Summary: This message an example of faith from the life of Elijah.
When you examine your life at what times have you grown the most? Almost always people will answer this question by admitting that the greatest growth occurred in times of deep and unexpected suffering. Yet when suffering forces its way abruptly into our lives, our tendency is to believe that God has withdrawn His protection or worse yet, He has abandoned us when we need Him the most. Our confusion during these times stem from a lack of understanding of the role of pain and suffering in our lives. However if the truth be known, how we react in these painful times of crisis reveals much more about our faith than the months of ordinary living. God allows us to journey through these painful times to help us identify the weak spots in our lives so that we can begin to work to correct them. This truth is quite evident in the life of Elijah as he was staying with the widow in Zarephath. God was preparing Elijah to be His spokesman in a very pagan and evil culture. Delivering a message of gloom and doom has made him very unpopular with King Ahab. Probably the prediction of a severe drought as a result of the peoples’ worship of Baal did not help matters much. As a result Elijah has been on the run. God’s provision for Elijah was obvious during his stay in the Kerith Ravine. As the water dried up God sent Elijah to stay with a poor widow in Zarephath. All seemed well as God provided for them each day during the drought allowing the widows jar of oil and barrel of flour to be miraculously refilled on a daily basis. This widow at Zarephath, living in the heart of Baal worship, was impressed with Elijah’s God and quite thankful for Elijah’s presence. This would all change when life seems to come crashing down on both of them.
I. The widow’s home is suddenly struck by an unexpected tragedy.
A. When the tragedy struck the characters in our text provide us with a picture of some contrasting reactions.
1. While Elijah was in residence at the widow’s home, her son fell ill and died.
2. The woman immediately jumped to the conclusion that the prophet’s presence had drawn the attention of God to the sinfulness of her house.
3. Elijah also questions whether the Lord has repaid evil for good. Has the boy been spared hunger only to die from disease? Has God lost the ability to sustain life in the homeland of Baalism?
4. As the widow pelted Elijah with bitter words he kept his cool and held tightly to his faith in God.
B. All of us can understand the bitterness the widow felt as tragedy once again visits her life.
1. The widow interpreted the death of the child as retribution for sins which she reasoned would never have been noticed had Elijah left her alone.
2. What kind of cruel deceptive God would reward obedience with death? She was a widow, she had already experienced the sting of death, how much more did God think she could handle?
3. One of the most striking examples of bad theology is the idea that if you are suffering, it must be because you do not have enough faith or there is some secret sin in your life.
4. This is teaching is soundly refuted in Scripture.
5. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33—NIV)
6. Jesus did not promise that if we followed Him, we would be free of suffering. In reality as we have seen He promises just the opposite.
II. Elijah’s example serves as a great picture of how to answer tragedy with faith.
A. Elijah not only remained calm, he does not criticize the widow for her bitter reaction.
1. Elijah did not attack the widow for her faulty theology nor did he shower her with empty platitudes the she was not ready to hear.
2. When we go to pieces, when we shout, or when we have an anxiety attack in public we are not bringing glory to God. When we keep our cool in times of suffering we show our faith and honor God.
3. The hardest reality to accept is the fact that we have a very limited perspective. We lack the ability of knowing what circumstances in life are good or bad.
4. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28—NIV)
5. This verse does not advocate that when a tragedy strikes we should never hurt or cry, but if we believe these worlds we can face tragedy with the calm assurance that God is in control.