God Loves Abundance

“The heavens declare the glory of God” Psalm 19:1

One of the striking testimonies of who God is and how He does business with us has been on display since creation, yet it is often overlooked by heathen and Christian alike. The heavens declare the glory of God and who whole of creation is an exhibition of God’s character and qualities. That display is so ubiquitous and compelling that mankind has no excuse for denying the existence and character of God.

“That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it to them. For the invisible things of him are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” Romans 1:19,20

God’s Attributes on Display

The vastness of space and the intricacies of miniature design combine with the whole of creation to testify to God’s attributes. God is supreme in His power. God is awesome in His design capabilities. God is profound in His scope and dimension. God is vast in His sovereignty. God is compassionate, as seen in His devotion of so much diversity just for human enjoyment. God is perfect, as seen by the incomprehensible complexity which works with such perpetual effectiveness.

With such profound evidence on display for everyone to encounter, throughout time and across the globe, no person has any excuse for refusing to believe in God, or rejecting the revelation of God given in the Bible.

The Attribute of Abundance

Years ago I was struck by the evidence of God’s delight in ‘abundance’. I had not been taught to think of God as a God of Abundance, so it surprised me to realise this quality. It came to my attention that I had been to remote locations where entire hillsides were radiant in blossom, yet hardly anyone was there to enjoy the sight. Magnificent sunsets are on display to empty oceans or remote mountain locations. Enchanting bird songs fill the air in places where no-one hears them sing. Fruit flourishes on trees where no-one picks the fruit.

I recalled many such observations from my youth. I once walked a track in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and came across a passionfruit vine. Some hiker had dropped seed, possibly years before. Now passionfruit tendrils trailed across the ferns and foliage with huge blossoms waiting to form the delicious and tangy fruit. I stopped and scanned the scene, tracing the vines as they ran in various directions, across dense undergrowth. I pointed out the vine to another hiker who couldn’t have cared less. Most walkers on this track were focussed on getting to their objective, not noticing the fruit that was possibly only a few paces away. We did not have time to stop and gather fruit, so I passed on, remembering an abundance that was going to waste.

God Creates Abundance

God revels in abundance and creates it with abandon. How many different shapes of flower would have been sufficient to cater for man’s existence? Probably very few. Yet God made an abundance of shapes, sizes, colours, fragrances and delights in the floral world. God created that abundance for our pleasure. There is no real reason for it otherwise.

How many seeds or grains come from wheat, or an apple tree? There is super-abundance. If the objective was simply to ensure survival of the species, then just one or two grains or seeds would be sufficient. But there is a superfluity. Abundance comes in such measure that we can take an abundance for ourselves and there is still sufficient for the plants and species to survive.

Abundance Prompts Faith

Recognition of God’s commitment to abundance reveals His character. God is a “giving” God. He gives to us nothing less than ‘abundance’. God gives to us superlatively. He not only meets our needs, but throws in many extra hand-fulls – not our hands, but His huge hands, full of superfluous supply.

Just how much sky do you need? Just how many colours do we really need to see? Just how many different flavours would be enough to keep us alive? What if everything felt exactly the same and there were no sensations of texture?

God revels in abundance. That’s His character. The creation reveals, from day one, that God is a God of abundance. And that abundance is for man’s delight. So God is ready to give us ‘abundance’. God has proven His willingness to give us more than we need. He has proven that He is not looking for our survival but to delight and thrill us with His provision.

That’s a real kicker for faith. That should stir you to increased boldness before the throne of Grace. You should have increased excitement about how God will supply all your needs. He doesn’t do it according to the minimum required to have you survive until tomorrow. He meets your needs according to His riches in glory.

“But my God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Allow me to introduce you to your God, the God of all eternity. Allow me to introduce you to your creator and reveal to you that He is a God of Abundance. I encourage you to come to your God, and to press in to Him for the abundance that He wants to give you.

Introduced Seed – Mutiny on the Bounty

We know that various plants and animals have invaded new habitats when they have been introduced, either intentionally or accidentally. Plants often come into a new environment as ‘introduced seed’. The newly introduced species can often displace other varieties which cannot compete with the invader. At other times the newly introduced species can be a god-send.

There is a famous incident known as the Mutiny on the Bounty, popularised in books and academy award winning movies – with such famous actors as Errol Flynn (1933), Charles Laughton, Clark Gable (1935), Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, Richard Harris (1962), Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson (1984). The real event took place in the remote South Pacific seas back in 1789, just one year after Australia was colonised. A ship’s crew, led by Lieutenant Fletcher Christian, took over Captain Bligh’s British Royal Navy sailing ship named the Bounty, and sailed to Pitcairn Island where they settled.

When I read Captain Bligh’s ship’s log I discovered that the voyage was all about ‘introduced seed’. Inspired by botanist Sir Joseiph Banks, the British wanted to introduce a Tahitian plant known as breadfruit to a West Indies community which was deficient in food variety. The “bounty” was to be a shipload of seedlings. However the voyage was interrupted by the mutiny.

As an historical note, when the breadfruit was eventually delivered by Captain Bligh on a second voyage in 1792 the slaves in Jamaica refused to eat the fruit. But enough of the history lesson, let me get to my point.

Planet Earth has received an ‘introduced seed’. An extra-terrestrial seed has been brought here, which allows a totally new kind of fruit to be enjoyed by earth’s inhabitants. The ‘seed’ is the Word of God – and it is an indestructible, eternal seed. When planted in human hearts it spawns a new kind of life-form, divine and eternal, springing from the mortal soil. Mortal, human creatures, mired and enslaved by sin, are able to propagate, within their very being, an eternal and divine existence, connecting them to the God of all Eternity as one of His children. This is a most amazing seed and we are most wonderfully privileged to have it introduced to us.

However, not everyone likes the fruit. Just as the Jamaican slaves rejected fruit which nourished Tahitians, humans have been known to spurn the eternal seed which has the power to set them free from their mortality. People have ingested the seed, then spat it out. Some have found it hard to digest. Others have simply despised its relative tastelessness, compared to the commercialised products designed to tempt their senses. This seed is, after all, “angels’ food” (see Psalm 78:25). It does not pander to base human appetites (see Matthew 16:23 and 1Corinthians 2:14). It lies dormant in the soil of the human heart unless it is “mixed with faith” (see Hebrews 4:2).

Those who have no interest in this divine ‘introduced seed’ can live their whole lives without it. Those who have been born again by the germination of this seed cannot live without it. Those who live without it exist without any sense for what it is. Those who have eaten of its fruit have transcended their personal capacities and enjoyed realities that are of eternal consequence.

Praise God for introduced seed. I pray that you pick up the seed packet – the Bible – and determine to plant the seeds, watering them with faith, until your life has become a verdant garden of eternal frutfulness.

Order – the Japanese Garden

I made comment recently about “Order & Mess” pointing to Solomon’s wisdom from Proverbs 14:4. The point is that we need order, especially in productive systems and processes. Order is very powerful. Yet productive processes create mess, which interferes with the order and presents us with management challenges – the workload of dealing with the mess. 

Solomon’s allegorical reference point is the beast of burden, the ox. He notes that you can have a squeaky clean barn and work area if you don’t have an ox in there. There’s no need to hose the barn, or shovel sticky brown stuff. Life is so much simpler when the ox is dead and it stops producing its natural biological output. However, Solomon points out, that an ox gets a lot of work done.

The down-side is the mess, but the up-side is the productivity. The mess-making ox has strength that far surpasses ours and there is much productive output from the labours of an ox. The point, therefore, is that order, without mess is simply sterile. There is no output. And that leads me to the Japanese garden.

I have visited elaborate rock gardens and seen some delightful geometric features composed of raked stones, carefully placed boulders, and so on. But I recall my surprise on my first visit to a Japanese garden – that it was not a ‘garden’ at all. Compared with my grandmother’s vibrant back-yard jungle, with its diversity of plants, fruits and pungent blooms, the Japanese garden was sterile and uninviting.  

I am sure that there is great artistic merit in the painstakingly constructed rock features and the seas of swept stone. Just like a painting on the wall, the Japanese garden speaks of serenity, turbulence, loneliness, or whatever the designer planned to convey. But I can’t pick vegetables from a painted garden, even if painted by Constable or Monet. Mood may be evoked, visual delight stimulated and heart-warming memories stirred, but there is no productivity from the order. 

A garden that will feed your family needs to have more than delicately placed stones. It must have more than the image of vibrancy. It must have life that produces fruit. But, alas, in so doing it will also gender weeds, dead leaves, spent plants, insect infestations, litter, odour and similar “mess”. 

“Lord, bless this mess!” Learn how to celebrate the mess. Celebrate the signs of life and fruitfulness. Celebrate the productivity that the mess represents. Then, of course, control the mess. Grab your shovel and deal with the dirt. In fact, create an ordered system for dealing with the mess that productive order and systems produce. It’s the cost of doing business – or, more accurately, the cost of productivity.

Three Levels of Fruitfulness

We are to “be fruitful” – that’s God’s command at creation. “Be Fruitful and Multiply” (Genesis 1:28). It is also what God expects of us as Christians. Jesus said that we are ordained to bear fruit. “I have chosen and ordained you to bring forth fruit that remains” (John 15:16).

So, what is fruitfulness? Some Christians see it only as getting other people to become Christians – winning souls, notching up scalps. Others think of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ – looking for the right responses coming out of them. Others think in terms of measurable productivity. Ministers think in terms of sermons preached, numbers in the congregation, and so on.

An insight into what ‘fruitfulness’ involves can be seen in a miracle that took place in Israel’s history, as the people wandered in the Wilderness south of Israel. A group of rebels challenged Aaron and Moses. God responded by causing Aaron’s rod to blossom. Each of the leaders of the 12 tribes brought their personal rod to the temple. They were placed in God’s presence for the night. The next day 11 rods looked just the same as they did the day before. They were dry sticks, made from tree branches.

Aaron’s rod, however, had undergone a transformation. The dry almond tree wood had miraculously come to life again, but more than that it had blossomed and produced ripe almonds ready for eating. This miracle confirmed that God accepted Aaron differently to the way He treated the other families in Israel. Aaron’s family, the Levites, were in a special relationship with God that allowed God’s life to flow into them and bring fruitfulness not found in the other tribes.

In the historical account, given in Numbers 17:8, we are specifically told that there were three levels of fruitfulness evident in Aaron’s rod. God could have simply produced one crop of ripe almonds. That was perfectly sufficient to show the miracle of God’s touch on Aaron’s rod. But instead, the record accounts for various stages of fruitfulness all occuring at the same time.

The dead stick had ‘buds’. These are the promise of blossoms and they show that the stick is alive. Simply re-awakening the stick’s life-blood, so that it began to form buds, would have been a miracle. However the stick also had bloomed a batch of blossoms. These are the promise of fruit. Once each blossom was germinated it would form the fruit. So buds and blossoms were evident at the same time. And further, there were ripe almonds, fully matured and ready to eat.

Fruitfulness, then, can be seen at various stages in a person’s life. The green, fresh skin of a tree signals life, but not fruitfulness. The buds that signal fruit is on the way. However many buds form into blossoms which do not progress to fruit. Final fruitfulness is not found in buds or blossoms but in the ripe, matured fruit.

Your fruitfulness as a person should be seen first by evidence of life in you. There should also be evidence of buds – the signal of blossoms forming in your life. Then there should be blossoms, with all their promise of fruit forming in due time. And finally there should be the mature fruit, harvested and ready for enjoyment.

Let me relate that to the fruit of evangelism – leading new people to a place of faith in Christ. A ‘fruitful’ person will have fresh contacts with whom there is an open relationship opening the way for sharing the gospel. They will have others who they have had meaningful discussion with, leading them to a mature understanding of the truth. And they will have others who have been led to a mature understanding of faith and who have chosen to accept the new relationship God has for them.

Fruitfulness involves the whole process – from the bud to the harvest. So don’t just look for the ‘scalps’ or the notches in a person’s Bible (so to speak), but look for a lifestyle of fruitfulness displaying the breadth of fruiful characteristics, such as was found on Aaron’s fruitful rod.