04.19.2009 Never Waste a Good Crisis - Elijah
19th April 2009
Psalm 22 –
I am here to give a testimony of my life/job situation through the last year -
Last year I only worked 4 months of the year. I finally got a job in February. Last summer, I got a job at a Christian company – I thought it would be a great place to work – but it was not a good situation for me. Then this year – I was led to a company that was started by Joe and Rosie Heindel’s grandfather. God provided. How did we make it through? By seeking God and holding to Him. The first thing we did – well, we, being Carol - Carol asked, “What are we doing wrong?” – but we didn’t see any ongoing, glaring sin that God was trying to wake us up to. It was amazing how often God used Mike’s sermons to speak to us. One was – the good suffer too. If it is not some ongoing sin, what is God trying to teach us – so we had to examine our lives – what could we do differently? How could we be better Christians? There were many things God showed us – but one of the most important – The most important thing was HIM! Here I am God! As a man, I have a fix-it mentality. I couldn’t fix this! I had no control over the outcome. It was as if God were saying: “We’re in this together, but leave it in My hands – I am in control!” At times I would get angry – and Mike had a verse about that one Sunday! You have no right to get angry – it is like saying that God is doing it wrong. I don’t have a right to get angry if God is in control. I came to realize – I had to give up that control – I do what I can – but I have to rely on You. It is hard. In seven months – I had ONE interview. That can be demoralizing – but I had to say, No, it is in God’s hands. I would see a company that would be perfect for me, but it didn’t happen. I had to trust God each day.
Ps. 16:7-8 I will praise the Lord who counsels me – I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be shaken.
Other verses talk about the bed being wet with tears from crying out to God.
There are so many wonderful verses in the Psalms. It is not just job-related things. We don’t have control; we do what we can, but we have to rely on Him. WHY? Why did this or that not work out? When I get to heaven, I’ll have to ask God, why?– but when I get there, I probably won’t care why. Stick with God. We can’t control what happens in our lives, but we can control our relationship with God. Control the things you can control – your time with Him, your prayer life – if you are doing those things – you’ll have the strength to do it.
Father, thank You for Rick and Carol’s testimony – as we go through life, You are there. We are dependent upon You. No matter our circumstances, You are there. You strengthen us. You give us the strength to live and move and breathe. You hold us together in every way. Help us to come as those who need You – You are the answer to all of our problems. In Jesus Name –
Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel – Never Waste a Good Crisis!
What we will look at – as you go through the Bible, there are many stories of those who went through many crises – and those shaped these peoples’ lives. It would transform their character, increase his faith, gave a clearer understanding and love for God – and oftentimes was used to humble him! We take these lessons – and learn principles of how to handle, deal with, and move on.
Today, we will look at Elijah – he ministered to Israel during a severe economic crisis. Elijah gets a lot of pub – that’s publicity – but there is not a lot about Elijah in the Old Testament – About 133 verses I calculate. He had a short 3 year ministry, like Jesus. He had a significant impact upon the nation of Israel and the writing of Scripture.
It is important to understand the background – He was a prophet during the rise of Ahab the King. Ahab was not a good king.
1 Kings 16: 29 Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him. 31 And it came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. 32 So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him. 34 In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; he laid its foundations with the [loss of] Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates with the [loss of] his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.
How would you like that written about you – did more evil and provoked the Lord to anger more than any of the others!
No one names their children Jezebel. She was the daughter of the king of the land that worshiped Baal. He marries her, and leads Israel away from God and to the worship of the enemy of God, and yet he is the king of God’s people. It is in that context that Elijah comes into his ministry.
1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."
Elijah – His name means “Yahweh is God” – Israel had forsaken God to worship Baal. God brings in Elijah – “Yahweh is God” – and what we see in his brief ministry – His ministry is a challenge to determine who is the true God – Yahweh, or Baal. At Mt. Carmel – there is this challenge – can the prophets of Baal cause it to catch fire, or will Yahweh do it. How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, serve Him. We know the story – God proves that He is God.
Elijah confronts the king – there is going to be a drought. Israel and Sidon would have these rainy seasons – if it didn’t rain, they didn’t have food. This is God’s first move in this contest. Baal means – the one who rides on the storm clouds. Baal would die every year and would come back to life right before the rainy season. God goes against the strength of what Baal is. It would be like Detroit shutting Lebron James down with no points, no rebounds for the rest of the series.
As the story goes on – the drought comes – in v. 2 of 1 Kings 17, we see how God takes care of Elijah:
2 And the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 "Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 "And it shall be that you shall drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there." 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. 7 And it happened after a while, that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
There are several things we see –First, God protects Elijah. When Elijah went to Ahab and said there would be no rain, it meant trouble for Elijah. But God protected him. There is a special protection that God offers for His people. He also puts Elijah in a place where he can be trained. He puts him in a place of isolation – and what God does typically, and you see this throughout the Bible, - He has a period of time where He removes that person so He can train that person – it is often a difficult or crisis situation – where God can train you for a new ministry that He wants you to do. We don’t need to ask, “What am I doing wrong?” as much as “What is God preparing me for?” God often uses a crisis to teach us the lessons we need to learn in order to do the work in the future.
This brook, Cherith, only ran during the rainy season. God provides for us – but He usually does it in such a way as to be totally dependent on Him. He has to depend on God. The other thing we see – God uses ravens to deliver food. Not only is God in control of the weather, but God reigns over all nature. He is sovereign – If He has to have ravens deliver your lunch, He can do that.
We need to remember – in times of crisis, God’s people are not immune. Elijah experienced the drought – and God provided. But think about it – what did they bring? McDonalds? No. They brought him what ravens eat – he was experiencing the consequences of the drought. The brook dried up for Elijah – and sometimes it will dry up for us.
1 Kings 17: 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, "Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink." 11 And as she was going to get [it,] he called to her and said, "Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand."
He was kind of a bold guy, wasn’t he?! When we go into a difficult circumstance – we have a formula for how God will work it out. You lose your job, and you expect Him to provide a new one tomorrow. But God chooses to do things His way. God had strange ways to provide – ravens, and a widow. Where does God tell Elijah to go? Sidon! It is Baal’s home city! Like Baal has home court advantage. Widows were destitute. She had a son – and in v. 12 –
12 But she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die."
So this widow – this is all she had – and God is going to use this woman to provide for Elijah until the drought ends – maybe a couple of years. We see that God uses weakness and brokenness. We love to hear about it when it is about someone else. But it is hard when God wants us to be weak and broken. To him who lacks, God provides – but we don’t like to lack! The widow expresses hopelessness. Elijah’s response:
13 Then Elijah said to her, "Do not fear;
Our first tendency is to fear – How will we make it? What will we do? It doesn’t have to be an economical crisis – but God’s word comes in – Do not fear. I am your God. Stop being afraid – stop being anxious – I am in control.
go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first, and bring [it] out to me, and afterward you may make [one] for yourself and for your son. 14 "For thus says the Lord God of Israel, 'The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.'"
Elijah and the Lord give the widow this promise. Do this first – if you believe, God will provide for you until the rains come…
15 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for [many] days. 16 The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.
Many days = a long time..
She has this little bit of food – barely enough for a meal – and she FIRST makes bread for Elijah.
Oftentimes in Jesus ministry – this person was not a follower – she was a Baal worshiper – but she had outstanding faith. There is more faith associated with those outside the church sometimes.
God’s provision was not multiplied until she gave. As a result of giving – God multiplied what she had. She did not have a bigger jar of flour and oil – but by faith she made this little cake for Elijah.
Think about it – this went on for a long time – every morning – there was the same amount of flour and oil.
Let me give you a few practical applications –
1) in times of crisis – first recognize that God is sovereignly in control and He loves us. God is still on the throne and He loves me.
2) We need to understand that Christians will undergo times of crisis too. There will be just as much unemployment in the church as out of it.
3) The provision will be both natural and supernatural. Elijah had to make the trip from the brook to Sidon to get provided for – God may bring a crisis in so we will take some really big steps of which we are unaware. It might be a career change – don’t be afraid to look – God is preparing me for something and what do I need to do?
4) God brings crises into our lives to get us to understand the basics. All Elijah had to eat every day for months was a little bread cake and water. When crises come –
5) When things get difficult, it is not time to hoard – it is a time to share and give. It is exciting to see how much you have given in difficult economic times.
Prov. 11: 24 There is one who scatters, yet increases all the more, And there is one who withholds what is justly due, but [it results] only in want. The one who shares – will increase all the more – but the one who hoards results only in want.
6) We need to look at God’s greater purposes. What was this story all about? The point is about Whom will you worship – Who is the true God? What God was getting at – a contest between the True God and Baal. We need to ask – when we hit a crisis – God is trying to point us to Him, and to improve our worship and devotion and increase our devotion to Him. To want Him more than anything else – that is God’s goal – to be satisfied with Him and Him alone. Sometimes the reality is that God allows difficulty into our lives because we are not satisfied with Him and Him alone.
7) God wants us to be involved with those outside the faith. Also, hidden in here – God sent Elijah to this outsider – and God uses crises in our lives – that we might focus on those outside the community of God. Israel either JOINED those outside and conformed to them – OR Israel rejected and shut them out. But God’s plan was to bring them in to the community. We need to stop focusing inward and start focusing outward.
Luke 4: 25 "But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, [in the land] of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow
Understand the importance He placed on us going out to those who are outside the community of faith – and the purpose of reaching those on the outskirts.
Woman, I came to the people of Israel – Woman – It is not right to give the children’s food to the dogs – yes, Lord – but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table. Jesus says that this type of faith is not found in Israel.
We tend to pull in, God wants us to go out!
As we face these crises, Lord, help us to focus our attention on You – You are God, You reign, You are the king. There is nothing that has come into life that You have not seen or understood. You can be trusted in the circumstances that we face. It may not be like we hope and dream – but it is Your best for us – a demonstration of Your great love for us. In Your name we pray, amen.