When God calls you to take a step of faith, often times it’s as much for the sake of building the faith of others as it is for you. The triune God created humanity for community, and it is through the actions of faith taken by those around us that we often get to encounter God’s goodness towards us. Take, for instance, this story from 1 Kings 17;
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ” She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:7-16 NIV)
Elijah already knows God’s power to provide for him. Just before the above story with the widow, God’s been using wild ravens to bring him food. That raises the question, why not continue doing it that way? Isn’t it more miraculous to have wild animals provide God’s prophet with meals than some widow?
God’s goal, however, isn’t to prove that he can do miracles. That’s already pretty well established (read the rest of the book). No – I believe God’s heart here is for more people to encounter his goodness. God tells Elijah, “I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” He wants Elijah’s provision to be mediated by another person, so that another person can learn how God works.
Note who it is that God chooses to provide for one of his most powerful prophets: a widow. Not a grand king, rich landlord, or prosperous farmer, but a widow with a young son who is so close to the end that she’s given up and assumes her and her son will die soon. He sends Elijah to ask her for water and food, the very things she doesn’t have any extra of.
She doesn’t even seem to be aware that God’s planning on doing something miraculous through her. Despite the fact that God told Elijah “I have directed a widow….,” the widow doesn’t seem to have gotten the message. It takes Elijah declaring God’s promised provision to her to call out her faith and enable her to act. Note how Elijah goes about calling out faith in the widow;
- He persists. Even though she tells him at first that she doesn’t have what he needs and that her and her son will die if they don’t get to keep the food, he asks a second time. We need to ask with holy persistence and not back down just because what we’re asking for appears impossible.
- He starts small. First he invites her to make “a small loaf of bread” for him. Not a grand feast or even a full meal, just a small loaf of bread. Invite the people around you to take a small step of faith, to move even an inch in the direction that God is calling them. Jesus himself says that faith as small as a mustard seed has massive power.
- He declares God’s promises. Elijah speaks the powerful truth that God is going to provide for the widow and her son as well as Elijah. Speak God’s truth and build up the people around you, regardless of whether they come with you on the journey or not. After all, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
When we call others into obedience in faith, they receive blessings beyond what they would have experienced otherwise. The widow and her son were provided with abundant food during a time of famine because Elijah asked them to take a step of faith. They stepped and saw God do miracles on a daily basis.
Has God called you to something that you can’t do on your own power or resources? Good! He wants to use your need as a means of building the faith of those around you. Today – this week – God has someone in your life that he wants you to help step out in faith. He’s called you in a direction and you need that must be met before you can start moving. He wants you to go to those around you and invite them to support you in that journey. Ask the community of believers around you for what you need. Ask even if it seems impossible. God will provide and use your need to bless you and bless the person you’re asking. Miracles will happen.