This past weekend was just a little bit crazy for the team of volunteers and staff members at the Bible Center where I’m staying. Correction: it was very crazy. And demanding. And trying. We catered for forty guests at the annual New Years conference.
Just before the guests were scheduled to arrive, we gathered together for a staff meeting. The plan was to discuss each of our roles over the next couple of days and make sure we were all on the same page. Except that’s not what we did. Instead, the director opened his Bible to 1 Kings 17 and read to us from verse eight through to verse sixteen.
Are you familiar with the biblical story of the widow who fed Elijah during the great drought in Israel when king Ahab was on the throne? I was. As the director introduced the story, I already had in my head this image of a picturesque story in which all the characters eagerly trust God to provide, and God provides. And they’re all happy.
As the director read, I reflected on why he chose to read it, even as a major New Years event loomed over us. His wife was sick and tuning in from home via Skype. We were down another staff member who was also sick. We were facing troubles with the heaters and breakers. We, a group of introverts, were expected to reach out of our comfort zones and connect with new people.
We could be using these spare few minutes to get organized and coordinated. We could be using them to reassign roles to make up for the missing team members.
Then the striking parallel dawned on me. I think God must have impressed it on my heart. Have a look at this snippet of the story in which God is speaking to his prophet, Elijah:
“Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”
1 Kings 17:9 (ESV)
This widow lived with her son and had just a small amount of flour and oil left. In fact, when Elijah approached her and asked for some bread, she replied:
“As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now 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
Why did God command a woman in such a position of poverty to give up all she had? Why didn’t He choose someone more fit for the job? I believe there is potential for great discussion around such questions.
However, today I want to focus not on the reason why, but on the reality that God asks – even commands – us to give out of our poverty; our insufficiency, our inadequacy.
Maybe you’re facing your own “New Years Conference” sort of event. Maybe you feel too small.
I’m sure the widow whom God commanded to feed Elijah felt the same – only worse.
Her situation wasn’t picturesque. It was bleak.
She wasn’t eager to give all she had. She was reluctant.
She literally thought she was going to die, regardless of whether or not she obeyed. And yet she obeyed. And God was faithful.
This year, let’s depend on God. Let’s be willing to give all we have, even when we think all we have is not enough. Even when we think we’ll suffer greatly for our obedience.
Now let’s discuss the “why” and the rest
- Why does God expect us to give when it takes so much effort and hurts so bad?
- But doesn’t God ask us to give our firstfruits, not our leftovers? What’s the difference?
- Can you remember a time when you were in a position where all you had to give of yourself was all you had left (money, energy, resources, etc)?