This is Giving Week at The Belfrey. As I prepared to speak to the church staff yesterday, I felt yet again drawn to the graphic picture of God’s abundance that is painted for us at the end of Psalm 144. This psalm is a bible passage that the Lord has been highlighting to me again and again over the last few months. It’s a psalm about praying, praising and prospering.

It’s about praying (vv.1-8). It’s about being trained for battle (v.1) – a battle which for followers of Jesus is not against people, but against the forces of darkness (Eph 6:12) and fought particularly through prayer. It’s about praying for the Lord to part heaven and come down (v.5); for God’s kingdom to come here on earth, as in heaven (Matt 6:10). This is at the heart of a renewal of prayer that we’re beginning to see at The Belfrey.

It’s a psalm about praising and singing (vv.9-11). We’re told how important praise is, and that we direct our singing to God who is not distant, but present and known – to ‘my God’ (v.9). Over the last few months at The Seven we’ve been entering into new depths of praise – just the kind of thing envisaged here.

And it’s a psalm about prospering (vv.12-14) which includes children thriving, barns overflowing, cattle breeding and of cities being well defended, protected from the enemy. It’s this theme of enjoying God’s abundance that has particularly gripped me, particularly as we focus on God’s generosity and our response during Giving Week.

I have been challenged to be praying for a greater release of God’s abundant resources to us. For more of his blessing. To not have a poverty mentality, but to expect rich provision: both physically and spiritually. The choice of pictures and images used in Psalm 144 intensionally draws us to apply the passage not only to material things (like corn, animals and physical resources) but also to so-called spiritual things that are symbolised here too. Let me explain.

BARNS FILLED is a picture of the corn gathered in. Of abundant food. Of more than enough. Corn, and the gathering of the harvest is a picture of a gathering of people of souls, won for Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus saying, ‘the harvest is plentiful’? He’s talking of souls to be gathered into the kingdom of God – of people. The Lord has many many people to bring into the kingdom. Can you see that? Or do you need God to expand your horizons anew and enlarge your vision? He has many thousands, in York, and especially across the North to bring into his barn.

SHEEP INCREASING is a picture of maturity and reproduction. Healthy things grow up and reproduce. They just do. Jesus often talked about his people being like sheep, with him the Good Shepherd. And God wants us to be maturing and then reproducing more baby sheep – more new Christians. And then helping the baby sheep grow up. That’s why outreach and discipleship go hand in hand. We need to see new baby Christians not only being birthed, but also then helping them grow and produce more. So unless we are deliberate about growing and discipling our people, they will stay lambs – scrawny little baby sheep – immature and unable to fend for themselves. I think the Lord wants to stretch our vision of a church full of maturing disciples. And not just a few. Thousands (v13) – even ‘tens of thousands’.

OXEN PULLING is a picture of being given a strong lead. Oxen were used by the farmers to plough the fields. Every farmer wanted a few good oxen, to pull the load; to take the strain. This is a picture of strong leaders. (In fact the TNIV translation points to this in a footnote referring to an alternative reading of the Hebrew, where ‘oxen’ could also refer to ‘chieftains’ or leaders). Here are leaders being out front, pulling the plough. Taking the lead. We need strong leaders. Leaders with broad shoulders, to take the strain. Is that you? That’s the kind of leaders the Lord is looking for in his richly resourced church.

One of my favourite proverbs is Prov 14:4
‘When there are no oxen, the manger is empty.
But from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.’

Which basically means: no oxen?… no harvest. If there are no leaders willing to work hard and take the strain then there will be no abundance. Interestingly, that Proverb can also be translated (as in the KJV) ‘where there is no oxen, the stable is clean.’ And that’s how some like church to be. So clean. So neat. Ordered. Predictable. If you have no ox, then the stable will be just like that; but put an ox in a stable, and you get poo! It gets messy at times. But that’s the only way you get the harvest – with oxen. And it’s the same in the kingdom of God. If we want to see the abundant harvest God wants to bring, we need good strong leaders. And be prepared for God’s church to not always be neat and tidy. As a church we want to increasingly invest in leaders, so we can see the harvest in our generation. No oxen?… then no harvest.

What has all this to do with Giving Week? Well, this week we have an opportunity to go the extra mile and really give to the life of this great church of St Michael le Belfrey. And in particular we are wanting to raise £50,000 for 3 things:
No 1: For the continued life of the church.
No 2: For Andy & Rose Roberts in Brazil.
No 3: For a car for the Alpha team in Burundi.

So please be praying for this – for your involvement in giving – but also for the whole church to respond and give. The Lord has rich provision for us – and I have no doubt it will be increasingly released as we pray and ask him to part the heavens and come down.

The release of his provision is also linked to this great vision of abundance and blessing seen here in Psalm 144. As more and more people see that and are gripped by that, so they will pray and invest their time, energy and money into seeing this vision. So let’s work, and let’s pray to see Psalm 144 become a reality in our day and in our time – in York, and the North, and to the ends of the earth.

‘Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord’ (v.15).