Making a list checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice, Santa Clause is coming to town…..
My mom used to remind us of that old Christmas song of condemnation and negative messaging…..
I remember, my brother actually got a bag of charcoal one Christmas, because mom said he had been so bad… Of course, after he did some tearful repenting, they brought out his presents which they had hidden.
We can all be thankful for grace that gets us what we need, not what we deserve, or we’d all be in deep trouble…
Two little boys were talking about Christmas. One said, “ We went out in the woods and got a real tree this Christmas”. The other boy said “My folks got us an artificial tree this year.” The other little guy asked, “Does that bother you?” “Oh No,” was the response, “just as long as the gifts are real.” Well, praise God, His gifts are real, and they have no end in sight!
At the heart of my message today is a story about someone who didn’t have much to look forward to because everyone around her was in the same shape as herself and had very little as well. If our story were taking place at Christmas, it would have been a bleak one indeed….
There was a famine in the land, and no one had enough for their own needs so forget about giving to someone else….
Let’s look at this situation in 1 Kings 17:8 “And the word of the LORD came unto Elijah, saying, v9 Arise, get you to (Key West) Zarephath, which belongs to Zidon, and dwell there; behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain you. v10 So he arose and went to (Key West) Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray you, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. v1 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, “and bring me, I pray you, a morsel of bread. v12 And she said, As the LORD God lives, I have not a cake, but only a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die”…….
When’s the last time you asked someone how they were doing and they said, well, I’m going to have a little lunch with my son and then we’re going to die……WOAH!
Now let me pause here and say first of all….if you think this prophet is being a little hard on this woman because he would dare accept a gift from someone who had so little to give… then you need to understand the difference in pity and compassion.
If Elijah had only pitied the woman, he would have probably refused to take the bread… but compassion is about changing the situation, not just feeling bad about it, and Elijah had come to change it not just feel bad about it. Compassion involves empathy that not only sees the need for a change but becomes personally part of the change. By asking for part of the little she had, he was entering into her condition, and personally identifying with her. God had already given him the miracle remedy before he set out for her house. And He knew what she did not know, but they both had to come into agreement to believe and act on the remedy before they could see it come to pass.
A patient was talking to his doctor who was a Christian. He said "As I understand it, Doctor, if I believe I'm well, I'll be well. Is that the idea?" The doctor said "Well, yes, scripture says to believe it and you’ll see it"
"Then, based on that, if you believe that you have been paid, I suppose my visit is all paid for."
"Not necessarily”, said the doctor.
"But why shouldn't faith work as well in one case as in the other?", the patient asked him.
"Oh my, there is a huge difference, in one situation we’re talking about having faith in God and in the other it’s about having faith in you."
It’s not about what you think, or say, it’s about what God has said... It’s not about what you feel, it’s about what God has said…. It’s not about what is easy or comfortable, it’s about what God has said.
The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not provide…. God had told the prophet that the woman would sustain him… (notice it doesn’t just say “feed him a meal” but SUSTAIN him) now this meant that he would be there for a while and what was needed for a miracle was already in her house if she would use it. (Your miracle substance is in your house) You have the stuff of miracles right now! It also meant that there would be enough to make it through the famine, which was over an extended season.
You already have the seeds of your miracle. Your miracle is already there waiting to be loosed, but you must activate it by corresponding action. You already have the seed of what you need, but you must invest it in the soil of faith. It’s not what you have in the barn, but what you have in the ground that produces your harvest. The seed you have doesn’t put a demand upon the soil until you plant it. Then a divine process goes into effect and the seed does what you could never do. Every seed is a prophecy of the harvest that is waiting to come. But the harvest is not released until the seed is planted.
Our money, our time, our talents are all seeds that contain the promise of an amazing harvest, but they must be planted so the process can take place and your harvest can manifest.
Many times Winnie and I have brought our tithe to church, not knowing how we were going to buy groceries, or pay the bills. But over our 54 years, God has never failed. Yes, we had to trim down at times, and set priorities, until the divine supply began to flow. But God has always come through when we put Him first. What is health worth, what is knowing your kids are serving God and will be at that family reunion in heaven, worth, what is it worth to know that your children have learned to live a life of faith and trust in God, and become God chasers themselves. You can’t put a price on that kind of harvest!!!
1 Kings 17:13 “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as you have said, but make me a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after that, make for yourself and for your son. v14 For the LORD God of Israel has said, “The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth”. v15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. v16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, spoken by Elijah”.
She activated the gift that keeps on giving….So, this widow woman had to walk this thing out, for the gift to be hers. Wait a minute, pastor, it says that she had just enough for her and her little boy. That’s right, it’s not faith if you can see it….faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen….
The Greek word for believe, is “pisteuo” which is experiential belief, or belief with hands and feet on it! We like to talk about the God of the impossible, until we get into an impossible situation, and panic sets in….
You can believe that Ibuprofen will clear up your head ache, but until your belief, puts it in your mouth, it does nothing for you. You can believe that you need to put gas in your car, but until you go to the pump and pay the gas station and put it in the tank, it won’t do you much good.
The gift that keeps on giving, was set in motion, when the widow believed for her miracle enough to make a cake for the prophet even before she and her son had eaten. Immediately the grip of the famine over her life and her son’s was broken. The power of death was broken ….. God said, I know the plans I have for you to give you a future and a hope!
I want you to look at a prayer promise that God gave by Divine inspiration to Solomon as the temple was being dedicated and God’s glory came down and filled it with His presence. Here’s what God spoke through Solomon… some time before the account of the widow, which we read about today… look at what God spoke before the famine even came..
1Kings 8:37 “If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be a plague of caterpillar, if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; v38 When prayer and supplication is made by any man, or by your people Israel, which shall examine his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house (the manifest glory of God) v39 Then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place, and forgive, and perform it….”
(Somebody needs to write that down today and start operating in it) God has promised to handle it before you even got there!!
In A. J. Cronin's best-selling novel, "The Keys of the Kingdom." Part of the book is about a young doctor's struggle to believe. He is a sensitive, compassionate person, but he struggles with his belief in God. He goes to China to do what he can to help the victims of famine and plague. Eventually, the doctor himself becomes a victim. On his deathbed he speaks to his best friend, a missionary priest. But, even now, he remains a nonbeliever. "Funny," he says to the priest, "Here I am in this awful state, and I still can't believe in God." And the priest answers simply, "You may be struggling with believing in God, but can you just accept that He believes in you."
God has great plans for each of us, and sometimes, all we need to do is believe that He believes in His plans that He desires for us, and surrender to His ways and His thoughts and accept that!
A new pastor was coming to make a house call at Emma’s house, and her mother gave Emma some instructions: She said, "If he asks your name, say Emma Jane. If he asks how old you are, say you are eight years old. If he asks who made you, tell him that God made you." Sure enough, the pastor did ask her those three questions in that order. Emma answered the first two correctly. But when he asked the third question, as to who made her, she hesitated, and then said: "Mama told me the man's name, but I've already forgotten it."
Well, child of God, don’t forget that the one who made you is totally committed to you, and His plan for you is fantastic. He knows you better than you know yourself and He has made a tremendous investment in your future….He sent his only Son to give you access to all He has. When you are having a struggle, believing in Him, always know that He believes in you…..
We’ve all heard that time and tide wait for no man….This week we heard that someone we know had passed away at a fairly young age. My first response was to wonder if they had received Christ as their personal savior. Life is too short and eternity too long to never know how much God believes in us, if we only believe it and receive it.
How many times have I heard someone say that they had just talked with a person that week and now they are gone. How many depart from this life every week without knowing that God is for them, but no one ever let them know that in the midst of their spiritual famine of life, a miracle was waiting within their grasp but they never received the gift that keeps on giving!
The little widow woman in our story almost missed it, because of her words…. She said, “I don’t have a cake, but only a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die”.
Never the less, she went and in her very dire situation, she gave out of what she had.
God will never ask you for what you cannot give. He sees what’s beyond your place of lack and your “not enough”.
But sometimes Satan makes sure the right choice is the hardest choice you ever make…He likes to make it look impossible….to do the right thing that will change everything! A Sunday school teacher was carefully explaining the story of Elijah the Prophet and the false prophets of Baal. She explained how Elijah built the altar, put wood upon it, cut the steer in pieces and laid it upon the altar. Then how Elijah commanded the people of God to fill four barrels of water and pour it over the altar. He had them do this four times. "Now, said the teacher, "can anyone in the class tell me why the Lord would have Elijah pour water over the steer on the altar?"
A little girl in the back of the room raised her hand with great enthusiasm. Yes Suzy, why was it…"To make the gravy." Suzy answered!
Well, when doing the right thing has cold water being poured on it, and no matter what you do, it doesn’t get any easier….
MAKE SOME HALLELUJAH GRAVY!!!!
It’s a tremendous shift in a Christian’s life when they are less about what God can do to them and more about what God can do through them!
John Wesley was a great English preacher of the 1700’s. He was considered a rather spiffy dresser. One Sunday morning he wore a bow tie that had long ribbons that hung downward. After the sermon was over a lady walked up to him and said, "Brother Wesley, are you open to some criticism?" He said, "I suppose so. What would you like to criticize?" She said, "The ribbons on your tie are entirely too long and inappropriate for a pious man of God." And she took out her scissors and cut them off. A hush fell over the people standing there as Wesley calmly asked, "Now may I borrow the scissors for a moment?" As she handed them to him, he said, "Ma’am, are you open to some criticism?" She answered, "Well, I suppose I am." He said, "All right then, please stick out your tongue."
Trouble comes when our tongue is in motion before our mind is in gear! You can block the gift that keeps on giving by the words you speak…. I’m not saying that any of us can earn of deserve what God has for us, but our words are like lighting rods that can attract or repel the provision which is prepared for us. There is no way the widow could have gotten her self out of her dead end situation except by accepting that God had a way where there was no way…. Even when she didn’t understand…She let her actions do her speaking…. And history was changed because of those actions….
Psalms19:14 “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer”.
The angel that showed up for Daniel, said in Daniel 10:12 “Your words were heard, and I am come for your words”.
Jesus said, in Matthew 12:34 “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. v35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. v36 But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof. v37 For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned”.
The prophet Samuel was one of the greatest prophets of the bible. But at the beginning of his story, his mom was barren and could not have children. She prayed and asked the lord that if He would give her a child, she would give that child to the Lord. An incredible prayer for a barren woman. When he was 12, she took Samuel to the temple to serve the priest and she ended up giving the gift that keeps on giving. Samuel was a prophet to kings and kingdoms. She gave a little boy, the world got a prophet!
It is in giving that we unwrap the principle of multiplication…..it is then that the kernel within the seed, begins to release the harvest season that is contained within it…
I’m sure at the feeding of the multitude, when the call went out for food to feed the crowd of hungry folks that day… as the disciples were going through the crowd, the little boy with his lunch of five loaves and two fish, waved at Peter and said, here take this, it’s not much, but the master can have it…. And it became the gift that keeps on giving…
\But the rich young ruler who met with Jesus, it says went away sorrowing because he was not willing to trust that Jesus had a better way and a better plan for his life, that far exceeded his earthly riches. Believe me, those who withhold what God has asked for will come to a time when they will be sorrowful when they see what could have been.
When we to start believing right and begin to receive the right principles and we begin to activate it, we enter into the gift that keeps on giving….
God’s word tells us in Luke 6:38 “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you measure out it shall be measured to you again (by this principle)”.
There is no diminishing or decreasing here… there is only multiplication…
Let me give you another scripture….
Matthew 13:23 “But he that received the seed is he that hears the word, and understands it. He is the good ground which bears fruit, and brings forth, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold”.
I see no diminishing or decline there, only increase!
Jesus said broad is the way that leads to destruction, but narrow is the way that leads to real life. He’s telling us that this kind of principle of increase will mean that there are some things we will have to walk away from…. Things that may be good for others but not for us. Not everyone is going where you’re going, and they won’t be there with you when you arrive. Some of your friends won’t be going where God is taking you…. Some of your family won’t be willing to go with you, and it is easy to get side tracked by soul ties, and heart strings, and the pull of the flesh… Jesus tells us that we won’t get there without denying ourselves of some gratifications, and pleasures. He says the love of money will trap many, and unhealthy loyalties will keep many from entering….
But here again, look at the result for those who are willing….. Mark 10:29 “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that has left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, v30 But he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life”. The Lord is telling us that when we walk in the principle of increase, we can expect to receive the gift that keeps on giving!
He wants to multiply everything you give to Him with His conditions, and His instructions, which produce His results!
God said to Adam….I will multiply you…
God said to Noah….I will multiply you…
God said to Abraham….. I will multiply you…
God told Isaac….I will multiply you….
God told Jacob… I will multiply you….
Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever”.
He is the gift that keeps on giving…..
I have mentioned before that a prayer I pray often as I face the day, is
“Lord, take me, bless me, break me, and give me away”…..
We are no longer victims or slaves to the world’s diminished returns… we have been adopted as sons and daughters. He has redeemed us from the world’s grip upon us, and made us heirs and joint heirs in Christ! We are the head and not the tail, we are above and not beneath. We have experienced a shift of power and a repositioning in our lives. We have a new source and a new linage, The blood of royalty flows through our veins. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ, above principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness. We have been translated into the kingdom of His light.
Lamentations 3:22 “It is only the LORD'S mercies that we are still here, because his compassions fail not. v23 They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. v24 The LORD is my portion, Oh, my soul… therefore will I hope in Him”. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God has not already provided…. Grace gives you what you don’t deserve and mercy protects you from what you do deserve!
And it’s new every morning…. Regardless what happened before, it’s new today, it never gets stale, never wears out, it never expires… it’s new every morning!
Start each day by renewing the gift that keeps on giving…. Activate your covenant, this is the first day for the rest of your life!!