God, I Need $200
In a Bible study about prayer last week, someone told me, “There are a lot of times I think I can’t ask God for help because I know I’m doing something I shouldn’t, and I figure he won’t listen to me until I stop the sin.” I was glad he raised that issue, because we needed to tackle the question: Is there a limit to God’s grace, or can I come to him at any time, no matter what, and count on his love and kindness?
I cited the epistle of James where it says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (1:5). And then I told this story about how I’d seen the truth of the phrase “God… gives generously without finding fault”.
I was ministering at an inpatient addiction treatment facility, where I met a woman who had come in for her addiction to crack cocaine. Whenever she would come in, we would talk and pray together, and during one of those times she said, “You know, it was God’s kindness that finally got to me. I had reached a point where I was desperate: I ran out of money before I ran out of month, and I prayed, ‘Lord, I need $200. I need to pay rent, I need to feed my kids, and I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m gonna smoke up about $20 worth. But please Lord, I need $200!’”
“And you know what God did? He gave me the $200! I got a check I wasn’t expecting, and it was for $200! And I used it to pay my rent, and I bought groceries and fed my kids; and I did spend about $20 on dope, like I said I would. God knew I was gonna do that, I even told him I would. And he let me have the money anyway! I wouldn’t have done that if I was God! And that’s when it started getting to me: I’m being so bad to God, and he’s being so good to me… I gotta get some help, this just can’t go on. And here I am, getting clean.”
I told that story to the Bible study group, and added the Apostle Paul’s words from Romans: “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (2:4). He doesn’t withhold kindness or turn his love off when we’re messing up; just the opposite. And the man who’d brought up the issue said, “Wow. I’m not going to hesitate to come to God for help anymore.”
Chaplain Philip Merten