Looking for Lunch
In the account of 1 Kings 17:8-16, Elijah was fresh out of water because the brook he was drinking from dried up because he pronounced a 3 ½ year drought on Israel. “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”” 1 Kings 17:1. Then God sends the prophet to stay by the Brook Cherith to have a source to drink from and to be fed by ravens, by whom He sent food for Elijah. Of course because of the drought the brook dried up. It was then that The Lord directed him to the widow saying, “I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”
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Hunger, Meet Hopeless
Was Elijah was shocked to see the woman who, along with her son, was starving to death? The man of God did not seem to be phased. He told her to bring him a piece of bread and she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 1 Kings 17:12.
If you were Elijah what would you be thinking? “God told me to come here to get food. This woman is obviously in despair without any provisions. She’s given up and is backed into a corner with no one to help her and no supermarket to run to. Why am I here again?” The truth is, he perceived that there was a hidden blessing that God was about to reveal.
A Hidden Blessing
In 1982 when I was called to the Bible Speaks’ mission team in France. The team leader was promised by one of his contacts the use of a house in Auxerre France for a year. We were to rendezvous in the south of France for two weeks to evangelize with a church group, and then return north to begin our work.
On his way to the south our pastor stopped at Auxerre to see the house. To his surprise someone was living in what turned out to be a 2 room house, and they had no plans to leave! We felt like the Lord called us to France but when we got there the comfort we had expected quickly disappeared.
God still had a provision for us. What seemed like a handful of flour and a slow death turned into a mighty provision that sustained us. With the help of gracious French Christians we got planted in France . We were given a place to live for free for several months and then we were able to rent a large house for what amounted to about $200.00 per month. I don’t recall hearing any complaint to God for putting us in a situation where we learned to trust Him and His people. Both came through when we needed them.
Make a Wish
A big problem in the 21st century church is spiritual starvation due to a lack of dependence on God. We’re used to having what we need when and where we want it. We can’t miss our coffee break, let alone endure famine!
As Christian disciples, we must be careful not to lead a life that never experiences need. Much of the Christianity we see on TV, hear on the radio and live in our congregations is religion without a cross, where we are not God’s servants, but He is ours. Some leaders have monetized faith, exhorting believers to speak material blessings into being, as if The Lord was a genie waiting to grant our every wish. Huge ministries abound, advertising all the answers we need from how to raise the perfect child, to experiencing an awesome sex life, to never lacking money to pay a bill, or how to grow a mega-church in three easy steps. This is why we can’t get caught up with celebrity ministers; as good as they look and sound. They are all about their ministry. I mean, they are good! They look good and sing well and are phenomenal preachers. Their messages are sweet like Ice Cream Sundaes with a cherry on top.
Small Screen Faith
Your call though is to your neighborhood, city, state and country, your continent and to parts of the world you’ve never been to. You aren’t called to serve a TV personality. You’re called to love your neighbor and lay down your life for your friends. Don’t trust the purveyors of Big Screen Churchianity. They’re more interested in buying private jets, speaking about the positive influence of the Bible on your health, and how God doesn’t want you to struggle in life. The message usually lacks commitment and sacrifice while minimizing sin. We mustn’t make light of sin because in doing so we diminish the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18. Never devalue His sacrifice, for without it we are all lost. If we don’t tell people the truth, who will? Ours is a small screen faith; meeting people at the place of their need and teaching them to depend on Jesus.
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You’re Kidding Right?
What went through the widow’s mind when Elijah spoke to her? “Here I’m ready to eat my last piece of bread with my son and along comes this Man of God asking me to feed him first. Earth to Elijah, what part of “a hand full of flour” don’t you understand?” It’s not that the widow wanted to die, she just needed a reason to believe. She needed a spoken word that would nourish confidence.
When God asks us for something we don’t have, what do we do? What kind of God wants a third of my last dollar or would tell me to share something when I don’t have enough for myself?
Ministry calls us to faith. Our need is what we need most. The widow feared until she began to obey the words of the Man of God. Elijah needed to be in a place of faith, and the woman needed to see his faith in action. A little water and a piece of bread sounds minor, except when it’s all you have.
“And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” 1 Kings 17:13-14.
Here’s a lady that was barely holding onto life, and the Man of God said “do not fear.” What is the Man of God saying to you today? Are you willing to obey the words of a man who is obedient to the Word of God?
The Giver Gives
God gives us what we need when we need it. We may feel thin in the gifts department. We may not be confident that our time on earth is useful. You might even think you can’t affect the world. You need to give God some of what you’ve got and let him make it into an everlasting source of nourishment for you and those to whom you minister the Gospel.
None of us have all the gifts. No matter. If you are questioning your call and are ready to quit, learn a lesson from this widow who, though she objected at first, obeyed and served Elijah. As a result she was blessed with bread for as long as the drought lasted. “So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:15-16.
Once someone was obedient to God and brought you a message. At that time you were dead in your trespasses and sins. You were instructed to believe. Jesus made a promise that if you gave Him your trust you would receive what you needed. You did, and acquired His gift of everlasting life.
Now it’s your turn. The world is waiting for a prophet to come with words of hope that will spur them to trust and obedience. Be that prophet and make the impossible possible in someone’s life.
By Kim Anthony Shibley
Kim is currently the pastor of Greater Grace Christian Fellowship, a GGWO affiliated church in Silver Spring Md.