September 16, 2011
“When There Is Nothing There”
“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” (1 Kings 18:43-44, NIV)
Friend to Friend
I have a Christian girlfriend who is caught between faith and a hard place. Though she is a committed Christ-follower she struggles to believe God’s promises and feels helpless to the circumstances of her trial. She prays – but wonders if God no longer listens to her. She daily looks for the light at the end of the trial-tunnel, yet sees none.
Have you been there? Are you, or is someone you love, there now? God’s ways and timing are mysterious – no doubt. At times, His ways can even seem frustrating. But He is good. He graciously provides strength and hope when we call on Him... but waiting on God can be such a difficult spiritual discipline.
Time and time again in Scripture we are shown beautiful pictures of God’s faithfulness to those who wait on Him and call on Him. Snapshots of God’s faithfulness displayed in the life of Elijah are simply fascinating. (Pause to read chapters 17 and 18 of 1 Kings now.) Elijah was the most dramatic and famous of all Israel’s prophets. God worked in and through him powerfully and miraculously, but even Elijah went through seasons of waiting and wondering – just like my friend. Just like each of us.
For years, Ahab (king of Israel) and his wife, Jezebel, had done evil in the eyes of the Lord. They worshiped Baal – an idol – instead of the one true God, which provoked the Lord to anger. Then God called Elijah to the scene. Elijah told Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (1 Kings 17:1) As you can imagine, Ahab wasn’t too happy about that ‘word’ and, in his fury, he wanted Elijah dead. God had other plans though. He directed and protected Elijah and provided for all his needs throughout the time of the drought.
In the third year, the Lord sent Elijah back to king Ahab, and a showdown of showdowns went down on Mount Carmel. Like a celestial boxing match with Baal and his false prophets in one corner and God and Elijah in the other, a battle began. The prophets of Baal took the first swing. They made a sacrifice to their god and cried out to him for hours to consume their offering with fire. Baal was silent and unresponsive because he was not real. Duh.
Elijah knew he served a powerful, living, and responsive God, so he advanced to the center of the ring and took his swings with confidence. He repaired the altar of God, prepared the sacrifice, and then prayed for God to reveal His deity by consuming the offering. God flexed His divine muscles and answered Elijah’s prayers instantly with an all-consuming fire. Knock out!
After the showdown was over, God told Elijah to deliver a new message to King Ahab. “And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there I the sound of a heavy rain.” (1 Kings 18:41) So Ahab went to eat and Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel to look for evidence of God’s rain-miracle.
“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.
“There is nothing there,” he said.
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” (1 Kings 18:43-44)
What struck me as I studied this passage is the fact that Elijah didn’t get his miracle right away this time. Could God have opened up the sky and poured out a storm immediately? You bet. Did He? No. Elijah had to wait. His servant had to look for the miracle...and look...and look...and look. Seven times.
Hallelujah! You and I aren’t the only ones who have to wait, friend!! God’s will is God’s will. It bends for no man. Yet ours can bend to His and, as a result, we will find strength and peace – even in the waiting.
“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on...” (1 Kings 18:45a)
God moved. Once again, He was faithful. He can be no other way.
Now think about this. God used Elijah in really big ways. Elijah spoke on God’s behalf, was God’s front-line man in raising a dead child back to life in order to bless a widowed mother, and he was the lead character in a miraculous God-show that brought fire from heaven... consuming an offering and connecting the hearts of wandering people back to the heart of God. We’re talking big God-stuff! Yet even Elijah experienced difficult situations and was forced to wait on God.
When discouragement sets in and you feel unheard – when you are forced to wait on God – when you find yourself caught between faith and a hard place – when there is nothing there... no evidence of God’s miracle on the horizon – remember that God is faithful, powerful, and responsive. He has seen you through trials in the past and He will see you through trials in the future. Even in the challenges you face now, you are seen, you are heard, and He is able. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always.” (Psalm 105:4)
Dear Lord, I worship You, the One, true God! You are mighty and powerful; full of never-ending compassion and love. Please help me to see you when I face trials and to trust Your heart when circumstances discourage me.”
In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Write this verse out: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always.” (Psalm 105:4) Keep it handy. Read it out loud. Memorize it.
Is there someone in your life who is in a period of waiting? Do something to encourage them today. If she is in a financial bind, consider writing a note and sending it with a gift card. If she is struggling with a strained marriage, a complicated job frustration, or a difficult parenting situation, reach out to her. Pray for her. If you know a single mom, consider helping her with her children. Allow God to encourage someone through you today.
More from the Girlfriends
Girlfriend – God placed a burden on my heart to encourage you today. I know this was very personal and timely for some of you. Let's meet on my facebook page to talk about it and pray through it together. www.Facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic
If this devotion resonated with you and if you would like to learn more about how your brokenness can be reworked into a picture of God's beauty, don’t miss Gwen’s book Broken into Beautiful. Every step of transformation begins with the heart of God. Broken into Beautiful will take you there. To order the book, go to Amazonor, for a signed copy, visit Gwen's website: www.gwensmith.net.
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Originally published Friday, 16 September 2011.