Seated In Love

My six-year old has been sick this week.  The days she has been home sick, she has spent most of her time in my bed watching Christmas shows while I piddle around the house.  Throughout the day she wanders out of the bedroom to look for me.  She follows me around for a little while and then I usher her back into my bedroom where she stays for a little while, then inevitably wanders back out again to find me, follow me around for a little while, then I usher her back into the bedroom, and round and round we continue.  This morning I put on a movie for her so I could go into my closet and have some much needed quiet time with God.  I spent some time praising Him and had just begun to pray when she peeked her head through the door and crept in to see what I was doing.  A little irritated, I asked her what she needed and she replied, “I didn’t know where you were so I looked for you.”  I told her that I was right here, literally within feet of her the whole time.  And she responded, “But I can’t see you, and when I can’t see you it feels like you’re not there.”

So often I have felt this way with God.  I often feel like my daughter– content for a little while with the thought that He is near, yet inevitably succumbing to the desire to begin wandering around trying to find Him because when I can’t see Him, it feels like He’s not there.  But just like I am literally within a few steps from my daughter, God is always within arm’s length from us.  My daughter may not know where I am, but she is safe because I know where she is.  She is safe even though she can’t see me and may feel like I’m not there.

I think of the affection I feel for my daughter when I see her sweet, seeking face come around a corner or into a room and the look of relief and comfort that washes over her when she sees me standing there.  I am not angry with her because she gets anxious and doubtful.  I don’t say, “Why don’t you trust me?  Why don’t you believe me?” I don’t say these things to her because I understand that she needs to feel the comfort of my presence.  If I feel such affection, mercy, and understanding toward my daughter, I think of how much more understanding, mercy, and affection God must feel toward us.  I want her to feel safe and I want her to feel loved and I want her to trust me and know that I am trustworthy and I want her to know that my love for her is real.  I am prone to temptation and sin and if I, flawed and prone to such, feel such wonderful things toward my daughter, how much more does God, in His utter perfection, flawlessness, and holiness, feel those things toward us?

Jesus promised us, “…surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age”(Matt 28:20).  He also said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).  The word translated as “home” is the Greek word MONEN, which means dwelling place or abode.  It literally means a place where a person remains or abides.  A place where someone is at home and can always be found.  Jesus promised those who love Him, “Surely, I can always be found with you because I dwell with you, I am at home in you, seated in your love for Me.  Your faith is My abode.”

“My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. But You are holy, You Who inhabit the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:2,3)

“In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit.” (Eph 2:21,22)

“Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16)

“What agreement can exist between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people.'” (2 Cor 6:16)

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10).

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The Ultimate Curtain Call

“If God would concede me His omnipotence for 24 hours, you would see how many changes I would make in the world.  But if He gave me His wisdom too, I would leave things as they are.”–Jacques Marie Louis Monsabre

How often do we look around this world and think of all the things we would change?  All the ways we could improve it?  All the things that could be done differently?  In my opinion, the world is the way it is because God has given us toomuch governance over it.  For the world to be better, we should have less control over circumstances, not more.  We’ve made a big enough mess without God conceding to us His omnipotence.

When I think of why things must be the way they are, the last person I blame is God.  When I wonder why He allows some things to happen, I am reminded that God can see things I can’t.  God is outside of time and circumstance.  This whole play, from the beginning to the end has already been written, we are just inside of it, walking it out.  Which is not to say that we are robots, merely walking out a script that God has written.  We have free will and have been given the freedom to make our own choices.  We speak our own lines in this play and God has provided the stage.  But God already knows what will happen– He bookends linear time– from beginning to end He is there, waiting.  Nothing comes as a surprise to God, so whatever we encounter in this life, He already has a plan.  He already has preparations in place to help us endure it.

When I think of all the bonehead decisions I’ve made and all the times God has checkmated those decisions, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Which is not to say that He has never allowed me to suffer the consequences of my own ignorance, because He has.  But eventually, I always came around.  Eventually, He lifted me out of the slimy pit, mud and mire.  Sometimes it took longer to come out of the mud and mire than others, but He was always there.

I no longer dwell on wondering why bad things happened to me, because I think of all the bad things that should have or could have happened, but didn’t.  And I am filled with gratitude.  I don’t look for God’s seeming “failures,” I look for His grace.  Even in the darkest, deepest pit, you can find His grace.  Even if all else seems to fail, we at least still have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.  And that is worth losing everything else.  Eternal life in the presence of Jesus Christ is worth every moment of suffering, every failed plan, every rejection, every criticism, every staggering loss.

In my finite, flawed, and fallen reasoning, there are many things I would change about the world if God gave me the power to do it.  But if He gave me His wisdom along with it, I would change nothing.  Because then I would see as God sees.  I would see that everything has been orchestrated around a perfect, finished plan.  I would see the grand design of a Master Clocksmith– every gear precisely positioned to make all the others turn, ticking in unison, “click, click, click,” marking off each second, each decision, each circumstance, turning the wheel of time forward until God walks out onto the stage and the play is over.  Until the ultimate curtain call.

C.S. Lewis had this to say about it:  “God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”

“For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9,10)

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

“In the same way, any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

“But watch yourselves, or your hearts will be weighed down by dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life–and that day will spring upon you suddenly like a snare. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. So keep watch at all times, and pray that you may have the strength to escape all that is about to happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them.They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'” (Rev 21:1-4)

Big Yellow Bus

I have this fear that pops up occasionally, like a lone Lego in the middle of the living room floor that keeps getting stepped on.  Actually, I’ve got a lot of those pesky Legos I seem to repeatedly step on in my life, but one of them is the fear that somehow God won’t actually pull through in certain situations.  I fear that He won’t, in fact, provide what is needed in certain situations.  Like, one day He’s just going to pull a thread from the proverbial “rug of circumstances” and let the whole tapestry fall apart, and I’ll just be left standing there looking at a big, messy, knotted pile of mismatched yarn, which would equate to a big, messy, knotted pile of my unanswered prayers.

For the most part, I’m content to persevere in my faith as long as everything seems to be working out according to plan.  As long as I can piece the circumstantial puzzle pieces together in a way that makes sense.  As long as I can seemingly “foresee” some purpose or direction.  But once I catch a whiff of the possibility that my big, yellow bus full o’faith might careen off a cliff into purposelessness or failure, all I can focus on are the jagged rocks of despair and fear below.  I begin to imagine having to collect all my precious– albeit bent and broken– puzzle pieces from among the crags in the rocks, strewn from one end of the unknown to the other; the sharp, jagged rock edges pricking me and scraping me as I go, serving only as a constant source of discouragement.  All this vivid imagery, all this provocative emotion, all while still safely inside my big, yellow bus full o’faith that is still safely on the road.

It’s times like this, when I look to the example of Abraham’s faith.  God told him that he would be a father of many nations.  So it made sense when God promised Abraham he would have a son, despite the elderly condition of himself and his wife.  Abraham could put his faith in God’s ability to make his elderly wife conceive a child.  He could have faith in a God that big.  What didn’t make sense was when God told Abraham to kill the son He promised to use to bring forth those many nations (Gen 21:12).  No son = no many nations.  That didn’t make sense to Abraham.  Those circumstantial puzzle pieces weren’t fitting together.  That big, yellow bus of faith was headed toward the cliff and down onto the jagged rocks below.  But as far as we know from scripture, Abraham didn’t spend a whole lot of time concocting a litany of worst-case-scenario possibilities in his head.  As far as we know from scripture, Abraham went chips-all-in, he poured out all his faith onto God’s promise, there was no plan “B”.  Abraham had faith in a God Who was big enough to handle all circumstances, even the ones that seemed to render His own promises void.  Abraham had faith in a God Who cannot lie and Who keeps all His promises, so when God told Abraham to kill the son from whom He was going to bring forth many nations, Abraham reasoned that God would just have to raise him from the dead to do it (Heb 11:19).  Abraham believed in the ultimate sovereignty of God– a God Who is not shaped by our circumstances, but rather, a God Who shapes all circumstances.

Surely I’m not the only one who is guilty of freaking out while God is still holding me safely in His hand?  Because that’s the simple reality of the matter– when we fret, we do it while we are being held in capable hands.  God is exceedingly capable and more than willing to hold us in His hands.  After all, we are His, we belong to Him– His eternal treasure and dwelling place (1 Cor 3:9,16,17; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:22).

Sometimes I can be Noah’s ark, and sometimes I’m just a leaky, feeble vessel.  Sometimes my rug of circumstances seems like it will hold together, sometimes it doesn’t.  Therefore, something I have to continually remind myself, is that it is Christ Who holds our “rug of circumstances” together, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17).  It is Christ Who is the “pitch and tar” that fills the leaky spots in our ark (Gen 6:14).  It is Christ Who is the Author and the Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2).  Which means that no matter what direction it looks like our big, yellow bus o’faith is headed, it is always in capable hands and it is always headed closer to God.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb 1:3)

“And He Who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:27,28)

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.” (Isaiah 43:1,2)

The Only One

The other day I was in heartfelt prayer with God, asking Him for His presence, crying out for Him to say something.  I was weeping because I so desperately wanted Him to tell me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong, to give me clear directions.  During that time of intense seeking, I imagined the day that I will finally hear Him say my name, the day that I will finally see His glorious face, and as I sat there slumped over, praying and weeping, He impressed something deeply upon my heart:  “I love you as if you were the only one.”  That one sentence, in all it’s appropriate perfection, was the food that my soul was so desperately longing for.

That is how God loves each one of us.  God’s love for you is as if you were the only one.  Paul tells us, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes [the time of perfection; completeness] the partial passes away… Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Cor 13:9-12).

My NASB translation also puts verse 12 this way:  “Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  I can’t decide what fills me with more wonder and longing:  to know that I am “fully known” by God, or to know that there will come a day in which I will know God fully and completely, even as I am now fully and completely known by Him.

Meditate on the fact that God knows you fully and completely.  Every sigh, every joy, every struggle, every victory, every defeat, every moment, meticulously recorded and pored over by the eyes of the Creator of the universe, the Author of all reality, “the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross…” (Heb 12:2).  The joy that was set before Him was us.  We are His joy.

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy..” (1 Peter 1:8)

“Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.'” (John 20:29)

“And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19)

Yoke And Burden

“Come to Me, all those toiling and being burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I want to point out something about this passage that God brought to my attention the other day. Quite often, I find myself whining to God about various things. The other day, during one of my marathon whining sessions, I told God, “You said Your yoke would be easy and the burden would be light.” I knew better than to say such a thing, which is why I was quickly reminded of the original context of His statement, which was intended as a reproach upon the system of works that the Pharisees laid upon the backs of those who sought God. That is what Jesus is speaking about when He says later on in Matthew, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4).

Jesus’ life and ministry was at the crossroads of the Old and New Covenant. Two thousand years of Old Covenant Israel was about to collide head-on with two thousand years of New Covenant Christendom. Therefore, when He said that His yoke would be easy and burden light, there were dual implications to what He was saying. He spoke not only to those under the Old Covenant of Mosaic Law, but also to those who would be under the New Covenant of His Lordship and grace.

The thing that God brought to my attention, was that although Jesus promised “I will give you rest”, He never said that He would remove our yoke and take away our burdens. Jesus was bringing about a new paradigm for men to relate to God, He was abolishing the Old Covenant and replacing it with a New. Therefore He could have easily said “Come to Me, all those toiling and being burdened, and I will give you rest. I will remove your yoke and your burdens and you will find rest for your souls.” But He didn’t say that, He said that we were to stay under a yoke and continue to carry a burden. However, He replaced the old yoke with a new one.

When Jesus said, “I will give you rest”, He was speaking one thing to Israel and another thing to the Gentile nations who would be part of the New Covenant. For Israel, He was giving them rest from Mosaic Law. But the Gentile nations were not under Mosaic Law, so what would He be giving them rest from? He would be giving them rest from their sin (Jeremiah 31:34; Rom 6:2,6,7,14). For those under the Old Covenant, their yoke was the Law. For those under the New Covenant, their yoke would be faith (Gal 5:6; John 6:28,29; Rom 4:5; 1 John 3:23). For those under both Covenants, the burden was, is, and has always been, obedience.

We are “yoked” to Christ in faith and the “burden” (or responsibility) of that faith, is obedience (Matt 10:38; John 10:27; John 12:26; John 14:15,21,23; John 15:10; Heb 5:8,9; 1 John 2:3-6; 1 John 5:2,3; Rev 12:17; Rev 14:12, 13). Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matt 16:24)

“…come after me” = yoke of faith

“…deny himself and take up his cross” = burden of obedience

What many in the church today fail to realize, is that our faith means nothing if it is not paired with obedience. By Jesus’ own instructions, our faith in Him must be validated by our obedience. James tells us, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough.  Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless…O foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is worthless? Was not our father Abraham justified by what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith was working with his actions, and his faith was perfected by what he did.” (James 2:17-22). A faith that is not evidenced by obedience, is not faith. It is simply a belief based on affirmation, rather than a belief of trustful surrender.  Obedience to Christ in a person’s life, is evidence of their faithful surrender to Him as Lord. Our faith in Christ must be a faith in Who He is, and Christ can only and ever be Lord. To believe in Jesus and be saved (John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:47), we must believe that He is Lord (Rom 10:8,9), and in so doing, the only proper reaction to such a belief is surrender.

We are not saved by good deeds, we are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8).   However, genuine faith and genuine salvation are evidenced by our actions of obedience.  Jesus tells us, “If anyone would come after Me…”  How do we come after, or pursue Christ?  By faith.  But then what does Christ tell us to do with that faith?  “…deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”  That’s an action of obedience.

The reason Jesus didn’t remove our yoke and take away our burdens, is because it is the yoke of faith that saves us. And as long as we are on this side of heaven, our faith will at many times seem like a burden. Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble, I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). Paul and Barnabas told those in the early church, We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22), as they strengthened the souls of those early believers by encouraging them to continue in the faith (Acts 14:21). Our salvation in Christ truly gives us “rest for your souls“, but that doesn’t mean that we will be completely without burden. Today, should you feel the weight and burden of your yoke of faith, spend some time sitting at the feet of Christ, Who gently reminds us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).

 

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

“And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who through faith are protected by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3-7)

Looking For Lovely

I taught a girls’ Bible study this summer called, “Looking For Lovely”. The gist of the Bible study was to look for and focus on the lovely things among our circumstances. The study focused on Romans 5:3-5 which says, Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” As I watched my Pastor–my friend, mentor and father figure– battle pancreatic cancer over this last year, I desperately searched for the lovely. I insistently banged on the door of heaven, asking God to explain Himself. I mulled over all the scriptural reasons for suffering, I pondered God’s motives, I examined His intent, as if God needed me to judge His work. In all this, I found nothing lovely. In all this, at every turn, there seemed to be only ugly.

I looked for purpose, but I found only suffering and pain. I sought understanding, but I only experienced doubt and frustration. My beloved Pastor went home to be with the Lord last Monday and it is now a week later that God has finally spoken. The whole time my Pastor battled cancer, I asked God what was the purpose of building his character through suffering if it was only going to lead to death? What was the purpose of refining his character if he wasn’t going to stay alive to share what he learned? God answered: It wasn’t Pastor’s character that was being built, it was the character of all those who loved him. God was building the character of all those who would continue their lives after our Pastor was gone.

Just like our Pastor poured out his life into ours while he was living– teaching us, mentoring us, praying for us– so would he be poured out in death, a final sacrifice unto God bearing the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved… a fragrance that brings life.” (2 Cor 2:15,16) and “a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” (Phil 4:18). All those who loved our Pastor persevered in prayer and persevered in faith. Our prayers may not have been answered the way we expected or wanted them to, but our faith that God is still on the throne and is still perfect in holiness, love and justice, has persevered. Through faith, we are more than conquerors over every temptation we faced to succumb to doubt, anger, or frustration. We experienced all those things, yet they never prevailed over our faith.

It was hard for me to see any perseverance because I was too focused on the ugliness of the circumstances. It is so easy to fall into the temptation to judge God’s love for us based on our circumstances. But scripture tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, neither “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword..” (Rom 8:35). Jesus never promised us that we wouldn’t suffer, but He did promise that we would never be separated from His love.

We are told that the fruit of hope is the result of all the suffering, all the perseverance and all the building of character, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Rom 5:5). After all the suffering and persevering and building of character, we are left with hope and God’s love. We are left with the peace and assurance of our salvation and that one day very soon we will be with Pastor again. We are left with fulfilling the purposes of God by the power of His Holy Spirit Whom He has given us. We are left with only lovely.

Brook Cherith

In 1 Kings Chapter 17, we are told of the prophet Elijah and how God instructed him to go to a brook named Cherith on the other side of the Jordan River. God told him that he would have water to drink from the brook and that ravens would bring him food to eat every morning and every evening. The two things God told Elijah were:
1.   What he needed to d0
2.   That God would supply his needs

The two things Elijah was not told were:
1.  Why
2.  For how long

When I think about this story, it reminds me how much farther I have to go in my spiritual growth. I imagine what it must have been like for Elijah, to go to the brook in obedience and just sit there and wait, and to do so in the faith that those ravens would show up every day. I imagine myself sitting there every morning and evening, scouring the sky for any signs of the ravens and, more importantly, my breakfast and dinner. I imagine myself sitting there throughout each day, twiddling my thumbs during the time between breakfast and dinner. I imagine me wondering if I heard God correctly? I imagine me getting frustrated with God at His silence. Surely He could mercifully give me a few words of communication as the hours painfully tick by, after all, I showed up didn’t I? I obeyed You Lord, You could at least acknowledge that I’m here. A thumbs up. Something. All the while, forgetting that God already told me everything I needed to know, which is what I’m supposed to be doing and that He would supply all my needs.

For all intents and purposes, it would appear to us that Elijah’s time at the brook accomplished no real purpose. After all, the only thing he did during his time at the brook was sit there and wait. No crossword puzzles, no Sudoku, no newspaper. To make matters worse, we are told that the brook eventually dried up. I imagine my horror at watching that stupid brook grow smaller and smaller each day, growing more and more frantic with God’s silence each day. Being tempted to get irritated with God, asking Him why He would lead me to this place and allow such torment? After all, I obeyed didn’t I? And watching my only source of water slowly dry up was my reward? Thanks a whole bunch, Lord.

We are told that Elijah didn’t hear from God again until the brook had dried up. The silence of God wasn’t broken until Elijah’s resources ran out. Yet still, Elijah waited. He didn’t search for another source of water. He didn’t try to look for his own solution to his problem. God had told Elijah to go to brook Cherith and he made up his mind that he would stay there until he died if he had to, rather than disobey or doubt God.

After Elijah’s seemingly unfruitful waste of time at brook Cherith, God next instructed him to go to a widow’s house in Zarapheth, “I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” (1 Kings 17:9). Elijah obediently went to the widow’s house, only to find out that she had one handful of flour and a few tablespoons of oil left for her and her son to share. When I think of myself in this situation, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Well, so much for plan ‘B’. Where next Lord? The mouth of an active volcano?” But it is here that I realize the purpose for Elijah’s time at the brook.

For God to use you as a source of strength and guidance for others, you must die to your own strength and reasoning. Only then can the Holy Spirit– the true source of all strength and all wisdom– flow freely through you and pour out into the lives of others. During the time Elijah spent at the brook, he learned not only how to wait on God, but he also learned how to rely on God and God alone, and how to hold on to His promises regardless of his circumstances, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).

Unless it is God working through us, any attempt at trying to be a source of strength for others becomes an unbearable burden. And because Elijah had endured the time at brook Cherith, he was spiritually mature enough for God to use him as a source of strength and guidance for the widow at Zarapheth. When she tells Elijah that she and her son are going to eat what little they have left and then wait for death, he tells her, “Do not fear.” (1 Kings 17:13).

He said, “Do not fear..”, and he meant it. He was able to say “Do not fear…”, and stand firmly upon it.

I want that kind of faith. I want to be a source of strength and guidance for others. And to have that kind of faith, and for God to operate through us as a source of strength and guidance for others, we have to endure our own brook Cherith. We have to learn how to be obedient to what God tells us to do and not question why or for how long. We have to make up our mind that we are committed to Him even until death, if that’s what it takes. The death of our own reasoning and the death of our own strength.