I had the opportunity to preach the message at this morning's worship service at Riverview. Pastor Wick was out of town, and I was happy to fill in for him.
The text I chose to preach on was Joshua 11.1-9. I've posted about this text before, but I've been thinking about it a lot, and hence decided to preach on it when I got the chance.
I think the main message of the narrative is to trust God, and that we don't need things in life like horses and chariots because we have God. One of the points in my sermon is that we tend to trust God only to an extent, and we usually have a backup plan just in case God doesn't come through for us. The only problem with this line of thinking is that having a backup plan is not complete and absolute trust. It's only partial trust. We sometimes don't trust God to provide for us, so we tend to take matters into our own hands...just in case.
My biblical example of this was 1 Chronicles 18.4. David acquires 1,000 horses and chariots by way of winning a battle, and he decides that he trusts God enough to hamstring 900 of the horses and leave 100 horses to be used with chariots...just in case. Why not hamstring all 1,000 horses? Why leave 100 left over? I think it was so he had an insurance plan, just in case God didn't come through for him. Did David trust God? Yes, but not totally. For whatever reason, David felt that he needed a backup plan.
Now, I've been thinking about something that didn't make it into my sermon (I didn't include it in the sermon because I didn't want to cause confusion, or leave any matters unresolved): if we are supposed to trust God for everything, how do Christians justify things like insurance or retirement accounts? Why don't we say, "I am trusting God to keep me healthy. And if I do get sick, I will trust God to find a way to cover my medical costs." And why don't we ever say, "I am not going to save or invest for retirement. I will trust God to give me what I need to live, and I will invest the money I would have saved for retirement into the kingdom now." If we believe that God will provide and care for us, and supply all our needs according to his riches in glory, then couldn't someone suggest that the same should apply for things like insurance and retirement savings?
There are two answers to this question, I think. Here's what I would say: 1) Yes. We should trust God with things like our health, covering health care costs, and retirement savings. For some, it could definitely be a matter of conviction, and they should do as the Spirit leads. I know a couple from our church who recently canceled their health insurance for this very reason. They felt convicted that having health insurance was detracting from their total dependence upon God. For them, canceling their health insurance was the right thing to do. I totally support them in their decision. In fact, their faith is an encouragement to me.
2) The second way I would answer this is that we could say that things like insurance and investing for retirement are God's means of providing for us. In this sense, we trust God by using the methods that he has so graciously provided to us.
Either way you look at it, it's got to be a personal decision that comes as a result of much prayer and searching of the scriptures. For some, it would be a sin to depend on insurance and retirement saving. For others, not so much. I, myself hold a life insurance policy worth a significant amount of money. I feel that God has provided my family with this policy as a way of providing for my family if I were to die. That being said, I am not currently saving for retirement, nor do I plan to start, unless God were to change my thinking dramatically (Is there a conflict there? Maybe. After all, what is saving for retirement if not an insurance policy? I need to ask God to show me what to do with that.). Personally, I feel that doing so would violate my trust in God's provision. I also think there are much better things I could be doing with my money besides putting it away for a period of my life that is far from guaranteed. I may not even live to retirement, so why save money for something I don't even know is going to happen (I think there's some biblical support for this line of thinking, too)? But that's just me. And I don't think that I can universally apply that line of thinking to all Christians. Nor can my friends at church tell other people that they need to cancel their medical insurance or they're not trusting God. God is a personal God, who deals with all people individually where they're at.
What it really boils down to is all Christians humbling themselves, searching the scriptures, and determining for themselves - with the Spirit's guidance - what trusting God looks like for them. For some people it may be no medical insurance; for others it may mean not saving for retirement; for some it might mean giving half of their paycheck to the church; for still others it might mean having a mother quit her job to stay home and homeschool her kids while her husband goes to work to provide. Who knows? If you want to know how you can trust God more, just ask him, and be open to how he will lead. It might not be easy, but it will definitely be worth it. And God is certainly trustworthy enough for you to cast your cares on him.