Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Resting in God’s Providential Provision
Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11NKJV
This morning we look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 193, which asks, “What do we pray for in the fourth petition?” It gives the answer, “In the fourth petition (which is, Give us this day our daily bread,) acknowledging, that in Adam, and by our own sin, we have forfeited our right to all the outward blessings of this life, and deserve to be wholly deprived of them by God, and to have them cursed to us in the use of them; and that neither they of themselves are able to sustain us, nor we to merit, or by our own industry to procure them; but prone to desire, get, and use them unlawfully: we pray for ourselves and others, that both they and we, waiting upon the providence of God from day to day in the use of lawful means, may, of his free gift, and as to his fatherly wisdom shall seem best, enjoy a competent portion of them; and have the same continued and blessed unto us in our holy and comfortable use of them, and contentment in them; and be kept from all things that are contrary to our temporal support and comfort.”
Why do we give thanks to God when we sit down to eat? It was not God who came down from heaven and cooked and presented the food. It was not God who packaged it, delivered it to the grocery store, and put it on the shelf for us to purchase and carry home. It was not God who plowed the field, planted the seeds, fertilized the soil, picked and gathered the crops, etc. Yet a right understanding of God’s sovereignty will acknowledge God’s providential provision in every one of these steps, as well as in many others. For instance: that the seed responds to the soil and to the water and grows and produces a crop; that the food has nourishment and that our bodies respond to and receive that nourishment; that we are able to identify, eat, and digest the food; that we live in a time of peace and prosperity where food can be easily purchased and prepared, etc., etc. In all of these things, it is only by the power and goodness of God that we have food and are able to eat and be benefited by it. Thus, it is not only right for us to thank God for our food, it is good for us to ask Him to give it to us each and every day. For in this way we remind ourselves and acknowledge that it is only by the grace of God that we have food today.
However, as the Catechism rightly shows, this question is dealing with much more than food. Jesus used the word bread to refer to His and others’ teaching, to the Word of God, and to Himself. Bread can therefore be used to refer to anything that is necessary for man in order to live and serve God in this world. God made this physical world. He made man dependent upon physical things for his life. And God is good to provide man an abundance of the physical things necessary for this life. Furthermore, Jesus taught that while we are not to be overly concerned with the necessities of this life (Mat. 6:31-32), we are to ask God that we have what we need. Thus, we ask God for our daily bread. Here we acknowledge that God is sovereign and that He has appointed for us what we are to have. We are to accept and rest in whatever He has appointed for us – trusting in His wisdom and goodness, that this alone is what is best for us. So we are not to look at someone else’s daily bread and covet that. Nor are we to look at our own bread and despise it. We are to ask for what God has appointed for us and be content with it.
Now this fact does not mean that we are not to do all that we can to rightly improve our lot in life, by hard work, education, and training. We should do all that we can to glorify God by making a full use of our gifts and opportunities. We should always try to improve our lives and the lives of those around us, in a righteous and godly fashion. And very often such diligence will be rewarded with physical gain in this world. But whether it does or does not, we are to acknowledge it was God who has given to us what we have, and we are to be content.
Finally, it is our daily bread. God’s mercies are new every morning and He would have us to come to Him every day for what we need. God is not like the outlet store that we go to every so often in order to stock up for a month or two! We do not ask God to give us today the next two years’ worth of our daily bread! God created us with daily needs that must be satisfied on a daily basis, in order that we would come to Him every day to acknowledge and hope in His goodness. In this way God has given us a continual opportunity to be reminded of His goodness to us and our need of Him. May God give us this day – today – our daily bread, and may He cause us to be satisfied with it!