Tag Archives: Tough Times

Sometimes Faith Doesn’t Make Sense

Sunday I had the joy of preaching on the life of the prophet Elijah from I Kings 17:1-16. It was a joy because I so identify with how God shaped and challenged him. Even as I prepared and preached the message, I relearned some significant truths. I’ve italicized those that spoke to me. Which ones speak to you?

God told Elijah to begin his ministry by proclaiming to the evil king Ahab and the evil queen Jezebel that there would be no more rain or dew until God sent it! From that moment on there was no rain or dew. To preserve and protect Elijah God sent him away to Brook Cherith where he would be out of Ahab’s jurisdiction, would have water from the brook and be fed by ravens.

Yet after a time the brook dried up. Sometimes faith just doesn’t make sense. Now what? Elijah thought he was safe. It just demonstrates that we’re never fully ready when a crisis arrives at our doorstep. But God is always prepared. When the brook dried up, He told Elijah what to do and where to go. Isn’t that just like God? His word comes at the time of crisis, not before. Seldom does God tell us His will before we need to know it. Don’t worry or panic about some crisis that may come to your doorstep sometime in the future; when it arrives, so will God.

So God told Elijah He had made a way. And what a way it was! He said, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. There is a widow there who will feed you. I have given her my instructions.” God’s way does not always appear logical. Zarephath literally means, “A smelting furnace, a place of refining; a crucible.” It was the center of the area where the worship of Baal started. The people of Zarephath and the surrounding area were the ones responsible for God’s judgment in the drought. And now they had no water or food. And what was worse, a King lived there, named Ethbaal, who was the father of wicked Queen Jezebel. So God was telling Elijah to go from the security of a place where he at least had food and was safe from Ahab to a place of extreme drought and famine right into the jurisdiction of Ahab again. And that’s not all! God said He had talked to a widow to help him. A widow – someone with no social or economic standing, no husband, no relationship with her father’s family, no job, no means of support. Sometimes faith doesn’t make sense. This was really a challenge to trust God!

But Elijah headed off to Zarephath. He realized that God was calling him to more than just a place – He was calling him to an attitude of persistent obedience. Not only was Zarephath a tough place but just getting there took persistence! It meant a journey of about 90-100 miles – on foot – through drought-stricken land. Obedience can be painful and confusing. There are no five or ten-year plans in the Bible. God simply asks His people to follow Him, and then He points out the next step. I have learned, along with Elijah, that obedience comes one step at a time, one day at a time. Not once, when answering a call to a new location, did I know the next step. I only knew I was to go. But I also discovered, as did Elijah, that as our day is – as our steps are – so shall our strength be. We can never know the future significance of our current obedience to God. If God is asking, right now, for obedience in some area of your life, just do it. God knows why He needs it; God knows the influence of it. So just do it.

In that spirit and with that attitude, Elijah made the long journey to Zarephath. There, just as he arrived at the gate of the city, was the widow gathering up sticks. This wasn’t a coincidence; it was a God thing! Who else but God could have arranged this? As he was told to do Elijah asked her for a cup of water. And as she left to get it, he added, “Bring me a bite of bread too!” She turned to him and said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” Elijah knew he was asking her for what she did not have. What could she possibly offer him? Faith sometimes doesn’t make sense. But, then, isn’t that just like God? He often demands from us what we think we do not have. But God never asks from us what He will not also give to us in the first place. He had told Elijah the widow could provide. God knew she could provide; Elijah knew she could provide; she just needed to know she could provide. It makes me wonder: What is God asking from you right now?

Whatever it is, remember the rest of the story. Elijah told her: “Don’t be afraid. Go ahead and cook that ‘last meal,’ but bake me a little loaf of bread first. Afterward there will still be enough food for you and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘There will always be plenty of flour and oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” There’s the key – God is bigger than our need. God is bigger than our desires, our plans, our lack of knowledge, our lack of time or money; bigger than our circumstances or our limitations. So don’t be afraid. Work with God. Elijah challenged the widow to first give away – for in giving there is blessing!

Think about it. Elijah told her that God would provide oil and flour. Well, if God would provide oil and flour, couldn’t He also have simply provided the bread? But that’s just like God, isn’t it? He’s always partnering with us, to grow us. He wanted to flood the earth, but He first had Noah build the ark. God was going to part the Red Sea, but He first had Moses hold out his rod. God was prepared to destroy Jericho, but first the Jews had to march around it. Similarly God wanted the widow to be part of His miracle. God can use anyone and anything at any time. He can use any one – even you. He can use anything – even your circumstances and situation. He can do it at any time – even right now! God is bigger than any of your needs. So whatever your situation, work with Him – even if faith doesn’t make sense.***

***This is a portion of an adaptation of one sermon from a series  entitled “Getting Into Shape.” The series was composed of 1st person portrayals of  some of God’s key leaders. If interested in an ebook format of the series – or a hard copy – pleaser contact me.

A Mountain Climbing Lesson

I’ve never climbed a mountain, which is a good thing. I still remember having to ride my bike up a steep hill on the way to school – it left me breathless (and not because of the scenery) and my legs all but exploded. And it happened every time – it never got any easier! I can’t imagine what climbing a mountain would be like! But I do know this about mountains – they can make for some beautiful scenery, and the view from the top is breath-taking.

But when the mountains  are in the middle of the road upon which we’re walking, they’re anything but beautiful. In fact, they’re downright ugly, standing there blocking our path. They’re nothing but a huge obstacle that keeps us from enjoying our walk and that slows our progress.

Often the issues, problems or situations with which we deal stretch out over an extended period of time – months or even years. The longer they last the bigger they become –  like a huge mountain that  blocks our road.  We are stunned when the mountain first appears on the horizon; so we stir up our positive juices and claim we’ll make it to the other side all right. Then we began to climb, and soon we we are breathless and even feel like we’ll explode. Suddenly we aren’t so sure we’ll be able to continue the walk. After all, the mountain is too high, to broad, too imposing. The next thing we know, we’re in the valley, looking up, wondering if we’ll make it to the other side. (But let’s not forget that even in the valley, we’re OK. Even though I walk through the valley…You are with me…”)

We’re not alone. Israel knew all about mountains. So did Isaiah (49:11): “I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up.” Or as the New Living Translation puts it: “And I will make my mountains into level paths for them. The highways will be raised above the valleys.” “God will make a way when there seems to be no way…!” If we believe that the mountains and the hills are His, then we can believe He knows the way through and will be faithful as we walk together. God will raise us up or lower the mountain – but one way or another He’ll get us out of the valley and make a straight way.  I even have a sneaky feeling that because of the mountain, we’ll appreciate the beauty on the other side even more. So whatever your mountain, walk on – keep climbing.

As Don Moen wrote: “God will make a way when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see; He will make a way for me. He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side. With love and strength for each new day; He will make a way, He will make a way.”

Trashy Treasure


An abandoned area that is covered with trash and street graffiti. This makes an excellent background or backdrop. Shallow depth of field.

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. It’s most often said when advertising a rummage sale. I’ve heard and said it often. However, I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with it – I’ve wondered what impact it has upon those purchasing the items in the sale. If my stuff is trash, does that mean the person buying it is a trashy person? I hope not – I would never mean it that way. I hope the message is that we all have different needs and view things differently. What I don’t need, you may need. What I see as useless, you may see as useful. What I see as of little value, you may see of great value. It’s all a matter of perspective. I determine what is trash and treasure in my life and you determine what it is in yours.

It occurs to me that this same principle applies to what happens to us, to how we respond to the events and circumstance of life. I pondered this recently when I read a chapter in Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book, “Buried Treasure.”[i] He pointed out that in the Hebrew language a word spelled backwards often has the opposite meaning of the original word.  For example the Hebrew word for trash is resh-peh-shin. Reverse it and you get shin-peh-resh, which is the root for the word SHaPiR which means ‘excellent’ or ‘fine’ and is the basis of the word sapphire. I find that fascinating. When I’m in the midst of a

antique wooden chest isolated on white background

difficult experience it looks bad, like trash. But often time tells a different story; when I later look back on it I see how it was an experience that refined, molded and taught me. The trash was really a treasure.

This changes how I view my present experiences. Is the tough time I’m going through trash or treasure? My perspective will determine how I respond. It’s now so much what happens to us that matters as it is how we respond to what happens to us. It’s not what life brings to us in her hands as it is what we bring to life in ours.

That’s one of the reasons I wrote my book on the life of Joseph.[ii] His life was full of trash – dysfunctional family, rejection, revenge, guilt, broken dreams, temptation, and self-pity. But they were mere stepping stones that took him from a pit of death to a place in a palace. When he was reconciling with his brothers – who had betrayed him – he proclaimed “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” He saw all the tough times in his life not as trash but trashy treasure.

Joseph’s life principle points to Jesus. Even He demonstrated that trash could be treasure. He died the most cruel and despised death of all – crucifixion. But when he rose from the dead He proved the trashy cross was really the treasure of salvation for all who believe.

Whatever you view as trash in your life, try reversing your thinking. It may just become a treasure. Be open to what God is doing in your life.

[i] Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Buried Treasure (Multnomah Publishers, 2001), 151f.

[ii] “When the Going Gets Tough” – see www.revcpikk.com