The Choice Seems Easy…

As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain, so will you always be my people, with a name that will never disappear,” says the LORD.All humanity will come to worship me from week to week and from month to month. And as they go out, they will see the dead bodies of those who have rebelled against me. For the worms that devour them will never die, and the fire that burns them will never go out. All who pass by will view them with utter horror.” Isaiah 66:22-24 NLT

The choice seems pretty easy doesn’t it? Life or death. Eternity as one of God’s beloved worshiping Him forever…Or we can choose death. We can choose rebellion. We can choose an eternity apart from God. When put in these terms the choice seems rather clear…well obviously you would choose life.

The truth is though, apart from God we always choose death. We will always choose rebellion.

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.” Romans 8:5-8 NLT

Thus, we see our need for Jesus. We need the very life of God to live within us, for apart from the life of Christ there is nothing but death.

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Colossians 1:19 ESV

“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him…” Colossians 2:9-10 ESV

The grace of God in granting me life boggles my mind. If you have been given that life it should boggle yours too…for it is only grace. I know that it has nothing to do with me, because I know exactly how wretched I am apart from Christ. Apart from Him, we are all wretched and swimming in our own death. That is the beauty of grace. From that wretchedness beauty arises…and that beauty is nothing less than Jesus himself.

If you don’t know that you have this life, but feel that you want it…that you need it…you desire this beauty…Perhaps it is God telling you that you are indeed his. Is he calling you? Is he showing you how beautiful Jesus Christ is? I pray that perhaps he is.

Tribute to my Grandmother, Eunice Canuel

Below is the message I preached at my Grandmother’s funeral. She was truly an amazing woman.

Eunice Mills Canuel, September 15, 1914 – August 15, 2010

I want to start out by saying thank you to you all for being here. Our family is so grateful for your presence here, and I know Granny would have been thrilled to see you all, she always loved being surrounded by her loved ones.

My grandmother was the greatest person I have ever known. That is a bold statement, but I stand by it. I mean no disrespect to anyone else here, I have been blessed to know, love, and be loved by many great and wonderful people, but my grandmother’s selfless love, sense of humor, and just her overall outlook on life has had an unparalleled influence on me. Still to this day my fondest childhood memories are of being with her. Whether it was learning to play rummy, which became one of our favorite things to do together, or sitting on the front porch swing talking about how things used to be back in the old days, I loved being around my granny. I’m sure every member of my family can share similar stories, and I’d be willing to bet, most of them would end in laughter, whether it be something granny said, or did. She kept you laughing…that is one of the things I loved most about her.

As much as I loved granny, the last few years have been really hard for me to take, and I know that I’m not alone. Her mind gradually grew worse, to the point that she didn’t even know who I was. Her body began to deteriorate, as the effects of Alzheimer’s took its toll. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease, and I can’t think of a worse way to watch a loved one suffer. To be honest, in the last years of her life, I did not visit my grandmother as much as I should have, because it was simply too hard for me to see her in her condition. For anyone else who has watched a loved one go through this, my heart goes out to you.

As I said, my grandmother was a wonderful person. I would put her righteousness up against anyone else in this room. If anyone came close to living a sinless life-which we know is impossible, it was my grandmother. Knowing what an amazing woman she was, I think is one of the things that made it harder to see her suffer. We’ve all heard the phrase, and I’m sure many of us have even asked the same question before, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” When we see our loved ones suffer, we tend to have 1 of 2 reactions. First we ask, “where is God in this, or why would God let this happen”, which many times leads to anger or bitterness towards God; Or second we might question the very existence of God, as in our minds a “good” God wouldn’t allow this type of suffering.

When I was getting ready to prepare this message, my mind initially went to the book of Job. I was going to talk a lot about suffering, the different types of suffering, and God’s graciousness through it all, and offer some perspectives on suffering and give some thoughts on some of God’s purposes through suffering. As I began to prepare this message, it became clear that it was going to be a 2 hour sermon, and I don’t think any of us wants to hear a 2 hour sermon that revolves around suffering tonight, with our hearts so full of sorrow already. As I prayed, and asked God to give me the words to share tonight, I believe he has led me to another passage. I believe God has decided that what we need to hear tonight, what I need to hear tonight is some words of comfort. With that in mind, let us look to one of the most precious promises in the entirety of Scripture. The words I am about to share with you are, to me, some of the most beautiful words God ever breathed, and inspired the Apostle Paul to put forth in His Word.

Let us now turn our attention to the 8th Chapter of the Book of Romans, verses 31-39

As I watched my grandmother suffer, especially over the last few days, and as we suffered watching her, and even now as we suffer and mourn her loss, what a comforting thought that nothing, nothing at all can separate us, nothing could separate her, from the love of God.

I believe my dad and I got a small glimpse of that the night before she died. As she laid in her bed, slightly gasping, periodically crying out that her legs were in pain, at one instant she shouted out, “OH LORD GOD HELP ME!” Here is a woman that no longer recognized her grandchildren, and even her son at some points…yet she recognized that God was the only one who could help her at that moment. She didn’t know who her family was, yet she knew who her God was.

I prayed for the last few days before her death, for just a moment of clarity for her, where I could look into her eyes, and know that she recognized me, and we could share a moment similar to what we used to before her mind began to deteriorate. I too believe God answered that prayer. Right after my dad left to get some rest the night before grandma passed, I asked her if it would be okay if I spent the night with her. I said, “Granny, it’s been a long time since I spent the night with you, is it okay if I stay here?” She nodded and said, “I mean you can!” Now chances are, she was out of it, and perhaps she still had no clue who I was. But in my mind, I believe I got a glimpse of the old granny. As I looked in her eyes I felt like for the first time in a really long time, she was looking back at me with love. I kissed her head, and told her I loved her. That is a moment I will cherish until the Lord takes me out of this world.

That is evidence my friends of the love of God, and his pouring out of his grace upon us, even in the midst of suffering and difficult circumstances. Many people think that being a Christian means no sickness and suffering, or that God will take away all of our pain and our trials. I don’t know where they get this idea, but it’s not in the Bible.

The bible is filled with examples of God’s people suffering, the greatest example is the suffering of God’s own son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. Jesus was even referred to in Scripture as a “man of sorrows”.

I am here to tell you folks that if you are a Christian, if you are a human, you are going to suffer. Just look at the text I read today. Verse 32, “He” being God, “did not spare even his own Son”. In verse 35 it talks about calamity, persecution, hunger, destitution, danger, and even death. We are never promised a life free of suffering, but what we are promised is that nothing, as Paul says in verse 38 and, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell”….No, not even Alzheimer’s “…can separate us from God’s love”.

Romans 8:28 tells us that, “God causes everything, get that everything, to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Everything means everything friends. Suffering and death included. I believe suffering and death serves two purposes in God’s plan. 1st it reminds us of sin, and ought to show us our need for a savior. Romans 8:33-34 says, “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one-for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”

Adam and Eve our first parents sinned, and brought sin and death into the world. We continue to repeat their sins every day of our lives. Even my grandmother, as marvelous as she was needed a savior, Jesus Christ, was and is that savior for her, and all of us who will call on him.

In the book of Job, the oldest book in the Old Testament Job, a man whom God referred to as righteous, and blameless, talked about his own need for a mediator between him and God. He talked about his confidence that one day He would see His redeemer. That confidence was justified and personified in Christ, not just for Job, not just for my grandmother, but for all of us who will call on Him.

2nd Suffering and death brings us into the very presence of God. It is often during the most difficult of trials that we as believers experience God with us, right where we are. Even more so though, the death of the believer brings them into the very presence of God, where they can bask in His glory, that is shown perfectly in the face of Jesus Christ. That is the promise of the Bible. That is the Gospel my friends. We can escape this world so stained by sin, so full of suffering, pain and death. One day, if you are a believer in Jesus, you will be in His very presence, He will welcome you home one day. What a glorious promise that is. I rejoice that my grandmother is there right now. I rejoice that her mind is sharper than it ever could have been in this sin stained world. She has now been given insights into this creation that I long for. More than anything she is enjoying being with, and worshiping her Lord, her Savior, her redeemer.

I found it interesting yesterday, after grandma passed, the gown that the hospice center put on her had two very interesting phrases written on it. It had sort of an Islandy print, but the words were what really caught my attention. In a few places it had the word, “Destination” written on it. Very fitting, because finally Grandma has reached her destination. In several places though, and I had to chuckle when I read it, it read, “Paradise Discovered” I made the comment to my stepmother, that today she has indeed discovered paradise.

So as we mourn today, let’s not mourn for Grandma. There is no need. As sorrowful as our hearts are for our loss, at least temporarily, let us not have any sorrow for her. I am confident she is having the time of her life. Even if she could come back and be with us again, she wouldn’t do it. She is right where she wants to be. She is where I long to one day be. I pray all of us here today will one day be where she is.

The Purpose of Suffering

This is a blog post I wrote for a friends blog, Blogging Theologically. It is about a week outdated, as my wife’s grandmother has now passed away, and my mother-in-law’s cancer has actually been diagnosed as a stage 4, and the prognosis is not very encouraging. I think in light of those things, the truths I talk about in this post are even more important to hear. Blessings as you read…

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

            Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

            Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

            In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

(Job 1:6-22 ESV)

I have now been a Christian for about 5 years. To be perfectly honest over these 5 years I have been extremely blessed, and have had very few real trials. Like Job at the beginning of this book, I have suffered very little. For many, this is their picture of the Christian life, one of perpetual blessings, whether it be health, wealth, prosperity, etc. I don’t believe as we read the Bible however, that is the perspective we get.  The Christian life and the lives of the people of God are indeed lives filled with suffering. Look at Christ, how much did he suffer? Look at Paul, how much did he suffer? Look at the prophets, read through the Psalms. The Bible is filled with suffering. I’m sure we even know Christians ourselves, who right now are really struggling in some aspect of their life. If not our neighbors, it’s not hard to see how much other Christians are struggling and being persecuted in other parts of the world.

Like I said though, as a whole, and up until now, this has not been my experience. That seems to be changing. This is not a pity party for me. In all honesty, I am very blessed, and my struggles, and my issues, and the issues that my family is going through, while they are very hard things, in comparison to what many others in the world deal with, they are not that bad. Still, suffering of any kind, is not easy. It’s even harder to see those whom you love suffer.

My wife’s grandmother, whom she has always been very close to, is dying. Literally any moment, or any breath, could be her last. She is a Christian, and is ready to go. She has even been praying for the Lord to take her. She is tired, and sick of suffering, she just wants to be with Jesus. I can certainly understand. While I rejoice that her eternity will be glorious, and that she will soon be in the presence of Jesus, it is hard seeing other members of the family suffer. My wife’s mother and aunt especially, they do not grieve well. My wife on the other hand, has an excellent understanding of the sovereignty of God, and the glory that awaits her grandmother, and is joining her grandmother in prayer that the Lord will take her soon. Still I know seeing other members of her family suffering, and grieving, is tough on her. It is tough for me, so I can only imagine what she is dealing with.

To add to that, my wife’s mother, who is already grieving for her mom, has been diagnosed with some form of colon or rectal cancer. At this point they are estimating stage 3, but we won’t know more for a few days. Again, my wife is taking it pretty well, though I know she is suffering, and grieving at seeing her mom weak, and in pain, and frightened at the uncertainty of the treatments that await, not to mention the potential loss of her mother. We are hoping and praying for the best, but we know either way, the next year is going to be a difficult one. We may even be forced to sale our house, in order to move in with her parents, to help care for them. (My wife’s father is also in poor health) We have 4 children, so moving in with her parents will not be easy, if it comes to that, so we will be greatly mourning the loss of our personal space, and time. Still we are eager to help them in any way we can, as they have been such a help to us in raising our family.

I could go on, about all the stuff going on in my life, and the life of my family right now. Let’s just leave it at, life is difficult right now, I have touched on the major issues, but there is much more, which I will spare the readers.

I quoted the above passage from Job for a couple of reasons. First, it tells us that God is sovereign, even over our suffering. I don’t know about you, but that gives me a lot of comfort. To know that my God, is in control, even in the midst of my suffering, it is very comforting to me. When bad things happen, many Christians tend to want to blame Satan, or think they are being tested or punished. The fact is, Satan too, is under the thumb of God, and can only do what God allows him to. Job was a righteous man, so he wasn’t being punished for anything. As you read through the book of Job, though you’ll discover that God did have a very real purpose to allowing Job to go through these trials. Through his suffering, Job saw that His view of God was too small, and he got a glimpse of the enormity, and the overwhelming power of God. (Job 42:1-6) Secondly, we see from Job an excellent response, and the way all of us ought to respond to suffering and trials. After Job lost all he owned, and his very children, the text says that Job, “fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job understood God was in control, though I don’t think he fully got it yet, as you’ll see later in the book, still Job knew all he had was from God, and that God could take that away if he so chose. Still Job chose to worship, and praise God even in the midst of this trial. I can’t even imagine losing all I had, and my children. Would I praise God in the midst of that? I would hope so. I would hope my faith would be that strong, I would hope I would have that firm a grasp of who God is. Will I be an example even now, as my family is going through many trials, and will I give God praise even now, in the midst of all we are going through? I don’t see any other option. Even now I must rejoice that I worship a sovereign and loving God.

I will leave us now with a word from the Apostle Peter, in which he tells us what the purpose of suffering is. 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

All we suffer is for the purpose of making Christ known, and to bring him much praise, honor, and glory. May we all be found faithful in the midst of our trials, Amen…

Now that’s living!

…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Philippians 3:10-11 ESV

Many of us who live our lives as Christians set for ourselves the goal of “living like Christ”. We look to Christ as our great example of how to “live”. Now I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, to imitate Christ in our lives is a great thing, something that is commanded in Scripture, yet we must understand first and foremost, to live like Christ is to die to ourselves. We should desire, and strive to “live” like Christ, but that in itself means that we must desire, and strive to die like Christ.  That was Paul’s desire, and it must be our desire as well. Paul said he wanted to “know him and the power of his resurrection” but Paul understood very well that was impossible if he did not become like Christ in his death, and in his sufferings. That is how we attain the “power of his resurrection” that is how we are able to “know him(Christ)” and that is how we are able to “live” like Christ.

*Just as a side not, when I say we must be willing to die like Christ, or become like Christ in His death, I am not saying we must all die on a cross, or even give our lives as a martyr (though we should be willing to do that if need be), but what I am speaking of is more of what it says in Galatians 5:24, to “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires…” or Romans 12:1, to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice…” Basically what I am speaking of is to die to ourselves, so that we can live for Christ (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-17)

Are we really willing to “die” like Christ? Is our hearts desire really to “know” Him? Are we really willing to “share in His sufferings” do we really want to become like Him? When spoken of like this, is the Christian life more or less desirable to you? Take some time to think about it, I know I will…

“…And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:8 ESV

You should be in hell right now…

When’s the last time you stopped and thought “I should be in hell right now.” Francis Chan

That is very powerful statement made by Francis Chan. So what say you?

It’s true you know. We all should be in hell, but because of the unbelievable love and mercy of God, poured out to us through Christ, we aren’t, and don’t have to be, if we put our trust in what He has done…So what say you?

Romans 3:23-25 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Today’s Sermon-Gotta Have Faith

Over the past several weeks, we have been looking at the lives of the Old Testament saints and the Patriarchs, and Will has done an awesome job of going through their lives, and introducing them to us in new ways, and helping us to identify with them in ways that maybe we haven’t before. It’s always a great thing for Christians when we can see Scripture, I think especially for Christians, the Old Testament in a fresh way, and from a different perspective. Many of us tend to look at the Old Testament as not being for us, or not really being relevant to our lives. I think Will has done a great job of showing us that that is not the case. All Scripture, all 66 books are for us, to read and to learn from.

So the past several weeks Will has been introducing us to some of the ”big” guys in Scripture, you know like Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and last week Moses. Today though we are going to be focusing in on a slightly more obscure person from the Bible.

Today we are going to be looking at the prophet Elijah and his meeting and his stay with a poor widow. Elijah is of course not an obscure fellow, but I’m not going to focus in on him a whole lot. Will has said he is going to be teaching on him in the upcoming weeks, so I’m going to let Will dive deeper into his life and ministry, but I want us to focus in on this widow and her faith, and how God works, even when we don’t really understand what He’s doing. Hopefully we can learn from this widow and from the pages of Scripture how to have the type of faith God desires us to have.

We are going to be looking in 1 Kings Chapter 17, so if you want you can go ahead and turn there, and while I’m not going to be going into great detail about Elijah and his ministry, I do want to give you a little background into what is going on when Elijah meets this widow, and some of the circumstances surrounding the situation.

During the time period here we will be looking at, the people of God, “Israel”, the twelve tribes, are divided into two Kingdoms. There was Israel to the north, and Judah to the south. At this time, Ahab is the king of Israel. We are told in Scripture that Ahab was an especially evil king. 1 Kings 16:33 it says, “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” This is a bold statement because when you read the history of these kings, they were some pretty rough dudes, and were immersed in idolatry. But there was something especially evil about Ahab. Ahab took a Phoenician princess named Jezebel to be his wife. Jezebel was a worshiper of Ba’al, who was a Canaanite God who was believed to have authority over rain and fertility. Jezebel not only worshiped Ba’al, but she also led Ahab to do the same. (1 Kings 21:25) If that wasn’t bad enough she even went so far as to murder the prophets of the Lord. (1 Kings 18:3) It seems that Jezebel wasn’t content just to worship Ba’al, but she wanted to wipe out Israel’s worship of their God altogether. Ahab did little or nothing to stop it.

Here is where we pick up our text. As I mentioned earlier, Ba’al was thought to have authority over rain and fertility. God has this really cool habit of taking on these false God’s directly, and displaying His authority. One of the best examples of this is back in Exodus, and each of the plagues God sent upon Egypt. Each of those plagues seemed to have been related to, and directed towards a different Egyptian “deity”. God does something very similar here in 1 Kings 17. God speaks to Ahab through Elijah, and tells Him that He is bringing a drought to the land. God is basically displaying to Ahab that He and He alone is in control of the rain and all of creation for that matter. With the coming famine, God instructs Elijah where to go so that he will be taken care of. That is where we are going to pick up our text.

1 Kings 17

So when we start out our text at the beginning of Chapter 17, we read that God speaks through Elijah to Ahab, telling him that a great drought is coming, and that this drought will only end when He says so. As I said, God is displaying to Ahab, as well as the people of Israel, and all of the worshipers of this false God for that matter, that He alone is in control, of the rain, and that He alone is their provider, and their sustainer. Then God instructs Elijah to go eastward and hide by the brook of Cherith, where he will have water to drink from the brook, and that God Himself will provide food for Elijah by commanding the ravens to bring him bread and meat. Again, God is displaying to Elijah, and all of us today, that He is our provider and sustainer. We are then told that the drought is so bad, that the brook dries up. The Lord then instructs Elijah to go to Zarephath, and to dwell there, because He has commanded a widow to feed him.

I love this exchange between Elijah and the widow. Elijah arrives at the gate, and he saw a widow that was gathering sticks. Elijah then tells her, to bring him some water so that he can drink. The widow agrees and then goes to get it, and then Elijah says, “while you are getting me some water, bring me some bread too.” The widow goes on to explain that she has no bread baked, and that all she has is a handful of flour, and a little bit of oil in a jug. She had planned to gather a few sticks, go in and prepare a little bit of food for her and her son, and then they planned to die. You get the feeling that this widow is basically preparing herself and her son their last meal. Or at least this is what the widow thinks. Elijah says, “Look, don’t be afraid. Go ahead, do what you said you are going to do, fix yourself and your son something to eat. But first, make me a little cake, or a little bit of bread, and bring it to me. Because God says that your jar of flour and your jug of oil will not empty, until the day that He makes it rain.”

Amazingly she obeys. The Bible says that, “she went and did as Elijah said.”(15) It also says that she and her household ate for many days, and the jar of flour, “was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty.”

I want us to note a couple of things here. Notice what the widow says in verse 12, “As the Lord YOUR God lives”. This woman was not a worshiper of the God of Israel. She did not know, the one true God. Here, along comes this prophet of the God of Israel, a God she didn’t worship, asking her to bring him some water, and some food. She and her son were almost out of food…Imagine what must have been going through her mind here. I have 3 small children, and a wife. Luckily we aren’t lacking for food, you can look at myself and see that. Some of you here have children, or a spouse, and I think we all at least have someone in our lives that we love and are close to. Imagine all of a sudden, there was a shortage of food. Imagine that you had enough, for maybe one more meal. You were pretty certain that after this meal, there would be no more food. Basically, you were planning to die.

Now imagine, here comes some ragged looking stranger, saying that he was thirsty, and wanted some of your food. You’d look at him and say he was crazy. I’d look at him and say he’s crazy. Can you imagine the thought of you or even worse your loved ones going hungry, so that some stranger can eat? Not many of us are going to jump on that train.

But the Bible tells us that this widow obeyed. Now God had earlier stated that He had commanded the widow to feed Elijah. (9) Apparently this is news to the widow because she seems to have no idea. God doesn’t always, in fact very seldom does he speak to us audibly. But what God does is arrange certain circumstances, and ordains situations, and He enables us to make decisions that are in line with His will. So here we have this widow, that is not a worshiper of the God of Israel, speaking to a prophet of the Lord, and she obeys him. This isn’t normal. This doesn’t make sense. This place, Zarephath, was in the heartland of where this god Ba’al was worshiped. Yet this widow was obeying a prophet of the Lord God of Israel.

Sometimes God’s ways just don’t make sense. This whole situation has a big old “don’t make sense” written all over it. First of all God sends His prophet, into the heart of Ba’al country, to be fed by a widow who doesn’t believe in Him or at least doesn’t worship Him, and who doesn’t have any food. If I didn’t know God was involved here, I would say this was a situation with a high probability of failure. But thank God for the widow, He was involved. And thank God for us in our lives, He is involved.

How many times in our lives have we said, “okay God, this doesn’t make any sense, what are you doing here?” I know I’ve thought that. I think that all the time. You might be going through a situation like that yourself right now. But just because a situation doesn’t make sense to you, doesn’t mean that God isn’t at work. Why does God put us in situations like this? Why does He put us in situations that make absolutely no sense? I think it’s because God wants us to have faith. If everything made perfect sense, and everything was predictable, faith wouldn’t be a necessity. This isn’t a one time occurrence in this passage, but look in 2 Kings 5, when Naaman a commander in the Syrian army, who was a leper was told to go and bathe in the Jordan, and then he would be made clean. Naaman was looking for a miracle cure, and was shocked that he was told to go and bathe in some muddy water. Yet he eventually obeyed, and was in fact cured. Look at John 9, verse 7. Jesus put mud, made with his own spit, on the eyes of a blind man, and then told him to go and wash. These things didn’t make sense, yet it shows us how God works. His ways are not our ways, sometimes they don’t make sense, but when God has commanded something, and we take steps of faith, God blesses that, and we are always glad that we obeyed Him.

So why did this widow obey? I don’t think there was anything particularly convincing in the way Elijah spoke to the widow, or made his requests. I simply think she was at the point to where she saw what she was doing just wasn’t working. She was at the point in her life, and she was in a situation in which she had no hope. She knew with the way things were going she and her son would be dead soon. She told Elijah she and her son were about to eat and then they were going to die. I would say the widow was at a point in her life of absolute brokenness.

Some of us have been at those points in our lives ourselves. Some of us are going through those situations right now, and most all of us, if not certainly all of us will go through situations like that in the future. You know what, God allows those situations to introduce Himself to us, and to show us how awesome He is. He allows those situations to show us our absolute dependence on Him. God uses those situations of brokenness to show us that without Him, we have nothing, and can do nothing. God uses these situations to show us that He alone is our provider and our sustainer, and He wants us to depend on Him. I’m not just talking here about physical needs, but I’m also talking about emotional needs, Spiritual needs, and any kind of need you can think of.

At a church I used to go to, the preacher was speaking one day about a missionary trip he was on. I can’t remember where it was, but I do remember him talking about how poor the people there were. How they lacked so many of the things we take for granted. There wasn’t a lot of food, many places had no electricity, they were poorly dressed, they probably even had worn out shoes with no soles. But there were some folks there that just had an amazing faith. He told the story of one young girl there that he spoke to, that had such faith, and such love for God. The Pastor asked her, where her faith came from. Her answer he said always stuck with him, and since hearing the story, it has stuck with me. She told him, “You realize that God is all you need, when God is all you have.”

I personally think that should be a prayer for us. If we haven’t gotten to the point of brokenness yet, where we realize that God is all we need, I think we should pray for a situation like that. I think we should pray for a situation that completely breaks us, to the point that we realize that God is truly all we need. I think that is where this widow was at.

She was in a seemingly hopeless situation, and she knew that this Ba’al she was worshiping, or probably had worshiped in the past just wasn’t doing it. She had nothing left to loose, so she obeyed Elijah, she obeyed the Word of the Lord. Eventually she was infinitely glad she did.

She was thrilled I’m sure, and grateful I’m sure that she and her son, as well as Elijah had food to eat. But imagine now what must have been going through her mind when her son became sick and died. Here she was, she had obeyed the prophet, she had obeyed the word of the Lord, and everything seemed to be going fine, and then BOOM! Her son is dead. She was angry. She was not only angry with God, but she was also angry with Elijah, this “man of God”. I can understand. She didn’t have an accurate picture of who God was, I mean here she was blaming Elijah for something that she knew came from God, but she did know that somehow, this was from God. She thought that God was somehow punishing her, for her past sins. (18) I don’t know for sure what sins she was talking about, but I tend to think she was talking about her past worship of this false God.
Elijah too seemed to be a bit taken aback by what happened. He took the boy upstairs and “cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn by killing her son?” (20) Verses 21-22 then tell us that Elijah stretched out over the child, and begged God to restore the child’s life. God did just that, and Elijah brought the child back downstairs and gave the child back to his mother. The widow responds, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” (24)

If it wasn’t for God’s intervention, and one step of faith by this widow one day when she met the prophet Elijah, both she and her son would have already been dead. Yet God provided for her, physically, by providing her with food and oil, after she took that step of faith. But even more so I believe on this eventful day, God provided for her Spiritually, and I believe she became a believer in the God of Israel, the one true God, and I believe she was saved as a result of what happened when her son died, and God raised him back to life. She received more of a blessing from this one step of faith than she ever could have imagined.

I believe the same thing is, and can be true for all of us. God asks us all to take steps of faith. He first does that for salvation. God reveals Himself to us in all of His awesomeness, as He did to this widow, and He asks us to take a step of faith and believe in Him. Now it isn’t a blind leap of faith, don’t misunderstand me, He has done much to show us who He is, namely in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, through His miracles, and finally in His resurrection from the dead. If any of us haven’t taken that step of faith, I would ask us to reflect and search our hearts, and ask if maybe He is asking us to do that here today. I’m not talking about attempting to live the Christian life by our own power, but I’m talking about have we ever come to the point that we realize we are totally lost without Him. Have we ever realized our complete dependence on Him, and made Him Lord of our lives. That is what I’m talking about.

But even after salvation, God asks us to take steps of faith. I think that is different for all of us. God has ordained all of our lives to glorify Him in different ways. Perhaps it is to take a step of faith and share your faith with your neighbor, your co-worker, or perhaps even your spouse, or your children. Perhaps it’s a change of career, or making some sacrifices so that you can be more financially independent. Perhaps it’s planting a church, like we are trying to do here. I don’t know what your “step of faith” is. But I do know that if God tells you to do something, and you trust Him, and obey Him, He will bless it. And the blessing will be greater than you could ever imagine. I believe we see an excellent example of that here in the life of this widow. She trusted and obeyed even when it didn’t make sense. Remember God’s ways don’t always make sense. We saw an example of that here in this text, but I think we see an even greater example in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Does it make sense that a virgin would become pregnant and give birth to God’s own Son? Does it makes sense that God would take on human flesh and come to earth, and live the life of a poor man, then die so that we could be forgiven for our sins? No, that doesn’t make sense to our tiny finite minds, but that is precisely what God did. Does it make sense that a man who was beaten to near death, then hung on a cross to die, and was then buried, could be raised from the grave? Nope, that doesn’t make sense either, but that is precisely what happened. And all of that was done, ultimately for God’s glory, but also it was done for us. God asks us to take a step of faith, and believe in Him, then live our lives for Him. If we do, the blessings will be even greater than we can imagine. I’m not promising you a new Cadillac, or a big house, or lots of money, like some preachers will. But I am promising you an eternity with the God of the universe. To me that’s much better.

God’s ways don’t always make sense. He is beyond us. But I’m glad for that, because if we could understand all of His ways, He would cease to be God. God does require us to take steps of faith, God does ask us to trust and obey Him, even at those times when it may not make sense. God may break us, but that is not a time to doubt God, or to be angry at God. It is at those times we need to have more faith.

In my studies this past week I came across a passage in the Book of Mark that just grabbed me. I’m going to end the message today with these verses, and a short prayer.

Mark 9:17-27

Jesus told this father “All things are possible for one who believes” The man then cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief.” I wonder how many of us pray, while at the same time we are doubting God, and what He is doing, and can do in our lives. Perhaps our first prayer ought to be for faith, and a change of heart. I think what this man cries out, ought to be our prayer as well…We all at times suffer from a lack of faith, we all at times suffer from unbelief, we all at times doubt God, we all at times doubt what God can do and is doing in us and through us.

So this is my prayer for all of us, “Father, please help our unbelief.”