IN HARD TIMES
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt 24:21 NKJV).
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV).
We are living in turbulent times of which the Bible calls tribulation. Whether this is the great tribulation period of which Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24 or not, I do not know. Yet even if this is not, these days are bringing great hardship to many people, when banks and businesses are closing around the world and people cannot afford to live on two incomes, we are in times of tribulation. Tribulation simply means, “to be under great pressure.” Financial pressure is one of the most difficult things for us to endure for many reasons like, food, clothing, shelter, electric, gas, and other basic items for the family. Let alone all the other pressures that comes into our lives from the spouse, children, job, church, and etc. How do we cope and get through these anxious days? We cope by staying in the peace and presence of Jesus. Then we will come through these days with JOY! “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He (Jesus) who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NAS). Whatever you are going through today, know that the great overcomer lives and abides in you. If you are a child of God then no pressures (tribulation) in this world is so great that it can crush you, because He is in you! If God is in us and we are trusting in His power and presence daily, we can overcome anything by His power and grace because He will crush the enemy of fear under our feet! As we begin to thank and praise God for every little thing in our life He will destroy all the works of the devil. But, do not give into murmuring and complaining for it will only prolong your suffering!
GOD WILL HIDE AND FEED YOU
“Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there" (1 Kings 17:2-4 NKJV).
In the days of Elijah there was a three and a half-year drought, which he had prophesied would come to pass because of the unrepented sin Israel. Yet even in the time of God’s judgement His people can survive and prosper through it. We know quite well that Israel prospered in the land of Goshen when God was judging Egypt, for He is able to hide us under the protective shadow of His wing. He will keep the enemy from breathing fear and unbelief down our necks if we stay in His presence; God protected Israel with clouds by day and fire by night in the wilderness, which was a of the Holy Spirit. Although we must be the ones that seek after God’s presence and peace, it will not just come after us, oh no, we must go after Him! God says, “Seek Me with all your heart and you will find Me!” He is not the one needing help, we are, and whatever our need is He will meet it.
Like all the other people that lived in Israel, Elijah needed provision and protection when the drought came. Provision for his basic needs, but also protection from the King of Israel because he had just prophesied a coming drought just as Moses had when he was anointed of God to bring judgment on Egypt. Elijah was a hunted man, but God hid him! God told him precisely were to go and how he was going to get fed each and everyday. In other words God said to Elijah, “You do not have to worry about a thing, I have it all covered!” But God used a very different means to feed him; ravens, they fed him hamburgers, meat and bread twice a day. Why did God choose to do it this way? I do not know because some other person could have fed him just as well, but for some reason God used one of the most selfish birds to feed him. Jesus told us to, “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds” (Luke 12:24NKJV)? Ravens represent the selfishness of man not wanting to give of their finances, but God is able to even make our enemies bless us when He wants them to! When the Lord commanded the birds to feed him it was done, and when God commands an impossible thing in our life, it too is finished. The very name and ministry of Elijah means, “God Almighty.” This means that He is all powerful, sovereign, and omnipotent. In other words, nothing is too hard for our God and that is just what Elijah’s ministry represented!
God always prepares us for what is ahead, Elijah was being prepared to bring God’s power through fire and rain to all of Israel, who were also being prepared to repent of their backsliden condition. Through this drought I believe that God was preparing to do a great work in both Elijah and Israel. Hard-times seem to have the ability to break up the fallow ground of our heart so that we cry out to God and are able to hear from Him more clearly. The place where Elijah was sent to hide was called the Brook Cherith, which means, “Cutting.” Biblical names have a prophetic meaning and to be cut hurts, it would be like being circumcised as an adult to cut away the flesh! God must have been doing a deep work in Elijah for Him to be sent to such a place, because a deeper meaning of the word Cherith is “Divorce.” When two people are married the Bible says that they become one, but when divorce takes place they are cut in two and the wounds of the heart can take years to heal.
Most preachers that speak or write about Elijah at Brook Cherith often communicate the fact of God’s faithfulness to provide for our needs through faith and obedience to Him. This is all true about this story but I feel there is something even more profound for us to realize that when God sends us to a spiritual Cherith He wants to cut away from us all the things that are not pleasing to Him. When we go through a Cherith experience God is teaching us to trust in Him and Him alone for our sustenance. This cuts away all fear, doubt, and unbelief from our heart like divorce tears the souls of the husband and wife. These sins are a part of our soulish makeup and it is very painful to be freed from them. Do not think that there will be no pain when God cuts away all self-reliance from your flesh through these trials that He is allowing us to go through for our good? The tribulations that we go through are not just for ourselves, but for the good of others that are coming behind us.
The first time we hear of Elijah in scripture is in 1 Kings 17:1 when God sends him to proclaim a drought to the king of Israel, from there God sends His prophet to the wilderness for refining. This is not strange for God to do with His servants because even Jesus had to be sent into the wilderness before He came to Israel with great power. We could write about other great men of God that had to go through the same process like, Joseph, Moses, John the Baptist, and Paul. I believe that God wanted to teach Elijah the same principles of trusting Him as these others, so that he would be the man of power that God had called him to be. Elijah was to display God as the Almighty, and the process to get a person prepared for this is very difficult indeed, but this how God makes a man of God.
As I write this the world is going through one of the greatest economic crisis we have ever faced and millions of people are worried sick about how they are going to make it through the storm. Know this, if you are a believer, God has your back covered, for He has prepared us for what is to come and He is faithful to bring us through! God is shaking everything that can be shaken in us and in the world system, because Jesus is about to return and His presence is drawing closer to the earth, but the kingdom of God in us cannot be shaken, we are safe in Him. “David says of Him, I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken” (Acts 2:25 NAS). As we spend time in the presence of Lord we will not be easily shaken or overcome by the enemy because His love will dispel all fear in us. Think about it for a minute, if I am talking to you on the phone, I am not present with you, but if I am talking to you in person, you are now in my presence. David said of the Lord, “He was always beholding the Lord’s presence,” the Greek word for presence is, “Face.” Over and over the Bible tells us to seek God’s face! It is just this simple, when we are seeking God’s presence we are seeking His face, and when we are in His presence, He is present. When Jesus was asleep on the boat with His disciples in the storm they were fearful that they were going to drown, but after Jesus rebuked the storm He also had to rebuke the disciples for their lack of faith. Was it a lack of faith to be afraid? Yes, because Jesus the Lord of creation was on the boat with them, they could not have drowned with Him present, or should I say, when they were in His presence! My friend, Jesus the Lord of glory is right now in your heart, how could anything outside of His will and purpose happen to you? That is why we are told not to fear or be anxious of anything because He is in our boat right now!
James tells us that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, so that means that God had to test and refine him as He does us in the hard places of life so that he could be used to pray down fire and rain from heaven. Not many people have been used in such ways, would you not agree? He had to humbly wait on wild birds to feed him daily and then had to sleep under a tree or in a cave with no TV, books, Internet, or company to visit him while he was there because he was in hiding. There are questions about his life that we could ask, like, what did he do with his time and boredom? Why didn’t God send him to the widow woman first or at least tell him to fish for his food or trap a rabbit or some other small animal? Why did God choose an unclean bird like a raven to feed him twice a day? We may never know all the answers to these questions and the only reason why I am bringing them up is because we have asked questions about our own life in hard times. No answer may ever come that will ever satisfy our questioning because God is just wanting us to trust His character and His character is love. Just know that you are in good hands!
“So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan” (1 Kings 17:5-6 NKJV).
Elijah simply obeyed, and God provided for him faithfully. At the time of this writing I too am sitting by the Brook Cherith waiting on God and wondering why? With no apparent answers, but that His presence is very close to me and I know that He has me here for a reason. God gave me this story about Elijah three days in a row from different sources and I just want to know what He is saying to me through it, but I too must simply trust God with my life’s sustenance. When Elijah was dwelling in the wilderness he did not know that he was going to be praying down fire and rain from heaven and that Israel was going to repent of their sins. Likewise God is in the process of preparing us for something greater than we can even fathom, so why even try? We must simply trust and praise Him for all that He is doing right now in our life.
“And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (1 Kings 17:7 NKJV).
Then it happened, the unthinkable, the brook dried up! Elijah watched the brook everyday get a little lower until one day it dried up and his anxiety level may have gone up as the brook went down. When our money begins to run out and the bills are coming due we start to think that maybe we missed God and begin to look for a plan B to get us out of the situation. But God had someone waiting in the wings prepared to help the prophet stay alive, a widow woman. Just think, the great prophet Elijah needed others to help take care of him even if it had to be the birds. God’s ways are passed finding out! We may not always like the way God leads us but if we will humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God He will guide us on the path of life.
"Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you" (1 Kings 17:9 NKJV).
Elijah was told to go to a place called there, the place was Zarephath that he was to have his needs met, otherwise he would have probably died of starvation or thirst. Zarephath means “to refine or smelt.” This name tells us that Elijah had to go though more fires of refining to prepare him for the ministry that God had called him too. Jesus is our refining fire that refines us into the image of God and this fire had to come upon Elijah first before it could fall upon God’s people; you cannot give away something that you do not possess! It must have been very humbling for him to ask a widow to feed him when he was quite capable of doing the job for himself. A man needs to feel useful and that he is accomplishing something with his day, but God would not even let him provide for his own means, this had to very hard indeed to live off of someone else, especially a widow. I could hear the headlines of the day; “Preacher takes last meal from widow and leaves her and her son to starve!” God had something greater in mind for His prophet and the widow, to help each other out! Think about, if God had not sent Elijah to the woman, she and her son may have died and we would have never known about them. Again God had something prepared for the both of them! When God is working in our life it is not just for ourselves, but for others that are going through or will go through the same thing that we just did, He is preparing us to help them through our pain.
“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. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:13-16 NKJV).
The first thing we must learn is this, do not fear when the storm hits! What don’t we understand about these words? Yet when we face hard times one of the first things we do is fear! Why? Could it be that we really do not trust God? In order for us to fully trust we must know that God is able to take care of us in a desert if He has to. If we are called of God, He will provide and guide us into all that He has for us to do in His timing, not ours. We must have a history with God like Abraham and Sarah did when they were in the Promise Land and God provided for them along the way, year after year. “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (Heb 11:11-12 NKJV). Do you see why Sarah could believe God for the impossible of having a child at the age of ninety? Because she and Abraham walked with God in the wilderness for twenty-five years and God faithfully provided for not only them, but also their whole household and all the animals. The most important thing she could have done was to believe God, because this gave her the strength to conceive a child by faith. She knew that all things were possible to them who believe!
The widow also had to move in faith and obedience to the word of the Lord from Elijah for this prophecy to come to pass; it was the key to his and her survival! This tells me that my obedience just does not affect me, but others around me that God wants me minister to!
“And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, "Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth” (1 Kings 18:1 NKJV).
Elijah had been in preparation for three and a half years before God’s timing came to pass for him to minister to Israel, this was the Lord’s perfect timing because the people were now thirsty and ready to hear what God had to say to them. Rain represents the Holy Spirit’s outpouring that was to come into their land and God had Elijah prepared for this task and God was now ready to pour His Spirit out through His servant’s prayers. Some people are so naďve to think that God does not have to anoint a person to do His work, but I cannot find this anywhere in scripture, in fact I find the opposite. God is preparing each of us right now to rule and reign with Him upon His throne, where is found the fountainhead of living waters that flows from Jesus to all of creation. We are being prepared for this ministry of glory throughout our lifetime and it will never come to an end, as this earthly life and ministry will.
But before the rain could fall on Israel the fire of God’s appeasement had to first fall on the sacrifice for the sins of His people so that He could pour out the blessing of rain (a type of the Holy Spirit). The anger of God’s fire could have fallen on Israel just as it had on Sodom and Gomorrah, but in God’s mercy He spared His people to show them how wrong they were in serving Idols. The same is true of us; Jesus took the wrath of God upon the cross for our sins so that we did not have to, then He poured out the promise of the Holy Spirit upon us!
“Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel…”
(1 Kings 18:19 NKJV).
When I think of Mount Carmel, I think of the fire that Elijah prayed down to convince Israel that Jehovah, is God. Carmel means, “to be fruitful.” We all would like our lives to bear good fruit, but are we willing to take the time to sow the good seeds that will bring forth a bountiful harvest? Waiting on God’s timing and blessing can take years like it did in the case of Joseph, who was sold as a slave into Egypt, then he was placed in prison for several years after being slave. It took Joseph about fifteen years of going through hardships before he became fruitful in his life. His dreams eventually did come to pass as he persevered, because God’s grace was on his life to help him make it through. God gave Joseph a son and he named him Ephraim, meaning, “Fruitful!” When we remain faithful to God through our tribulations He will cause us to be fruitful in the end, even though nobody passes His tests with a perfect score.
When Elijah came to Mount Carmel his public ministry became fruitful after years of preparation and waiting, but to my surprise his public ministry was over almost before it started because he gave into a spirit of fear. Worry, fear, and unbelief will not only destroy us individually but our ministry and line of work that we have been called to. I think of people whom are stricken with fear when they have to speak in public and go into cold sweats. Or the baseball player that has thrown the ball thousands of times, but for some unknown reason fear grips their heart when they throw the ball and cannot throw it straight no matter how hard they try. They are griped by a spirit of fear as Elijah was.
“And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there” (1 Kings 19:3 NAS).
Elijah at this time already prayed down the fire of God in the sight of all of Israel, so why would he fear one woman named Jezebel? My personal belief is that he was not completely free from the spirit of fear that grips so many of God’s people. I somewhat know what it is like to have people attacking me for a stand that I have had to take on the word of God, but I have never had my life threatened, but I can understand why fear would grip you! Yet in 2 Kings 1:10, Elijah prays fire down twice and kills 100 soldiers, so why did he fear one woman when he did not fear all these men? It is said, we are most vulnerable when we are coming off a great victory, this is when the spirit of fear was able to get an inroad into his heart. I believe that this is what happened in the downfall of this great man of God and we must watch for these signs also in our own lives. If the spirit of fear can bring down a great prophet like Elijah after such a great victory the enemy can do the same thing in our life also. We must pray that God would throw down our Jezebel’s of fear, unbelief, and doubt so that the dogs would devour them!
I think that this is so important for us to study about the spirit of fear in God’s provision and protection upon our life in times like these. God may call us to step out in faith to do a work for Him, but because of fear of what others may say or do we may turn down the Lord. If we do this, God will turn to someone else that will obey Him and we will have lost an opportunity of doing a work with God and not grow spiritually. Sacrificing of our wants and desires is the surest way of us maturing spiritually into the likeness Christ. If we desire to do great things with God, then our faith will be shaken and tested to see if we really mean business with God. We must recognize the spirit of fear and know that God did not give it to us, but it came from the enemy to stop us from going forward into the deeper things of God.
“Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:45 NKJV).
Look how faithful God was to Elijah, “And there was a heavy rain!” The price he had to pay for God to use him was now paying off and all of Israel benefited from the prophet’s obedience to wait on God all those long and hard years. Praying for revival to come to your church and city maybe painstaking but it will be worth it in the end. I have seen God answer prayers for revival twice in my life and the last one came to Lakeland Florida where the enemy came against it with such ferocity that many death threats were made on the people leading the revival. That was a spirit of fear, which was trying to stop the revival! We must know how to stand up against this spirit and be victorious for the sake of others coming to know the Lord. Who knows what more Elijah could have done for the Lord had he not run for the hills, we do know that Elijah’s mantle fell on Elisha to finish the calling and purposes that God had intended to fulfill through Elijah. I don’t know about you, but I do not want someone else to finish my calling and destiny in Christ!
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