When we want to understand God’s ways it is valuable to study his patterns in the Bible which give us clues to the way God works. In need, for instance, observe this pattern: “‘Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.'” (Luke 6:38)
Yes, giving sets into motion a principle of God and much more will eventually end up in your lap than you ever gave out. Even as you practice this pattern though, there is a subtle trap which can sabotage you. It is the inclination we all seem to have to turn a pattern into a formula.
A formula is a rule that works no matter what. In algebra and geometry that’s as it should be but in God’s kingdom, formulas can get us into a peck of trouble. And when the formula fails to work we are set up for disappointment and discouragement.
How can we tell the difference and avoid the pitfall? Formulas are little more than superstition which attempts to manipulate God into a box of our choosing. It’s like waving our magic wand: “I gave now give me back. You have to; it’s the rule!”
A pattern keeps us focused on God’s face and a formula keeps us focused on God’s hand. “‘But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.'” (Matthew 6:33) Cling to that. It will help you remain formula-proof.