We Americans have a mentality towards get rich quick schemes and instant gratification. I’ve often called us the microwave generation because we don’t have patience to wait for much and expect everything to be done quickly. Since God is more interested in our journey with Him than in the destination (i.e. our goals), I’ve found that He likes to take the scenic roads instead of the direct route. This characteristic translates into how He chooses to provide.
The Lord promises to provide for all of our needs (Philippians 4:19). However, He doesn’t always provide in the manner we expect or would like Him to provide. There are plenty of preachers speaking a prosperity gospel that is appealing but not scriptural. There are also preachers that share a poverty message which I don’t find to be Biblical.
When looking at the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17 we see several lessons on provision.
1. We need to be obedient.
The Lord directed Elijah on where to go to receive His provision. Had Elijah chosen to argue with God and tell Him a “better” way, we would have a different story to read; probably one more similar to the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. In verse 5 and again in verse 10 we see Elijah being obedient and doing what the Lord instructed. We don’t see a debate or discussion of why go to these illogical places. Elijah simply obeyed. Likewise, we need to be willing to obey the Lord’s commands and instructions even when they don’t make sense or are uncomfortable.
2. The Lord may use unusual methods for our provision.
In verses 2-7 Elijah hangs out by a brook in a ravine being fed by ravens. Not exactly typical, even for a prophet. Then in verses 8-16 Elijah is instructed to go into enemy territory to be fed by a widow who has nothing even to feed herself. It would make much more sense for him to go to a rich Israelite family but that is not how the Lord chose to work in this situation.
For those who think that Elijah was on a vacation for three and a half years, I challenge you to reconsider. Many of us might consider sitting by a brook with food being brought to us a nice relaxing time. And yes, that is likely the case except when you are hiding from a king who wants to kill you, you don’t have a home to go back to, and you aren’t sure what the next day will look like. Consider also the kind of food a Raven would likely bring.
While we were homeless in 2016 we spent about ten weeks camping in the mountains of Colorado. We had numerous people make comments about how nice it would be to spend the days listening to the breeze through the trees, reading a book, hiking in the forest and generally enjoying the beauty and solitude of our location. Many years earlier our mom named those 40 wonderful acres “The Haven” for good reason.
However, when you are homeless; all of your remaining possessions are stored in various locations; you have to haul in water (and thus highly conserve usage); you don’t have dependable electricity; there is minimal to no cell phone coverage or internet; you’re not sure when or where you are going next; and winter is approaching, things aren’t so idealistic and pleasant.
3. Sometimes we have to move to see the Lord’s provision.
Then, the brook ran dry.
Elijah could have thrown a big temper tantrum about how God had made him hide and now what little he had was taken away. Elijah could have postured his heart into thinking that “this is not fair, or right, or just, or the way it should be because I am worthy of better treatment.”
But isn’t that attitude what we often have when we get comfortable with a situation? Change is hard, even good change. But change is often required for us to grow and experience the fullness of the Lord and His provision.
When the brook ran dry, the Lord gave Elijah instructions of where to go for the continuation of His provision. Elijah had to get up and move in obedience (remember lesson one). Sometimes to be obedient, you have to leave your current location or assignment and enter into a new one.
Without moving Elijah would not have been able to receive the Lord’s provision through the widow. The same applies to us today. When the Lord provided a house for Dallas and I to live in for the winter it was easy to get comfortable in that provision. However, there came a time when we had to move for the next provision. In our case we didn’t know where we were moving to when we proceeded to put all our stuff back in storage and packed a few suitcases to become homeless again. This time however we didn’t go back to live at the Haven. Instead we lived in other people’s homes, similar to Elijah moving into the widow’s house.
Does God provide in the same ways?
Since we couldn’t stay where we were as that provision ran out (the brook ran dry so to speak) we needed to trust God to provide in another place and manner. Too often we get comfortable and become unwilling to move as the Lord instructs. He has great provision waiting for us; that provision requires we release the past and move into the current provision. We also need to accept that He chooses to provide in a variety of ways. Just because He did so one way in the past doesn’t mean that we’ll ever see provision in that same manner again.
We’ve experienced the Lord provide in so many different ways that we could probably write a book about all the stories. One time He used insurance proceeds from a hail storm to provide as much money as I had paid for the vehicle just a few months earlier – and I got to keep the car (still driving it several years later)! Another time, many years ago, we had a couple show up at the door with bags of groceries. Unbeknownst to them, we had been praying for enough food to feed our kids. They brought enough that Dallas and I got to eat also!
In the ministry there have been numerous occasions where people send funds that are just what we are needing that month. We know it is the Lord putting it on their hearts to write those checks and they do so out of obedience to Him. Other times a job comes along at the right time with the right profit to cover what we are needing.
4. The Lord’s provision is always enough.
We see in verses 14-16 the promise and fulfillment that there was always enough flour and olive oil in the containers. This wasn’t a natural event. Flour and olive oil don’t just keep multiplying as they are used to make bread. Somehow the Lord kept the containers replenished much like he multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the five thousand and the four thousand in the Gospels.
We are not told that the widow added a storeroom to her house for the Lord’s provision either. It was a daily walk of faith, where provision came as the food was needed.
How many times have we waited for the full provision to be there before we start walking forward in the assignment?
We quote verses like Luke 14:28 to say that we need to calculate the cost and be sure we can complete the work before starting. Instead we need to be quoting Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.”
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). Walking in faith requires that we move forward as the Lord instructs even when we don’t see the provision ahead of time. Sometimes (dare I say MANY times) we are asked to be “foolish” in the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) as we walk in faith.
What about when God asks us to live lives of foolishness?
As Dallas and I are currently walking out our faith journey, we are living a life of “foolishness.” Logic, as dictated by social norms, says we need to abandon the ministry, or at least put it on the back burner, and get jobs so we can have money to pay the bills. While working is an option, and happening, the ministry must continue to be our first priority as that is what the Lord has instructed us to do.
During our year of homelessness we were presented with the choice to order the printed copies of our first book Behind Enemy Lines or use the money to pay for living expenses. So what did we do?
We ordered the books, leaving $1.27 in the account.
The next week the Lord provided what was needed to pay that week’s bills. Later that month we had about $20 in checking and $8 in savings, and were not sure how to buy gas or food. But the Lord provided. Since choosing to be obedient, we haven’t had much money, but the bills have always been paid (though not always when or how I desired).
A side note for those who hear about us being homeless and envision us sleeping in a car or under a bridge: We were not living in poverty, though we didn’t and still don’t have much. As we continue to walk in obedience, we have not missed a meal, nor slept in anything other than a bed (though not always a comfortable one), nor had to beg for food or money.
We are children of the King of kings. He has provided for our needs and even a few wants. That’s not to say it has been easy, but the journey has been good.
5. It is really not about us.
Do you recall what the widow was doing when Elijah first met her? She was preparing a last meal so that she and her son could then die of starvation (Verse 12). Sometime later, the boy does die from an illness, but as the Lord desired, he was brought back to life. When the widow’s son died, Elijah could have offered condolences and wept with the widow. Instead, he did the unnatural and cried out to the Lord who brought the boy back to life.
In effect, Elijah coming into the widow’s house brought life for her and her son, not just once, but twice. And the end result was God’s glory.
That is what it’s all about anyways – glorifying God and loving other people.
It’s easy for us to expect God to provide for us in a manner that we like. Fortunately, He sees what is best and provides in ways that are for His glory and benefit other people. For example, we were asked to assist two different families in ways that we are not gifted or necessarily enjoy. My first human response (internally at least) was along the lines of “no, no way, not going to happen, find someone else, this isn’t my gifting, I’m not good at that, ask me to do something else, why did you even ask that of me, who do you think I am, are you nuts?”
After serving outside our gifting, while not something I would normally choose to do and it did require God’s grace to flow through and over me, I enjoyed being able to see the difference that it made for those we served. Oh, and it provided money to buy the things we needed in one case and a temporary place to live in the other!
The Big Takeaway
As we walk in obedience and faith the Lord is our provider. He works in amazing, crazy, and sometimes [seemingly] foolish ways. He asks us to step outside our comfort zones and go places we wouldn’t normally go. The result is that He is glorified, others are helped and we have what we need and some wants. I stand in awe of His incredible ways!
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