Raising support is the great & terrifying part of life as a missionary. Finances is the number one reason most missionaries return from the mission field. There are so many reasons for this and one blog post alone will never properly address them all. So we start: “He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose!” Ponder this quote by Missionary Jim Elliot who gave his life on the field for the sake of the Gospel.
1 Kings 17:2-24
2 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” 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.” 13 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. 14 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.'” 15 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. 16 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. 17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” 22 The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 24 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.”
Most missionaries misunderstand the balance between prayer, faith, and asking. We love the story of Elijah and how God provided for his physical and financial needs through the brook and the ravens. No asking here just glorious Divine provision. We want to just pray, seek His face, and enjoy His provision. We quote the scriptures and cry out for provision. After all God named Himself, Jehovah Jireh: “The Lord Who Sees & Provides.” But God isn’t a big fan of formulas and 10 steps – despite the abundance of Sermon Titles that would make you think He is.
We read the rest of Elijah’s story but often miss some key statements. Let’s read it together: “Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” When Elijah gets to town does the widow say to him, “You’re the guy the Lord commanded me to feed!”? No, she has no idea who Elijah is or why he is asking her. But the Lord said: “I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” So when did God command the widow? That’s right…when Elijah asked her. When she told him she was preparing her “last supper” Elijah could have easily backed off, thinking surely this isn’t the right woman, God must have meant for a wealthy woman to support me. But in that moment he trusted God and asked. He asked a woman that most of us would have crossed off our list. But God’s economy isn’t limited to an individuals bank or 401k account. Remember it hadn’t rained in the land for some time, their economy was in shambles. Kingdom living depends upon giving and receiving. She didn’t give him much in the way of faith, he in fact had to continue to encourage her to believe God would provide. Faith arose in her heart. She might have even thought, since we are going to die it couldn’t hurt to feed the prophet before we die and meet God.
The Lord saw the obedience and faith of both Elijah and the woman and Jehovah Jireh provided for all three of them. Still the woman wasn’t fully convinced of Elijah or his ministry. It wasn’t until her son dies and the prophet raises him from the dead that she proclaims: “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.”
Here’s the deal: If Elijah had not asked, the woman and her son would have died. Furthermore, if the woman had not trusted the Lord and provided for Elijah they would have died. We don’t believe that most of the time, because corrupt crooks posing as preachers have manipulated people for their own selfish gain. God is a just judge and He will deal with them. But it is the way God’s economy works giving and receiving go hand in hand. Trusting and relying upon God moving through His people rather than simply relying upon the strength of my own arm. God wants all of the glory. What glory would there have been for God if a wealthy widow had provided for Elijah? Little to none. The glory comes when God is allowed to receive full credit.
We can walk away from these verses with a couple of lessons. Sometimes God expects us to ask, I hope you can ask with a bit more confidence knowing that if God expected Elijah to ask, he will most certainly at some time expect you to ask. Brook and Raven provision is great and glorious, but the true miracles came after the Prophet asked. Miraculous provision and resurrection healing came after he asked a destitute and starving widow to trust his God.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Chris Ferguson – All Rights Reserved