God’s Love Never Fails

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39

As a pastor, I constantly catch small glimpses, these small moments where I see Jesus, alive and well, moving and mattering, showing up everywhere, in the lives of many in any number of ways. God’s love is all around us. C.S. Lewis said that, “though our feelings come and go, God’s love does not.”

To see God’s love, we need to get our eyes off our shortcomings and the distractions in our lives. We need to learn to open our heart and our life to the perfect love of Christ, and experiencing his presence and his presents in our life. This process will give us the eyes to see and the heart to experience His love. 

But let me ask you a question. Do you find it hard to believe that God loves us that much? Is it difficult to fathom that the God of the universe loves us and is present in our lives on a daily basis? It can be difficult to get our head around the idea of the infinite, and unconditional love of our Heavenly Father.

I think this is because we always try to put God’s love into human terms, or terms that we can understand. We are conditioned to measure love by “if’s,” “maybe’s,” and “because’s.” “I’ll love you if you do this.” Or, “I love you because you did that.” It is hard to imagine that a love without some sort of condition even exists. Yet God wants us to know that such a love exists and we can feel secure in His love. If a person has never come to know genuine unconditional love, then he only knows the rules for conditional love. And the foremost rule for conditional love is, “you must earn the right to be loved.” You must measure up to my standards before I will love you. And of course the other horrible aspect of conditional love is that it can be taken back at any time. In other words, if you do something to displease me, I will stop loving you.

God’s love is not based on what we have, what we do, or what we achieve. God’s love is not determined by our behavior or by our conduct. It does not depend on our background or our birth or status in society. God’s love is not influenced by anything that we say or do. 

There is nothing you can do to win any more of God’s love. In fact, there is absolutely no way that you can get God to love you anymore than He does right now at this very second of your life. It is God’s nature and character to love each and everyone of us. We are told in the Bible that God is love. 

So then, because God’s love is unconditional and it’s not based on your performance, you should accept it, receive it, delight in it and experience it as a present from a loving Heavenly Father. So how can we not enjoy life in His love, His presence and His presents in our life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How important is love to human beings? Why do you think it is so important?
  2. What are some words that describe God’s love?
  3. What does the phrase “God so loved the world” in John 3:16 tell us about God’s love? How big is His love? Who does He love?
  4. What is hard for me to understand or believe about His love?
  5. Have I seen His love in action in my life? In what ways?

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” – Lamentations 3:22

If you ask the average person if they wanted to be happy, they would look at you like this is a trick question.  Who wouldn’t want to be happy? In fact, if you were to make a list right now of all the things you want in your life, chances are the vast majority of things that make the list are the things that make you happy, or at least you think they will make you happy.

You may think if you have a bigger house, more money, a better car, a different job or a better boss you’d be happy. Many of those things are based on another person or on some kind of outward circumstance over which you have no control. It reminds me of the scenes from a movie where some guy is out in the desert. He’s so thirsty his mind is playing tricks on him. He thinks he sees a pool of water up ahead. It looks very real to him. He staggers toward the water. But when he reaches the water’s edge, he discovers the pool of water is just more desert. It was just a mirage—something that appeared to be something that is not really there. 

Many of us have been that poor guy in the desert seeking happiness by chasing after things that convince us that happiness was just around the corner. All we need is something that we can’t find in other people or in other circumstances. Unfortunately, those things are often a mirage.

The truth is, God wants you to enjoy your life every day. Take a look at John 10:10 (AMP). It says, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” This scripture clearly tells us that God doesn’t just want us to live our life in a desert. He wants us to live with abundant joy.

I would encourage you to not wait on when, or wait on someday. So many people have the mindset that they will be really happy and enjoy life when…they go on vacation, when the kids are older, when they get higher on the ladder of success at work, when they get married…whatever we hope for in the future. We can all relate to waiting for a when in our lives.   

Make a decision today to connect to God. Remember that God loves you always. He knows everything about you and loves you anyway. We all have things about us and in our lives that need to change, but they will really only change when we’re abiding in Christ, living with the joy of the Lord.

As you go about your day today, make this your goal: Set the Lord continually before you and He will give you strength to face any problems you have to deal with, and you’ll enjoy your life while you’re doing it.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever wondered why you did not let yourself be happier?
  2. What is the secret to finding happiness in your mind?
  3. Can we enjoy our lives more? Why or why not?
  4. Pray and ask God to help you set the Lord continually before you.   

Multiply Loaves, Fishes and Generosity

“Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” – Haggai 1:5-7

Through The Multiply series, we talked about offering God the first fruits of giving, serving and our time. Our hope was that through this series we would recognize His giving at a deeper level so that we might be able to give to Him in deeper ways, and help change the we you think about and manage what God gives you financially. The bottom line is that when we put God first in our lives, God always does more than we expect. Our motivation for this series comes from Matthew 6:33 and says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

For the purpose of summary, here are some key points from the Multiply series in no particular order:

  1. We experience abundance most fully when we ask God for the spirit of generosity. Ask God to give you His heart for others as you give, trusting Him to provide your needs.” And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9)
  2. God will provide more than we need if we are willing to risk sharing what we do have, even when it seems like “not enough”.  Jesus multiplies what is faithfully given when nothing is held back because we’re worried about having enough. Ask God for faith to give to Him and then watch how He will multiply it. 
  3. Whatever gifts, talents or skills we’ve been given, they are entrusted to us so we can use them to bless others. We bless others out of gratitude for the grace and mercy that God has bestowed upon us.  Intentionally share your gifts, talents or skills as an act of worship to God.
  4. Generosity opens the door to new opportunities. The law of giving and receiving cannot be suspended. When you sow seeds of generosity, you reap a harvest of opportunity. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)  In blessing others, we are blessed. Generosity is not only an investment towards a solution to someone’s plight, but an investment in your own future. So, generosity is not about money. It’s about changed lives.

I pray that you enjoyed this series and this series will help you make lasting change in your lives. We have many compelling reasons to be generous. Lives will be forever changed, including our own when we are generous.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think a spiritually-motivated and Bible-focused generosity movement is needed in the world today? Why or why not?
  2. If God is truly bigger than a paycheck, what are some ways you have seen him bring provisions into your life recently?
  3. List some of the available time, talents, treasure, and things that God has given you. What is a way that some of these things could be used for the Lord and for others?
  4. Can you recall a time when you experienced God’s crazy math and saw the Lord provide in unexpected ways?
  5. What is the greatest benefit or insight you have gained from the Multiply series? 

Stewardship Unplugged

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. – Psalm 50:7-12. 

Stewardship is a familiar subject in church today. But while it is often talked about, I’m not sure people fully understand the concept. But when we fully grasp the idea of stewardship, it will change the way we make decisions each day. If we really understand what it means to be good stewards, we will begin to see our lives change. Because like all Biblical principles, there is tremendous benefit gained by following them.

The dictionary defines stewardship like this: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care <stewardship of natural resources>

Notice that it says “managing of something.” We all have things we manage. We all have things we are responsible for. And we all make decisions about those things.  So what are those “things?”  Basically, we are stewards over everything God has given us. Our time, our money, our gifts and abilities, our influence, it all comes from God. There are references to stewardship throughout the Bible, including the Parable of the Talents. (Matthew 25:14-30)  In this well-known parable, the good stewards took “risks” and action in order to multiply what they had been given. The bad steward was risk averse and was called lazy. 

As stewards we have a responsibility to use what we have been given wisely. Just like in the parable of the talents, it is up to us how we use what we have been given. We can choose to bury it like the “lazy” steward or we can make more from what we have been given like the “good” stewards.

The great thing is that as we prove ourselves faithful in small things we will be given more and bigger things to be stewards over. “‘His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:20-22)

Finances tend to be the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about stewardship. That makes sense, because money is one of the most difficult things to give. Many people are okay giving their time, or sharing their abilities, but money provides security and is harder to part with. The reality is we came into this world with nothing and we will leave with nothing. It all just gets passed on to someone else. The amazing thing is that we have the opportunity to “store up for ourselves treasures in heaven” by being generous with the things God has given us to steward. 

Stewardship can seem daunting. After all, being managers of our families, possessions, the earth and builders of a kingdom puts a lot on our plate. But remember, God promises us that He’ll never require something of us that we cannot accomplish. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed”(2 Corinthians 9:8 NASB).

Discussion Questions:

  1. Would you say you are generously giving or generously living? Why?
  2. What is your biggest motivation for giving?
  3. Where do you think you are most gifted by God?
  4. What are you doing to develop your areas of giftedness so you can better serve others?
  5. What are some specific examples of where you have seen God bless when you have invested your time, talents, and treasures?

A Declaration of Dependence

“God is looking for imperfect men and women who have learned to walk in moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit. Christians who have come to terms with their inadequacies, fears, and failures. Believers who have become discontent with ‘surviving’ and have taken the time to investigate everything God has to offer in this life.” –  Charles Stanley.

It amazes me how quickly children move from the infantile state of total dependence to relative independence. Each step along that continuum, they start to develop the, “I can do it myself” mindset. This attitude is reinforced by a culture that prides itself on its own resourcefulness and self-reliance. But self-reliance can shut out God. 

We can find ourselves in circumstances that are unfixable and unbearable. Unforeseen trials, huge life changes, medical crises and shattered relationships can leave us lost and powerless.

Yet it goes against our nature to be in a place we can’t fix. We want to be able to handle things. God, however is looking for us to be completely dependent on Him. Often that complete dependence on God results from situations or circumstances completely out of our control. 

Maybe you are in that position right now. You feel powerless. And vulnerable. You need God. Fortunately over and over again God calls Himself “our helper.”

  1. “…God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble..” (Psalm 46:1)
  2. “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” (Psalm 54:4)
  3. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” (Psalm 33:20)
  4. “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

We depend on God all the time, and there are times we can do nothing else. The Lord gives us the faith we need to make it through those times. But it is not all about bad times. We need and are dependent on God in good times as well.

I love these words from Hudson Taylor:

“I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where he places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases. So, if God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will prove unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you worry about most? When do you replace your faith in God with worry? What is the most generous gift you have ever received? How did it make you feel?
  2. Why would you want to depend on God’s unfailing faithfulness rather than your well intentioned efforts?
  3. Have there been times when you felt that God disregarded your pain and your struggles? How did you feel? How did you respond?
  4. What changes could you make so you will be totally dependent on God in all things?

Unshakeable Contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain.” – 1 Timothy 6:6.

A man was upset that his friends had houses that were larger and more luxurious. That had to change. So he listed his house with a real estate firm, planning to upgrade to a bigger house once his sold. A few weeks passed and he was looking through the real estate section of the newspaper. An ad for a house caught his eye. It seemed ideal from the description. He promptly called the realtor and said, “a house described in today’s paper is exactly what I’m looking for. I would like to go through it as soon as possible!” The agent asked him several questions about it and then replied, “but sir, that’s your house you’re describing.”

We live in a culture where we’re taught to believe that more is never enough and our success is based on how we’re doing in comparison to others. Basically, we have created a culture of discontent. We have closets full of clothes, but complain that we have nothing to wear. We run out of storage space for all our stuff that we don’t use and probably never will. We protect our homes with sophisticated security systems and still fear for our safety. We have 200 channels on our television and complain that there’s nothing worth watching.

We have become short-sighted, plagued with short-attention spans and shorter tempers. We are constantly seeking the secret to happiness and often that search translates into more, bigger, or better. But that doesn’t bring us happiness. Most of us possess so much, yet we enjoy what we have so little.

God wants us to be content because He knows that contentment produces peace, joy and love. 

So how do we find contentment? Let me take a moment and give some additional thoughts from what I talked about on Sunday. One way is to keep from falling into the comparison trap, that is comparing ourselves to others. 2 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” Comparing what we have with what others have means, according to the Bible, we are without understanding. 

Then be content and give thanks in what you do have. “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Instead of focusing on your circumstances or what you don’t have, think about what you do have, and be grateful and thank God for it. 

Finally, share what you have to help others. “…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38) Don’t put your hope in wealth, which is so uncertain. Put your hope in God because He provides for you. Do good with what God has given you and be willing to share it and watch Him multiply and bless you. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. This series is about putting God first. Sometimes our lives get cluttered with things that distract us.  If you could eliminate one thing from your life, what you would eliminate?
  2. Would you define yourself as content or anxious?
  3. What’s the secret to being content in all circumstances?
  4. What are some steps we can take to be more content?

Assembly Required

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV).

You buy something and drive it home with high expectations. But there on the box are those three dreaded words “some assembly required.” Uh oh.

Well, maybe, just maybe, this time the instructions will be thorough. You open the box and let out a sigh. They are not. Just a few sketches that look nothing like the final product. OK, maybe I don’t need instructions.  I can figure this out. Four hours and five bottles of Gatorade later, you realize that you did it all wrong?  You sigh, sigh again and find the instructions to begin again.

Most of us have done this in our spiritual life as well. We try to do things our way, only to realize it doesn’t work all that well. We need to do things God’s way. Fortunately God has given us instructions on how to do things God’s way. We can start with the word of Jesus. “…for apart from me you can do nothing..” (John 15:5) But, Paul gives us the positive side of that coin. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

There are people who believe everyone’s way is equally valid. So why would I abandon my way of doing things and hand it over to God? Let me give you two reasons.

First of all, God’s way is better—“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). As Proverbs 14:12 tells us “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” But God’s way is life. God’s way is better than ours. As hard as it is to let go of what is natural and comfortable to us, we really need to because there is a better way.

Second of all, God’s way works. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s Word accomplishes what God sends it out to accomplish. We  have fallen on our face more often than not when we do things our way.  We thought what we were doing was going to provide lasting happiness, long-term fulfillment, or significant meaning to our lives. Instead, we had a moment of escape and pleasure followed by an empty feeling. Then we look for the next things to add meaning to our lives. This is not God’s way.

God’s way works. When we pursue His way, we will find peace and joy regardless of our circumstances. Even though we have experienced trials in our lives, His way is the best way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe God’s way is always better than our way? Why or why not?
  2. What can you do to grow more in your knowledge of God’s Word?
  3. How does the knowledge that God’s way is better shape our expectations of God? Our generosity?
  4. How easy is it for you to be generous when confronted with a specific need? Why?
  5. What can we do this week to make God’s way our way?

Is God Getting a Return On His Investment?

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” – Psalm 24:1

Have you ever watched the TV program Shark Tank? It is a show about five human sharks, the kind that are very good at negotiating deals to their advantage and others in creating great personal wealth. The premise of the show is that an individual brings a particular idea for a business, such as a new invention or a new way of performing a service, etc. into the shark tank, and then they try to negotiate a deal which will be beneficial for the growth of his or her company.

The shark tank is made up of five very successful people who have made millions and billions of dollars for themselves and for others by skillfully negotiating themselves into advantageous positions of partial or complete control of companies that they have determined were viable operations that showed considerable growth potential. They made deals with people who they see as good partners who will work hard 24/7 to make both them, and the shares, money. 

The sharks rarely negotiate a deal if they detected unreasonable pride, poor preparation, or half hearted commitment, or all three of them. This is a very profound lesson for all of us. Is God going to entrust us with His wealth, His investment, if we are not going to submit to His expertise, and be a 24/7 partner in living as He lives.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” – that is, where your money cannot be destroyed, where the things that you buy or the things you invest in cannot become ineffective. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20) where you know that your investment is certain and where you know the dividends are going to be paid right on time. God’s investment program offers each of us a deal no shark could ever hope to match. There are no times of low sales or low revenue or profit. With God it is always a bull market. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)   

Getting a grip on God’s great and loving investment in us should motivate us to gladly consider making His sacrifice rich in dividends of our money, time and talents.  God doesn’t want your faith to be tied to the Shark Tank. Or to the S&P 500. Or even to a local bank. God wants you to trust deeply in Him. He will provide for all of your needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). I know that’s true. 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 says, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

God makes an incredible investment in His time and energies over our lives  How much do we consider the investment in us that God has made? Are we willing to work 24/7 to protect God’s investment and make His purpose a reality in us?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can we realistically make a return on God’s investment in our lives?
  2. Are you a cheerful giver? Or do you find yourself reluctant to be generous? 
  3. Do you struggle with needing to see the immediate impact of your gift? If so, how do we become cheerful givers who don’t need to see the impact?
  4. Hebrews 13:5 tells us:”Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Are you content with what you have?

Great Generosity

“In all of my years of service to my Lord, I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised. That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability to out give God. Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him, He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.” – Charles Spurgeon

In order to be a generous giver, we need to answer an important question. The question is not “where should I give” or “how much,” but “why do I give.” The answer is pretty straight forward. 

God gave us Jesus. Jesus gave us life. God and Jesus gave us the Holy Spirt. The Holy Spirit gives us direction, comfort, understanding of the Scriptures, and an understanding of God.

We should be overwhelmed when we take a moment to reflect on the incredible generosity of God towards us. God is not reluctant to be generous, he’s not tight-fisted with his generosity, but rather Scripture tells us that he’s extravagant in his generosity. Ephesians 1:8 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.“  Randy Alcorn said, “The more you give, the more comes back to you, because God is the greatest giver in the universe, and He won’t let you out give Him. Go ahead and try. See what happens.”

Christians should be generous. If Christians are not generous, it is probably because they don’t understand how generous God has been to them and how generous God has been to others. God didn’t give a few dollars here and there. He didn’t just spare a couple dollars here and there. He didn’t just add a few percent on a tip. He gave His Son. 

Let’s look at the basics of being generous. Romans 12:13 says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” What Paul is basically saying is that, you have to identify yourself with Christians in need. In other words, we make the needs of other Christians our own needs by asking ourselves some questions:  How are they coping? What would I need if I were in their shoes? What would I do?”

“Is there anything I can do for you,” you ask, and the answer generally is, “Just pray for us at this time.” You don’t have to send them anything; you don’t have to call them every day; they don’t want you to visit their home, but they are glad that you do remember them and intercede. You are there for them. Then there come other degrees of involvement; weekly visiting or weekly shopping to name two. Or they live in Kenya and they are in financial need and you can help them a little bit with the the ongoing fresh water project.

The Philippian church took Paul’s needs to their hearts, and he wrote to them; “it was kind of you to share my trouble. . . . Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again . . . I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:14, 16, 18). Paul saw their practical kindness to him as glorifying God. It was an offering that was fragrant to the Lord. Galatians 6:10 adds, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

The simple definition of gnerosrsfty is: using your God-given ability to help those in need and where your time, money, and talents come together to meet the needs of others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the most generous gift you have ever received? How did it make you feel?
  2. Americans are some of the wealthiest people in the world, but do you think Americans are generous with their wealth? Why or why not?
  3. Acts 4:33-37 describes the generosity of some within the Jerusalem church who sold personal property to help others in need. What do you think is going on here? How does it strike you?
  4. What excuses do people sometimes make for not being more generous with their resources (time, money, and energy) toward others? What excuses have you made?
  5. Identify one practical way you will live out the generosity exemplified in Acts as a response to God’s grace in the coming weeks.

Elijah, the Widow and Son.

“For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.” – 1 Kings 17:14-16.

First Kings 18 includes a story that you have probably heard many times. It is the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. In this story, God reveals his divine power by engulfing Elijah’s water-soaked, burnt sacrifice with a pillar of fire. In this story, the prophets of Baal were comically and single-handedly shamed on Mount Carmel. But in chapter 17, there is a less famous story that demonstrates God’s provision and the principle of multiplication.

Let me set this up of you. Elijah approaches the king of Israel and exclaims that he is leaving and until he comes back there will be drought and famine. For over three years, the land is ravaged by lack of water and food. Things were drying up fast in Israel. The ground was cracked and the plants were withered. The storehouses of grain were becoming empty and there was no new grain to eat. 

God tells Elijah to hide by the brook of Cherith, where God will supply him with the sustenance he needs to survive. No matter how many times I hear this story, I can’t get over how amazing this miracle is. God actually commands a raven to deliver Elijah bread and meat two times a day. As the drought continued, Elijah’s brook dried up. A message came to Elijah from the Lord. He said, “Go right away to Zarephath in the territory of Sidon. Stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” And that begins the story found in 1 Kings 17:8-16.

So Elijah went to Zarephath. He came to the town gate. A widow was there gathering sticks. He called out to her. He asked, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” She went to get the water. Then he called out to her, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.

As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”  Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son”

Elijah continues: “For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.”

God kept His promise. God promised to provide for Elijah, the widow, and her son. Every time, the widow went to her cupboard to get her flour and oil to make bread. No matter how many times the widow went to get oil and flour, it never ran out. The next day she went to make some more bread and it was full of oil and flour again. As often as she needed it, the oil and flour multiplied. She could never use up what God provided. Nor can we. Genesis 22: 14 tells us, “So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”  We can never use up what He provides when we offer God our firstfruits, and our talents and time.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What lessons can be learned from this story?
  2. After the brook dried up, Elijah trusted God and moved on to Zarephath. Is there a “dry brook” in your life God is using to “motivate” you to move on to what He has next for you?
  3. What kind of faith is required for living with just enough for each day and no more?
  4. Describe a time in your life when things felt very desperate but you saw God meet your needs. What did you learn from the experience?
  5. Do you ever judge or measure God’s provision by what you can see? Why or why not?