There is the sound of the abundance of rain.
1 Kings 18:41
How utterly Elijah ventured everything on his God! For three and a half years there had been a nationwide drought, and water was very scarce indeed. Yet he insisted it be poured lavishly on the sacrifice that was to vindicate Jehovah. “What! squander our precious reserves of water with no rain in sight ?” “Pour it on,” said Elijah. “Do it a second time; do it a third!” And not content with that, he himself took a hand in filling the surrounding trench with water.
If we too are to see God vindicated, we must bring what we have and let it go to Him. “But what will happen if the rain doesn’t come?” you protest. “I must hold on to the water I have.” God forbid! That way lies drought and barrenness. Let it go to Him! What you lose will be nothing when compared to His abundance of rain.
Never will it be that whatever we give to God for His purposes can be considered to be squandered for God uses fully and wisely everything we bring to Him. Those who know little of the character and nature of God might consider the time, financial resources, and energies devoted to the work of God as wasteful but those whose hearts have been captured by God know that everything they are and have has been received as a gift from God and they are merely returning back to Him a small portion of those blessings.
Our sin nature is wasteful. History records, and many of us know this by experience, that humans often waste the blessings of God. Many people live their whole lives in fruitless pursuits of happiness through unfulfilling careers, mounds of useless possessions and the constant chasing of pleasures that soon become dull and boring. All the time they miss the incredible adventure of walking with God. The people of Israel were that way. They forgot that it was God who delivered them from the slavery of Egypt after more than four hundred years of bondage. They had no way to become free by their own abilities and yet when God through His grace brought them out, they often tried to take the credit for their freedom. We, too, can easily forget that we were in the chains of bondage as slaves to sin with no means to break free and once Christ makes us free we sometimes live as if we have forgotten our liberty is a gift from God.
Along their journey to the Promised Land, they found themselves time and time again up against lack. I wish I could say that in those moments, they called on God for help with faith, but the Bible tells us that their approach was through complaining and fear. God in His kindness responded to their cry for help even though they didn’t ask in faith over and over again. They never seemed to grasp that God loved them enough to take care of them. Years later Jesus would say to their descendants that God loved humanity and creation so much that He took care of little sparrows and field lilies and people.
Many of us live in the fear of want so we gather to ourselves as much security as we can thinking that somehow we will be able to insulate ourselves from lack. Yet Jesus told us to lay up treasures in heaven where thieves can’t steal, rust can’t destroy and moths can’t eat.
Abundance and generosity stem from trust and faith. Once I comprehend that God is my true source, I am liberated to become lavish in my giving, time and resources for I know that God delights when my hope is in Him rather than my own resources.
The background of our text today finds the people of Israel now living in the Promised Land. Through Joshua, Samuel and David they had grown into a mighty nation. But in their time of blessing they forgot that it was God who had brought them into the place of blessing. By the time we get to today’s story, they had become torn between looking to God for help and looking to the Canaanite god Baal. They scotched their bet by trying to worship both, just in case, forgetting that God had told them to love Him with all their hearts and to have no other god before Him. Because they had turned away from the only source of life and blessing, they found themselves in a difficult place. On this occasion there had been a three and a half year drought. Water was scarce and I’m sure that when Elijah gave instructions for barrels of water to be brought and poured on the sacrifice, there must have been those who said, “What a waste!” Yet that day because of the lavish giving of Elijah and his absolute trust in God and His power, the people who were in the straits of decision were given evidence that Jehovah was the true and living God.
You may ask how does this apply to me? You may never find the words to convince those in the valley of decision to choose Christ, but you will be able to convince them when they see the evident work of God in your life and what better way than to become a generous giver, server, and participant in the work of God.
My personal story is such. Answering the call of God I let go of a lucrative career and yet I can say that somehow God has more than provided. In the nineties faced with choosing to take a job working on Sunday or continuing to give my Sundays for the work of God, I chose God. It wasn’t an easy decision. The company I had worked for had closed and the only opportunities in my field required Sunday work. As we sought God, He impressed us to start a construction business. As we were getting started and building our business, there were times when my work was running out and I needed new customers. And again God gave us a secret. In those times when new business was slow, we would write a check to a missionary for the balance in the business checking account, leaving only the amount due to service bills. And every time we put that check in the mail, my phone would begin to ring with more business.
I have a friend of mine who led a church in a community that had a Jewish population. They approached my friend and asked if they might rent the church for their Friday Sabbath services. He and the leadership team met and agreed that they would let the Jews use the building rent free. He tells that from the day that they made that decision their congregational donations increased beyond explanation. After some time, a leader raised the question about charging rent to the Jewish group and after much discussion the leadership team agreed to do so. The Jewish congregation made no objections and began paying rent but my friend said that almost immediately the congregation donations dropped significantly and the rent received was less than the drop. The same principles that apply to people also applies to the church. We need not fear that God won’t supply when we engage in His work. He doesn’t promise to give us always our wants but He dies promise to supply our need. Any person or any church that chooses to give, work, and focus on the mission of Christ and the work of God has no fear of provision, but the person or church that focuses on self have no such promise.
God is generous and lavishes multiplied blessing upon His people. I want to issue a challenge to every reader today. In every place in your life that you feel lack, whether time, finances, or any other place, make the decision to lavish what you have upon God. Far too many of us see giving, serving, or sharing as a duty or responsibility. Many see it as doing something for the church or the pastor or the denomination. But if we could see that everything we give and do is unto the Lord who pours out His abundance upon us, it might change our motivation and help us tap into the generosity of God.
Dr. John Thompson