Palm-size Faith?

And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.

1 Kings 18:43-45 ESV

One of the missions God gave Elijah was to address the drought situation in Israel. He was to communicate God’s intents to the Israel king, as well as to pray for rain on behalf of the nation. Now Elijah was back at the top of Mount Carmel again, this time, to persevere in the challenge of prayer and faith.

Elijah was definitely confident of God’s promise of rain. The question would be when and how much of it. He sent his servant to a high point of the peak to look out for any sign of rain across the ocean, not once, but 7 times! He was eagerly looking forward to God’s answers! The genuine praying man will always anticipate to see God’s answers. Are we one? Or do we often feel guilty of superficial prayer requests made on the behalf of others that are just lip service without looking forwards to their fulfilment?

The first time, the servant’s reply was “there is nothing” and that was the same repeated report for 6 times. Elijah did not give up or complain but just asked the servant to “Go again”. On many occasions, God’s answers to prayer may not come instantly – but when you know it will come eventually, you have just to wait patiently. For Elijah, it was 6 times over of no answer. Do not lose heart when nothing seems to happen 1 day, 1 month or even years after you have prayed for something. When you are certain it is God who promises, keep looking out and continue looking up through persevering prayers!

At the 7th lookout, the servant reported that he saw a little cloud the size of a man’s palm. This can trigger different responses to different people. Some would talk down on it as a small insignificant observation. Some will regard it as a potential that start small but will bring big results later. Elijah gave the 2nd response. He gave instruction to his servant to immediately inform Ahab to leave the mountain so that he would not be caught in the heavy rain. God’s miracles sometimes start to manifest in small increments, but slowly escalate to a blessing of tremendous size. You will never know until you finally are confronted with a surprise from God that make you drop off your chair! So do not despise small beginning of a breakthrough … a greater miracle is just around the corner, and we just simply need to stay focus to believe!

Then it happened finally – the heavens were full of clouds, winds and a great downpour! Multiplied many times over the palm size cloud! Amaze at God when he multiplied His blessings many times than you can believe or imagine, as in Eph 3:20: “ Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, ….”

Reflection Pointers:

  1. Are you frustrated over unanswered prayers and always feel God doesn’t seem to care? The truth is you may have focused more on the problem than the answer, and short of looking out for what He has already provided in small ways.
  2. Do you despise the goodness of small favours and always want something bigger? Be assured God knows the vital statistics of your life and will right-size His providence accordingly instead of the immediate upsizing He reserved for us at His opportune time. 

The Most Unlikely New Door

“And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 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, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now 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 first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.'” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.”

1 Kings 17:7-16 ESV

Earlier to this passage, God instructed Elijah to seek refuge from King Ahab at a brook at Cherith where He would provide him with food, water and shelter miraculously. The brook subsequently dried up. The livelihood at Cherith Brook was no longer sustainable. God didn’t leave Elijah in the lurch. He instructed Elijah to move to Zarephath and to be fed by a widow. We see that when one door is closed, God opens another. In God, there are infinite possibilities – of sustenance, of provision, of healing, of protection, of salvation. Our dried-up brook could be a financial lack, a broken relationship, a stalled career path, a retrenchment or a health crisis. But God is always there to lead you to another open door! “O God, that is who you are!” – that part of the lyrics of the song “Way Maker” always lifts me up as I sang it! God’s character of love and tender care for His children will never change!

“So Elijah arose & went.” Simple obedience means not arguing with God or offer our own options! Elijah could have said, “why don’t you just cause the brook not to dry up and resume water supply miraculously and keep the ravens coming to provide me with room service. I am just comfortable here. Please, Lord?” How many times we pray to God based on our own will and refuse to accept change? Not recognizing that His thoughts are higher than ours, and His ways higher than ours? Miracles are all customized uniquely to each one of us. God is too creative to be boxed up by our whims and fancies! Status quo and comfort zones may not be the best places to be stuck in!

God revealed to Elijah that he was to be “fed by a widow”. What a most unlikely source of supply! Those days widows would be the poorest segment of society that needed others to take care of their needs. To live off a widow was seemingly something that was not possible nor ethical to do. Yet it was God’s setting for a miracle to take place! It is not a household of a wealthy or at least a family that can afford to feed another mouth. The truth is that God uses the “weak things of the world …” to stage His powerful miracles! He used a poor widow instead of a rich man!

When approached by Elijah asking her for food, the widow lamented that she was about to prepare the last meal for herself and her son with some remaining flour and oil. At this, Elijah prophesied “The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.” With this, he requested her to make a cake for him followed by doing it for her family. And it happened! The flour was not spent and the oil didn’t run dry. Not for one day but many days! A last meal became a many days’ sustenance! Plus having an extra mouth to feed! Not only did the miracle provide for Elijah’s meals, the widow and her son were spared of dying from starvation. When you start to give to others, much will be given back to you. By many folds!

The widow need not find different methods of doing the flour or adding the oil. No need to do rationing. She just did what she was doing everyday – and the bread just came out of the oven every day. It was a quiet miracle. No one except the widow, her son and Elijah knew. God’s miracles may not sometimes have to be “loud” – like dividing of the Red Sea, but it could be a “water turn into wine” occurrence. Let God have the last say! Never impose on others the same experience you have with God. Or be jealous of the ways how God blesses another and not you in the same way. 

Reflection Pointers:

  1. In the seasons of life, we may come across pain-points where life comes to a standstill and many doors are closing. Do not dismay, God has prepared new doors to be opened, which can only be entered by sheer faith. 
  2. Sometimes, the next destination God leads you in may be the most unlikely place to go to. We may need to move away from status quo and embrace a new journey.

The Process and the Outcome

“This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:10-11 NLT

Jeremiah 29:11 is not reassuring because it tells us God will shower us with successes and blessings in life, but it is reassuring because it affirms that God has a purpose that is custom-made especially for each one of us that will lead to a great outcome.

“For I know” – God said He knew His plan that was laid out for Israel. God’s knowledge and perspectives can be very different from the Israelites’, and also from ours. In Isaiah 55:8-9, God says, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts … and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Not only does God know ahead, in fact, He designs ahead and plants divine setups in your life such that it will all “work together for good” to bring you to the fulfilment of His perfect plan!

“They are for good” – The final outcome is divine perfection for this plan He has for you. While the ultimate outcome is good, there is a process involved to achieve that outcome. Behind the splendour and beauty of an elegant statue, there is the process of carving, chipping, sawing, smoothening and touching ups. Admire not only the final product of a good plan, but appreciate the process that the designer has put in place to make it good! That process is part of the plan. 

“Not for disaster”- Why does God have to mention this? Can’t He just stop at “my plans are good”? He knows human are all short sighted. We always hope for instant outcome without wanting to go through the process. Painful processes are often seen as disasters. God needs to reassure you that His plan is not aimed at bringing disaster into your life, just in case you see some temporary unfavourable twists and turns in life and express your displeasure to Him. These could just be the transitional phases of the process to his perfect plan. Not surprisingly, when God announced the goodness of His plans for Israel, it was at a time where many were exiled to Babylon. The exile period may well be a churning process to bring out the best in them.

“A future and a hope …”- His plan is worked out and fulfilled in a life time progressively or maybe beyond. Some aspects may be fulfilled in 1 month, while some, 3 months and others even years. “70 years” was mentioned for Israel. We need patience to wait upon the Lord. That’s the reason why waiting upon the Lord is such a desired virtue of the matured Christian who learns to see things from God’s perspective.

Reflection Pointers:

  1. If things are not looking up as they should currently, don’t despair and start to doubt God. Pray, pray and pray. Trust God for the ultimate perfect outcome.
  2. Ask God to help you develop a patient heart to wait upon Him on the fulfilment of His promises for your life and a discerning mind to recognise the process He put in place to shape you for greatness.