Life seems to come with ongoing challenges. There are the normal, everyday challenges of raising a family. I know I never know what the next challenge will be or where it will come from with my children, I just know that the challenge will be there. In work, there are unexpected challenges that come up. We respond to them in the best way we can, but there is always that question as to whether it is the right way.
Our life, if you really think about it, comes down to how we serve in the midst of challenges. I know that many people will not look at serving God and others as our purpose, but really it is. The way we serve will determine how our life actually looks.
I find a lot of comfort in reading the story of Elijah in the Old Testament. Elijah is seen to be a strong man of God because he was one. Yet, Elijah experienced the same cycles of struggle that we all do.
READY TO ROCK (Obedience)
Elijah starts off like we all do. He is ready to storm the gates and tell people what God’s Word is for them. He goes to Ahab (the king) and tells him that there will not be any rain for the next few years. Can you imagine that encounter? “Hello Ahab, just so you know, there will not be any rain or dew until I say. Ok. You have a nice day.” I don’t think that is quite how it went. This was not a popular message, but Elijah willingly did what the Lord told him. This is seen in the next part of the story as Elijah is fed by birds.
“So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meet in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” 1 Kings 17:5-6
Elijah’s obedience continues. I don’t know about you, but if God told me to go sit in a ravine and wait for a bird to bring me food, I might have a few doubts. We don’t see any of that here. Elijah is at a place in his life where he just goes for it and God honors that.
The next story is about a widow that Elijah encounters. She is in a desperate place and prepared to feed her son one last meal and then die. God provides for her through Elijah and her flour and oil never runs out. This is all working out nicely as up until this point all is well. As with everything in life, things change.
UNEXPECTED CRISIS (Now what God?)
After some time, the son of this woman gets sick. She is obviously upset and immediately points the finger at Elijah.
“What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of m sin and kill my son?” 1 Kings 17:18
Elijah is clearly surprised by this and takes the boy and cries out to the Lord. Three times he stretches himself over the boy and begs God for life to return to the boy. God answers his prayed and the boy lives! The woman was joyful and saw in a tangible way that God was at work in Elijah.
Now before we move on from there, let’s place ourselves in this story. When I started ministry, I was like Elijah. Wherever God asked me to go, I would go without question. It was an exciting time with so many unknowns. Then came our first real crisis in ministry. The relationship with the church I was at was strained and we ended up having to leave. This is where being obedience to God comes up against the crisis and a question is asked: “What now God?”
If we follow Elijah’s example, what do we do? We go to God in prayer and ask Him for a resolution. It was His Word that led Elijah there, after all. There must be a plan!
Have you ever considered the way your life has gone? I don’t mean that you dissect everything that ever happened, but you stop and consider God’s hand in the overall scope of your life. I think this is significant in the discussion about how we serve. We serve out of obedience and on our knees. We serve by looking to God and trusting Him in crisis.
For our family, we are now almost 6 years removed from the crisis event. God is faithful in everything. That does not mean you will always be sitting in a ravine being fed by ravens. Sometimes you will be weeping and asking God to answer your prayers. In both instances the best place to be is in service to God.
That we will continue with tomorrow, as we look at a place of confrontation and conflict, Elijah’s desire to give up and how God met him and strengthened him.