Sermon Illustrations on provision
God’s Abundant Provision in Genesis 2
There is a tendency among readers and scholars of Genesis 2:16-17 to focus on the prohibition of verse 17: “but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.”
…I want to pause to consider with you verse 16: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden.”
We have already learned in Genesis 2 that God “made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (2:9). Now we hear that the man, and by implication all human beings, may eat the fruit from every single tree in the garden, save one. God is giving us all kinds of fruit from all kinds of trees, inviting us to enjoy it. The Hebrew phrase which could be rendered literally as “from all the trees of the garden to eat you may eat” underscores the opportunity and freedom for human beings. We may “freely eat” the fruit of every single tree, with one exception.
I’m struck here by this picture of God’s generosity. God did not give us just one kind of tree with one kind of fruit. God did not provide just what we need to survive. Rather, God created a great variety of trees with a great variety and quantity of fruit. If you’ll permit me to read into the text a bit, God created apple trees and orange trees, lemon trees and pineapple trees, cherry trees and plum trees, almond trees and coconut trees, peach trees and pear trees, pecan trees and olive trees. (If I have missed your favorite fruit tree, please add it to the list!)
God made all of this variety and then said, not, “Eat just what you need” but “Freely eat” from all of this. “And as you enjoy the taste and benefit from the nutrition, enjoy the beauty of the tree as well, not to mention its shade.”
Many Christians were raised in homes and churches in which God was not seen to be generous. God was stingy, giving us only what we really need and no more.
Moreover, God was the rule maker, who formed our lives principally by telling us what not to do.
Steve Jobs was one of the biggest somebodies of our time. He said, “Most people never pick up the phone and ask, and that’s what separates the people who do things from the people who just dream about them.”
When he was 12, Jobs called Bill Hewlett, co-founded of Hewlett/Packard to ask, “I want to build a frequency counter, and I was wondering if you have any spare parts I could have?” Hewlett laughed at Job’s boldness—and gave him the spare parts—and also a summer job. Jobs said, “I was in heaven.” 
Jesus put it this way.
Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. (Matthew 7:7)
Looking back, when I actually have asked for something, 90% of the time, I got it. I wish I’d asked more often.
Steve Jobs took his request right to the top. So, why not start at the top? Start with Jesus, the biggest somebody of all time. And if you listen carefully you’ll hear Him say, “Yes, and thank you for asking.”
 Glen Leibowitz, “Steve Jobs Used this Insanely Simple Strategy to Get What He Wanted (and You Can Too),” Inc. (2017).
Sleeping with Bread
During bombing raids of World War II, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding theri bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”
Dennis, Sheila Fabricant, and Matthew Linn, Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life.
In their excellent book Invitation to a Journey, M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton describe the foundation of life as being spiritual in nature. This means we are constantly be “formed” spiritually, whether for good or evil:
Almost from the moment of birth we engage in a struggle for control of that portion of the world we live in. Can we get our parents to provide for our needs and wants when we want and how we want? Can we get our playmates to play our way, or will they control us to play their way? Can we control situations and others to fulfill our agenda, or are we manipulated into serving others?
Can we create enough of a security structure around our lives that we will be able to control life’s adversities? Or, to put it in very contemporary terms, why shouldn’t a woman’s control of her life allow her to terminate the life of her unborn child? Why shouldn’t my control of my life allow me to choose the time and means of its end?
Why shouldn’t we provide free contraceptives to our youth so their sexual behavior can be under their control and not under the control of the fear of sexually transmitted diseases? If you do not believe that control is a major issue in your life, study the ways you respond when someone or something disrupts your plan for the day.
Taken from: Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton. Copyright (c) 2016 by M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
Where All the Provision is Stored
Alexander Maclaren writes about the importance of recognizing our dependence on God for all we have:
Up to the very edge we are driven before He puts out His hand to help us. It is best for us that we should be brought to desperation, to say, “My foot slips” and then, just as our toes feel the ice, help comes and His mercy holds us up. At the last moment—never before it, never until we have discovered how much we need it, and never too late—comes the Helper.
If we want to get our needs supplied, our weakness strengthened, and wisdom to dispel our perplexity, we must be where all the provision is stored. If a man chooses to sit outside the provision shop, he may starve on its threshold.
If a woman will not go into the bank, her pockets will remain empty though there may be bursting vaults to which she has a right. If we will not ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy place by simple faith, God’s amplest provision will be nothing to us, and we will be empty in the midst of affluence.
Adapted from Alexander Maclaren, The God of the Amen (New York: Funk and Wagnall, n.d.); cited by Steve Halliday & William Travis, in How Great Thou Art (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1999), p.301.