We should not be satisfied with yesterday's faith because faith is progressive and God desires us to move from “faith to faith” (Romans 1:17), and so He gives us experiences and puts us in environments where we can grow. However, as our faith grows, naturally the circumstances and experiences that we face require more faith – this was the experience of Elijah. If you have the time, read 1 Kings 17:1-16, it is a potent narrative of faith in God despite circumstances. This is a continuation from the previous blog Move in Faith, so if you haven’t already, check it out.
After moving in faith and believing that his prayer was in God’s will, Elijah boldly proclaimed to the haughty Ahab that “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” (1 Kings 17:1). As a result of this deep cutting message, God instructed Elijah to flee for his life, eastward to “the brook Cherith which flows into the Jordan”, there God promised him drink from the brook and ravens to sustain him.
God is very specific, He told Elijah to go to the “brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.” Just in case there was another brook Cherith, God wanted Elijah to be certain of the condition of his promise, the brook that flows into the Jordan: not the River Thames, not the Zambezi River, not the River Nile, not the Mississippi River – the brook Cherith, which flows into the River Jordan. ‘If you go there Elijah, my promise will not fail’, “I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
God’s promises are sometimes conditional, He promises that “no good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). The condition of this promise is we must be walking uprightly. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), the condition of our sins being cleansed and forgiven is us confessing them.
Often, when I pray and claim God’s promises like Psalm 84:11, I get disappointed when my prayers are seemingly unanswered. But I don’t usually reevaluate myself. I do not think or question, am I walking uprightly? Because if I am doing what I ought to, walking uprightly, God promises that He will not withhold any good thing.
So maybe you are lacking wisdom, well have you asked? (James 1:5). Maybe your prayer was not answered because you have only knocked once (Luke 11:8-10; 18:1), maybe your personal Jericho walls have not yet come tumbling down because you have only been walking around twice but God said seven times (Joshua 6:4). When we pray and are seeking an answer, we need to reevaluate if we are where God wants us to be, because if we are, He has commanded the ravens to feed us there. God is faithful; “there has not failed one word of all His good promise” (1 Kings 8:56); and so Elijah “went and did according to the word of the Lord'' and the ravens gave him bread in the morning and bread in the evening.
Now at the brook Cherith, Elijah and God had an intimate experience that we all need. God took Elijah away to the brook, which was out of Israel, to a secluded place out of Ahab’s jurisdiction: a quiet place, far from the rapid pace where God could soothe Elijah’s troubled mind. Sheltered by trees and flowers, there in that quiet place Elijah’s cares and worries were left behind.
There is something God desires to teach us when he puts us in a secluded place: Moses was in the wilderness of Median where he spent time with God before becoming the greatest leader the world has ever seen, the Israelieties… well they spent a bit too long there. Jesus after His baptism was in the wilderness before He began His salvational ministry, Paul spent many years in Arabia before returning to begin his missionary endeavours.
Why the secluded places, why this time of isolation? Well perhaps because there we can hear and contemplate things not easily heard or thought about in the hustle and bustle of the city life where people are usually always in a rush, surrounded by noise and steeped in self-importance. So often the cities and the busyness of life are so great that the voice of God cannot be heard. Find yourself a quiet place.
God took Elijah away so that He could stamp impressions on him, to teach Him that He is God and there is none else. God took Elijah away to that quiet place to prepare Him for the mighty task ahead, God took Elijah away to that quiet place to move him from yesterday’s level of faith to today's level of faith. God was teaching Elijah to depend on Him – and Him alone.
So here we are in the first leg of 2021, still under these restrictions, lockdown is still upon us and we are asking “how long Lord? How long till we get back to normal life?” Many of us (myself included) cannot wait to get back to the usual, we can’t wait to get out of this wilderness experience: we have already planned our trips abroad, the people we will see, the restaurants we will dine at.... But maybe God is saying, “My child, it has been over a year now and you still haven’t learnt to depend on Me, you still haven’t learnt to spend time with Me, you haven’t learnt to hear My still small voice”. Who knows how long this predicament will go on for, but God will not let us go back to ‘life as usual’ until we learn to depend on Him because God is preparing us for a steep climb to the top of Mount Carmel and if we don’t have undivided, unwavering faith and dependence on Him, we will not be able to stand.
And so Elijah was in the wilderness for... “a while”, once he learnt to depend on God and to trust in Him solely, the brook dried up and God told him to go to Zarephath and as He did before, He promised to sustain him there.
But, have you ever been in a situation where you have done all that is required of you, you have done what God has told you to do, you have moved in faith but then a situation pops up where it seems as if God’s promise will fail or won’t come to pass?
God promised that He would feed Elijah through a widow. For Elijah, we can assume that this was straight forward, at least it seemed so. If a raven could feed him surely a widow could, right? However, in the Jewish culture of that time a widow had no inheritance from her deceased husband, so they would have to glean the fields as did Ruth (Ruth 2:1-2) for leftovers... if any. Not a prospective life at all, especially in a patriarchal society. But either way, if a raven can feed Elijah, surely a widow with no inheritance and barely any food for herself could feed him. Surely if God had provided before, He could do it again?
In times like these, no matter how impossible something may seem, we must remember that God isn’t succumbed by circumstances, with Him nothing is impossible. We must remember how God has been faithful in the past – that remembrance will strengthen us to keep moving in faith.
So Elijah continued to move in faith, believing that God was able. He arrived at Zarephath and lo and behold, the promise was right there in front of him “and when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there” (1 Kings 17:10): and so Elijah unpresumptiusly asked the widow “please bring me a little water in a cup” and “a morsel of bread in your hand” (1 Kings 17:11).
Elijah’s request was not presumptuous, he was not asking due to his feelings, he was not asking due to his hunger, his request was grounded and rooted in the word of God – His promise.
But then Elijah’s faith was put to the test, the woman responded:
“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
How would you respond? Would you lose faith in God? Would you doubt His promises? Would you doubt whether cares for you?
It can often be so discouraging when we come across instances where it seems like God has forsaken us, it seems like God has forgotten us, it seems like God is silent, it seems as if His promises have failed. Let me be honest, in these situations I often doubt God.
I believed that God called me to go to mission school in 2019, but I did not have the funds – yet God provided £2,500, plus living costs! I believed God called me to dedicate a year and more to do evangelism for the church I was baptised in, however there was a shortage in finances, but God made a way and provided all I needed till this day. God had shown me that He led me here. Yet during my time here in the midst of the pandemic, doing the work that I whole-heartedly believed He called and equipped me to do, I had so many instances where I doubted that He was with me, I had so many instances where I felt that He left me, I had so many doubts in His promises, forgetting that “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19).
“Lord 5,000 leaflets have been handed, that is 5,000 individual houses, asking if people need help because of Covid restrictions. Lord everyday in sunshine, gale force winds, heavy rain I have gone out, street after street, door after door putting these leaflets in and no one – not even one person has responded!
Lord why am I here, I see no fruits, no harvest for this labor.
Lord, I am tired – I cannot do this anymore! It is so lonely here, I miss my family, my close friends – the ministry is such a lonely place. I don’t believe you have called me for this. I pour out and pour out into others but no one ever pours into me!”
I would cry myself to sleep questioning God, even though I knew He led me here, I would question where He was even though He promised He would never leave me nor forsake me. Yes I have doubted plenty of times, but – I desire to move in faith like Elijah. Look at his response to seeming disappointment:
Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” (1 Kings 17:13-14)
In the midst of a seeming disappointment, Elijah not only had unwavering faith but he was also able to comfort and strengthen the widow with the same comfort and strength that God comforted and strengthened him with (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)!
Why did Elijah have such confidence in God despite the circumstance? Because he walked by faith and not by sight.
The reality is, on this Christian journey we will come across many circumstances where it seems like God has left us but Hebrews 10:35-36 implores us, “do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)
What I did not realise was that during my cries to God, He was working, even though I could not see it – He was working. Some time later, I received many calls to help people in need during the pandemic: a gentleman called me after months of receiving a letter saying: “Douglas, I have had this letter for months and I have only just now taken the courage to call, I am lonely and need help, I am wondering if you can be here for me.” Another lady called stating that “if you had not put that leaflet in I would have had no way of getting food”, another who I am now well acquainted with desires to be baptised. A Muslim woman received a Bible and now wants to commit her life to Jesus. What is my point? God is always working, even when we cannot see it – He – is – working!
God is able. His promises never fail.
As a result of trusting in God, Elijah and those around him were blessed:
“So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.” (1 Kings 17:15-16).
Trusting God is seeing things not from our perspective but from His. It is exchanging our reality for His reality. Instead of seeing the obstacles, huge Jericho walls, we see the walls tumbling down, why? Because God said it.
I hope that you are encouraged, I do not know what your struggle is right now, but what I do know is that God cares for you and has the best plan for you. Trust Him, even when you do not feel like it. Fill your mind with His promises and never let them go.
“The best way to resist doubt is to build up trust in God. Too many of us spend time and energy fighting our doubts” - Herbert Douglass