October 22, 2009

Where is God when His Provision Dries up?

"And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up." (1 Kings 17:7)

God sent Elijah to the brook and it dried up. It did not prove equal to the need of the prophet. It failed; God knew it would; He made it to fail. "The brook dried up." This is an aspect of the Divine providence that sorely perplexes our minds and tries our faith. God knows that there are heavenly whispers that men cannot hear until the drought of trouble and perhaps weariness has silenced the babbling brooks of joy. And He is not satisfied until we have learned to depend, not upon His gifts, but upon He Himself. - Rev. Percy Ainsworth

It's incredibly easy to experience a full range of earthly emotions when we can no longer see God's outstretched hand of provision before us. How do we respond when God gives us a clear directive and yet the brook of His provision seems to dry up on us? We all know that He is supposed to provide for all our needs. And, if the God of the Bible is true, why would He fail to care for us? The Israelites (post miraculous deliverance from Egypt) experienced this very thing. A wilderness wandering for 40 years before they received the fulfillment of the promise. In this story of the prophet Elijah, the Lord Himself had called forth a drought on the land and then instructed the prophet to head for the wilderness and be supplied by the flow of a small brook. The same God who supplied was the same God who declined. This is the God we serve. If we could perfectly understand His will in every circumstance we would have no need for the mediator in Jesus and no help from the Spirit that guides us into all truth.

What we can see from Scripture is that the Lord is constantly good and even when He dries up the brook - He also brings instruction and opens wide another way. Had the Lord not dried up the brook, here is what the prophet Elijah would have missed out on:

1. He never would have met a widow who on their introduction said, "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."

2. Elijah met the widow to not only be provided for but to be the provision for them. The Lord used him to save both the widow and her son.

3. Not just once, but on two occasions does the Lord use Elijah to spare the widow's son.

4. He may not have gone back to seek King Ahab (who had turned his back on God and began worshiping Baal)

5. It's likely that Elijah would not have called out the 450 "prophets of Baal" and experienced one of the more incredible miracles in Scripture where he strikes a deal with these prophets saying, "Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”

6. Drought may not have ended and the rain may not have come.

So, if you are anything like I am, the first place you run when it becomes clear that the brook of the Lord's provision seems to be drying is a place of complaining, a place of grumbling, a place of hardening the heart. I pray the Lord would give us the vision to see what He has planned far beyond our stay out at the wilderness brook. Maybe he plans to touch some orphans and widows through you. It's possible that His good will is to release you to influence even the Kings and Presidents of the nations. Could it even be that He would work such miracles through your hands that even a whole nation would be turned back? Highly unlikely for the skeptics in us. Praise God that He is never skeptical of His work.

I pray that Jesus would soften our hearts, setting straight our unbelief/grumbling/hardness/whatever-it-is-we-deal-with and move us into the glory of His perfect will, even in the midst of a drying brook.

October 14, 2009

When the Silence of God is the Answer

“So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.” (John 11:6)

And so the silence of God was itself an answer. It is not merely said that there was no audible response to the cry from Bethany; it is distinctly stated that the absence of an audible response was itself the answer to the cry – it was when the Lord heard that Lazarus was sick that therefore He stayed two days still in the same place where He was. I have often heard the outward silence. A hundred times have I sent up aspirations whose only answer has seemed to be the echo of my own voice, and I have cried out in the night of my despair. “Why art Thou so far from helping me?” But I never thought that the seeming farness was itself the nearness of God – that the very silence was an answer.

It was a very grand answer to the household of Bethany. They had asked not too much, but too little. They had asked only the life of Lazarus. They were to get the life of Lazarus and a revelation of eternal life as well.

There are some prayers that are followed by a Divine silence because we are not yet ripe for all we have asked; there are others which are so followed because we are ripe for more. We do not always know the full strength of our own capacity; we have to be prepared for receiving greater blessings than we have ever dreamed of. We come to the door of the sepulcher and beg with tears the dead body of Jesus; we are answered by silence because we are to get something better – a living Lord!

My soul, be not afraid of God’s silence; it is another form of His voice. God’s silence is more than man’s speech. God’s negative is better than the world’s affirmative. Have thy prayers been followed by a calm stillness? Well! Is not that God’s voice – a voice that will suffice thee in the meantime till the full disclosure comes? Has He moved not from His place to help thee? Well, but His stillness makes thee still, and He has something better than help to give thee.

Wait for Him in the silence, and before long it shall become vocal; death shall be swallowed up in victory!

Think not that God’s silence is coldness or indifference. When birds are on the nest preparing to bring forth life, they never sing. God’s stillness is full of brooding. Be not impatient with God!

When the Lord is to lead a soul to great faith, He for a time leaves his prayer unanswered.

- George Matheson “The Blind Preacher”

October 8, 2009

A Native Psalm

"The Lord is my Sphepherd" (Psalm 23:1)

The great Father above is a Shepherd Chief. I am his and with him. I want not. He throws out to me a rope, and the name of the rope is love, and he draws me to where the grass is green and the water is not dangerous.

Sometimes my heart is very weak, and falls down, but he lifts it up again and draws me into a good road. Sometime, it may be very soon, it may be longer, it may be a long, long time, he will draw me into a place between mountains. It is dark there, but I'll draw back not. I'll be afraid not, for it is in there between the mountains that the Shepherd Chief will meet me, and the hunger I have felt in my heart all through this life will be satisfied. Sometimes he makes the love rope into a whip, but afterward he gives me a staff to lean on.

He spreads a table before me with all kinds of food. He puts his hands upon my head, and all the "tired" is gone.

My cup he fills, till it runs over.

What I tell you is true, I lie not. The roads that are "away ahead" will stay with me through this life, and afterward I will go to live in the "Big Tepee" and sit down with the Shepherd Chief forver.

- An American Indian's Version of the Twenty-Third Psalm.

October 6, 2009

The Ice Harvest of Life

"He that loses his life for My sake shall find it." (Matthew 10:39)

Below is an excerpt from the devotional book, "Springs in the Valley":

In my early life I entered into a partnership with a friend in the wholesale ice business. For two seasons in succession our ice was swept away by winter freshets. In the winter of which I speak, things had come to a serious pass and it seemed very necessary that we should have ice. The weather became cold; the ice formed and grew thicker and thicker until it was fit to gather. Then there came an order for thousands of tons of ice which would lift us entirely from our financial stress.

Not long before this, God has showed me that it was His will that I should commit my business to Him and trust Him with it absolutely. I never dreamed what testing was coming. At midnight there came an ominous sound - that of rain. By noon the storm was raging in all it's violence; by afternoon I had come into a great spiritual crisis in my life.

By mid-afternoon of that day I had come face to face with the tremendous fact that down deep in my heart was a spirit of rebellion against God. And that rebelliousness seemed to develop in a suggestion to my heart like this: "You gave all to God. This is the way He repays you." Then another voice: "My child, did you mean it when you said you would trust me? Would I suffer anything to come into your life which will not work out good for you?" And then the other voice: "But it is hard! Why should He take your business when it is clean and honest?"

At the end of two hours (during which waged one of the greatest spiritual battles of my life) by the grace of God I was able to cry out, "Take the business; take the ice; take everything; only give me the supreme blessing of a will absolutely submitted to Thee." And then came peace!

By midnight there came another sound - that of wind. By morning the mercury had fallen to zero, and in a few days we were harvesting the finest ice we ever had. He gave back the ice; He blessed the business; and He led me on and out, until He guided me from it entirely into the place He had for me from the beginning - that of a teacher of His Word - James H. McConkey.

"Give your life to God, and God will give you back your life!"