#1      (THE "DON'T BE AFRAID" SERIES)

"DON'T BE AFRAID TO HONOR GOD!"

TEXT:  I Kings 17:7-16

INTRO:

We live at a time when there are more books on the market to tell you how to be a successful parent, successful in business, successful in education, etc. There is a great deal of anxiety today about succeeding ... especially in the area of parenting. Mom and dad, how do you succeed in parenting your children? What is the secret to good parenting? Is there a sure fire way to help your children grow up stable and strong? The Bible portrays for us the story of a poor widow who was not even Jewish and did not live among God's people, yet she had all the ingredients for success, and she is the first person in the Bible where it is recorded the dead was raised back to life. She didn't know much about God, but she knew enough to do the one thing that set her apart from others ... she was not afraid to honor God, and her faith has given her a place in Scripture of high honor! It is not the circumstances of our life that make or break us, it is how we respond to the circumstances in life that make or break us! Good parenting is not as much education as it is example ... PROP. SENT:      The bible teaches us that those who honor God will experience God's constant care and help in life. If we honor God by our example and faith, we will enable our children to grow without fear knowing that God will always be there!

I. FROM FAITH TO FAITH     7:7-9

A. Continued Tests     17:7 1. God through Elijah had shut up the heavens so there was no rain for several years, this was intended to wake Israel up, for them to repent of their sins ... they had failed to honor God! a. Ironically they had turned to worshipping Baal ... Baal was the god of rain and thunder! but it was dry! b. This was a clear statement from God that their trust in Baal was misplaced! c. God was demonstrating that Baal was impotent ... they should turn back to Him, for he had power over all idols! d. it was the King's wife Jezebel that had introduced Baal worship ... she was from Sidon, her father as king had the Sidonians worship Baal. 2. During this drought God had placed Elijah in a hidden place where the ravens twice a day came and brought him food to eat, and he was near a brook that provided water to drink. a. this worked well for a couple of years, but the brook where he got his water began to dry up! b. Though God's prophet, Elijah was suffering too because of Israel's unrepentant ways! c. Up till now Elijah had been safe and hidden, but God was about to change everything ... He was about to test a Sidonian widow and He was about to test Elijah too! 3. Though Elijah was God's man, he too underwent tough tests. a. up till now he was well hidden and safe, but God was about to ask him to go right into the heart of the enemy to live, a move that would put him at great risk! b. normally he would not have wanted to go right into the heart of enemy territory but the brook was dried up, he had no choice! 4. Sometimes God moves us by nudging us along, even when it makes us afraid, but these times will always be growing times for us! ILLUS: SEVERAL YEARS AGO A WOMAN, WITH HER LITTLE BABY, WAS RIDING IN A STAGE-COACH IN WESTERN MONTANA. THE WEATHER WAS BITTER COLD, AND IN SPITE OF ALL THE DRIVER COULD DO TO PROTECT HER, HE SAW THAT THE MOTHER WAS BECOMING UNCONSCIOUS FROM THE COLD. HE STOPPED THE COACH, TOOK THE BABY, AND WRAPPING IT WARMLY, PUT IT UNDER THE SEAT, THEN HE SEIZED THE MOTHER BY THE ARM, AND DRAGGING HER OUT UPON THE GROUND, DROVE AWAY LEAVING HER IN THE ROAD. AS SHE SAW HIM DRIVE AWAY, SHE RAN AFTER HIM, CRYING PITEOUSLY FOR HER BABY! WHEN HE FELT SURE THAT SHE WAS WARM FROM RUNNING, HE ALLOWED HER TO OVERTAKE THE COACH AND RESUME HER PLACE BY HER BABY. ONLY THEN DID SHE REALIZE WHAT HE WAS DOING, HE WAS REVIVING HER BY FORCING HER TO EXERT HERSELF... HE NEVER MEANT TO PULL AWAY, SHE WAS NOW WARM AGAIN! HOW MANY TIMES HAS GOD DONE SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN OUR LIVES ... JUST WHEN WE THINK HE HAS LEFT US, IT WAS TO PULL US BACK FROM THE BRINK OF COLDNESS! -- Source Unknown. 5. Elijah was now suffering the same way as all Israel ... the miracle of being fed by ravens was coming to an end before the end of the trial! a. sometimes God sends a miracle ... but then it seems that when we still need a miracle things change! b. God was about to minister to a mother from Sidon, and also a prophet named Elijah was about to learn how to not be afraid of the enemy. Later he would have to face his enemies ... it was time to learn now how to do that! B. Crazy Trial!     17:8-9 1. After having hid Elijah for a couple of years in a safe haven by a brook, now God asks Elijah to travel to Sidon ... the home territory of the enemy of God's people ... and the place where Baal worship came from! a. this was lousy timing, it was at the height of the drought ... when the people would be the most angry about Elijah's ministry! b. it would be right in the heart of the enemy Jezebel's home area! ... Elijah would be exposed and easily taken! c. How could God do this!? 2. God tells Elijah he has commanded a widow to take care of him! a. Elijah must have thought this crazy ... widows in antiquity were extremely poor and powerless! b. What was wrong with the ravens feeding him!? c. Of all the answers to his needs for safety and security-- to go into the heart of the enemy to live, and trust a widow to provide for him!!!! d. this made no sense at all! 3. Elijah learned a long time ago however to trust God and to honor God's word by obeying ... so he goes! 4. God often does the greatest things in our lives when we obey His Word even when it seems crazy! ILLUS: 16 YEARS AGO, REV. LOYOLA WAS A PASTOR AND PROFESSOR IN CUBA. THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT INSTRUCTED HIM TO EITHER ABANDON HIS FAITH OR QUIT TEACHING SCHOOL. THEY GAVE HIM 15 DAYS TO DECIDE. REV. LOYOLA SAID, "I DON'T NEED 15 DAYS. I DON'T NEED 15 MINUTES. I WON'T BE BACK TO TEACH TOMORROW." SEVERAL DAYS LATER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, HE WAS ABDUCTED AND IMPRISONED IN A CUBAN CONCENTRATION CAMP FOR OVER 2 YEARS, IN PART BECAUSE OF HIS DEDICATION TO SHARING THE GOSPEL WITH THOSE AROUND HIM, HE WAS TRANSFERRED 13 TIMES TO A NEW CONCENTRATION CAMP. FINALLY, HE WAS TOLD BY CASTRO'S GOVERNMENT THAT HE HAD 30 DAYS TO FINE $2,000 TO TAKE HIS FAMILY OUT OF CUBA. OVER THE WEEKEND, HE AND HIS WIFE PRAYED FOR GUIDANCE, WRITING TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS IN OTHER COUNTRIES. 30 DAYS LATER, THERE WAS $2,010 THAT CAME. SO WITH $10 IN HIS POCKET, REV. LOYOLA AND HIS FAMILY WERE SENT TO SPAIN WHERE HE NOW JOYFULLY EXCLAIMS THAT HE IS A MISSIONARY TO SPAIN SENT BY CASTRO!!! THOUGH HE SUFFERED FOR A WHILE, GOD MOVED IN HIS LIFE BECAUSE HE WAS NOT AFRAID TO HONOR GOD! -- Source Unknown. 5. As long as Elijah honored God's Word, he would be o.k.! a. an important lesson we all could learn! b. Mom and dad ... if you honor God and His Word consistently, you do not need to be afraid, God will deliver you from the most difficult of circumstances! II. FROM FEAR TO FAITH!     17:10-16 A. Challenging Test     17:10-11 1. As Elijah enters Zarapheth, he has no idea who he was looking for ... just some widow. a. By the gate he notices a woman gathering a few sticks, a good indication of poverty, they baked their bread in those days over charcoal made from wood, a woman gathering a few sticks meant poverty ... which of course made her a likely candidate for being a widow! b. How ironic that God would take care of Elijah in the very heart of the land that worshipped Baal and was the enemy of God's people! (1. How can we be sure our children will make it through these dark days in which we live? (2. How can we be not afraid to be around all the sin in our society? We live in the midst of idolatry and God's enemies? (3. The answer will be found in the example set by this widow, this mother who was not even an Israelite! (4. It is possible to live in the midst of evil and honor God!!! 2. If Elijah had come feeling sorry for himself, thinking he had it bad when the brook dried up this poor widow was in worse shape than he was! 3. Sometimes when we think we have it worse than anyone else, when God is being crueler to us than others, we might be surprised to know what others are going through tougher times than us ... yet they still manage to honor God! ILLUS: A YOUNG COLLEGE AGE WOMAN WAS HAVING 2 PROBLEMS COMMON TO MANY COLLEGE STUDENTS; LOW GRADES AND NO MONEY! SHE WAS FORCED TO WRITE HOME TO HER PARENTS, BUT WAS AFRAID THEY WOULD GET UPSET, SO SHE TRIED A CREATIVE APPROACH TO SOFTEN THE BLOW, SHE WROTE: DEAR MOM AND DAD, JUST THOUGHT I WOULD DROP YOU A NOTE TO CLUE YOU IN ON MY PLANS. I'VE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH A GUY NAMED JIM. HE QUIT HIGH SCHOOL AFTER GRADE ELEVEN TO GET MARRIED. ABOUT A YEAR AGO HE GOT A DIVORCE. WE'VE BEEN GOING STEADY FOR TWO MONTHS AND PLAN TO GET MARRIED IN THE FALL. UNTIL THEN, I'VE DECIDED TO MOVE INTO HIS APARTMENT (I THINK I MIGHT BE PREGNANT!). AT ANY RATE, I DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL LAST WEEK, ALTHOUGH I'D LIKE TO FINISH COLLEGE SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE .... THEN ON THE NEXT PAGE SHE CONTINUED: MOM AND DAD, I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT EVERYTHING I'VE WRITTEN SO FAR IN THIS LETTER IS FALSE! NONE OF IT IS TRUE!! BUT MOM AND DAD, IT IS TRUE THAT I GOT A "C" IN FRENCH AND I FLUNKED MATH. IT IS TRUE THAT I'M GOING TO NEED SOME MORE MONEY FOR MY TUITION PAYMENTS. EVEN BAD NEWS CAN SOUND LIKE GOOD NEWS IF IT IS SEEN FROM A CERTAIN VANTAGE POINT ... ESPECIALLY IF IT IS SET AGAINST EVEN WORSE CIRCUMSTANCES! THE SECRET IS IN PERSPECTIVE! -- Source Unknown. 4. While Elijah had every reason to be afraid and worried, this widow was in much worse shape than he was! 5. Elijah asks the woman for a cup of cold water, she complies readily! a. She must have immediately guessed that Elijah was not Sidonian ... b. Yet, she was willing to offer him help, the honor of serving him even in her own need and poverty, she is still willing to help! c. This attitude bode well for Elijah ... and for her! B. Conditions Tragic!     17:12 1. Elijah had not only asked for water, but for bread as well! a. The fact that she was gathering wood indicated to him that she was about to make some bread! b. He was no doubt hungry by this time, his request was understandable. 2. It is here however that we discover the extent of this woman's troubles, not only is she poor, she has a son to take care of (thus a widow!) ... and she has only enough food for one more meal for the 2 of them and then they will lay down and die! 3. At this point Elijah might have been tempted to ask God some questions: a. "Do you know what your doing God, what kind of answer to prayer is this?" b. "Even the ravens were better than this ... and I was safely hidden by the brook!" c. "What kind of plan do you call this?" 4. Since the woman mentioned a son, Elijah now knew she was a widow ... yup, this was the one! 5. How can God possibly use something that has nothing?! a. Too often we see only what appears on the surface and don't realize that God never makes a mistake! b. This is where FAITH makes its move ... believing in God's goodness in spite of what appears to be an impossible situation! 6. How could this possibly be God's answer to Elijah's situation!? ILLUS: A CHRISTIAN MAN LOST HIS HOME AND MILL WHEN A FLOOD WASHED THEM AWAY. HE WAS BROKEN-HEARTED AND DISCOURAGED AS HE STOOD SURVEYING HIS LOSS. JUST THEN HE SAW A GLITTERING OBJECT THAT HAD BEEN UNCOVERED BY THE FLOOD WATERS ... IT WAS GOLD! THE DISASTER HE THOUGHT HAD MADE HIM A BEGGAR HAD ACTUALLY MADE HIM WEALTHY! THE FLOOD THAT TOOK EVERYTHING AWAY HAD ACTUALLY GIVEN HIM BACK MORE THAN HE COULD HAVE DREAMED, FOR THE DISASTER REVEALED A HIDDEN SECRET OF WEALTH THAT HAD BEEN COVERED OVER BY HIS OWN EFFORTS. HOW OFTEN GOD DOES THIS IN OUR LIVES TOO! -- Source Unknown. 7. Elijah would have to look at this widow and her provision for him in faith, this is what God's Word had told him, the only thing left was to believe it and honor it! a. This is the essence of faith ... obeying and honoring God even when it doesn't seem logical! b. Trusting in God when there is no logical solution, when no evidence is there to support that trust! C. Covenant Tested!     17:13-16 1. God had long ago told Israel that if they kept the covenant, the skies would always bring the rain and their fields would produce good crops, but if they forsook His covenant, the heavens would be shut, and their crops would fail! a. Since Israel had embraced Baal and ignored God, they had broken the covenant, everything happening to them was the consequences they had been told would come if they broke the covenant! b. In a sense, this mom here was being asked to trust the covenant of God! c. If she would choose to accept God and His Word, she would be the recipient of the covenant blessings even though she was not Jewish! d. It is in this context that Elijah is not afraid to ask her to make him the bread first ... he knows that if she chooses to honor God by obeying His Word that she would not go without, he was not being selfish, he just knew God! 2. Elijah starts with "don't be afraid" ... he knows that faith will bring results! a. Elijah is confident that anyone can enter into God's favor ... even this non Jewish widow if she will put her confidence in God's Word! b. proof of faith will be found in her actions! c. this is still true to day, it is not enough to talk about faith, it must show in our actions! 3. This widow's faith is being tested here! a. Elijah assures her "this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ..." b. It was not his word, it was God's Word challenging her to obey. c. This is the only test mom and dad that you need to pass in order to be great parents ... to obey God's Word no matter what the world is telling you! 4. Elijah is able to say confidently that if she obeys God's Word, if she comes under the covenant, that the covenant blessings God promised Israel would be hers also. a. This meant enough food, so that he can say her meal barrel will not go empty. b. This meant no fear even though times were tough, God would take care of her and her son. c. God's promises are to all who believe, not just the Israelites! 5. Elijah does tell her however, that when the rains return, this supernatural provision will end, then she will gather like everyone else for the curse will be lifted anyway. a. Miracles don't take away from us responsibility. b. Miracles don't exempt us from working. 6. Without hesitating, she goes and obeys!! 17:15 a. This mom's example of faith brought God into her home ... and His blessings! b. Think of the impact of this on the life of her son over the years! c. By obeying she was honoring God, this removed her fear and her poverty! d. God multiplied the grain and the oil, she never went without! e. In fact, it implies here that she not only took care of Elijah but other family members as well, she was willing to share God's blessings with others! 7. She had found the Lord and had honored Him, the result was that she was an example better than the Jewish people themselves, here this mom from enemy territory who was not even part of the covenant people had found that honoring God and obeying His Word had invited the presence of God in her home and met all her needs! 8. She becomes the example for a wandering Israel to see, they needed to come home, she sets the example! ILLUS: A MAN HAD A DOG HE LOVED VERY MUCH, A GOOD HUNTING DOG. ONE DAY WHEN HE HAD TAKEN THE DOG TO AN UNFAMILIAR AREA THE DOG HAD TAKEN OFF CHASING AN ANIMAL AND IN HIS ENTHUSIASM HE HAD RUN WAY AHEAD OF HIS MASTER. THE MAN LOOKED AND LOOKED FOR HIS DOG BUT COULD NOT FIND HIM, HE CALLED AND CALLED BUT THE DOG NEVER RETURNED. FINALLY IT WAS GETTING DARK, AND HE WAS IN DESPAIR AS TO WHAT TO DO, HE DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE BUT HE COULDN'T STAY. WITH NO SIGN OF HIS DOG, HE HAD TO LEAVE, JUST THEN HE REMEMBERED AN OLD TRICK AN OLD DOG TRAINER HAD ONCE TOLD HIM. TAKING OFF HIS SHIRT HE BUNDLED IT UP AND PLACED IT ON THE GROUND AND LEFT. ALL NIGHT LONG HE TOSSED AND TURNED WONDERING HOW HIS DOG WAS, WHERE WAS HE, WAS HE ABLE TO EVER COME BACK. THE NEXT MORNING HE RETURNED TO THE SPOT WHERE HE HAD PLACED HIS SHIRT AND SURE ENOUGH THERE WAS HIS DOG, ALL HUDDLED UP ON HIS SHIRT WITH HIS NOSE UNDER THE FLAP OF IT. HE LOOKED UP AT HIS MASTER AND WAGGED HIS TAIL ... HE SEEMED TO SAY TO HIM, "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU ALL NIGHT!" HE STAYED BECAUSE HE KNEW HIS MASTER WOULD COME BACK, HE HAD NO FEAR, HIS MASTER'S PRESENCE WAS FOUND IN THE SHIRT, AND HE STAYED KNOWING HE WOULD BE BACK! THIS WIDOW WAITED ON GOD AND SHE FOUND THE MASTER'S PRESENCE ... SURE ENOUGH HE CAME TO HER HOME, AND SHE AND HER SON WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN! MOM, ARE YOU AFRAID, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE IF YOU HONOR GOD, AND YOUR CHILDREN WILL SEE THIS, THEY WILL EXPERIENCE GOD'S PRESENCE IN YOUR HOME! -- Source Unknown. 9. When we choose to honor God, He is able to honor us! 10. The power of God's Word was proved by her faith, and the impact was obvious in this home! 11. Don't ever underestimate the power of God's Word as you honor it, it will change not only your life but those you come into contact with! ILLUS:REV EVERETT STENTHOUSE, OUR FORMER ASSISTANT GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT OF THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD USED TO BE A MISSIONARY IN GREECE. ONCE WHEN HE WAS TO PREACH TO A LARGE GATHERING OF PEOPLE, HE ASKED TO HAVE AN INTERPRETER. THOUGH HE KNEW GREEK, HE WAS NOT THAT COMFORTABLE IN PREACHING IN IT YET. HE WAS TOLD THAT THE INTERPRETER THEY USUALLY USED WAS UNAVAILABLE, BUT THERE WAS ONE LADY WHO WAS AN ENGLISH TEACHER WHO AGREED TO TRANSLATE HIS SERMON FOR HIM, THE ONLY PROBLEM WAS SHE WAS AN AVOWED ATHEIST! WITH NO OTHER CHOICE HE AGREED TO USE HER, HE DID TELL HER THAT HE ASKED ONLY ONE THING, THAT SHE HONESTLY TRANSLATE WHATEVER HE SAYS EVEN THOUGH SHE DOESN'T BELIEVE ANY OF IT! HE INFORMED HER THAT HE KNEW ENOUGH GREEK TO KNOW WHETHER SHE REALLY WOULD SAY WHAT HE SAID, SHE TOLD HIM SHE WOULD SAY EXACTLY WHAT HE SAID, BUT THAT SHE DIDN'T BELIEVE ANY OF IT, SHE WOULD DO HER JOB! AS HE PREACHED, SHE FAITHFULLY SAID EVERYTHING HE SAID, ALTHOUGH A FEW TIMES SHE QUIETLY SAID TO HIM, "I DON'T BELIEVE THAT" OR "ARE YOU SURE ABOUT YOUR FACTS?" WHEN HE RAISED HIS VOICE, SHE RAISED HERS, JUST THINK OF IT, HERE WAS AN ATHEIST PREACHING A SALVATION SERMON!!! AT THE END HE GAVE AN INVITATION, SHE TOO GAVE AN INVITATION ... AN ATHEIST WAS ASKING PEOPLE TO COME AND RECEIVE JESUS AS SAVIOR AND LORD!!! ALL OF A SUDDEN AS PEOPLE STARTED RESPONDING TO THE INVITATION, SHE TURNED TO HIM WITH TEARS ROLLING DOWN HER CHEEKS AND SHE TOO ACCEPTED CHRIST! THE POWER OF GOD'S WORD WAS TOO MUCH ... SHE CHOSE TO HONOR GOD, AND GOD'S BLESSINGS BEGAN TO FALL INTO HER LIFE ... SHE WAS NEVER THE SAME! -- Source Unknown. 12. Mom and dad, your job is not unclear, in this day when a thousand voices are trying to tell you how to parent in a complex world just remember one thing: DON'T BE AFRAID TO HONOR GOD ... we do this by obeying His Word and trusting in Him no matter what! 13. This is the secret to being a great parent, God will do the rest! CONCLUSION:    A woman from the enemy's camp chose to honor God and act in faith, so to her went all the blessings of God promised in the covenant given to Israel! A Sidonian widow discovered faith in God and it saved her and her son! Mom and dad, honor God with faith and watch what the lord will do ... don't be afraid to honor God!