1 Kings 17:13-14 “Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’”
Faith doesn’t come out of nowhere. God’s people live by faith in God’s promises. I suppose that there could be circumstances when “Don’t be afraid” was meant as a criticism. “Don’t be such a coward.” But in the Bible, in the mouths of God’s prophets, angels, and faithful leaders, these are words of promise. When Elijah says, “Don’t be afraid,” he is saying, “You don’t have to be afraid. The things that make you afraid aren’t going to hurt you. You have a God who loves you. Yes, your sins have been offensive to him. But this is the God who forgives. He freely forgives. Yes, hard and painful things are happening to you. But God isn’t punishing you. He is growing you. He is molding and shaping you. He is building your character and forming your faith. He’s got this. You can live your life. Only trust his love.”
That kind of trust is the only way the widow in the story could take the next promise seriously. “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry.” Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds? “Really? More is just going to appear in my pantry each day? It’s just going to grow back, like my hair does after a haircut? And I suppose that new clothes will magically appear in my closet, and a money tree will start growing in my backyard.” But learning to trust God for his grace and love makes us sure of all his other promises as well. “She went away and did as Elijah told her.” The widow dared to give, because she was sure of God’s promises.
Let’s be clear. We have not been given the same promise Elijah gave to the widow. My family still has to go grocery shopping every week. Peter was invited to step out of the boat and walk on water, but don’t try this at home. We have no such promise. Moses could talk to a rock and water came gushing out, but if you try it, people will just think that you are crazy. Some of his promises God has given to specific people for a specific situation. This is one of them.
But the promises we have been given are just as good, and just as sure. “Look at the birds of the air;” Jesus says, “They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes. See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
You are much more valuable. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. All these things will be given to you as well. These promises are God’s own, and that makes them sure. Trusting them sets us free in so many ways, and it makes it possible for us to give even when we think we have so little.