Monday 14 April 2014

Fruitfulness on the Frontline: Ministering Grace and Love

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. This one is part four of an eight-part series, written by a team of us at LICC, to coincide with the launch of new resources – Fruitfulness on the Frontline.

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to [Elijah]: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have instructed a widow there to supply you with food.’ So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks.
1 Kings 17:7-10

God’s provision can come in the most unlikely of places and through the most unlikely of people. Having announced to Ahab that there will be a drought in the land, Elijah is led by God to a brook from which he drinks and where ravens supply him with food. When the brook dries up, God displays his power to provide in a different way. Just as God ‘directed’ the ravens (17:4), so now he ‘directs’ a widow to feed Elijah.

Not the most obvious choice, perhaps. Apart from anything else, she lives in enemy territory, outside the fold of Israel. In addition, being a widow, the woman has already suffered loss; we are predisposed to imagine her poor and in need, eking out an existence. Indeed, as it turns out, she doesn’t have food to spare. When Elijah encounters her, she is preparing what will be a final meal for her and her son – a last supper.

So it is with remarkable faith that she responds to Elijah’s promise that her meagre resources – a jar of flour and a jug of oil – will not run out. Against all her instincts as a mother, she is persuaded to feed Elijah first, and she discovers that God is able to meet their needs. She stakes all on the word of the Lord, and continues to do so in the daily round of flour and oil, every morning a fresh reminder of the Lord’s provision, every day a fresh opportunity to minister out of his riches. And, like other widows in Scripture, she takes her place in the circle of those drawn into God’s plan, such that Jesus himself refers to her in Luke 4:24-26, reminding us that grace extends to – and comes from – unexpected places.

We too may be the means by which God shares his abundance with neighbours, with colleagues, with strangers. And we minister grace and love to others as those who have been on the receiving end of it ourselves. So, it’s not about how great we are. It’s out of his own amazing generosity that God uses us to bless and benefit others, and may allow us to see him work through us in ways we could not even begin to imagine.

Yes, God’s provision can come in the most unlikely of places and through the most unlikely of people, even through us.

No comments: