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Sowing and Reaping in Relation to Money

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

From the outset this extract from the Bible seems to point us towards principles and formulas: the more you give, the more you get. But as some of us know from our experiences with Word of Faith and the prosperity message, in fact, works-based Christianity in general - principles and formulas don't work.

With works-based Christianity what we get is a bunch of neurotics or self-justified people trying to prove their spiritual status according to what they achieve. But we all know that does not prove a thing: just because someone spends time on a Sunday working for the Sunday School at church - it does not mean that they are a kind, generous person.

So, it is for these reasons that I have switched focus from works to disposition, or you could say nature, personality, etc. When we change the lens from works to grace, when we read the Bible, everything changes: those demands for performance are seen for what they really are.

I believe it is the same situation with 2 Corinthians 9 - this is not pointing towards works with a view to encouraging people to works - I believe that must be referring to a person's state of being, their disposition. As always, writers of the Bible often attempt to get a handle on unseen, spiritual concepts, which is what Paul is doing here - we see this in the parables of Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul attempts to get a handle on the difference between a good and bad disposition. Here, Paul is contrasting the difference between a generous and a miserly spirit. If we think outside of the Bible-box a moment, simple logic tells us that this is a difference between a secure disposition and an insecure disposition: if I have a sense of security, I'll be more generous with my money and vice-versa.

This contrast of security versus insecurity was something that Jesus related in the Parable of the Talents. Again, the Parable of the Talents can be seen as a call to works - he who gives the most finds favour with the Master, whilst he who does not, earns His contempt. But in actual fact the Parable of the Talents is a contrast of dispositions: the insecure person feels the need to preserve what he has for fear of losing it; whilst the secure-minded person is confident, willing to take risks and is more likely to part with his money. An insecure person will always struggle financially because of the unwillingness to take risks which his fear brings and a sense of apathy. I also believe that there is probably some kind of spiritual aspect to that as well - something to do with trusting in God for provision. Faith is, after all, trust in God.

I believe we also see a clue in verse 7, "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion." It could never be about works because that involves a sense of coercion. If a person gives generously out of a genuine heart of kindness - the is no compulsion there - he is a "cheerful giver".

In conclusion, we either see 2 Cor. 9 in relation to works or disposition - if we see it in reference to works, the result is an endless striving, guilt and an inevitable sense of hopelessness; but if we see it in the light of disposition, the perspective changes to who we are in Christ and the new nature.

What I Believe About the Supernatural

The thing with the supernatural in the church is that it is part of the bigger problem: the one-size-fits-all mentality was people cease to think for themselves and just get swept away with whatever is dictated to them. I'll admit I've been there; I got carried away with the supernatural when I attended Kensington Temple in London, well known for signs and wonders, during the late nineties and early noughties. It was during this time that I went to see Benny Hinn at the Royal Albert Hall. I witnessed healing, being slain in the spirit and all of those things. I honestly believe that it is this period of my spiritual journey that attracted me to church and to Christ. I'm sure I would have given up otherwise.

Now, I look back on all of that and laugh - it seems ridiculous to me. I feel led to think of those things in line with the experience of Elijah when he ran from Jezebel.

11 Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;

12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

1 Kings 19:11-13 nkjv

It seems that Christians become distracted by anything seemingly supernatural to the point whereby they just get all excited, carried away by the experience, but they don't think. We need to ask ourselves how these experiences pertain to us, otherwise, we take these occurrences as a rubber-stamp of approval that what the showman in a suit on the stage is telling us is actually true.

We need to step back, calm down a, take a deep breath and ask ourselves, "Okay, so someone just fell down on the floor and started shaking after an alter call - that's pretty weird. I'm sure that's God, because it doesn't normally happen. Nevertheless, how does this pertain to me, in my particular journey with the Lord? Does it even apply? I need to know because I could end up getting carried away with this and getting distracted." We blame the snake oil salesman on stage for duping us - but, as they say, it takes two to tango: he might have manipulated a situation - but I was the sucker who was naive and desperate enough to believe what he was saying.

I have experienced the supernatural in my own life on several occasions. The most incredible moment of my life was when I was spectacularly baptised in the Spirit in October 1998 - it really did change my life. Then there was the time when I found two ten pound notes, in two different locations, on the same day, within about an hour. Come on! I don't care what anybody says - one ten pound note, okay, but two? That just doesn't normally happen! Ever since I was baptised in the Holy Spirit, I prayed in tongues fervently; that lasted for a couple of years and gradually fizzled out. I used to hear God's voice speak to me audibly, but that too has come to a standstill.

I still believe firmly in the supernatural, but I believe that like everything else in the institutional church - it can become a distraction from the main event - everyday life! “Everyday life” is a dirty-word to neurotic Christians who are enamoured with everything supernatural.  I'd describe myself as a recovering neurotic. Anxiety, I believe, is established and maintained by running away from reality, instead of embracing and working with the life that surrounds you - the people, places and things. Christians read the Old Testament about how God moved in some spectacular fashion, and we want it! We want God to "use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut" on our behalf! We want to feel special and loved of God; we want to stand out from the crowd for all the best reasons.

I'll admit that I have gradually veered towards what is known as cessationism: I believe that spiritual gifts and supernatural occurrences will cease and have already ceased, to an extent. I believe in the supernatural to an extent and I don’t go out of my way to stubbornly refute it, like sceptics such as James Randi. I just take issue with the abuse, manipulation and misplaced expectation that often surrounds the supernatural.

I don't believe in a total cessation of the supernatural, just a fading away as the most important thing takes centre stage - I'm talking about love. When you have love you are able to embrace the miracles that you see in everyday life; the little things around you that you take for granted - birds singing in the trees, the sun shining millions of miles above you in a clear blue sky; the stars that shine at night - light years away; the miracle of child birth and the complexities of the human body; the wonderful, rich feeling of loving someone for no other reason than they exist. This is where God is! This is where the miracle is to be found!

Miracles are, by definition, rare. When we move away from everyday life, we veer towards fantasy, unrealistic expectations and a world of stress! It is so much better to love "what is" and enjoy whatever life brings to you in the moment. When we put all sorts of expectations on God, the end result is always disappointment. I believe the supernatural is designed to bring us nearer to God and closer to love - in one way or another.

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 nkjv

Sowing and Reaping In Relation to Disposition

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Galatians 6:7-8 nkjv

Sowing and reaping is often viewed in relation to principles if I do "this" and "that" will happen. But I feel that Galatians 6:7-8 is talking about a person's disposition more than a particular action: if a person expresses or "sows to" their higher nature, they will reap the consequences and strengthen that aspect of their nature - the same is true about expressing the lower nature. This concept of higher nature and lower nature coexisting in a person's personality and vying for attention and expression, brings us back to Galatians 5:7, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."

I just find it fascinating that there is this reference in the Bible to sowing and reaping in relation to disposition, personality or nature. There doesn't seem to be any references in scripture that attribute sowing and reaping to a particular course of action, from which we derive principles.

I concede to the fact that Paul lists the "Works of the Flesh" being things like lewdness and adultery. But again, I feel that Paul is simply stating that these things are typical expressions of a person who is yielded to their lower nature, and therefore, has a "bad" disposition. Apostle Paul is not necessarily saying, "Don't do these things - these are really bad!" There seems to be a mindset in the church that if you can make a taboo out of something, you can manipulate people's behaviour so that they don't do those things - but that simply does not work. We can tie this line of thinking in with the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:15-20.

15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Matthew 7:15-20 nkjv

In conclusion, I believe that it is much more important to focus on disposition, who you are on the inside, rather than a set of principles that Christians should follow.

Disposition and Quality of Life – Part 2

Although not an exact science, it seems to me that it is a person's disposition that determines how well they cope with life, the quality of the decisions they make, as well as the people and circumstances they attract.

As many wise people have concluded in the past: happiness is a state of mind, rather than what you do or have. Ultimately, the things we aspire to attain in life, be it wealth, success or some kind of achievement – is all for the sole purpose of being happy. If I believe that I need such-and-such in order to be happy, but I don’t have those things, then I’m inevitably going to be miserable and discontent. But if I accept myself, the world and other people, just as they are at this moment, I am much more likely to attain that precious happiness that we all seek.

Discontentedness is not a driver for success. Nothing good can come from those emotions that Apostle Paul labels “Works of the Flesh”. Should we just drift through life, content with all that we are and all that we have? I would say “yes” – if that is where peace leads you – why change anything if you are truly happy and content? Shouldn’t we strive for achieve more? People have thought the same thing in the past – and look where Capitalism with its greed and selfishness has got us now. There is a strong, motivating force for good, which God promotes and is the very source of – it is called love. Love does not need to be bitter, frustrated and content for it to function properly.

So it would seem that our level of happiness if affected more by our beliefs, than our environment, possessions and the people in our lives. A person’s disposition seems to affect how well they “flow” with life – I believe that this comes down to a person’s beliefs and how well they are able to accept their life and the people around them. If I believe that you should be different than you are at this moment – it does not help you to change for the better, but it could make it difficult for me to relate to you. If I accept my life situation as it is now, it does not mean that nothing will ever change, but it does mean that I will be happier and more cooperative with my circumstances. Wishing things were different to the point of frustration and bitterness, will not contribute a great deal towards a solution.

So instead of people focusing on taking action through principles and formulas as a means of changing their lives for the better - it would be better to focus on whatever it is that forms a person's disposition.

Disposition and Quality of Life – Part 1

It does seem that there is a lot of confusion around the concept of life "going well" - how do we define it? Some would measure it in terms of health, others wealth, others according to happiness. All of these factors do come into play to some extent when it comes to life "going well" for us. But how do we explain the kind, friendly relative who is taken ill with a debilitating disease? How does the concept of "going well" figure in the life of the rich man who made his wealth through deceit and manipulation? It just does not make sense a lot of the time.

The Christian world seems to concentrate a great deal on taking action to the point of attempting to define what action is right and what action is wrong; the church loves to prescribe formulas which, if followed, will change a person's life for the better. But when it comes to life "going well", I think that it has a lot more to do with a person's beliefs, desires and attitudes. One could say that such attributes form a person's disposition. According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the word "disposition" means: a person's inherent qualities of mind and character. An inclination or tendency. It is a person's disposition which determines whether they will grasp opportunities or if they will procrastinate and shy away from taking responsibility. The Parable of the Talents was all about this contrast of dispositions.

I believe that the classic components of a person's disposition include maturity, wisdom, self-esteem, self-confidence, friendliness and sincerity. Some people are confident but lack friendliness and sincerity. I struggle to understand why God allows unpleasant people to prosper financially. But it is wrong to assume that such people are content in life and will not reap the consequences of their disposition. A lot of people have wealth, but are discontent in life; some people have success, but suffer ill health or relationships problems. It is not easy to say that a person suffers in life because of their disposition; it often seems that good people are the unwitting victims in life. But it seems that it is a person's disposition which greatly influences the choices they make, their behaviour and what they experience in life.

Like often attracts like, unfriendly people often attract people who are just like them. Some women tend to attract abusive partners, but could it have something to do with that woman's disposition? Could she be in a state of fear which leans towards pride and selfishness as a means of self-protection? People-pleasers will often attract manipulative people like a magnet - each compliments the other and sustains that person's flawed disposition, even though they are equal opposites in many respects.

What I Believe About Sowing and Reaping

I believe in every action having a reaction. I think there is a need to get away from the concept of punishment from God. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. When we go along the lines of punishment for sin, it negates the redemptive work of the cross. The whole punishment for sin mentality causes a lot of confusion and stress as Christians anxiously analyse every little thing they do for hidden sin and potential consequences.

I believe that we are no longer punished for sin, but that sin itself has its own built-in correction mechanism. If we bear in mind the grace and mercy of God, and the fact that each of us differ in terms of maturity, beliefs and calling - we find that it is often impossible to predict the likely outcome of certain decisions and actions we commit to.

There is also the issue of God causing suffering to teach you something: I do believe that God allows certain things to happen to us for a reason. I believe that something good can come out of these bad situations. It seems that God meets us right where we are on the journey, knows what's right for us, knows what action we are likely to take and works with us to teach us, refine us and define us. That might have the appearance of punishment to us, but God simply works with us according to where we are on the journey of life. Could certain situations be avoided? Well it seems to be the case, but God often allows us to make the decisions that are in-line with our current beliefs, attitudes and desires. Anything else is divine intervention.

But I think it does help to not over-spiritualise things and just know that every action will bear natural consequences - there's nothing weird or other-worldly about it. If I neglect my need for physical exercise and overindulge in junk food - my physical appearance and level of fitness is likely to show the consequences of that - natural law of action and reaction. I am not being punished for my sin because I get unfit and flabby - there is a perfectly normal, logical explanation for my condition in this example. Now, for me to gorge on junk food and neglect exercise, and maintain the same level of fitness as an athlete, would require divine intervention.

Sometimes God does intervene in our circumstances according to His grace and mercy. But I believe that to a great extent, God prefers us to live out the natural consequences of our beliefs, attitudes and desires - which all culminate in our disposition.

Now, whatever it was that led to the overindulgence in this example, is another matter: it is likely to be a whole chain of thoughts and events along the path of life that contributed to that outcome. In the bigger picture of life, it could be seen as the sum total of all the thoughts you have thought and actions you have taken so far in life.

The Divine Nature | TNB