Last week Shepastor provided words to encourage you while you wait, considering “God’s Timing.” This week we’ll consider words to challenge you as you minister through leadership.
I Kings 17: 7-16
The Widow at Zarephath
7Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8Then 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.” 10So 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?” 11As 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.”
13Elijah 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. 14For 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.’”
15She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16For 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.
On June 16, my husband and I praised God for our oldest son turning 16. While the teenage years prove challenging for a number of reasons – our over arching sentiment is praise. For 16 years ago, I had to have an emergency c-section. Our son was born at 28 weeks weighing only 1.8 1bs. The physicians gave him a 30% chance of survival. The word I received from the Lord, however, was different. Each day we prayed and spoke over him, “I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17)!” That testimony is for another day.
That experience taught me many things. One lesson didn’t become clear until we had our second child. With my first delivery, I was placed on morphine for a day. Afterwards I was given Tylenol with Codeine. It was like going from 100 to 1 in 2 minutes. The pain was excruciating. It was painful physically, emotionally and psychologically. The physical pain, however, didn’t trigger any alarms because all my life I’d heard that child birth was suppose to be painful. That was what I expected. That was what I received.
It did not occur to me until after the birth of my second son, having a different physician who provided more thorough and appropriate care, that my first experience was unfortunate and sorely lacking. Before, I was not made aware that additional options were available that could have greatly lessoned my pain. With my second son, another c-section was required, however, different medications were administered and my pain levels were much, much lower.
It was then that I realized my first experience, although emotionally painful, did not have to be as physically painful. While pain had to be involved, the level of pain did not have to be as high. Having learned what should have been done changed my expectations and increased my awareness of how things ought to have been concerning my hospital stay and care.
So often, we as women in general and clergy women in particular expect and accept less than what God has for us. All along we’ve been told that the journey of ministry can often be painful, lonely and a struggle. Therefore when we encounter unduly stressful situations, we simply “deal with it.” Often as ministers and pastors, we expect and accept less from our congregations, telling ourselves, the people and our colleagues, “well, that’s the best that they can do.” Is it really?
I would like to suggest that when we expect and accept less than what is truly the best in terms of service, worship, giving, taking responsibility for the furtherance of the Gospel, etc., we not only do ourselves a disservice, but we rob the people of the opportunity to blossom, thrive and become all that God would have them to be.
In the text shared above, Elijah is sent to a widow woman to receive water and bread. How ironic! God sent this prophet to get practical help – bread and water from a woman who was about to give up – on the verge of death and starvation. She had a son she was trying to raise in the midst of a famine. Yet God sent Elijah to her for food and water. So often we identify with the woman; but God has a lesson for us in the directions given to Elijah!
Consider some of the lessons we can learn from Elijah’s obedience to instruct this woman to give…
When we teach God’s people to take care of His prophets, we teach them to put God first…
Most of us would be astonished, appauled and repulsed by the thought of asking someone who was starving to give us anything, let alone their last morsel of bread and water! Yet the Lord, whose thoughts are not our thoughts and ways are not our ways shows us a powerful spiritual example. When we honor God with our best through sacrificial giving, He tremendously multiplies the little we have.
The sacrifice this woman gave had less to do with Elijah and more to do with stretching her faith. If Elijah had not obeyed God and instructed the woman to give, even in the midst of abject poverty, the woman would not have received the blessing of vessels filled with oil and bread that never ran out!
When we teach God’s people to step out in faith and give their highest and best first, we teach them that God uses each of us in unique ways.
Most of us would have argued with God, dismissed His directive as selfish and unthinkable and would have listed all of the reasons why this woman shouldn’t have been asked to give her last and her best. But look at what God teaches us through Elijah’s example – when we step out on faith, stop leaning to our own understanding and simply follow God’s principles of putting Him first – the Lord opens up new possibilities and miracles happen.
God’s people suffer when we don’t teach them to honor His house, His servant/leader and his Word. This is not simply teaching “prosperity Gospel,” or taking advantage of the poor. This is teaching God’s people that we all must bring the best of what we have to God, no matter how small and watch Him make miracles happen. God’s people remain stagnated, depressed, oppressed and living beneath their blessings because we are afraid to require them to give and do their best in all aspects of their walk with the Lord.
- When we try to do everything instead of delegating responsibilities – we are robbing God’s people of developing their gifts and talents.
- When we expect and accept less than what God says we should have, we run the risk of living in unnecessary pain, struggle and bitterness
- When we identify only with the widow woman, seeing ourselves as giving our all, and not challenging our congregations to do the same, we miss the opportunity to stand in the role of the prophet, like Elijah, leading God’s people to see great and mighty works happen in their individual lives, families and communities as they give their highest and best.
Woman of God, learn a lesson from the example of Elijah – learn that it is good to expect and accept the best. Learn to not only model sacrifice, but to teach the importance of taking care of the Lord’s vessel. Learn to delegate. Learn to wisely challenge. Realize that you get what you accept.
Understand that to whom much is given, much is required.
Are you conflicted about expecting more from the people you serve? Have you fallen into a pattern of low expectations? Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,