Have you ever found yourself up against a proverbial wall, nowhere to turn, unsure what to do next? Have you ever been outnumbered and overwhelmed? How about really down and depressed? We’ve all been there in life; you may even be there today.
Elijah, a faith hero we’re learning about this week, could have answered “yes” to all of those questions at various points in his life. We can learn some vital life lessons from his experience, not the least of which is how we can be steadfast servants in a wicked world.
Elijah’s name means “my God is the Lord.” He lived during a dark time in Israel’s history and was given the task of pointing God’s people back to Him and away from Baal worship. He served in the Northern Kingdom, which was ruled by an evil, Baal worshipping king, Ahab.
When we first meet Elijah, God has called him to tell Ahab that there would be a severe drought in his kingdom. (1 Kings 17:1). Of course, when the rains stopped, God knew Elijah would be a wanted man, so He instructed Elijah to go hide out and trust Him to provide the food he needed, which would be supplied by ravens! (1 Kings 17:2-4). And that’s exactly what happened.
Lesson #1 - When we are obedient to God, and follow His will, He fulfills all our needs! It is pretty amazing that God would use the ravens to supply food for Elijah. It goes to show that God can provide for us in ways we might never imagine. Have you ever experienced that in your life? God loves to give us testimonies of His provision in our lives.
Later, after the brook that Elijah was using for water dried up, God told Elijah to move on to another location where a widow would supply him with food and water. First ravens, now a widow; clearly God wanted Elijah to know that if Elijah was going to survive and thrive, it would be because of God’s care and provision in his life. The same is true for us!
The widow was already near the end of her food supply (1 Kings 17:10-12), so she wasn’t too keen on having to provide for Elijah. But Elijah told her to make a loaf of bread for him first, then her flour and oil would not run out until the drought was over. She must have had her doubts (who wouldn’t?); but she did as Elijah said and sure enough, she had all the flour and oil she needed after that! (1 Kings 17:13-16)
Have you ever found yourself in a seemingly impossible situation? Where you saw little or no way out unless God intervened in a big way? A failing marriage, faltering finances, a wayward child, a hopeless job situation, a crisis with your health, a friendship in shambles, a big ministry challenge?… A place in life where you say, “If it is to be, it can’t be up to me; I need God to intervene in a big way!”
Lesson #2 - God blesses us abundantly when we faithfully trust Him even, and especially, when it doesn’t make sense! That’s exactly what God did for this widow and Elijah. God has done that in my life too, and He will in yours! One example that comes to mind is with the practice of tithing, or giving back to God the first portion, not the leftovers, of what He has graciously given us.
A lot of people ask, “Should I tithe, even when I can barely make ends meet?” The answer is “Absolutely, especially when you can barely make ends meet.” Why? Because that is when God really has a chance to show you what only He can do! Now, I’m not suggesting you will get wealthy because you tithe; but God promises to provide for your needs when you do. In fact, it is the one area in the Bible where God says to test Him. (Malachi 3:10)
Jesus spoke a lot about giving, once teaching his disciples about the impact of a widow's offering all she had to God, even though it was a small amount. (Mark 12:41-44) The truth is that God doesn’t need your money; He wants your heart! Giving to God is always a reflection of your heart. (2 Corinthians 9:7). The widow in Elijah’s story could testify to God’s goodness and His provision too!
Elijah goes on to experience the power of God in miraculous ways, including seeing the widow’s deathly ill son healed. Then a few years later, when God is ready to end the drought, he has an opportunity to challenge 450 of Baal’s prophets to a competition to see how their god stood up to his God. Spoiler alert… it wasn’t even close!
During that amazing day on Mt. Carmel, Elijah asked the Israelites a very important question - one that resonates in our time too. 21 …“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 1 Kings 18:21
Lesson #3 - There are multiple “gods” we can choose to follow in this world, but the Lord demands our complete surrender to Him alone. We may not find ourselves bowing down to a golden bull, but there are plenty of idols that we can chase in this world. At some point, we have to make up our minds: Will we steadfastly serve God or not? Will we follow Jesus Christ or the countless idols this world offers? Elijah laid out a clear choice for the people there that day, and for us today. He drew a sharp contrast between the worship of Yahweh and Baal to eliminate the idea that people could worship both deities. The Bible is clear, God tolerates no rivals. (Ex 20:3).
God demands our complete surrender to Him alone… We are called to faithfully follow Jesus Christ. (Matthew 16:24). What is your answer? What happened next in Elijah’s story shows God’s power over an impotent Baal. (1 Kings 18). To learn far more about how to steadfastly serve God in a wicked world, click here to listen to: Heroes - Part 10 - Elijah.