In Mark 1 and Luke 4, we are told about a man who had an unclean or evil spirit. He wasn’t at home or hanging out in the streets. He was at church. I don’t know if this was his first time going to the synagogue or if he was a faithful churchgoer. Why was he there? Was he looking for answers? Was he looking for help?
Like a lot of Christians today, he probably looked like he had it altogether on the outside. I say this because he wasn’t described like the demon possessed man who wore no clothes, cut himself and lived in the tombs (Mark 5). The church members and the teachers probably didn’t know what this man was dealing with inwardly. Every Sabbath, scribes would teach the law, but none of their words gave life. No one was healed. No one was raised from the dead. No one was delivered from yokes, burdens, devils or oppression in these meetings.
The spirit that was in this man was like the serpent that was hiding in the cold until Paul laid a bundle of sticks on the fire (Acts 28). No one was ministering to this man the way Jesus had ministered to the woman at the well. He told me all that ever I did (John 4:39). This man sat quietly in a cold synagogue until the word came in the form of a burning fire.
Can you imagine the looks on their faces when they heard what was speaking through this man? Those who knew him knew that it was not him speaking. Can you also imagine how they felt when this man was set free? Well, it didn’t take long for the news to spread. When Jesus left the synagogue, he went to Peter’s house and healed his mother-in-law who was sick with a fever. Mark 1:33 tells us that “all the city” was waiting at the front door to be healed of something.
Jesus was different. He wasn’t like the scribes who just preached a good word and sent everyone home. He spoke with power and authority. He demonstrated what he preached. Signs and wonders followed. He just didn’t say what He heard his Father say, but He did what his Father did (John 5:19).
I grew up going to church because I didn’t have a choice. I had to go, but now as an adult, have you ever asked yourself, Why do I go to church? Some of us go to hear a good word and to be encouraged for the week and that’s good, but what about the person who sits beside you, in front of you or behind you? There is someone in church hurting, but you can’t see their wounds. There is someone crying, but you can’t see their tears.
Thank God for pastors, but they can’t do everything. Just like how you expect the pastor to show up when you are in the hospital or show up to the funeral when your loved one has passed away or show up to preach on Sundays, the pastor needs us to show up. Every gift is needed. Some of us are like the man at the pool who was waiting for someone to put him in the pool when we should be walking by now and helping others to get in the pool.
God wants what we hear in church to be demonstrated outside of the church. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22). I don’t think we realize how much people are watching us – at work, at home, while you’re driving your car. They see your attitude. They see how you treat your spouse and your children. They are following our lives – and not just on social media.
The writer of Hebrews warns us to not stop meeting with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). Go to church. You don’t know who needs strength or encouragement. If you only look at church as a building to go to when you need something, you’ve got it all wrong. Your presence is very important. We need you to be present and functioning. As I said in my last blog, if Elijah hadn’t showed up – if he hadn’t done what God told him to do, the widow and her son would have died.
I think about the times I struggled to get out of bed to go to church. Now, don’t get me wrong. I sometimes struggle to go to work too, but I get up because I want that paycheck. Unless you are self-employed, most of us don’t show up to work when we want to because we would be fired, yet we show up to church when we want to. I’ve learned that those times I didn’t want to go church was when I really needed to go the most.
The next time you attend church, go with an expectation – not just to get something, but to give something. Give a hug. Give a smile. Let someone know that God hasn’t forgotten them. Let them know that God still loves them. You don’t know what people are dealing with. Let them know that God is not punishing them or that He’s disappointed in them. Sometimes as Christians, we act like the disciples, who when they saw a boy that was blind from birth, they immediately assumed it was because either the boy sinned or his parents sinned, but it was so that God could show others what He could do for this boy as well as for them.
I haven’t always treated everybody right. At times, I’ve been judgmental and hypocritical, but I’m learning to give to others what God has given me. I’ve decided that I don’t want to be the reason why someone falls, but I want to be the reason why they get back up again.
Going to church was a ritual for me. It was something to do, but now I see it as an opportunity to be.
Don’t just go to church. Be the church.
In 1 Kings 17:2-3, the Lord told Elijah to hide by a brook. When he did what God told him to do, God took care of him. Not only did he have water to drink, but God commanded the ravens to feed him every morning and evening. One day, the brook dried up because there was no rain.
If God commanded the ravens, surely He could have commanded the brook, but He allowed the brook to dry up. Prior to this, Elijah was satisfied. He was comfortable. He didn’t have a thirst or a hunger for anything, but now he did. He wasn’t satisfied with where he was and he didn’t want to remain in that condition anymore.
The word of the Lord came to Elijah. Not only did God tell him to move, but He told him where to move to. Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Zidon and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain you (vs 9). Sometimes God leaves out the details. He never told Elijah that the widow woman had a need. All He told him was that she would feed him.
When he arrived at the gate of the city, he saw the widow gathering sticks (I guess that meant she was about to cook something). He asked her for some water. As she was going to get the water, he asked for a morsel of bread. First, the woman told him what she didn’t have. I have not a cake (vs 12). Then, she told him what she did have – a handful of meal in a barrel, a little oil in a cruse and two sticks. This was her last meal and this meal wasn’t just for her, but it was for her son also.
This woman didn’t want to die and she didn’t want her son to die, but she was preparing to die because she didn’t know what else to do. She didn’t know where her next meal was coming from. It didn’t look like things were going to get better and now she had a man – a perfect stranger – asking her, an unmarried mother, for her last.
I hear the conversations of single mothers from time to time. They love their children, but sometimes they are tired – tired of raising their children alone, tired of the daily routine, tired of trying to provide, tired of missing field trips and Awards Day. It hurts when you can’t do what you would like to do for your children. You want them to enjoy their childhood. You want them to be happy. You don’t want them to worry about adult things such as bills and other responsibilities.
I can only imagine how strong this woman was trying to be for her son. She was trying to keep it together, but sometimes we just want someone to come and ‘save’ us. You know, take care of all our problems. Well, God did send a man in her life, but He didn’t send him to be her husband. (I had to point that out because sometimes a single woman/mother is so anxious to be married or in a relationship that she confuses ‘help’ with ‘husband’). Elijah didn’t give her any food or money. He didn’t get her out of debt or out of poverty, but he showed her how to get out. He showed her how to trust again. All she had to do was obey the instructions. All she had to do was give the very thing that she was afraid of losing.
Sometimes we are so focused on what we want that we don’t see what others need. Let’s look at it this way: Had Elijah not moved, the widow and her son would have died. Our obedience to God is so important. It was so easy for Elijah to get comfortable at the brook. It was so easy to trust God for the things he could see. Life was good. He had water, bread, and meat every day, but God didn’t send him there to stay. He was only there to pass through. I’m sure he got used to the daily routine. I bet he thought he had God figured out. He knew exactly what time the raven would feed him, but when the brook dried up and the raven stopped coming, he had to trust God through a woman who only had a handful of meal, a little oil and two sticks. The widow was being tested, also. Whoever is faithful with little will also be faithful with much (Luke 16:10).
I wanted to know how far and at what length this man went to obey God and to meet this widow. What was the distance between Cherith and Zarephath? One source on the internet reported it was approximately 85 miles. Another source reported it was between 80 to 100 miles. I don’t know if Elijah got there by foot or by a horse, but that was a long journey if you didn’t have a car. Did he get tired along the way? Did he want to stop? Did he want to turn around? Did he eat? Did he drink? What did he have to give up?
Just like Elijah, you will never have to worry about your need when you put HIS kingdom first. God will supply your need according to His riches in glory. So if you’re lacking in an area, it’s probably in the area that you refuse to give to God or to trust Him in. When the widow woman gave her last, she and her household had a lot left over (1 Kings 17:15).
I know you have these great ideas and plans about what you want to do, but God has a better plan – and it includes more than just you. The devil may have used you in the past to hurt and to betray people, but God is going to use you to help people.
God is going to allow some things to happen – not to hurt you or to punish you, but to cause you to make the decision to move. I’m not talking about moving to another city or to another state. I’m talking about moving toward His purpose for you – moving toward the reason why you were born. If you don’t move, you will never discover who you are and in case no one ever told you – You are a blessing. God knitted you together in your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. The word God placed in your mouth is like a hammer that breaks a rock into pieces and the anointing on your life is able to destroy the yokes of many.
This is why you can’t remain where you are.
You have dwelled in your feelings, fear, self-pity, isolation and hurt long enough. It is time to get up and leave those things behind. It is time to turn (change; repent), take your journey and go to where God is leading you (Deuteronomy 1:6-7, paraphrase). Don’t be ashamed of where you came from. Don’t be ashamed of the things you have done. Don’t even compare yourself to others. Do what the widow did and use what you have. God is going to give you instructions. They will be simple, not hard and difficult.
We were created to do more than what we are doing. As sons and daughters of God, we don’t have to stand idle because no one will hire us (Matthew 20:6-7). There is plenty of work to do. The harvest is plenteous (Matthew 9:37), but you won’t realize this until you stop looking after your own things and start looking on the things of others (Philippians 2:4).
Someone has a need and they are praying for you to move.
Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he comes shall find so doing (Luke 12:43).
Jesus told a parable about the expectant steward (Luke 12:35-40). When He was done, Peter asked Him if the parable was addressed to just the disciples or to everyone. He answered Peter’s question with a question. Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?
Jesus tells Peter about a lord who trusted one servant to feed his other servants – unsupervised. He puts him in charge of everything he has. The scriptures don’t tell us why he picked this servant out of all the other servants, but he trusted him with an assignment. I don’t know if he grew impatient or frustrated while waiting for his lord to return (Luke 12:45) or if he got the ‘big head’, but he started abusing those who he was supposed to feed, look after, manage, and protect. Instead of doing what his lord wanted him to do, he did what he was wanted to do.
In Luke 23:34, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”, but in this parable, the servant knew. He knew his lord’s will, but he didn’t prepare neither did he do according to what he knew (Luke 12:47). The consequences of disobedience is this: To him that knew, but didn’t do, he shall be beaten with many stripes, but to him that didn’t know, but committed things worthy of stripes, he shall be beaten with few stripes.
To answer Peter’s question, everyone is accountable for what he or she hears. This is not just for preachers. Every person who professes to be a Christian has a responsibility. We are responsible for what we know and ignorance is not an excuse. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts…so they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day (Romans 1:19-20, TLB). When a lot has been given to you, a lot is expected of you. The more knowledge you have, the more you are expected to apply it. When God has been generous with you, He expects you to serve him well and if He has been more than generous with you, he expects you to serve him even better (Luke 12:48, CEV).
When we think of possessions, we usually think of things, but not God’s people. The lord’s possessions included his other servants. The servant’s responsibility was to serve – faithfully, lovingly and patiently. To serve means to perform duties for someone else, to provide services that will benefit or help someone else. To serve also means to obey and to submit to someone else. This servant was all about getting, but not giving. He wanted to order people around, eat, drink and get drunk. He wanted to be a slave master and not a servant, but Jesus said whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant. We must become like the Son of man who didn’t come to be served, but He came to serve and to give life. We should be concerned about others and not just ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:24).
It wasn’t until the servant was given a position that his true character was revealed. We see what was in his heart. We see his issues. We see his habits. Pride was in him. But that was okay. Nothing is too hard for God. What is impossible with man is possible with God. All that servant needed was to be placed in a position or situation that would make him into the person that his lord wanted him to be, but the servant had to want change, too.
Another thing I realized about this servant is that he started doing well, but he didn’t continue to do what he was taught. Because he didn’t see or know when his lord was coming, he gave up before ‘the return’. And so it is with some of us. Sometimes we give up before the harvest, breakthrough, healing or deliverance. We plant, we water, but we don’t wait for the Lord to give the increase.
Now one last thing.
Prayer is good. Don’t stop praying, but when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, He never intended for them to use prayer as a substitute for work. You must do the work. Sometimes that means studying, seeking, asking questions, getting up early or staying up late. It also means you have to be willing to change. To eat the good of the land or to receive what God has promised, you have to be more than willing. You must also be obedient (Isaiah 1:19). Hearing God is not enough. You must do what you heard.
What will He find you doing?
I know this woman who always talks about not having enough money. Well, one day I decided to give her a gift. It wasn’t much, but something is better than nothing, right? Do you know what she said when I handed the money to her? I don’t need it. Trust me. This woman wanted that money and had someone else offered it, she would have taken it, but because it was coming from me, she rejected it.
How sad it is to ask God to send you help only to reject it because it is coming from a person that you don’t like or from a person that you don’t want to receive help from. I’m realizing now that God has answered many of our prayers, but because it didn’t come in the form or in the person that we wanted it to, we rejected it. Sometimes pride is the thing that keeps us from receiving ‘answered prayers’. Pride says, I know what’s best for me. My plan is better. I can do it better than God. Too many me’s, my’s and I’s will lead to trouble.
Do you remember the widow woman from Zarephath? She needed help. There was a famine and her husband was dead. She was a single mother preparing their last meal. Not only did she lose a husband, but she lost hope. She wasn’t just preparing a meal, but she was preparing to die. God heard, He saw and now He was sending help, but in the meantime He was dealing with her. Before the answer had arrived, God had already commanded the woman to do something (1 Kings 17:9).
The widow didn’t know Elijah. To her, he was a stranger – and I think that was a good thing because sometimes we become too familiar with those who have rule over us and instead of honoring them as prophets of God, we treat them as mere men. Jesus didn’t just give men or women, but he gave gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:8). According to Luke 4:24-26, there were many widows in Israel during the famine, but God didn’t choose them. He chose a widow from Zarephath. He sent Elijah to a woman who was not his ‘own people’. Had it been another widow, she may have been like the woman at the well. Jesus answered, “You don’t know what God can give you. And you don’t know who I am, the one who asked you for a drink. If you knew, you would have asked me and I would have given you living water” (John 4:10, ERV). But that wasn’t the case with the widow of Zarephath. She recognized the gift of God.
It was the same with the Pharisees. They knew the Old Testament scriptures. They read about the coming of the Messiah, but when He came, they didn’t recognize Him. He came unto His own and His own received him not (John 1:1). He didn’t look like what they were waiting for. He has no stately form or majestic splendor that we would look at Him, nor [handsome] appearance that we would be attracted to Him (Isaiah 53:2, AMP). He was called Beelzebub. Some thought he was John the Baptist, Elias or one of the old prophets. To them, He wasn’t the Son of God. He wasn’t the Savior of the world. He was just the carpenter’s son. And sometimes we are just like the Pharisees. When God sends us what we need or what we’ve been praying for or what we’ve been waiting for, we miss it.
While the widow was gathering sticks, Elijah asked for a little water in a vessel. That wasn’t a problem. She could do that, but as soon as he asked for a morsel of bread – now that was a problem. First, she told him what she didn’t have. Then, she told him what she did have. I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse. I’m sure Elijah knew she felt uneasy and unsure about giving him what he had just asked for so he told her to not be afraid. Fear not. Go and do as you have said, but make me a little cake first.
It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know and this is one of the reasons why Christians struggle with trusting God. We really don’t know Him the way He wants us to know Him. Just because you grew up in church and you’ve read the bible from Genesis to Revelation, doesn’t mean that you know Him. If you knew Him, you would trust Him and if you trusted Him, then you would obey Him.
The thing God is asking you to do (or give) is little, but it will bring about something big in your life – if you will trust Him. Elijah assured the widow that she would not run out, but that she would run over – but first, she had to believe. She trusted God with her last and gave it to the man of God first. Let each one give thoughtfully and with purpose just as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift (2 Corinthians 9:7). As a result of her giving, faith, patience and obedience, she, Elijah and her house ate for many days (1 Kings 17:15).
Look closely at the picture above. You can recognize what those gifts are right away because of their shape and form, but if they were disguised in a box covered with wrapping paper, you couldn’t easily recognize them. Many of us have rejected and walked away from blessings, breakthroughs and answered prayers because of the wrapping, but the gift isn’t the wrapping. That’s just the covering. That’s just flesh. The gift is inside of the wrapping.
Prayer: One version of Isaiah 53:3 tells us that Jesus was looked down on and passed over. We admit today that there are still areas of our lives where we look down on Him and pass Him over because our evil desires and lusts look more attractive than Him. Create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. We repent of pride, self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. Father, help us to recognize the gift of God and help us to recognize You at work in our lives. Give us understanding where we lack it, in Jesus’ name. Amen.