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  Trust the Provider, not the provision    - by Jeremy Utley
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Monday, July 6, 2015
The word of the LORD came to him, saying, "Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there." So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
(‭1 Kings‬ ‭17‬:‭2-7‬ NASB)
 
God clearly told Elijah to go to the brook, and Elijah obeyed. God miraculously provided for his servant there. And yet the brook dried up. Does that mean that Elijah did something wrong? No! I think it's meant to teach us an important lesson: that God will always meet our needs, and He intends to use certain means for only certain times. 
 
 
It is so easy to fall in love with the particular way that God is providing for us -- a job we love, a friendship that is fulfilling, a routine that we really enjoy -- but if we aren't careful, we can be set up for failure and disappointment if we take our eyes off of our Provider and fix them on His particular means of provision. In all of our interactions with God, and especially in receiving good gifts for our needs from His hand, we should always seek to make sure that we are trusting God as our provider, and not starting to depend on the specific way He has chosen to provide. 
 
 
I had a recent experience which helped me see this firsthand. There was a circumstance at work that made me feel that my job was in jeopardy. I was tempted to be anxious because the specific way God had been providing for me and family (ie, my job!) felt threatened. But God brought this story to my mind, and through it, He brought me to a place where I could confidently and restfully say, "(this person) would have no authority over me except what is given by God," so I do not need to fear what they can do to my job, or the impact that could have on my life. 
 
 
God did not choose to "dry up the stream" in my case, after all, but I felt it was an important test to ask me what I'm focused on: my Provider, or His provision. 
 
 
*We can absolutely count on God to provide for the need though, even if the particular way He's provided is removed.* Seeing God's faithfulness to Elijah helped give me rest in the midst of my own trial. 
 
The story continues:
 
Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." (‭1 Kings‬ ‭17‬:‭8-9‬ NASB)
 
 
 
It's amazing to realize that God had already arranged to provide for Elijah, before He even allowed the brook to dry up. What I see here is that sometimes God has to remove one thing so that we can be open to what He has next for us. 
 
 
And I've seen this is my own life too. One simple example is that last year we had some dear friends move away and have to leave our church. I was disappointed at first, as I really felt they were folks God had provided for fellowship and had thus spent a lot of time with them. But now I can see that God had other plans for my life and how I spend my time, and I probably wouldn't have been as open to new members or to new opportunities to serve if God hadn't removed the thing He had originally provided. He needed to get rid of the "brook" in order to introduce me to the "widows" He's currently using to meet my needs. 
 
 
Praise God for knowing our needs even more intimately than we do, and for supernaturally providing for us in ways we would have never even dreamed of!
 
The last thing I see in this story of Elijah is there's an interesting "plot twist!":
 
So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, "Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink." As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, "Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand." But she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die." (‭1 Kings‬ ‭17‬:‭10-12‬ NASB)
 
 
 
Elijah obeys God and goes where He leads, only to find that the widow isn't able to meet his need after all. This brought a question to my mind: What do we do if it looks like the "provision" God has led us to is really a dead end? Like there's no water in the "new brook" after all?
 
 
 
Then Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel, 'The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the face of the earth.'" So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke through Elijah. (‭1 Kings‬ ‭17‬:‭13-16‬ NASB)
 
 
What I see from Elijah's response is that sometimes God wants to use us first to comfort those in need, even when we ourselves are in need. Elijah had such complete trust in God his ultimate Provider that he was undeterred by the fact that she didn't have any bread! And instead of being disturbed that this woman whom God had sent him to was empty handed, he was perfectly at peace, and could minister to her from the rest he had found in His true Provider: God. So he immediately comforts her with the comfort that he's been given -- that if God has a plan to feed him through her, then He certainly has a plan to feed her too -- with no concern whatsoever, being convinced that what God has promised He is also able to perform. 
 
What a blessed ministry of encouragement can flow through the one who has surrendered completely to trust in his/ her Heavenly Provider.