“For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'” – 1 Kings 17:14
The vicissitudes of life always bring times of drought. In all manner of God’s provision, whether the quality of relationships, economic variability, the nature of weather, personal health matters, success/failure in life, or whatever, drought is a not so unusual fact of life. Were we to live in drought continuously without relief we would not survive. Were we to not weather the occasional or even many droughts of life, we could not ultimately survive. Life is beset by droughts. Thank God they are not fixed conditions.
Faith ministries to which God calls his church are afflicted by droughts of resources, financial and/or human. Those droughts if they remain can indicate that God has determined that a particular ministry has finished its calling for one reason or another known to and approved by God.
Yet droughts keep a ministry in close touch with God; they test and revitalize the faith of His laborers. On the other hand, a generous provision of endowment may result in a lethargy of waiting upon God in faith, and relying upon a burgeoning bank account, rather than the God who regularly supplies those who faithfully pray and cry out for his hand of blessing. Many an institution or ministry has grown cold in spiritual vitality when their resources have outgrown the necessity of a faithful and passionate reliance on prayer with the Giver and Sustainer of all things. Just look at the current well-endowed Ivy League institutions which have long ago abandoned their original spiritual commitments to God and His Son. Once inspired by spiritual vitality, they have become hostile to the living God of the Scriptures and His purposes. So have many a once spiritually thriving para-church ministry intent on preaching the gospel to lost souls become estranged to that purpose in their current “raison d’etre.”
The Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) is currently experiencing a drought, but it is one of many over a fifty-five year life of blessing upon blessing interspersed with many a drought in financial resources. The PAYH has always been a labor of faith backed by faithful prayer warriors and sacrificial givers. It has always required a faithful crying out for God’s equally faithful providence in keeping us at the spiritual task at hand, caring for and reaching troubled boys with the life transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. We have always had to remain close to the throne room of God and the precious Father who sits on it. It is, we believe, exactly where He wants us to be. This place in relationship to God’s manner of provision reminds us of the historical account of Elijah and a poor widow and her son in the ancient town of Zarephath of the region of Sidon in Phoenicia, or modern day Lebanon.
Elijah at the beginning of his biblically public ministry had been sent by God to the wicked King of Israel, Ahab, whose equally evil Queen Jezebel was actually the daughter of the King of Sidon, a region in which the village of Zarephath was located. Elijah announced to Ahab that a drought which would last three years was now beginning by the hand of God. To escape the sinful and murderous King Ahab, God sent Elijah into the wilderness area east of the Jordan River in the present land of Jordan, a place where Ahab and his minions would not discover Elijah. He received his water from the Brook Cherith and his bread and meat from ravens, guided by God to feed Elijah. Ironically, displaying God’s power, ravens were known to naturally even avoid feeding their young. This the ravens did, however, for Elijah twice a day until the brook dried up from the continuing drought.
Then God sent him across the land to the Mediterranean Sea coast to a village in Sidon where he was to find a poor widow and her son. This widow was in desperate straits to survive the drought. She was down to just a handful of flour and tiny amount of oil to cook bread for herself and child and then wait to die. But, apparently, she was a woman of some faith though we do not even know her name. She said, “As the Lord lives,” to Elijah, which could be just a common saying, or a statement of some faith. In any case, despite her extreme condition because of the drought, she was apparently willing to accede to Elijah’s request to feed him first with the little flour and oil she had, which may have taken what she had left for her son and herself; all this on the strength of believing Elijah’s word from God that the flour and oil would not be fully expended, but would remain for all the days of the remaining drought. What fairytale madness was this? But the word of God through Elijah was true. The flour and the oil never ceased to cover the bottom of their containers. God did not then provide an abundance to store up. He provided what was needed for a day. But daily provision would never fail. As it was used, what was used was replaced continuously. Use it, and God replaced it with just enough for the next meal. The grace for these meals was immediately answered with each succeeding grace.
We are not in such a state at PAYH that we are down to our last meal, but we are on the precipice of continued ministry survival. It is not a new place in which to be. It is the place we have been many times before, waiting on God for the next pay period and paying the next bill. God has called the PAYH to this ministry since 1961 and he has kept the flour jar and oil jug from going empty all these 55 years. There has never been an abundance to store up for a rainy day or a drought. In fact, there are always dry seasons in every year. But God has seen fit to keep the bills paid and the staff employed in every year for over half a century; nor has He given notice that our calling is finished and it is time to close the doors. Rather, He has called us to trust Him through faithful prayers and labor to continue until the task is complete, the rolls of believers are filled, and He appears with the blast of the trumpet.
Our “Elijah Provision” is what we ask God to keep on, keeping on. And so should you, as you pray for us, and as you continue in whatever task you know God has called you to do and complete. Elijah’s true story, as it says in 1 Corinthians 10, is for our encouragement, to continue believing God and counting on him to keep the flour and oil jars unempty, always with enough flour and oil to keep our witness to the gospel resonating, clear, true, and persuasive…until He comes! And so we pray, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
“Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim though this barren land; I am weak, but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand; Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more, feed me till I want no more.”
(1st verse of William Williams hymn, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” 1745)
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