1 Kings 17:8-16
In our last article, we considered that faith is difficult because it requires us to put our hope in God instead of our wisdom or apparently favorable circumstances. We continue with two more ideas about the difficulty of faith.
Faith is difficult because it must confront the realities of life (17:7-10). Let us remember that Elijah exercised obedient faith in God as he made his way to the widow’s house in Zarephath in Sidon. Every step on his lonely journey tested the faith in God he had. Faith does not eliminate our thoughts about how God will act or the way that his provision will appear. Faith thinks through the situation and trusts God when the way seems unlikely or impossible to us. Otherwise, we walk by sight and human reasoning, instead of by faith. Here is what believing Elijah had to face.
He saw the desperate condition the widow was in. She lived in poverty; she was out gathering sticks. He could easily have wondered, “Lord, why didn’t you send me to a rich widow?” She had a home, but not much else. She lacked sufficient food. She had enough for one more meal. I don’t know what Elijah did, but I think I would have been checking my email about God’s directions or my GPS on my phone about this time. “Lord, am I in the right place? This seems like another drying brook?”
Elijah saw the despair of heart which controlled that widow. She was prepared to eat her last meal and then die. She was not living by faith but by fear. “Don’t be afraid” (7:13).
The widow was an unlikely person to help God’s prophet. But the hearts of all are in God’s hands. A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9 CSB). God decreed to provide for the needs of Elijah through the means of the widow’s generosity, and so it would be. But how would that happen? God uses means, which brings us to the next point.
Believing Elijah had to act in a way that was consistent with the faith in God that they would need to live by. For this reason, he had to test the woman. At first glance, Elijah seems selfish and uncaring. But he had to know if she would put God first. Was she unselfish? Could she trust God sufficiently to follow God’s words through him to her. Do not be mistaken; it was difficult for a man of God ask her to do such things in the bitter hardship he saw she was in. All this was to teach the woman. She had to know who was providing food for her, so that she could provide for God’s prophet. He told her God’s promise. “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says…” (17:14 NIV).
Faith is difficult even when God provides (17:15-16). Living by faith is difficult because it requires daily trust. All that they had to live on was the contents of the jar and the jug, refilled each day with just enough for one day. But God gave them food daily! “It may be that we shall never have much in hand, but this is no evil, for then our provision will never grow stale, but come to us fresh from our heavenly Father’s hand” (Spurgeon). That is an expression of joyful faith!
Again, living by faith is difficult because it requires contentment. Both Elijah and the widow and her son could only eat of what was made from the flour and the oil. There was nothing else. But we see that God was true to his word! He promised Elijah food, and food he had! But it was even less than he had received previously. Before he had meat and bread, now it was only bread. Remember Israel’s experience in the wilderness. They had manna every day for nearly forty years. The lesson of daily bread is to humble ourselves, in order that we trust God.
Here are two lessons as we conclude.
- Do you think that the life of faith is easy? Do not be misled! But the Lord is sufficient to supply all that we need. He will provide what he knows we need.
- Only those who come to God through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have any basis for confidence that God will supply their needs. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV). Trust in god for salvation, and then you can trust him for other matters. It’s the way of God’s kingdom.
Grace and peace, David