When Money is Tight & Times are Tough part 2
Prove Your Trust in God
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 26, 2008



Main Passage: 1 Kings 17:8-16 (NLT)

Her life started out pretty normal. She got married, she had a baby, but it wasn’t long after her first child arrived that her husband died and her world fell apart. And there she was, left her to raise their son, alone.

As you know, my wife Shera was away last weekend visiting with her sister in Newfoundland. And while she was gone, I stayed here and took care of our eight month old son. Shera was supposed to be away for six days, arriving back on Wednesday. But because of high winds, her flight was cancelled on Wednesday and she wasn’t able to get home until yesterday.

Which meant I had a few extra days of being a single father. And I’ve got to tell you, I loved spending time with my son. But I also found it next to impossible to get anything else done. For those of you who have raised children on your own, or if your spouse wasn’t able to be as involved as you would have liked, I have a brand new respect for you. It isn’t an easy job.

And that’s the situation this woman found herself in. Her husband was dead, and she had a young son to raise on her own, but she had almost nothing to live on. In fact, in her culture people had to make due for themselves or else they would starve to death. She didn’t belong to a church or a synagogue and she didn’t have any family around to support her. She was really alone, and she was frightened.

To make matters worse, a terrible drought struck the region. In fact, it didn’t rain for several years and food was hard to come by. Prices at the market skyrocketed, her neighbours were busy worrying about themselves, and she was more alone than ever. Until finally, her cupboards were bare, and all she had left to feed herself and her son was a little bit of flour and some cooking oil.

Meanwhile there was a traveling preacher… a prophet… who was on the run for his life. You may be familiar with him. His name was Elijah. He had ticked off some pretty powerful people with his preaching, including a king (Ahab) and his queen (Jezebel). Ahab and Jezebel were leading the people to worship a false god, and Elijah had stood up against them. So Elijah was a wanted man. Jezebel in particular wanted to dispose of him.

And that’s when Elijah crosses paths with this widow. Listen as Karen comes to read what happened…

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1 Kings 17:8-16 (NLT)
Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”
So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”
But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”
But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”
So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

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Thank you Karen.

We’re looking at this story today as the second part of our series on When Money Is Tight & Times Are Tough. Right now, there’s a whole lot of volatility in the economy. And nobody’s really sure what’s going to happen. Every time we start to think things are turning around, the markets around the world take another dive. We’re in the midst of a global economic crisis.

And that will affect each one of us in different ways. Some of us may be hit hard, some of us just a little. For some, you may have been sailing along quite nicely up until now, for others perhaps you were already struggling long before the events of the past month or two. But regardless of where you’re coming from this morning, I think we can all learn something from this widow.

And understand, none of us are in the situation she was in. You may be struggling to make ends meet; she was preparing to starve to death.

So put yourself in her sandals. You’ve been doing your absolute best to care for your son and to put food on the table, but you’re at the end of your rope. There’s nothing left for you to do. So you have no choice but to accept that you’ve got enough flour to make one more loaf of bread and then die. That’s a pretty helpless position to be in, isn’t it?

So you go out to gather some sticks so you can build a fire to prepare that last meal. And that’s when this stranger shows up. And he asks you to fetch him some water and to cook some bread for him. Does he understand what he’s asking of you? Does he know that he’s asking you for everything you’ve got?

Now, it’s interesting to me that God told Elijah to go and beg for food not from a man but from a woman, not from a Jew but a Gentile, not from a rich widow but one living in utter poverty, not in a safe region but near Sidon, the home area of Jezebel his archenemy. So Elijah was exercising some faith by obeying God and going to her in the first place, and then look at how the woman responds. When she realizes that he’s a man of God, she does exactly what he asked her to do.

So this woman has a lot to teach us about putting our trust in God even “When Money Is Tight & Times Are Tough.” Last week, we looked at some hands-on ideas for how to handle your money in a crisis. This week, we’re going to look at the specific lessons we learn from this widow about trusting God giving to Him, even in times of hardship.


Now, those of you who attend here regularly, you know that we’re not preoccupied with talking about money here at Sunrise. We understand that it’s a touchy subject, and some churches go overboard in asking you to give. And because of those few churches that do it too much, all churches have the reputation of always being after your money.

We understand that, and so we’re very careful when it comes to discussing money, especially about giving your money to God through the church.

However, the Bible does talk about it frequently. In fact, the Bible has more to say about money than any other topic. So if we are really going to be people of the Book here at Sunrise, we do need to talk about money periodically, and that includes talking about tithing.

If you’re a guest here this morning, then relax. We’re not going to force you to empty your pockets. But if you’ve ever wondered why churches do talk about giving, then you might find some answers to that this morning.

So what we’re going to do is examine what this widow has to teach us about trusting God and giving to Him out of that trust.



And the first lesson we learn is this…


Lessons about Giving to God:
(from the Widow of Zarephath)

1.    God expects everybody to give something.

This young widow was going through some incredibly difficult economic times… worse than anything you or I have ever experienced… yet God instructs her to assist the prophet Elijah. She didn’t have much, but God still expected her to give.

And all through the Bible, we see that God expects everybody to give something. In the Old Testament, people were supposed to bring a lamb to the Temple to be sacrificed. And if they couldn’t afford a lamb, they were to bring two doves or two pigeons to sacrifice. How they were doing financially determined what they could give, but they were still expected to give something.

And you see the same thing in the New Testament. Remember when Jesus saw the woman who had only two coins to her name and she entered the Temple and put both coins in the offering box? Jesus didn’t say that she didn’t have to give anything, instead He commended her for giving what she had.

In 2 Corinthians 8, this is what Paul said about the Macedonians…

2 Corinthians 8:2-3 (NLT)
They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more.

So God expects every believer to develop the habit of giving something to His Work.

Parents, you need to be modeling this kind of generosity for your children. And you need to be teaching them to give for themselves. From the time I was a young child, I was taught to give 10% of everything I got back to God as a form of worship. And some weeks, that may have just been a dime or a quarter, but it’s what I had.

Now, I understand that sounds self-serving for me as a pastor to tell you to give to the Church. So there are a few important reminders I want to give to you.

When you give your tithe, remember…

•    You are giving to God, not the Church

Just as you are a steward or a manager of what God has given to you, we as a church are stewards of what you give back to Him. It’s not your money, it’s His money. And when you give it to the church, that doesn’t make it our money; it’s still His. And we must use it responsibly to carry on His work.


•    You are worshipping God by obeying Him

It’s not me who is telling you to tithe, it’s God. And when you give in obedience to Him, you are honouring Him.


•    God doesn’t what to get hold of your money; He wants to make sure your money doesn’t get hold of you

You see, when you give to Him you are affirming that He is more important to you than the stuff you can accumulate. He is your treasure, not your wealth. And that’s really the reason why He asks you to give… so that your possessions don’t begin to possess you.


Now, every year when we fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, I’m always impressed when I see you taking the boxes and bringing them back filled with gifts for some impoverished child somewhere in this world. I’m impressed because I know for some of you, even filling this box is a stretch for you. But you do it anyway. You understand that everybody is to give something.

And here’s the great thing: when you do give to Him…


2.    God will multiply your gift and use it for His glory.

In the account of this widow with Elijah, we know that she had only enough flour for one more meal. But when she gave what she had, what happened? What she gave was multiplied, and the flour and olive oil never ran out. But in order for her to experience that miracle, she had to give it first.

In the New Testament, a crowd of thousands had gathered to hear Jesus speak and teach them. And they were with him all day, right through supper time. So Jesus decided he’d feed them. He asked his disciples what it would take to feed the crowd, and Philip guessed that they’d have to work for eight months and save every dime they made just to get enough money to feed the crowd.

John 6:8-13 (NLT)
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

Everybody is supposed to give something, and when you do give in obedience and worship to God, He will take what you give and He will multiply it and use it for His glory.

There’s a song that says… “Little is much when God is in it.” I believe that’s true. God is able to take the little we can offer, and multiply it immensely.

I heard a story this week about a motorcycle gang member who became a follower of Jesus and was dramatically transformed by the power of God. But while he was different on the inside, he still looked the same on the outside. So that first weekend after becoming a Christian he walked into a church as a stranger with his matted long hair and tattoos and his pierced eyebrows. But he was there to worship God and that’s a tremendous thing.

Well, that particular morning, the pastor was making an appeal for nursery workers. And he pleaded with the people, “If you’re willing to work in the nursery then stand up.” But nobody stood up. So he came back to it a second time, “If you’re willing to serve in the nursery please stand.” Still nobody. So he said a third time almost with tears in his eyes, “Look, we need somebody to work with our children.” Well, this motorcycle rider was sitting there and he was moved so much that he stood up to volunteer, and immediately a dozen women stood up and said, “No, we’ll work.”

You don’t know how God will multiply your gift if you’re willing to give it. Look at what happened with the widow…

1 Kings 17:15-16 (NLT)
So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

God performed some kind of daily miracle in this woman’s life. Each day she’d empty the flour container and she’d pour out the oil, and to her amazement the next day there’d still be enough there to do it all over again. And that continued right through this time of drought. This woman was living in a difficult time, and she didn’t have much, but she gave to God first, and God saw to it that she always had enough for each day.

The apostle Paul said…

Philippians 4:19 (NLT)
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Now, notice that he says “needs.” God will supply your “needs”. You may not get everything you want, but God will supply your needs. This woman and her son and Elijah, they weren’t eating steak and lobster every day. They ate bread and water. But they had what they needed to make it through the hard times because the widow gave to God first.

In Psalm 37, King David said…

Psalm 37:25 (NLT)
Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.

David noticed a trend, that God cared for those who honoured Him. And in Luke 6, Jesus said…

Luke 6:38 (NLT)
“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

There’s a legend about a beggar who encountered a rich king, and so he asked the king to give him something. But the king responded, “You give me something first.” So the beggar looked down at his little sack of grain, and he reached inside and he fumbled around until he came across the smallest piece of grain he could find and he pulled it out and gave it to the king.

And then the king reached into his sack of gold, and he fumbled around until he found a gold nugget the exact same size as the piece of grain the beggar had given to him. And that beggar spent the rest of his days regretting that he hadn’t given the king everything he had.

With the measure you use, it will be measured to you. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

That takes us to the third lesson…


3.    God doesn’t ask for your leftovers; He asks you to give to Him first.

Did you notice with Elijah that he asked the woman to feed him first? That’s pretty brazen, isn’t it, for a stranger to ask that? I mean, couldn’t he have just told the woman, “Look, go ahead and make your meal, and if you have anything left I’ll eat that.”

But you see, this principle of giving to God first is found all through the Bible. When Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments, God said…

Exodus 23:16 (NLT)
“…Celebrate the Festival of Harvest, when you bring me the first crops of your harvest.”

The very first crops of the harvest… the first fruit picked from the tree… even the first cattle that were born were to be dedicated to God. Why? Because…

Giving to God first is an act of trust.

You give to God first, and trust that He will provide the rest.

Proverbs 3:9-10 (NLT)
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Translated for us, I think what that means is that the very first item on our budgets should be to give to the Lord. Whenever Shera and I do up our budget, that’s the very first column for where we direct our money. We give to God first. We give to God first because it demonstrates our priority and it shows that we trust Him to provide the rest.

Elijah asked this widow to give to him first, and what did she do? When went and did it! But why? Why would she be willing to give to this stranger first. I’m pretty sure he didn’t give to Elijah because he asked. I’m sure if that’s all there was, she would have told him, “I don’t have anything to give.” But instead, she went and gave everything she had. Why? I think the answer is found at the very beginning of the passage we’re looking at…

1 Kings 17:8-9 (NLT)
Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”

So did the widow give to Elijah because Elijah asked? No, she gave because God had already asked long before Elijah did. And she honoured God by doing what He said and gave to Him first.


There’s one more lesson we can learn here. And it’s perhaps not a lesson you want to learn. But here it is…

4.    Giving to God does not exempt you from hard times.

You’d hope it would, wouldn’t you? But look at what happened with this widow. You’d think that this woman would have smooth sailing, wouldn’t you, after being so generous and giving so freely to Elijah in obedience to God? But look what happened…

1 Kings 17:17 (NLT)
Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died.

Wow, weren’t expecting that, were you? Her she is, trust God, day after day He’s providing for her, everything seems great… but then her son dies! The worst tragedy that could have happened to her. Plus, not only had she lost her son, she had lost her security. I mean, in this culture, she would have had to depend on her son to care for her in her old age. There were no government programs to do that, it would be up to her family. It would have been up to her son. But now she was alone, and so she becomes very angry at Elijah.

1 Kings 17:18 (NLT)
Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”

“What’s going on here?” she says. “I take care of you, I do what your God tells me to do, and now this? Did your God set me up only to knock me down?” That’s what she’s saying there.

Well, Elijah was devastated by the boys death, too. So he says in verse 19…

1 Kings 17:19-24 (NLT)
“Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?”
And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!”
Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.”

Can you imagine? Think about how excited this woman must have been. What a blessing from God.

I think if Elijah hadn’t been there, her son would have died of some kind of virus anyway. But because she had obeyed God, Elijah was there. Giving to God didn’t exempt her from suffering. But giving to God did bring about a miracle in the end.

And just one more observation. When this whole thing began, when she first met Elijah, she referred to God as “the Lord your God.” But by the end, she was just calling Him “the Lord.” He was no longer, “your God.” He was her God.

She had given freely to God, she had enjoyed His blessing, she had witnessed a miracle, and as a result, her faith in God grew.

Isn’t it interesting how by obeying God and giving to Him and trusting Him to provide, it increases your own faith? You grow a little bit more each time?


[Adapted primarily from material by Bob Russell]

 

 

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