Our attitude towards money is a reflection of our faith in God. Today begin a series on stewardship ~ how we handle the money entrusted to us. Money is consuming! (pun intended!) Tell me honestly how you handle your money/your attitude towards money/and I can tell you the depth of your faith./// If you are a new or a young Christian consider carefully your patterns of giving. I don’t know who these messages are for, but I know some of you need to consider carefully your attitude towards your wallet! When I write my million dollar check to the church once a month //// or at least it feels like a million dollars ~ it is an act of trust. Yet it is also a wonderful way to enter God’s Kingdom work. Because more than the money it is a commitment of my heart!
A simple point: God will take care of you. As you give of your time, resources, money, God’s promise is that you will have enough. The truth is that wealth tries to fool a man into thinking he’s taking care of himself! Giving changes the giver. The reason to give is not so you will get, it’s not seed faith…giving is a joy and delight. Wisely use what God has entrusted to you. Practice the discipline of giving even when it makes no good sense and God will provide you enough. The widow’s jar of oil never drying up is a primary example of God providing enough. Through days of toil when heart doth fail/All you may need he will provide/No matter what may be the test/God will take care of you, through every day, over all the way, He will take care of you. I love the attitude expressed by Prov. 30:8: First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. (NLT)…
Elijah is God’s servant in a tough time in Israel, called to confront the evil King Ahab. Elijah tells the king a long lasting drought is coming. As the drought begins, Elijah goes to live near the Jordan River and drink from a brook for water ~ food was provided everyday by ravens. Elijah was comfortable. Then comes a test. God sends Elijah to the widow to learn the principle of giving even when it is impossible and God will provide enough.
Perhaps God is ready to refine you. When you face a challenging situation, the promise of God is he will provide enough. Here’s the pattern:
#1 ~ God shakes your world up. What is your response? God has a test for Elijah. READ 1 Kings 17:8-9. Zarephath was a village in modern-day Lebanon, north of Israel. Another person in 1 Kings came from this region: Jezebel, King Ahab’s pagan wife. Sidon was a center of Baal worship. And now God is taking Elijah from the safe brook and sending him to Zarephath in Sidon, the heart of enemy territory. Verse 10 tells us Elijah’s response: “So he went to Zarephath and there he met the widow.”
Sounds simple enough. No. God rocks Elijah’s world. For Elijah, he was called to go to a new place. That may or may not be the way God shakes up your world. To be refined, something will change. A crisis. A test. What is your response? Elijah’s world was rocked by being sent to a new place.
But maybe you are already in the middle of your crisis. God is testing you right now. You are already living on shaky ground…
Are you already in a tension filled tough place where you don’t know how you are going to make it through and you are just not sure how much more you can take. If so, two small words may be the beginning of the refinement process for God to shape you into a more mature person of faith. The two words are found in 1 Ki. 17:9: God told Elijah to go to Zarephath and “stay there.”
God’s instruction to Elijah is to go to a shaky place and stay ~ not make plans to get out of there as soon as you can, not to bail out because it is impossible, but STAY. Maybe you are already in a shaky place and you need to stay so God can change your heart. You feel stuck. Maybe God is saying “STAY.” Sometimes God calls you to another place, and sometimes he says STAY. Pray to the Lord, seek councel, and follow the conviction of your heart and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Just because your world is hard does not mean the answer is automatically go somewhere else. Often the answer is stay, and God will refine you. God will give you enough!
# 2 Wait for the Second Impression ~ READ 1 Ki. 17:9-10a. That’s hopeless. A widow gathering sticks. I can hear Elijah’s prayer: “Lord, the Raven’s were my friends, the water was so plentiful back at that brook by the Jordan…really? a widow gathering sticks.” When I went to S.F after years schooling to be a pastor, dreams… ~ this is not a criticism of the wonderful people, but some weeks when we’d have 7-8 people I’d have a conversation with God, “Really Lord, I know it’s not about numbers, but is this really my calling?” I had no idea what to do as a pastor in a major city…Sally and I told the Lord we would be willing to stay a lifetime if that is what he wanted for us…. In retrospect, it was part of our refining process….
When the Lord shakes your world, you need to wait for the second impression. The first impression doesn’t always look so good. We doubt. Want to bail.
Elijah has a strange response, he doesn’t offer to help the woman, instead he asks her to help him. READ 1Ki. 17:10b-11). This is the only way Elijah can know for sure if she is the person God wanted him to meet. Her response is confirming. READ 1 Ki. 17:12. God has a sense of humor! Elijah gets to Zarephath, he meets a widow who is gathering sticks to cook one final meal after which she and her son will starve to death. When you finally make it to the promised land it doesn’t always look so good….
When Abraham arrived in the land of Canaan, what is the first thing that happened? Genesis 12, a famine. After taking a step of faith and leaving his home, going across the desert, finally arriving, suddenly there is a famine. So he and his wife Sarah move to Egypt. The promised land doesn’t always look so good.
I remember when Sally and I had our house built in 1993, it was a huge commitment, not a lot of money in those days. But so excited. Fascinated by every step of the process. I will never forget the day we stood looking at the newly poured foundation after the forms came off and thinking, “it looks so tiny, what have we done?” The promised land doesn’t always look so good. You think, If I change my circumstances, things are going to get better. But change doesn’t always improve things. The refining process includes God shaking up your world, but wait for the second impression because the first impression doesn’t always look so good ~ a widow gathering sticks getting ready to make her last meal before she dies….
It’s not hard to praise God, when you’ve got money in the bank, and the boss just gave you a raise, and your marriage is happy. But what are you going to do when the boss says You’re fired, you run out of money, the doctor says I’m sorry, it’s cancer? Your first response may be to run, but wait for the second impression. The promise of God is always true that he will provide enough.
#3 Live victoriously in your shaky world. The poor widow is gathering sticks to prepare a final meal. She is in an impossible situation. And what does Elijah say? “Don’t be afraid.” (1 Ki. 17:13) I’m sure she was glad to hear that. No matter what may be your test, God will take care of you. I learn so much from people around Sumas who are in tough situations that thrive, love life.
Elijah then gives the woman odd instructions. READ 1 Ki. 17:13-14. From a human point of view, this makes no sense whatsoever. I am so amazed by people who face tragedy with confidence. The instructions may seem strange, but Elijah simply did what God commanded. By every standard of reasonable calculation, this poor widow and her son will soon starve to death. It must have been hard for him to say those words. It must have been hard for her to hear those words. But somehow she had faith to believe what Elijah said. Live victoriously in your shaky world.
#4 God will provide. Now it is all up to God. Your world is shaken up. Maybe God places you in a new place or maybe you are called to stay where you are. Wait for the second impression. Live victoriously. And God will provide. READ 1 Ki. 17:15-16. It’s all God. If you bail out too soon, or if you worry and spend all your time wishing the world were different, you will not recognize God’s provisions. The jar of oil is a pure miracle of God. He will provide. He will give you just enough.
Practice the discipline of giving even when it makes no good sense and God will provide you enough. This is the example of the widow. This is the lesson Elijah needed to learn. God will provide.
Personally I prefer the pantry to be full. I don’t have to think about where the next meal is coming from. But in the kingdom of God, the values of life are reversed, in order to be refined and grow in our faith, we need our world shaken up. Your world may look hopeless, but God is refining you. Wait for the second impression because when you finally make it to the promised land it may not always look so good. Live victoriously, and God will provide just enough.