”
But the Bible also says, “With prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God.” Today, speak your requests to God. Today, in prayer, or at the dinner table, or on the phone, tell somebody: this is what I need.
You may need something to eat, and your request may quote this prayer: “Give me today what I need to eat.” But you may need forgiveness, or courage to handle a problem, or compassion to deal with a neighbor, or discernment to manage your career. What do you need today?
What does our church need? We need to pray and ask God to supply our needs as a congregation. We need confidence that we are fulfilling our mission. We need opportunity to expand our gospel work. Sometimes, I think we need more people and more money, and more talent. Sometimes, I think we need new facilities, that are accessible to all people and more adapted to the way we do church these days. Sometimes, I think we need more visibility, more connections, more engagement with our community.
What do you think we need? Perhaps we need to pray earnestly about this, to seek discernment and revelation, and to ask for it. We need to ask God for what we need, as a congregation. We must not be hesitant to ask God to meet our needs as a congregation that we might be the people God has called us to be.
But sometimes, we are able to quote the great apostle, “I have all that I need.” Some of you will recall hearing a sermon on that wonderful testimony last summer. I preached that sermon, and I hope to publish it soon. Our dear colleague Dr. Carol Pinkston is editing the manuscript of all those Philippian sermons. I have chosen a title, Living with Hope: Navigating Political Divisions, Global Pandemics, and Personal Problems. I hope to sell each one of you a copy of that book. That is my retirement plan! That’s what I need today!!
But sometimes, we can say, “I have all that I need.” That is especially true when it comes to food. I do not remember a day in my life when I was short of good. I have never been, as we say these days, food insecure. In fact, I frequently have to throw leftover or unused food into the garbage.
My son Allan works the produce section at Ingles (and before that, Harris Teeter, and before that, Kroger!). He says the most difficult part of his job is throwing away food. It is hard because it is eatable and because many people do not have food to eat.
I suspect this is the most universal prayer in the world: “Dear God, give me something to eat today.” Something. Anything. Just something! Do I have to read the roll call of places near and far where people are hungry?
Each Sunday afternoon at 4 pm teams of people from Providence and elsewhere take donated food and feed people who need to eat. “I was hungry, and you fed me,” Jesus said of all those who would be his disciples.
Our job is to overhear the prayers of people and to answer them. Our calling is to sense the needs of others and respond. Our commitment as Jesus people is to know what our neighbor needs and to respond as we are able.
Sometimes, it is simple. When I was a teenager, our church youth were preparing a weeklong trip to Ridgecrest. We were all working to raise money. One church man who owned the hardware store, back when they were on the court square in every town, offered me a job. For a few months! He taught me how to clean floors, and open boxes, and organize money in the cash register. He knew I needed a hundred dollars or such, and he offered me work. It is a simple illustration of a spiritual principle: we are called to respond to the life needs of others.
What story can you tell today? What testimony can you give? What illustration from your own life can fit nicely into this message? Of some person whose public or hidden need you met? Or of your own need that somebody met out of personal kindness or spiritual discipline. If we were having Deeper, this is the conversation I would want to have.
That is what we mean by obedience.
“Trust and obey,” we sing, “for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Happiness is a part of it, yes, but obedience also brings justice, and opportunity, and life. When we obey what Jesus expects or commands, we are answering the prayer we have prayed. When we obey what Jesus expects, we find ourselves meeting the basic human needs of people all around us. That is what it means to “seek first the kingdom of God.”
This simple line in the Prayer of Jesus expands to every area of our lives. We ask for what we need: physically, financially, relationally. We also listen to the prayers and pleas of others and gladly find ways to share what we have to answer the needs of others. John the Baptizing prophet said to his people, “If you have two coats, give one to somebody who does not have one.”
But we all need the love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the sweet filling of the holy spirit. Isn’t this what you need today? “For God so loved you that God gave the one and only son, Jesus, to be your savior and your friend.” This is what we all need: the rich and the poor, the Republican and the Democrat, the Christian and the Muslim, and the Russian and the Ukrainian. We all need what only God can provide: a savior who died for us and with us.
God has provided what you and I need, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and all of us, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself for us.” This is the gospel, this is the good news, this is the word of hope for all of us. Open your heart and life to God, to Jesus the rabbi and redeemer, and to the Holy Spirit.
Trust God. Obey God. Follow Jesus. Share Jesus. Live in the Spirit.