There is a prescribed way to receive from God
Os Hillman • Money Management
A man can receive only what is given him from heaven (John 3:27).
"God never gave you that property," said the man sitting across from me at lunch. I was in the midst of some major adversities in my business and personal life. "You will never see it," he went on to say. I was taken back by such a bold and brass statement. Quite frankly, I was very offended. He continued, "You will not keep it. You acquired it out of sweat and toil, not from obedience." I thought he was crazy.
After all, I had worked hard as an advertising agency owner. I had worked long hours. I gave ten percent of my income to my church. I led Bible studies. I was a model Christian businessman. Three years later I lost that property, and more. The idea of receiving only what God gives you was about as foreign a concept as me becoming a brain surgeon. The idea had never even entered my mind. I had never heard any sermon on the idea. Financial counselors never taught it. Surely this must be heresy! Years later this truth has become such an integral part of my life and my teaching, that I share it wherever I go through my ministry to workplace leaders.
I've since learned over these last ten years that each of us must discern what comes from the hand of God rather than our own natural ability. In our working lives, we can rely upon our own abilities and manipulate, sweat and toil our way to profit, or we can trust in God and perform our hard work in obedience to our calling. Knowing the difference between these two concepts is a sign of integrity before God and can only be discerned through intimacy with Him. God receives glory when we receive what He wants us to receive. This is the core focus of this book.
I discovered as I dug deep into this concept that Jesus knew what He was to receive. He had the power to have anything He wanted on Earth, yet He modeled this principle by receiving only what His Father wanted Him to receive. He did only what he saw the Father doing. God's will for Jesus was to live in a family of common people rather than in a royal palace. Jesus was so sure of His Father's will that He was able to refuse Satan's tempting offer of fame, power and wealth. He understood the vocation He was to have, His standard of living, His spiritual inheritance and the death He was to encounter. He understood His freedoms and He understood self-imposed boundaries.
Jesus knew why He came to Earth and what He was to receive while on Earth. The people wanted to make Him an earthly king, but He knew that this was not why He came. "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself" (John 6:15). Jesus operated from a place that looked like weakness. However, in reality, when we allow God to choose for us and depend upon Him to give us what is best, we operate from a place of strength. This too, is a paradox few learn in this "self-made" society.
John the Baptist is an example of this. He was in the business of bringing sinners to the place of repentance by baptizing them and teaching them about the coming Messiah. Over time, he had developed quite a customer base of disciples. Yet when the promised Messiah showed up-the fulfillment of John's business plan-true to form, his coworkers (or disciples) went to John to complain that the one he had testified about was stealing all of his customers. "Rabbi," they said, "that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan . . . well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him" (John 3:26). We might hear this typical response from even Christian entrepreneurs about their products and services. However, John's response to his disciples is the first point of realization about receiving from God: "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27).
John understood a very important concept. The things that are worth having must be received through obedience to God, not through our own striving and manipulation of outcomes.
Abraham provides another illustration of this spiritual truth. He knew how to trust God to choose for him. When he and Lot determined that the land would not support both of their families, he allowed Lot to choose the land where he wanted to move. Though Abraham could have exercised his authority and seniority, he took the weaker position and allowed Lot to choose the better-looking piece of land. By allowing God to choose for him, Abraham proved his faith and received far more than what he would have had if he had chosen for himself. Abraham modeled the ultimate way to dissolve a partnership-let the other person choose. For in allowing Lot to choose (which was the same as allowing God to choose for him), Abraham not only got the land that Lot didn't want, but also God gave him all the land as far as his eyes could see. This is a great example of how to dissolve a partnership. Let God choose what you are to have. What a faith decision! This suicidal faith, as it would appear, places you in a position to receive God's best for you. Though it will not look or feel that way on the front end.
Dissolving a Partnership
My friend Danny and I have known each other for many years. Several years ago he was in a teaching session I was giving about Abraham being a great example of dissolving a partnership.
Danny had come to a decision that the Lord desired him to dissolve their partnership. The partner questioned Danny, "How are we going to divide our accounts?" "That's easy. I want you to choose the accounts you want and I will take what you don't want." This was quite a step of faith for Danny but he felt the leading of the Lord to make this offer.
Sure enough, the partner chose the very best clients they had, and left Danny with accounts that generated less than 20% of the revenue. Danny was surprised, but did not challenge his partner. However, he did have a conversation as they parted ways.
"I can see the decision you have made. I can tell you that you have made a very poor decision that God will not bless. You should know that because of your decision, you can be assured that the value of your clients will go down in the coming months." Danny had no basis to make this assumption other than the story of Abraham and the Holy Spirit's prompting inside of him.
Months passed and Danny had some lean months. However, over time those small accounts gradually increased in value and the accounts his partner had decreased. It was a profound lesson to Danny and to his former partner. Sometimes, faith requires total trust in a future outcome you cannot see.
Oswald Chambers learned the distinction between striving to receive from God and letting God choose for us. In his book My Utmost for His Highest, he writes,
God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the right and proper thing to consider if you were not living a life of faith; but if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and leave God to choose for you. This is the discipline by means of which the natural is transformed into the spiritual by obedience to the voice of God.
Whenever "right" is made the guidance in the life, it will blunt the spiritual insight. The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. It would seem the wisest thing in the world for Abraham to choose and the people around would consider him a fool for not choosing. Many of us do not go on spiritually because we prefer to choose what is right instead of relying on God to choose for us. We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eye on God.2
The man or woman who does not perform well on the job is left behind in today's competitive world. Not only is the standard in the world at large, but even many Christians promote the importance of identifying our strengths and encourage us to move in them to accomplish God's will. Yet, throughout the Bible, we are discouraged from depending upon our own strengths. Instead, we are urged to rely totally upon the Lord.
This is a paradox. In Philippians 3:3, Paul tells us that we should not put our confidence in the flesh. Psalm 33:16-17 tells us not to put our confidence in things the world considers to be our protection, defense or strength. "No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save."
So, if we're not supposed to look to the world or to ourselves, who or what are we supposed to depend on? Psalm 33:18-19 continues, "But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine." This is echoed in Ephesians 6:10, where Paul states, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."
God wants us to depend upon Him, and He demonstrates this throughout Scripture. For example, in Judges 7, God wouldn't let Gideon fight against another army until he reduced his own from 22,000 soldiers to a mere 300, so that Gideon could not boast about his army's strength. In Joshua 6, God told Joshua to walk around Jericho seven times and blow trumpets instead of relying upon his mighty army to overpower his enemy. In 2 Samuel 24, God judged David when he counted his troops to determine the size of his army's strength, apparently because David took the census out of pride or overconfidence in the strength of his army.
On the other hand, Jesus instructed the disciples in due diligence through the parable of the builder, who is cautioned to consider the cost before beginning to build. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish'" (Luke 14:28-30).
So how do we balance these seeming contradictions? During the course of this book we will be unpacking this paradox in hopes that we will learn to walk in a healthy balance between these two truths in order to receive all that God has for us.
How About You?
1. Can you describe the difference between using your natural skill and waiting for God's timing to orchestrate an outcome? How have you seen this in your own life?
2. What is the greatest challenge for you to live out this principle?
3. Would you be willing to dissolve a partnership in the fashion described in this chapter? If not, explain way.