With regards to missions, we are all called to reach this world for Christ. There are three categories of missionaries. The first category, are those that are ready to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The second category, are those who must prepare themselves to go. They are at present in a time of training. The third category, are those who must help others go. No matter which category we find ourselves in, go we must, it is the Great Commission! Although this study will be primarily aimed at the third category, we all need to learn to give beyond our possibilities.
We are going to look at a passage of scripture found in 1 Kings 17. It is the story of the widow woman who provided for the needs of Elijah the prophet. From this passage we will discover 6 very important principles of giving. We will read 1 Kings 17:10-15, and then comment on some of these verses
“Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “So he (Elijah) arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”
So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, 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.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days.”
God sustained Elijah at the brook Cherith where he drank from the brook and was fed by ravens. However, that season ended and he had to move to Zarephath where he met a widow woman who was is preparing for her last meal as a result of the famine in the land. He challenged this widow woman to give food in a time of great lack and need. As we look at this story through her eyes, we will discover important principles of giving to missions.
1. We must not fear lack when we give to God and to His work:
Elijah said to her in verse 13, “do not fear…” She was about to die and she did not have the resources to meet Elijah’s demands. The same can happen to us. Often we fear, that if we give to God and to His work, that we will not have any money to live on. However, we need to realize that when we give to God, we are no longer under the jurisdiction of natural laws but under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of God. We place ourselves under a higher law. This situation for the widow woman was true, but if she would obey God in this matter, she would open herself up to God’s miraculous realm.
We have the example of the little boy who gave 5 loaves and two fish. There was no way that such a small amount could feed so many. However, when he placed his resources into the hands of Jesus, then the supply that he had came under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of God, and God could feed a great multitude!
2. Secondly, we must put God’s work first:
Elijah said to her in verse 13, “but make me a small cake from it first…” We notice the word “first.” This reminds us of Matthew 5:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” This was the way by which God was going to meet her need. She was challenged to give into the mission of Elijah. One of the ways that God releases resource to us is when we give into the cause of missions and the spreading of the gospel. Because she gave to Elijah, God sustained Elijah and used him to change a nation. Therefore, we need to reprioritize and put God’s work first.
Thirdly, we need to give from the resources that we have:
Elijah did not make an impossible demand. She was to give that what she had. However, her giving took all the faith she had and brought about God’s unending provision. There are many that say, “If I have, then I will give!” This is mere lip service, for God is more interested in what we have and what we can do right now. Many expect God to bless them so that they can give. However, God does not work this way. We first have to plant our seed and and give that what we have, in order to receive more later. Furthermore, God is more interested in the condition of our hearts than the amount of money that we have. If we keep money out of our hearts, then God will put money into our pockets! In 2 Corinthians 8:12 we read, “ For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.”
Fourthly, we must believe in the promises of God’s word:
In verse 14 we read, “For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.” There are many verses in the Bible where God promises to bless us when we give. For example: Philippians 4:19, ” And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Proverbs 11:25, “The generous soul will be made rich...” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” We must not only give, but we must give in faith and expect a harvest.
Fifthly, we must follow through with obedience and action:
We read in verse 15, “So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah.” She did not question Elijah or make excuses; she simply just obeyed the word of the Lord. She had to take a step of faith, before she could experience her miracle. Radical faith produces radical results. We read in 2 Corinthians 8:11, “but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have.” We must not just talk about what we are going to do, we must do it!
Sixthly, we must expect a miraculous harvest.
We read in verse 15, “she and he and her household ate for many days.” Not only did God sustain her and her household, but later we read that Elijah also raised her son from the dead. There were ongoing miracles as a result of her giving! Giving does not only produce a return in resources, but can affect other areas of our lives as well. She fed Elijah for three years. At the end of the three years there was a great revival where the whole nation turned to God at Mount Carmel. This little lady had a part in a great revival because of her sacrificial giving. Those that give and those that do, share the same reward!
Finally, to summarize:
(1) We should not fear lack when we give to God.
(2) We should always put God’s work before our own personal needs.
(3) We should give that what we have and not wait for God to bless us before we give.
(4) When we follow through and do what God tells us to do.
(5) When we believe the promises in the Bible with regards to giving and receiving.
(6) When we live as though we expect God to miraculously supply our needs.
Therefore, may God bless you as you participate in bringing in the harvest by giving beyond your ability. Amen