The Wisdom of Agur

By Hugh Chapman

“Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God

                                                                             Proverbs 30:7-9

In the early sixteenth century, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon first beheld the stunning natural beauty of the Emerald Coast.  Essential to the formation of the shoreline bordering the pristine Gulf of Mexico is the purity of the white sands that have washed southward from the Appalachian Mountains to form the Sea Oat-covered dunes of Destin.  It was the immense natural beauty of the locale that inspired the Spaniard to christen the area Pascua de Florida or “Flowery Easter.”

Through the progression of civilization over the five centuries to follow, much of the natural beauty remains — and for the fourth afternoon of our coastal journey our little van meandered down an 18 mile stretch of pavement known as Old Highway 30-A, a now-local thoroughfare which winds eastwardly along the magnificent seacoast.  From Longleaf Pine Flatwoods we rolled past turquoise coastal lakes, huge sand dunes, and finally into the quaint little gulf side villages of Seaside, Rosemary Beach, and Watercolor — where unique pastel homes feature stretch-neck towers designed to provide a glimpse of the shimmering sea below.

My son Dusty, who was somewhat of an industrialist even at the age of eleven, was especially impressed with the coastal homes and had even gone to the trouble of running down a real estate brochure revealing the six-point-five million dollar price tags.  I smiled at my son’s amazement and patted his shoulder while shrugging apologetically.  “I’m afraid that Arkansas teaching salaries fall a bit short of that kind of income Pal.” Then, in laughter I added, “Probably even if I take on that extra bus route.”

Dusty looked back to me in disappointment. “You mean we’ll never be able to afford a house here?”

I shook my head sympathetically.  “Not like the ones you have your eye on, old buddy.”  Then trying to sound more upbeat I added, “But maybe someday we’ll be able to visit again.  It’s been fun so far, hasn’t it?”

Dusty nodded with brief enthusiasm, but then drew a sigh. “I’ll bet people like rap stars and basketball players can afford these houses.  Why can’t we do something that would make us rich enough?  Can’t you just pray about it or something, maybe ask God to get you a raise?”

I wanted to laugh, but the question of my oldest child hit a little too close to home for my own comfort.  In truth, I had spent a good part of my life wondering why such luxury went to those who appeared undeserving, while those who served faithfully seemed often to have so little.  Surely God wants the best for his own people.

I then recalled my youth. While I was growing up in Southeast Missouri my mother was attending college in hopes of becoming a school teacher, and my father operated a tiny dollar store in the Mississippi River town of Caruthersville.  That small Delta community, in the mid 1960’s was economically depressed and our family struggled just to make ends meet.

In the toughest of those times, I recall my mother discussing, in hushed tones, our financial situation with my dad.  “I just don’t believe in asking God for money,” I had heard her say then, “but I do believe he’ll provide for us as necessary.”

As a boy, I looked to my mother as a great source of biblical wisdom, and during the remainder of my childhood I never questioned that principle.  In fact, on some semi-conscious level, even as an adult I’m certain that I must have adopted her belief as my own.  After all, though times were often difficult for our family, the things that my mother had predicted, most assuredly did come to pass; God had provided for everything that we needed, and for a good deal more.    Though I’m not absolutely certain as to the origin of her theory, the outcome certainly supported the premise, and for a long time I had no reason to doubt that she was correct.

Yet there came a time many years later when well into my adulthood, I became aware of a Christian publishing phenomenon.  Suddenly our local bookstores were deluged with a best-selling work having to do with a little-known prayer found nestled amid some easily overlooked verses in the Old Testament. The prayer, as did the book, appeared to suggest that God would provide unlimited blessings, if only Christians would take the time to ask.

A trusted friend, one who had been a major Christian influence on my life, gave me a copy of the book, which I devoured in one setting.  Then, I went back and re-read the pages two or three more times.  To my surprise, I found myself agreeing with every concept the author presented.

I spent the following days, weeks, perhaps even months considering the major points of the little book.  God wanted the very best for his people, and he wants us to ask him for blessings so that when he does shower us with good things, we can know without a doubt that the blessings are from Him. I dusted off my childhood memories and analyzed my youthful experiences.  God had blessed our family with the money we needed, just as my mother had contended that he would.  But how much more might our wealth have been if we had only known then about the little prayer in I Chronicles 4:9-10.

I began to look at my own life and to take stock in all I had been given:  Loving Christian parents and siblings, a happy childhood, lots of friends, a beautiful wife, two wonderful and healthy children, a good and steady job that I loved, a small but structurally sound house, a caring church family, and enough spare time to do the things that I truly enjoyed.  Indeed, these were wonderful gifts, and I have made a practice to thank God often for them.  But I wondered…

Could there possibly be even more?

I began to think of the things I might ask for; my house was fine, but our growing family could certainly do with something bigger and nicer.  I had a dependable car, but it really wasn’t very fancy with worn cloth seats, crank windows and no sunroof at all.  My job seemed secure and the income was steady, but I would never become rich from it.  I had nice friends, but they say that you never have too many.  Yes, things were good, but I could certainly see room for improvement.

I went back and re-read the recommendations.  Could it be that I really needed only to pray this simple prayer for thirty days in order to see a definite change in the blessings God would provide?  It certainly appeared that way. After all, it had worked during Old Testament times and it was apparently working now for Christians the world over.

From the midst of my little study room, and with no further prompting, I made the decision that I hoped would change my life.  I would pray the little prayer in earnest for thirty days beginning immediately.  Yet…

I made it only halfway through the third day. ~

Please don’t misunderstand.  I would never question the biblical truths found within the pages of that book nor the ones to follow.  I believe that God truly wants to bless his children and I know that the author is sincere in his writing.  Perhaps it was the things that my mother had taught me in my youth that caused my hesitation now, or maybe it was from the feeling that God had already provided me with much more than I could ever possibly deserve.  Yet for whatever reason, asking for more just didn’t feel right for me.

I went back then to the scriptures and re-read the model prayer given to us by Jesus, and within the words of our Master, I could find no demand for greater blessings other than the humble phrase, “Give us this day, our daily bread.”

I then looked to other verses that addressed the questions that puzzled me.  From James 4:2, I read “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”   Then in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Were these not confirmation of what the author of the little book was saying?  My head said yes, but within my heart I held doubts.  God does want what is best for us, but I’ve come to believe that when Christians take their petitions to God, we should do so with the presupposition that He will grant those things that we truly need, but not necessarily the things that a world full of materialistic desires might cause us to ask for.

From beneath the tattered bill of an old fishing cap that I had donned that morning to shield my eyes from the Florida sunshine, I looked toward the beautiful coral colored homes that lined the dunes above the beach.  Turning, then, I glanced at my son who in laughter trod steadily beside me, already having forgiven me for my financial shortfalls.  Together we made our way toward the edge of the gentle surf where my daughter played happily with a yellow plastic sand shovel and a flowered pink pail.  Then, as seabirds glided peacefully over rolling ocean tides, I looked to Danielle’s mother, the woman whom God had so graciously sent to share my life.  As mild gulf breezes blew through her beautiful auburn hair, Julie looked to me with eyes that sparkled in the sun, as quietly she mouthed the words, “I love you.”

And just as suddenly my heart became filled with a sensation of immeasurable wealth, and all my longings of material possessions flittered away with the December breeze.  At that moment, Dusty broke from my side, and ran toward the shoreline where he splashed with his mother and sister in the rolling surf.  Alone once more, I quietly repeated another Old Testament prayer that God had revealed to me one morning as I searched for his will in my life.

Though originally spoken by Agur, the son of Jakeh, I had now adopted it for my own – and the words made me smile.  “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

In that moment of splendid peace I looked around me.  On God’s great blue horizon stood my loving family, running, laughing, dancing and playing within the sandy morning sunshine.  And within my past was an ancestry with golden moments and memories that continue to guide me even today.

As the sea waves roll without end onto God’s sandy shores, so do His blessings of kindness, love and grace. If this were to be my daily bread, then for me, it will be more than sufficient.

 

 

 

 

Tags: Ocean, wealth, family, father and son, travel, Christian, Christian Short Stories, Jesus, God, Love, Bible, Family, Hope, Salvation