Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Miracles Happen When We Least Expect Them

Yesterday I was working on a message that I will be giving to a group of women's ministry leaders at She Speaks. I have shared this message at the conference for the last few years, but this year, I really felt like God called me to change it up.

The message is called "Staying Filled Up So You Don't Burn out", and it is meant to encourage ministry leaders to not get discouraged, frustrated, or burnt out in the process of serving God.

After spending weeks trying to figure out what direction to take this message in, God led me to the book of 1 Kings, and the story of Elijah. I have learned so much about Elijah while writing this topic, but while I was reading the Bible and scouring over the verses for application and inspiration, one verse hopped out at me, and actually made me chuckle a bit.

I was reading 1 Kings 17. This is where Elijah has told Ahab that due to his pagan idol worship, the Lord was going to withhold rain for three years. Then Elijah left as the Lord instructed, and went to Zarephath, where the Lord told him he would meet a widow who would give him a place to stay and food to eat.

So upon arriving to the city, he came across the widow picking up sticks, and asked her for some food. Then this unusual, somewhat funny verse is said. (Which is really not funny I suppose, it just seemed like something we say so often with sarcasm or jest; or maybe I have a strange sense of humor, who knows.)

Anyway, so here we are in the story, where Elijah has just asked the widow for some food, and her response to Elijah is this:

1 Kings 17:12 "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 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." (NIV)

The funny, but not-so-funny, part, is that she says they are going to eat, and die.

Does that sound a bit overly dramatic to anyone besides me? It made me think of the old saying "nobody likes me, everbody hates me; I think I'll eat a worm, and die". She says it so matter-of-factly, like she is just going to grab a quick bite to eat, then lay down and die. As if it were nothing.

As I thought about this verse, it dawned on me that we really do not know her tone of voice as she made this statement to Elijah.

Maybe she said it with great anger, shaking her fist at God, wondering why He had let her husband die and left she and her son without food.

Maybe she said jokingly, knowing that she probably would not really die after her next meal, but life was such a struggle, that she really would not care either way.

Maybe she had been starving for months, with no husband to provide for her, and she honestly felt like this last meal would in deed be the last, and had just accepted her fate .

Or maybe she said it with her head hung low, in great despair, full of hopelessness and sadness, seeing no way out of her situation, and no light at the end of tunnel. Not wanting to die, but not seeing any other solution.

We have no idea how this woman was really feeling - but what we DO know, is that God had not forgotten her.

1 Kings 17:13-15 says,
"Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake 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 gives rain on the land. "

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah

Even though her circumstances seemed grim and hopeless, and she was filled despair, and maybe not even asking God for a miracle - He still gave her one. He already had a plan in place to meet her needs, and she was totally unaware of it.

God had ordained ahead of time that Elijah meet this widow in the city. He had already picked out the exact day. And as she was mindlessly picking up sticks for a fire, a routine task that she carried out every day, God put His plan into place, and provided for all of her needs in a milli-second. In fact, He also planned to save her sons life as well, as a result of her provision for Elijah (vs 22). He had such a great plan - who knew?!

Even though we are not told that the widow had been seeking God's intervention and pleading for Him to bless her, the Lord saw her, loved her, and provided for her physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Then in verse 24, we read "Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth."

As a result of Gods intervention in her life, and how He met her physical needs in such unexpected and miraculous ways, her faith was renewed. Her spirit was lifted. Her hope in humanity, and in God, was restored.

I really feel like God placed this post on my heart for a special reason - someone out there in bloggy-cyber land needs to hear this message.

Someone, and maybe it is you, needs to know that God has already planned how to meet our current needs, and our needs of the future, and that right about the time when all seems hopeless, He will make His presence known in miraculous ways. He has not forgotten us or abandoned us, but is hard at work putting His plans into place.

If the Lord can keep a flour jar and an oil jug filled up to the rim for weeks, maybe months, at a time - surely He can keep our hearts filled up with enough of Him to get us through our most trying situations.

At the exact time that He has ordained, His miracles will occur, and it may be when we least expect it. Afterwards, we will be able to say nothing less than, "wow, look what God did for me. His Word is truth."

Smiles. :)

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Mari said...

great encouragement for this morning. thank you for that.

mary said...

Thanks for the reminder. My husband has recently been laid off and is looking for work.

Joyful said...

OK...well, I don't know how many others need to hear this message, but I thank you my friend.

Only a couple of weeks ago now I heard MaryBeth speak about how quick we often are to first tell God what we lack. We always start with our limits. We'll never have enough without first placing our little in God's hands.

I am watching this story being played out in my life right now. I went to God, discouraged, feeling forgotten, with my 'little' and simply placed it in His Hands. Suddenly, out of the blue...completely unexpected...the Lord received what I gave Him and has multiplied and "filled my jars" with blessings.

Just this morning in my quiet time with Him, He spoke to me through "Jesus Lives" by Sarah Young. "Anticipate blessings as we journey together...Knowing how much I gave to rescue you from sin, you can trust Me and look for precious gifts I've placed along the path we are following. In faith, be on the lookout for good things both great and small...When you reach the end of your day, stop and look back at the distance we have covered. Take time to ponder what you have learned and to savor the gifts you have found. Let your mind dwell on these things as you lie down to sleep, rejoicing in Me and My blessings."

Thank you Tracie for confirming and reminding me again that God will continue to meet my needs. There is so much going around and within me just now that some days I just want to hibernate, but when things seem hopeless, God can intervene in miraculous ways. He has a plan, and when I least expect it, I see His Hand.

Blessings to you my friend...and happy 20th anniversary!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your devotion this morning. I needed that reminder.

I have been unemployed for two years now and my unemployment was exhausted at the end of March 2010. I have no income coming in at this moment. I would appreciate prayer as I seek what God wants me to do: stay where I am at and keep looking for work here or move out of my area and look for work elsewhere. I want to act on faith and yet I know God wants me to be wise in what to do. My immediate family is not able to help me out financially nor live with them.

Thank you.


Mary said...

Thank you. God bless.

Hellen said...

that was really uplifting.Thank you.
stay blessed.