In a recent lesson at church, we studied the story of Elijah and the widow. It was a time of famine in the land and the Lord sent the prophet Elijah to a certain widow woman. Upon entering the city, Elijah found the woman gathering sticks and asked her, “Bring thee I pray thee a morsel of bread in thine hand.” The woman replied that she was gathering sticks to make a fire and cook the last bit of oil and meal she had for she and her son to eat their last meal, and then she expected they would die of starvation.
Elijah responded, “Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.”
The widow took Elijah at his word, gave him some bread first and “she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.” (See 1 Kings 17:11-16)
I love this story and have marveled at the economy of the Lord in bringing people together who have what each other need. I have admired the faith of the widow and the surety of Elijah to make such a promise and the authority from God to see it fulfilled. But two new things stood out for me this time that I had never noticed before.
First, in order to obtain her miracle (food to last through the famine), the widow did not need to do anything extraordinary. She wasn’t asked to perform something beyond her normal capabilities or act outside of her sphere of influence. She simply had to take a leap of faith to mix up a little cake and give it to a stranger. In order to have what she needed she had to make a token sacrifice. She had to risk losing something in order to gain something much greater. But it was really quite a small and simple thing she did. For by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.
Second, it struck me that the oil and meal which was originally scarce and hard-earned for the widow prior to her leap of faith became a steady nourishing stream of sustenance for her after it.
So how can we apply these two things to our own lives? Usually, if not always, when we wish to receive a significant blessing, we must make a sacrifice of some type – a leap of faith. The principle of sacrifice is a law of the gospel. Jesus taught that where much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:47-48) But, the sacrifice we are asked to make will not be something which we are incapable of doing. It will be something that requires us to act upon the people and things around us. It won’t require talents that we do not possess nor possessions we do not have. The Lord always provides everything we need to accomplish our righteous desires, but he often requires us to sacrifice our time, talent or means to achieve them. We may have to reach outside our comfort zone.
The second thing we can learn from this account is that abundance follows a leap of faith. If you are struggling with lack in any area of your life, in order to receive abundance in that area, you will need to make a leap of faith. A leap of faith and a sacrifice are synonymous. It wouldn’t be a leap if it didn’t require some sacrifice on your part. It may be the sacrifice of your old way of thinking, inaccurate beliefs, or it may be the literal sacrifice of something you own – or just the perceived sacrifice of something. But really, a sacrifice is no sacrifice at all. It is merely an investment. Seeing only the beginning of this story, we would say the widow was asked to make a great sacrifice, but knowing the end, we see that it was a small price to pay to give up a little bit of oil and meal to have a continuous supply of food throughout the entire famine. It was no sacrifice at all. It was merely an investment toward amazing abundance.
Ephesians 3:20 tells us that the power of God (the Light of Christ and the Holy Spirit that works in us) “is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think.” Heavenly Father doesn’t do anything small. He didn’t give the widow just enough food to last her a few days or weeks, he gave her a continuous supply that lasted throughout the entire famine!
So what are some things that hold us back from making a token sacrifice to reap the abundance that Heavenly Father is waiting to give us?
- Close-mindedness – the inability to believe or accept new ideas. Jesus lamented that some people’s “heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:15) Jesus died and was resurrected that he might heal us – of sin, of death, of life’s illnesses and heart-wrenching challenges. But it is we who keep this healing from occurring by closing our eyes and stopping our ears. It is as if the Lord has a shower of blessings hanging over your head ready to flow down on you, and all you have to do is tweak your thinking just a bit to turn on the faucet. Be willing to learn new things; be willing to study and incorporate new concepts into your life..
- Fear of what comes next - Many of us do not do the things we need to do in order to achieve our goals because we are afraid of what we will have to do once we achieve them. We might be afraid to prosper financially because we’re afraid of the taxes we’ll have to pay or afraid that somehow it’s evil to prosper. Or perhaps we’re afraid to make significant spiritual strides because we’re afraid of what will be expected of us next. We must lay aside our fears and trust and have faith that in the moment that a challenge arises, that we will be given the knowledge, resources and ability to maneuver the situation with grace.
Expect good, expect that you will have the answers you need when you need them, and they will come. As my friend and mentor, Leslie Householder says, "Life is an adventure." Within every trying circumstance is an equal and opposite blessing. If we look for the good, we will find it. We need not worry and fret about possible problems of tomorrow. Look after today – the here and the now – and do everything within your power to make today all it can be. Tomorrow will take care of itself.