The blessings I cherish most are those challenges that transform me and move me closer to God. A challenge is an opportunity for us to exercise our faith in God and to trust His love for us and others.
A challenge is a call to train for bigger things. If we don’t show up for training, we’ll never get stronger, and we’ll not be equipped to handle what comes next in life.
Let’s look at Elijah in 1 Kings 17-19. He trusted God when he prophesied there would be a drought and famine. God told him to run for his life after he prophesied the hard times ahead.
Elijah obeyed, and God honored his trust and obedience by taking care of Elijah through birds and a poor widow preparing to die.
Would you tell a powerful leader something so terrible that it jeopardized your life? Would you then trust God for protection to hide out for over three years in a ravine and trust His provision all that time? Elijah did so, and God had ravens bring him bread and meat, and he had water from the brook in the ravine until it dried up.
After the brook dried up, God instructed Elijah to go to a poor widow in Zaraphath. At the same time, this widow was preparing for herself and her young son to eat their last meal. With the drought and famine causing there to be no more food to be found, she was preparing to bake their last small cake.
But then Elijah came and instructed her to bake one for him first and then for herself and her son. Elijah may not have fully understood, but he had lived solely off the Lord’s divine provision for the past three years and trusted what God told him to do.
Would you use the last of your meal and oil for a stranger, trusting God for what came next? What if this widow had not obeyed? We see that God made her barrel of meal and crux of oil to be enough each day until the end of the famine and drought.
But neither Elijah nor the widow had a promise from God what would happen as a result of their obedience. They just knew to trust and obey the one, true God and leave the consequences to Him. They willingly placed their lives in His hands.
Often after we do something in faith, we soon experience a life-shattering event that Satan wants to use to shake our faith in and allegiance to God. The widow’s son fell ill and died. She was a basket case of emotions and was bitter toward Elijah and God, though God had preserved their lives for a long while after she thought they both would die.
Elijah took the boy and prayed over him three times, and God restored his life.
After this, Elijah met Obadiah, the governor of King Ahab’s house. Obadiah was scouting the land to find grass and water to keep livestock alive. Elijah requested Obadiah to go tell King Ahab he was there. Though Obadiah thought this was nuts, he finally agreed, and King Ahab met with Elijah.
Then we see the well-known account of God showing up and showing out to make it known that He is the only true God, that Baal was not alive, did not hear, and could not answer those who called on him.
After God brought fire to prove Himself to all watching Israelites and Elijah slayed all 450 prophets of Baal, God sent rain. Elijah prayed hard for the rain and went ahead and sent word to King Ahab that rain was coming, even when there was only a tiny cloud seen above the sea. Elijah had faith God would deliver. He had depended on God in the past and knew God would not fail.
We read in 1 Kings 18:46 that God’s hand was on Elijah. Elijah didn’t get to stop and rest in comfort after God sent the rain. Elijah ran ahead of King Ahab and saw that Jezebel threatened his life.
Just as he hid himself after he prophesied the coming drought and famine, Elijah ran to hide himself in the wilderness. God sent an angel to provide sustenance and minister to Elijah. Now Elijah was strengthened to make the 40 days and nights journey to Horeb, the mount of God.
This is where we see the familiar account of Elijah hiding in a cave. He felt misunderstood and alone and knew that his life was targeted because he had been faithful to God. God asked him, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” Elijah pouted woefully instead of directly answering God.
Then God directed Elijah to go out and stand upon the mountain before God. Elijah stayed in the cave while God sent the mighty wind, earthquake, and fire. After the fire, God came to Elijah in a still, small voice repeating His question. Elijah, still feeling misunderstood, targeted, and alone repeated his answer.
So then God instructed Elijah to go to Damascus and anoint the future kings of Syria and Israel, as well as his own successor as God’s chosen prophet. Elijah may not have understood right away, but God explained that there was a remnant of 7,000 in Israel who’d not worshiped Baal. The remnant would escape the swords of these two kings to come.
God used Elijah in mighty ways. In the entire account we are given of Elijah’s life and ministry, we learn that God expected full obedience without first having full understanding.
God expects no less from us. We are commanded to trust and obey. There is no promise of understanding before this. The understanding typically occurs as a result of obedience and is packaged with other blessings.
God uses all situations, challenges included, to draw us closer to Him and grow us stronger and wiser for His purpose. We read in Romans 8:28 that everything is promised to work for our good and His glory if we love God and live to honor Him.
I love the old hymn that goes, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus…” This truth will never change because God doesn’t change. He is the same as He was in Elijah’s time, and His modus operandi will not change.
When we fail to seize a God-given opportunity to step out on faith and prove God to the watching world and to strengthen our own understanding, we are miserable creatures, to say the least.
I cannot find the words to describe my personal misery I have suffered in not stepping out in faith when God has called me to do so. It was always more than an emotion. It was a disconnection from my Maker. It was physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, financial repercussions, broken relationships, and so much more. It was misery in its worst sense.
The good news is that we can avoid this misery by stepping out when God calls us to. And just as importantly, step out and DO what He calls us to do. Sometimes we want to just step out and do part of what God asks of us, maybe our own form of the task.
It’s like dipping our toes in at the water’s edge instead of diving in. God calls us to dive in. He doesn’t take excuses and bless us anyway. We can only get the blessings God tosses out there for us when we jump in and swim toward them even after we are exhausted, numb, and can no longer see the shore.
Is God calling you to step out in faith in something today? If so, just jump. Don’t look back. Just swim forward with all your might and then keep going well after your strength is gone. God will sustain you in what He calls you to do. Just obey and leave all the details to Him.
If you’re not sure of God’s leading, pray, pray, and pray more seeking His wisdom and His peace as confirmation. Live a life of prayer regardless. We cannot find our way to our destination without Him.