Expectations frame our life’s experiences. As children, if we are taught by our primary caregivers that we deserve little or nothing, we will tend to live out that belief as adults and set the bar low for ourselves in our work, relationships and health situations. We’ll live out of a victim mindset, envying others and feeling like the “underdog.” And we’ll tend to expect little or nothing of God, as well, and aim for mere survival.
But God didn’t design us just for survival, though many of us live in “survival mode.” He designed us to thrive. In the book of 3 John in the Bible, God says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1-2). Also, in the book of John, Jesus states that he came to earth, “…so that they (us) may have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).
Is abundant life moving out of your home every year because your apartment is too noisy or you can’t afford the rent? Is abundant life eking out a living, and having enough to eat, but not enough to pay for healthy food, or pursue hobbies or do the things God has called you to do? …I don’t think so.
Do you shop at Wal-Mart or Macy’s? Okay, let me pause here and say that shopping at Wal-Mart can be great! Indeed, they sell lots of useful stuff–but do you buy your shirts there because it’s all that you can afford? If you like the clothes at Wal-Mart or you shop there because God told you to put your hard-earned dollars elsewhere, that’s one thing–but if you expect that it’s all you can afford and all that you will ever be able to afford, then that may be a sign that you’re battling a poverty spirit.
Similarly, saving some cash for retirement, a new car, or a future emergency isn’t a bad idea, but if you hoard, scrimp and save because you fear that there will be nothing for the future- that may be a sign that you are living out of a poverty spirit. Or if you spend all that you have because you don’t think you’ll ever be able to afford a nice car or a nice home and so there’s no point in saving any money–that too is a sign that you’re living out of a poverty spirit.
But a poverty spirit isn’t just about our expectations for our work or finances. A poverty spirit is about living depressed because other people seem to have more than you do, or feeling like you never get a break in life and that nothing works out for you. (a normal feeling for those of us that have undergone severe hardship). It’s about not trusting God for “life abundant.”
I have spent most of my life under the influence of a poverty spirit. I used to accept any ol’ job, just grateful that someone would pay me to do some kind of work. When I applied for work, I used to set the bar on my worth, and ask for less than what I should have been paid, or seek out jobs that didn’t make the best use of my gifts and talents.
I didn’t expect God’s best, and I settled for less, because subconsciously, that’s what I thought I deserved and it was what I had experienced in life. I had not only a poverty spirit, but an orphan spirit. What do orphans do? They beg for crumbs. They are grateful for the leftovers, and they struggle for survival.
I didn’t know that I was no longer an orphan, and that because I had received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I had been adopted into God’s kingdom and had all the rights and privileges as a daughter of the Most High God, and all the resources of God’s Kingdom at my disposal.
It is a myth that God needs us to be poor and sick in order to be holy, although poverty is more a state of mind than a financial condition. You can live in a mud hut and eat rice every day and feel rich. Conversely, you can live in a mansion and live frightened daily that God won’t meet your needs.
When I moved into my current home, I was just starting to pull out of the mess of chronic Lyme disease. I had a 26 K debt, which Social Security had imposed on me for earning money on my books while receiving Disability income. That was a shock.
But while I was sick, I risked losing my Disability income because I chose to write and sell books, even though I could only work for a few hours a day and it was really, really hard. So staying on Disability income would have been a safe thing to do- because working a little meant risking the little income that I received from the government- but I realized that not trying to do anything would have locked me into a life of poverty and “survival” mode.
I chose to believe that I would make it somehow. I chose to move into my current home, believing that I would be able to pay the rent, even though it pushed the limits of my income. I chose to write books for an uncertain income, believing that if I was helping people and doing what God asked of me, God would bless me. While I was sick, I also began to give away at least 10% of my income, believing that my obedience to give to others would bring about a tenfold return to me. (I don’t believe it’s wise to give to God, solely with the expectation of receiving back–I believe we should give because we love Him–but there is truth to the law of reaping what you sow!).
And then, I began to spend money on things that I had never allowed myself to spend money on before–nice clothes, organic food, and expensive haircuts–because God was revealing to me that I was worth nice things. Sometimes, we tell ourselves we can’t afford something when the truth is, we just don’t think we are worth it. A poverty spirit often comes disguised as practicality.
God may tell you to save for the future, but He also might tell you to buy that car you’ve always wanted, because He wants to provide for your future via another means and He wants to see that smile on your face when you drive your new car.
Or He may tell you to save for the future, or (gasp!) give away everything you own–because He wants to bless someone else through you and show you how He can multiply your finances when you let go of all that you have. The more we open our fists, the more God sometimes blesses us, although it’s not necessarily in the same way in which we blessed another. The blessing may come to our character, not our pocketbook.
God may ask you to go live in a hut in Africa, but it won’t be because you can’t afford a house in America. It will be because He has a great project or calling for you there.
Similarly, if you’ve struggled with a severe chronic illness as I have, and thrown up the excuse that you can’t get better because you can’t afford medical treatments- ask God whether this is really your
soul’s way of remaining in poverty and if it’s really just a safe way to stay out of the game of life or live out a lifelong (usually subconscious) belief that you don’t deserve to be well or be happy.
Of course, I do believe that many people which chronic illness can’t afford treatments, but I also truly believe that if you seek God for healing, and trust Him with your whole heart for it- He will gather supernatural and natural resources on your behalf. It’s not always an overnight thing- but once
I began to identify the poverty spirit in my life, and realized that I could not get well on my own
or by seeing my conventional doctor (which was the only doctor I could afford, years ago), God orchestrated events so that I could eventually afford to see a Lyme-literate doctor. And in the meantime, He put people in my life who helped to provide for me financially, emotionally and spiritually. Again, it wasn’t an overnight thing…but my patience, perseverance and trust in God paid off.
In the meantime, and while I clung tightly to my poverty spirit, I resigned myself to the ugly fate of selling my home because I could no longer work and make the mortgage payments. I had purchased the home two years before I got sick. Perhaps I would have lost my home anyway, but I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had simply asked God for the provision to keep it.
We all suffer loss, but God is a redeemer, restorer, and healer–not a taker, a thief, or the one who wants us to suffer sickness and poverty for our “own good.”
But because I had believed since childhood that I deserved the leftovers; the hand-me-downs, and the last and the least of everything, I had to learn that God had a different idea about what it meant to be provided for, and how He wanted to provide for me. I’m still learning.
At times throughout this process, I would get angry with God (I still do sometimes) and say, “What does it mean that you will provide for me? Does it mean I have to live in a rathole in Latin America and wear the same set of clothes for years? HOW are you going to provide? I’m so sick!”
So my trust in Him wasn’t continual or instantaneous. There were times when I disbelieved Him for provision, but every time I allowed Him to help me to get past the lies I believed, and take a step of faith and say aloud, “Yes, God, I trust you to provide all that I need…” good things would happen!
I needed to simply trust that He knew what I needed, and if that meant money for medical treatments, then I could rest, confident that the money would be there. If it meant faith for divine healing, He would remove my unbelief for a miracle. If it meant a quiet environment to write books in, then it meant the finances for a quieter home.
The problem wasn’t what I owned, but how I saw what I owned, and how I made decisions. There’s nothing wrong with shopping at Wal-Mart, but it’s also good to ask at times why we shop there. Is the motivation fear-based or faith-based? Is it practicality, or just poverty?
Can you truly not afford organic food, or deep down, do you not believe that you are worth organic food? Yes, I know how darned expensive organic food is. So go ahead and ask God for the provision for that food, or ask Him if He’ll simply bless the stuff you can eat, multiply its benefits, and remove the environmental contaminants. Both ways are good, depending on how He chooses to provide.
Just don’t succumb to eating garbage because you think that it’s all you can afford. Yes, maybe for right now, but what if God said, “Go have a nice dinner. The money will be there.” Would you do it?
Ask in faith; ask in trust, and affirm that trust aloud, and your gratitude for what He’s already done for you, and it will position you to receive from Him.
I encourage you to go even further, and ask for the Kingdom of God to be made manifest in your life and on the earth. Ask Him to show you your rights and privileges as a Son or Daughter of the Most High God; a God with limitless resources; a God who isn’t in a recession, and a God who wants to provide mightily for you, not only so that you have all that you need for life, but so that many others can also have all that they need. Ask Him to show you His will for your life, and when He asks you to do something that seems impossible and which requires great courage–do it, knowing that the provision–for your mind, body, time, energy, family, or whatever–will be there.