“The Benefits of Putting God First”

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A Sermon Preached by the University Pastor.

I Kings 17:8-15
8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”
10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.”
11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”
12 So she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, 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.”
13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son.
14 For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ ”
15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days.
16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah.
Background:
On last night we learned that “The nation of Israel had fallen into sin and idolatry, God sent the prophet Elijah to call it back to the true faith. The prophet announced God’s judgment and exposed the sins of the people. The nation of Israel had fallen into sin and idolatry, God sent the prophet Elijah to call it back to the true faith. The prophet announced God’s judgment and exposed the sins of the people. His ministry was a powerful one and he only operated out of the mandates of God.
The King (Ahab) had once worshipped Jehovah the self-existing one. But because of his new wife Jezebel he had turned his heart from the true and living God to Baal worship. Not only did he turn himself away but he led the entire nation of Israel into idolatry.
The God of Heaven and Earth was not pleased with Ahab, so he rose up Elijah to come and proclaim judgment upon Ahab, Jezebel and the Nation.
Elijah’s ministry was a dangerous one, for anyone opposing the king had a death warrant on their life. Anyone speaking judgment on the nation was hated by all who lived in the nation.
This text today will help any believer who is faced with the difficulty of doing what the Lord says to do in a difficult place with difficult people. King (Ahab) had once worshipped Jehovah the self-existing one. But because of his new wife Jezebel he had turned his heart from the true and living God to Baal worship. [He led the entire nation of Israel into idolatry.]
The God of Heaven and Earth was not pleased with Ahab, so he rose up Elijah to come and proclaim judgment upon the Nation. This text today will help any believer who is faced with the difficulty of doing what the Lord says to do in a difficult place with difficult people.
I. A New Ministry Location
8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”
Note:
When we arrive at this text we remember that Elijah has just left a dried up brook, where the provisions for ministry have dried up. (vs.7)
The drought in Israel has completely swept the land. God had divinely arranged for the Ravens to feed the preacher 2 meals a day. And now He is changing His secret place to a new location.
He calls him to go to Zarephath! This word means “refining”; and God was certainly putting his servant through the furnace.
The new location would be the second time that God would show himself strong and mighty in the prophets life.
This place of refining would be the place where his hope and trust in God would be put on display
Refining is a difficult process it calls for some suffering and some difficulty to occur to the thing being reformed, in order for perfection to occur.
Observation:
Sometime in Ministry we too have to relocate to the Zarephath’s of life; Those places, where ministry can hurt; Tight places, difficult places, hard places where the resources are never what they ought to be. The Zarephaths are those locations where God sets us up to be cared for by those who need “caring for”. People who are broken and need healing, people who are lonely and need comforting, people who appear to have nothing to offer you, and yet God sends us in these places as change agents for a better tomorrow!
The second thing I notice in this verse is that the prophet is called to dwell there! “Make it your home. Stay a while, don’t look to go anywhere else, set your mind on being in that place”…
[“He can’t commute in and leave, he has to live in this place of refining, because it’s where God is got to get him ready for the next ministry assignment.”]
Why?
God has somebody in that City that Elijah needs to model what it looks like to trust in God.
Zarephath was tough not just for him, but a lonely, poor widow, whose only companion was her son.
Zarephath, was hard on families, hard on husbands, hard on sons and hard on mothers. It was a place that had separated families. And now God was sending Elijah (whose name means) “My God is Jehovah.”
God had a whole family going through the “pain of refining” and HE was going to use Elijah to walk through it with them!
Observation:
In the new ministry location, the prophet was going to meet and teach a widow, who didn’t know God like He did.
In this new ministry location, the prophet was going to be used by God to elevate the knowledge of the Holy in the region.
In this new location, the prophet was going to experience God and join God in what he was doing in the life of the widow and her son.
Application:
Sometimes God needs us to be available to go into sad places and be instruments of service for the King
Sometimes God needs us to take care of others going through refinement…by being present in their time of loneliness and learning
Sometimes God wants to show us just how he can provide for us while providing for the one who needs provision.
I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”
Note:
The word of the Lord was that God had commanded Elijah to go because he wanted to use the widow woman to minister to Him.
He was going to be refined by her gifts, she was going to be refined by God’s gift, (Elijah) the boy was going to be refined by the mother’s obedience, and God was going to be glorified by what He was doing in the life of all three people.
However! Don’t overlook the divine power in this command. The widow woman he will encounter is under “Her own Divine mandate” from God.
Her creator has given her an order [Just like the raven, she too has no control over this sovereign mandate of God.
God has chosen her out of all others to meet the prophets needs.
She has been commanded by God to help his servant
II. A New Ministry Level
10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.”
Note:
The first thing we see in this verse is … “So he arose!”
Here we discover that Elijah’s faith is on display. He leaves the place of Brook Ministry where he has learned to wait on God…and heads for the place of refinement, because of the call of ministry!
The second thing I see in this verse is that he is called to do ministry on another level!
In Israel he was confronting Kings with Power, prestige and prominence. He was a bearer of bad news.
Now he is called to speak to the poor, with no power, no resources, no control over life’s circumstance and he is to ask them to give him the rest of their sustenance that his needs may be met.
It would have been easier to preach to Ahab, than to say to a desperate widow give me your last bit of food
It would have been easier to say to Ahab it isn’t going to rain, than to say to the widow feed me before you feed your baby!
But God had given Him a command! He was under divine orders! He was in the will of the Lord! He was in the season of service and God was trying to refine His faith at the same time as he was going to refine the widow woman!
Remember:
The Ravens had to bring Him bread and meat 2 times a day. They would also do that before they fed their babies.
God was doing the same thing Here… “Feed my servant first, and watch and see wont I provide for you.”
This level of ministry would be difficult! Because he had no name, no address, no indicators of who she would be! He would first have to identify who she was.
Secondly he would have to see if she had the heart to serve at the command of the Lord. [If he was going to have to dwell there, he had to see if she would be willing to take him in]
Note:
She is a worker: She is at the gate of the City working….
She is a gatherer…
She doesn’t mind getting dirty…
She is picking up sticks to make a fire…
She is caring for her household…
He secondly makes a request! “Can I have some water”…
She is also hospitable…
She is a servant…
She doesn’t mind taking request…
She is willing to serve strangers/others…
She can be inconvenienced at a moment’s notice…
She has no problem being interrupted…
She has all of the characteristics of somebody who can be used by God!
Note:
God had commanded her to feed the prophet, and all of these signs were the indication that she was the one that God was going to use to minister to Elijah!
Observation:
Here we see that God has directed the steps of the prophet. He has found the servant of the Lord.
The final thing he would need to know is if she would be willing to feed Him.
Part B.
11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”
12 So she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, 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.”
Note:
Here we see a very interesting reply and an opportunity to minister at another level.
The woman is asked to bring a piece of bread with her and give to the prophet. (Elijah’s sign that this is the woman that the Lord will use)
She only has flour and Oil, enough for one last meal.
Note:
This was the sign and the opportunity for the woman to join God in doing ministry at another level.
She didn’t know what God was doing; she hadn’t discussed His plan with HIM or anyone else.
She had no idea that God was getting ready to bless Her, test her, try her and promote Her…She was being invited to experience “the Benefits of Putting God First”!
Observation:
According to this sister she doesn’t have it to give…She is not saying no to his request, but simply saying I don’t have it, and what I do have I got to go and prepare it for my son , so we can eat and then die.
Even in her despair, she is willing to give if she has it!
Even in her trouble she is willing to do for others instead of doing for herself.
In her last bit of strength and resources she was going to serve her son, and then enter into death.
Note:
Heaven takes notice of servants like this! God can use somebody who is willing to others in spite of what they are going through!
Heaven takes notice of the one whose heart is to bring comfort to others in a time of need, in spite of what they are encountering!
She didn’t know it but God was sending Elijah by to bless her!
She didn’t know but by being on the heart of God she was getting ready to experience “the Benefits of Putting God First”!
“GOD WAS CALLING HER AND ELIJAH TO A NEW MINISTRY LEVEL”
III. A New Ministry Mindset
13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son.
14 For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ ”
Note:
Here we see the prophetic response to the woman’s reply for resources.
Don’t be afraid! …The preacher has the task of lifting her mentality about the unknown.
She was fearful of her tomorrow and unsure of her future.
God had a promise he was going to unleash that she knew nothing about.
The challenge was for her to obey the word of the Lord, instead of being imprisoned to the circumstances of her crisis!
Example:
Her crisis said you can’t make it!
Her circumstances said “we aint got it”. Her fear said it’s over and it’s time to die!
Her motherly instincts believed that she had done all that she needed to do…. But God had the last word!
God had the last act of Grace ready to display on her behalf!
God had one more miracle ready to be released in the City of Refinement!
He was waiting in the wings for the right time to elevate her with a new ministry mentality!
Note:
The prophet said “Go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me;”
Here we see the indicators for how God refines her in the midst of her painful situation….
Go and serve, but serve somebody other than yourself!
Go and serve, but put my servant before your house hold!
Go and serve, but, “put his needs before your needs!”
Go and serve, but, give …what you got first to the one that I have sent to you!
She didn’t see it, but “the Benefits of Putting God First” were about to be on display in her life…
Observation:
He said make me a sandwich…AND!
The And & the But are critical to the divine conversation that’s taken place between Elijah and the Woman!
They are supernatural indicators and opportunities to believe God and to Join Him in what He wants to do FOR YOU ON EARTH.
These supernatural indicators that show us how God is intimately drawing the woman into the deep realm of FAITH…
They are the Conducting factors of the supernatural-symphony of the divine Orchestra of Grace, waiting to perform the melodic sound of miracles being played by the ALL MIGHTY HAND OF GOD IN THE PLACE OF REFINEMENT!
“Do not fear; go and do as you have said, BUT make me a small cake from it first, AND bring it to me; AND afterward make some for yourself and your son.
Note:
If the sister is going to come out of this crisis, she must listen to the word of the Lord.
The Prophet has been sent to help her in her journey. As she helps him, God will unleash something in her life that she could never do for herself.
Note:
It will take faith, to make this sandwich!
It’s going to take faith to give up this last bit of flour!
It will take faith to pour this last bit of oil
It will take faith to give up her last meal so God can reveal himself!
Application:
If the believer is going to do ministry in a new location this year, and experience God on a new level, they will have to have a new ministry mentality!
It will take faith in God, for every area of their lives
The new ministry mentality believes whole heartedly in … “the Benefits of Putting God First”!
If you put God first you will end up with more than enough
If you put God first you will see him work in your despair
If you put God first you will open the hand of God to fill your life with testimonies of how he cares for you
If you put God first you will bless yourselves, and bless others
If you put God fist your faith won’t die
If you put God first your ability to see the supernatural will be clearer than those around you
If you put God first you will be saving family from starvation, your soul from deprivation, and your mind from depression
If you put God first you will encounter the divine symphony of the “and-but and OR’s”
He said make me a sandwich…AND go and make yourselves some…

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