Growing up, The Oprah Show was my favorite show. I’ve probably seen every one of them. But there has always been one that stuck out to me.
It was probably fifteen or twenty years ago and I was sitting on the couch watching a show about people who had lost it all. She had different guests talking about how they had lost their jobs and homes, among other things. I can’t exactly remember anything else about the show. All I remember is this one man and his wife. The man was a pastor and he was talking about how he had lost everything.
I remember Oprah asking him something about his faith and his answer ending with “but faith doesn’t put food on the table.” I remember my mouth dropping wide open. Did a pastor just say “but faith doesn’t put food on the table?” I remember saying out loud, “Well, not that kind of faith.”
This man was discouraged and his tone reflected the same sentiment as his words. His God was not big enough for his situation. At the time I didn’t have the life experience I have now, so I didn’t fully understand how a pastor could say this. But I know now that pastors are just like the rest of us. They are susceptible to the same lack of faith we all can have when really rough times roll into our life. And we’ve all been there. That place where you were trusting, trusting, trusting God….until you weren’t. Things got too deep. Too real. Fear and worry crept in and you relented in your faith. And losing your home, car, and job would certainly be considered one of those rough times.
For many of us our faith in God can be measured by our circumstances. If everything is going great, then our faith is strong. If everything is going wrong, then our faith is weak or non-existent. A speaker at my church recently said, “If you’re only serving the God of the good times, then you’re not serving the God of the Bible.” Wow! That’s worth rereading a few times!
In today’s world we hear so many people preaching about prosperity and wealth and health, but we don’t usually hear about the other side of that. In John 16:33 Jesus said in this world we will have trouble. We forget about that don’t we? We don’t hear a lot about that part.
So, it’s no wonder when times get rough we start wondering where’s God? How could He let this happen?
So what are we to do when we are faced with hard times?
For starters, we have to let our troubles point us to our faith and not away from it.
Did Job wonder where God was when he was losing everything? Did David ever wonder how long he would have to hide out in the wilderness, a fugitive, before he would take the throne? Yes. But although they were confused by their circumstances and pressed down on all sides, they never forgot the God they served.
They are excellent examples of people who lost everything but their faith. They brought their anguish to God but they also brought their trust. David had faith that God was in control and trusted in His timing. Job had faith in God’s sovereignty and His plan for his life.
Time and time again God is faithful even when we are faithless, but throughout the Bible, God makes note of the special relationship between one’s faith and God’s provision.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Equally important, hard times are an opportunity for us to examine and grow our faith. Is it big? Is it bold? Is it quiet? Is it small? Does it need building up?
When the prophet Elijah gave a word from the Lord to King Ahab, regarding the drought that would take place for years to come until he said otherwise, he had to go into hiding. But the Lord provided for Elijah in many unexpected and interesting ways. And because of Elijah’s faith and obedience to God, he was able to take part in the unexpected and interesting provisions that God had provided.
First, he was told to go to the Kerith Ravine, east of Jordan, where he would drink from a brook and be fed by ravens. Now, I don’t know about you but many of us would have taken pause after being told this. Drink from a brook? Fed by ravens? In today’s time maybe it would have been drink tap water and eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the next year. I can hear the grumbling now, and not from my stomach!
But this was God’s provision.
Sometimes God’s provision doesn’t look like we expect.
Many times it isn’t the provision we would have chosen for ourselves.
Did Elijah allow thoughts like this to keep him from following God’s provision? No. So, Elijah, believing that God would take care of him, went to the Kerith Ravine. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and evening, and he drank from the brook.
The Bible makes no mention of Elijah complaining or delighting in his circumstances. Maybe he tired of eating meat and bread. Maybe he started fantasizing of vegetables and fruits. Maybe he felt it wasn’t good enough. Or maybe he was completely content knowing that God had everything under control. Maybe he was grateful and in awe of God’s unique provision. The Bible doesn’t say. But what we do know is that Elijah obeyed God and God’s provision kept him safe and fed during drought conditions that otherwise might have led to his death.
Due to the lack of rain, the brook dried up. If Elijah was worried, the Bible doesn’t say. The Lord told Elijah to leave at once and go to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. He had commanded a widow there to supply him with food. When Elijah got to the town gate, the widow was right in his path. He called for her to bring him some water and food.
I imagine that Elijah was pretty thirsty from his walk to this new place. Since he is calling for something to drink, it is safe to assume that he had been walking for quite some time without anything to drink. Since I can barely walk half a mile without dying of thirst, I can only imagine how thirsty he was.
Sometimes when God is transitioning us from one provision to the other we can become thirsty. By thirsty, I mean anxious, concerned, worn out, discouraged or discontented. We’re not dying of thirst yet we’re not completely hydrated either. That doesn’t mean that our provision is not on the way. It doesn’t mean that God has run out of resources or that He doesn’t care anymore. What does it mean?
We have to keep going. Keep believing. Keep trusting. Keep moving forward.
Elijah doesn’t head back to the brook when he gets thirsty. He doesn’t try to find another brook either, which might seem like a logical thing to do. He trusts that God has a provision at the next town. He’s thirsty, but he’s expecting for that thirst to be quenched where God said it would be. His faith in the Lord keeps him going to the next provision that has already been lined up by God.
The woman has bad news for Elijah. She only has enough flour and oil to make one last meal for herself and her son before they die of starvation. Now, if ever Elijah would be tempted to lose faith, I would think it would be here.
No doubt he is tired, hungry, and thirsty from his walk. Perhaps the last thing he wants to hear is that the woman he was expecting to feed him doesn’t even have any food left! I don’t know about you, but it’s during the times I’m depleted in mind and body and my circumstances don’t make sense to me, that I’m tempted to give in or give up. Faith plummets and fear creeps in. Frantic and afraid, I’m a blubbering mess trying to hold onto whatever scraps I can gather to myself!
But not Elijah. He has not lost faith in God and His provision. Maybe it’s because he could recall all the times God had been faithful. Maybe it’s because he had seen God due the unimaginable and unexpected, like when the ravens brought him his food. Maybe each act of faithfulness had made Elijah’s faith bigger and bolder and louder.
Elijah tells the woman to go make food for him and her family because the oil and flour will not be used up until the day the Lord brings rain to the land again. Elijah’s faith in God saved him and the woman’s family, as day after day God’s provision kept them all alive.
Elijah had the kind of faith that puts food on the table!
By keeping his faith and obeying God, Elijah was able to withstand the three year drought. Perhaps it was not in the ways he would have expected or even preferred, but there is no doubt that through this time of provision he became even more assured in who his help comes from. Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider!
During this life, your faith will be tested. But how would you know God as comforter, if you’ve never had to cry out His name during your deepest pain? When do you uncover that God is your hope, if not when you are in a hopeless situation? And when do you discover that God is your life source if not when He is all you have to lean on?
Faith brings us close to God and to the edge of ourselves. It dares us to trust and to lean and to fall on God. It calls us to walk and to jump and to dive. It spurs us to ask and to pray and to listen. It challenges us to dare and to venture out and to hold on.
When faith stands despite our often confusing and dire circumstances, everything is not lost even when it appears to be.