Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why Is God Allowing This In My Life?

Opening his "Elijah" series, Craig Groeschel opens with "The Making of a Man of God". It is the story of one of the greatest men in all of history. When Elijah was alive, the Northern Kingdom had experienced some 19 consecutive evil kings spanning over 200 years. In fact, there was one ruler named Ahab who was married to one of the most wicked women in recorded history, Jezebel. Under his reign, Ahab did more evil in the sight of God than any other king before him. Often when a king would turn away from God, they would begin their own religion which was often the worship of Baal. This cult would call for the sacrifice of children and ritualistic sex with prostitutes. This was clearly a time of corruption, scandal and idol worship.
But God didn't raise up an army to defeat this king, he brought one man, Elijah. What does the name Elijah mean? It comes from three root words El, i and Jah. "El" comes from "Elohim" meaning God. "I" comes from the personal pronoun meaning "my" or "mine". "Jah" means "Jehovah". So, the name "Elijah" literally means "My God is Jehovah". So, when God raises up this prophet to defeat the king, the name of the prophet himself stands down the king. When we meet Elijah, we don't know much about him other than where his is from, but we can find his introduction in 1 Kings 17:

"Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to 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.'" This turned out to be one of the most prophetic statements of the land. This would mean an economic shutdown today. It would be an utter disaster. But where you might expect Elijah to stick around after his bold prediction, God chose instead to take Elijah into hiding so that He could do much more in Elijah so that He could do more through Elijah. It seems that God had a lot of work to do in this long season, of Elijah's life. As Craig sees it, Elijah goes through 3 seasons.

1) God takes Elijah through a season of isolated pain.

The word of the Lord came to Elijah right after his confrontation with King Ahab. "Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan." "Kerith" means "cut off" or "cut down". You could almost sense what God is saying here. He was going to break down Elijah and make him totally dependent on Him. He was going to humble him privately so that He could use him publicly. This may be a place familiar to some of us.
"It's like the little birdie who flew south for the winter," muses Craig. The story of the birdie is one where he got a late start and was caught in a winter storm where all the sleet and snow began to gather on his wings. He was freezing and couldn't move, let alone fly. Yet at his lowest point, a cow comes and dumps on him. The bird, who thought it couldn't get worse is now covered in manure. But then the bird realizes that the manure is warming him up and thawing out his wings. With happiness bubbling up in him, the bird begins to sing. But then a cat comes along and hears the chirping of the bird. Immediately, the cat kills and eats the bird. "Okay, so you're wondering...three lessons for the story!" What are they?

1) Everyone who dumps manure on you is not your enemy.
2) Everyone who digs you out is not necessarily your friend.
3) When you're in your manure, keep your big mouth shut.

Some of us would say that we are currently in the Kerith Ravine ourselves, but we need to know that God is teaching us something that we couldn't learn otherwise. "I'll never forget when I was starting Life Church years ago, I was sitting across from the table from my mentor and friend, Gary Walter...Gary said, 'I've one promise when you start this church. God is going to break you.'" It was a sobering moment for Craig, but sure enough, God did. Yet each time Craig would talk to Gary and say God was breaking him, Gary would say, "No, He hasn't broken you yet." There was finally a season where Craig had lost many things. He'd even lost 25 pounds. But as a result, when people today ask how Craig can handle certain things, Craig says it is because he went through the Kerith Ravine. Elijah went through this ravine for months. There was no one to talk to and he was isolated.
It is doubtful that God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply. A.W. Tosier

2) The second season God takes Elijah through is a season of total dependence.

"The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook."

Here we see Elijah by himself. In the middle of a national drought, God delivered Elijah a brook. Every day, God's catering service, ravens, would fly in food for Elijah. Many of us are now learning how to have faith and dependence on God.
A single mom knew this well. She would pray every day for God to provide for her. There was an atheist next door who would be irritated in hearing her constant begging to her God for what he thought would never take place. Fed up one day, the atheist went to the store, bought several bags of groceries and delivered them to the door of the single mother. He knocked on her door and then hid in his apartment. When the lady answered the door and saw the groceries, she began praising God. But the atheist opened his door and screamed, "You fool! I delivered those groceries, not God! I did it to prove that there is no God." But the woman kept praising God all the more. Not only did you provide for me, but you made the devil pay the bill!!!

When you can't depend on what you used to depend on, God will provide. God didn't give Elijah several months of food or even several days of food. God brought what Elijah needed for the day, only. This may also be what God is teaching us. God will provide.

3) God takes Elijah through a time of "unconditional obedience".

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him: 'Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.'" Imagine being in Elijah's place. He's going where God has told him to and now the brook has dried up. The same God who gave him water has now taken it away. But the question we have to ask is "Does God now want me to move?" God guides by what He provides. God may also guide by what He does not provide. This might be to get us to respond by total faith.

The dried up brook gave Elijah the courage to move. Did anyone ever see "Karate Kid"? Remember when the kid goes to Mr Miyagi and wants him to teach him karate? There were several scenes where the kid is told to work instead of to train. He washes and waxes the cars and paints the fence. It is only when he is told to block his attacks that the kid realizes that he was, all along, being taught karate techniques throughout his work.

So Elijah 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 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 cake 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 gives 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.

For weeks and months, God provided for the two because of Elijah's obedience. But then tragedy struck. The woman's son dies! Some time later, the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" "Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!" The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived.

God used horrible things to strengthen the faith of Elijah as well as those around him. In verse one, we saw Elijah as the man from Tishbe, but now, after his many trials and seasons, (verse 24) the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth."

God may allow us to go through our Kerith Ravine so that, in time, we may become men and women of God.

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