THE MIRACLE OF SACRIFICE
Pastor Chuck Allen // @achuckallen // firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s here! The holidays are officially here. Thanksgiving has arrived and Christmas music is now appropriate for all the grinches out there that cannot handle a little early Christmas joy!
And so today, let’s dig into the life of three people in the Old Testament that give a very cool look into what we are to be grateful for and how we display it in our everyday lives.
You know that here at Sugar Hill Church, we are trying to Wrap it Up in the final six weeks of our year by joyfully joining in all that God is doing in and through this special church. A few weeks ago, we asked you to take the challenge of taking 1,000 Operation Christmas Child Boxes and blew our minds when you took even more.
Then we asked you to help us provide a Gospel presentation and discipleship tool into every single OCC box delivered – which was another $6,000 and you did it! This little book, The Greatest Journey can change the entire generation of a nation!
Then we asked you to help us feed 240 families with boxes of food that were equal to $50 each and you said – “Let’s do this!” and you knocked it out of the park again by providing 250 boxes.
Then last week, we focused our teaching efforts on What Happens When We Give and launched our year-end campaign to Wrap it Up. Wrap up and amazing year of Mission and Ministry by giving $500,000 in the final six weeks of 2015 and head into 2016 attempting to reach more than ever, serve more than ever, grow more than ever and love more than ever…and you responded again in a HUGE way!
So today, let’s get in the thick of why we are to expect God’s best and how we prepare for it. Next week starts our Advent Season, so in the spirit of preparation, let’s prepare our hearts for God to do something that seems impossible, right here in Sugar Hill Church!
Take a look in the Old Testament Book of 1 Kings Chapter 17 and you’ll find the story of three amazing people and One Amazing God at work in their lives.
Beginning in verse 7, we see Elijah…the Man of God, The Prophet and God has been caring for His guy, Elijah by sending birds to bring him food and fresh water from the brook.
But now, the brook has dried up, there is a famine in the land and God directs Elijah to the little town of Zarephath. There, he is to meet a widow and she will provide for him. And in verse 10…it’s gets a little funky…take a look.
10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”
12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”
Wait – What? The widow isn’t even capable of caring for herself. Her reply is what mine would have been, but much nicer. In the thick of a famine the widow has just a tad bit of oil, a tiny portion of flour and Elijah says…oh yeah…before you and your boy have one tiny last meal and go off to die, could you make me some bread and bring me some water…that’s cool, right? Just a lil something for me and you guys can eat what’s left and die.
But the bigger picture comes alive when we see the context of the Old Testament story. Elijah is a picture of God – His Guy – the widow could easily be us…some of us are at in her income bracket, for sure. and so God asks for her to see beyond her predicament…see beyond her present problems…see beyond the impending doom, gloom and misery. You see when God asks for us to step out in faith…He isn’t asking for your money or your flour or your oil. He’s asking for your faith…your trust…your heart!
And when we reply with a heart full of faith, He is even more faithful…look at the rest of the story beginning in verse 13. 13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. Wait for it…wait for it…
14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”…There it is! The promise of God…you sacrifice and He blesses.
Over and over again, we see the people of God – US – wallow in pity and misery wondering if God is coming to our aid and wondering why we don’t see God’s hand at work in our home, like we see in other families. You see miracles are preceded by sacrifice. Loaves and fishes – 5,000 people…get the picture?
The promise of God is this – Count On Me! Follow Me…Trust Me. God is saying through Elijah, not just to this widow, but to me and you – Listen to me!
Then in verse 15; 15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.
Through Elijah, God says trust me with what you have and I’ll provide what you need. Offer up to God what you have and He’ll never leave you where you’re at.
Have a heart soft enough to be obedient to God’s call.
Have hands open enough to offer what you think is impossible and watch God provide the impossible! Miracles and sacrifice – they seem to go hand in hand!
But that’s not the end of the story. And they all lived happily ever after isn’t what happens to us is it? Life sneaks up behind us and screams into our life with venom and anger and sorrow and death and says – DON’T DO IT! Don’t trust, don’t sacrifice…what will you have if you trust? What will become of you once you are generous?
And so the story takes a harsh left turn into heartache and heartbreak. Like many of us. We ask God into our lives and into our homes. We invite God in and things are going great and the minute things get a little wonky, we are right back to anger at God and bitterness and unbelief. Look in verse 17.
17 Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. 18 Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”
There it is…God, I’m with you when you are doing that I sacrifice and you bless phase of life…but when things get funky and life beats me up a bit – Come on God, Really?
She once was ready to eat her last bit of oil and flour, sit down and die with her boy…and God shows up and asks for a sacrifice. Okay, I’m in…what do I have to lose?
God provides, miracles happen, life moves on and then it’s back to this? God, I invited you into my home and this happens…my boy is now dead!
19 But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. 20 Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?”
21 And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! 23 Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!”
24 Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.”
I wonder how many of us are hanging on to a tiny bit of flour and oil and waiting for God to do something in our lives? Waiting on God to provide…And all the while, God is waiting on us to believe He can meet every need according to His riches in glory!
We are holding out on God with our gifts, our talents, our time, our hardened hearts and closed fisted hands. And God is saying, go ahead and use your oil and flour that you have for me and I’ll provide.
Invite me into your heart and your home and let me provide your peace, your joy and your contentment. And we do…and we see God at work in and around us…and then BOOM! Life smacks us like the death of the widow’s boy, And we cry out to God again.
And the Man of God stretches out over the lifeless boy, whose body is growing colder by the second. Hand to hand, chest to chest, breath to breathless pleading for God’s mercy and healing and nothing happens. Do I quit? Is it over? Are we done?
And the Man of God stretches out again over the lifeless body. Hand to hand, chest to chest, breath to breathless pleading for God’s mercy and healing. It must be over and done – You see, you can’t count on God…I invited Him into my life and my home. I sacrificed and well, I know He provided all those days and months and years, but now…where is God now?
And the Man of God stretches over the boy’s dead corpse hand to hand, chest to chest, breath to breathless pleading for God…knowing He will answer and breath to breathless and wait…what’s that? Breath to breath, heart to heart…beating and breath returns as the Man of God walks him down the stairs…no doubt exhausted, from being dead!
What is it that you are clinging to and wondering where is God? What is it you are stretched out pleading for God to do? What is it He is calling you to sacrifice and offer?
Today, will you come to God? Will you offer Him your heart? Will you trust Him with what you have?