As Pastor Larry spoke last week about living in the overflow, and God’s desire to bless us abundantly as we seek Him first, I was challenged, not just in how I invest my finances, but in how I spend my time and energy. Though there are many jobs that can leave us feeling depleted in many ways, it was easy to tie this to the lifelong task I, and many of us, have been given.
Parenting. The job with no holidays, sick days, lunch breaks or uninterrupted sleeps. No matter the age of our kids, we often feel like we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel just to come up with enough energy, patience and time to deal lovingly with the endless needs of our children. Perhaps some of us can’t even remember a time when that barrel didn’t feel like it was on the verge of being empty.
Pastor Larry challenged us with 3 John 2: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” When was the last time I could truly say that my body and soul were prospering? Yet this passage makes clear that, while struggles are to be expected in life, it is not God’s intent that we spend our entire lives just getting by. When we trust God fully with the limited resources we have, whether it be finances, time, or energy, God is able to take us from desperation to abundance.
In 1 Kings, we read about Elijah, who obeyed God’s leading to stay in the house of a widow during a severe famine. When he asks her for some bread:
The widow answered, “In the name of the living Lord your God, I swear that I don’t have any bread. All I have is a handful of flour and a little olive oil. I’m on my way home now with these few sticks to cook what I have for my son and me. After that, we will starve to death.” (1 Kings 17:12 CEV)
Most of us can’t imagine the desperation the widow and her son must have been facing. Ask any parent, and they’d tell you they’d do anything for their children. This poor woman had just enough food to delay her child’s death, with none to spare, yet Elijah responds:
[…] “Everything will be fine. Do what you said. Go home and fix something for you and your son. But first, please make a small piece of bread and bring it to me. The Lord God of Israel has promised that your jar of flour won’t run out and your bottle of oil won’t dry up before he sends rain for the crops.” (1 Kings 17:13-14 CEV, emphasis added)
Elijah asks her to take what little she has, and make food for him first. Elijah is a man of God, and by feeding him first with the limited resources she has, she is putting God first. Before herself, and even before her precious son. With what must have been incredible faith, she did!
“The widow went home and did exactly what Elijah had told her. She and Elijah and her family had enough food for a long time. The Lord kept the promise that his prophet Elijah had made, and she did not run out of flour or oil.”
(1 Kings 17:15-16 CEV)
Every time she went to bake bread, she had enough to continue to feed not only herself and her son, but Elijah as well.
What can we take from this? Praise God, our lives are so privileged compared to this poor mother and child. But physically, emotionally, and spiritually, we often feel like we’re running on empty, worn down from dealing with tantrums, sleep regressions, mood swings and rebellious behaviour. It feels like we have only a tiny handful of time, energy, or even funds left for our kids. God is asking us to take what little we have, and give to Him first. It is such a challenge. How will I have time for laundry, playtime, dishes, cooking, and getting the kids to lessons, if I’m supposed to be praying and praising? The beauty is that God is with us as we do all these things, and they can transform from chores to moments of worship with the Lord. He meets us as we pray while washing sippy cups, and our play times can turn into praise times as we dance to worship music with our kids. If we focus on sowing seeds of praise, prayer, and thanksgiving throughout our days, God will be faithful to multiply the harvest, increasing our peace and growing our capacity to love others, and Himself, even more fully.
The widow had so little to give, but it wasn’t the amount she gave to God that released this power, it was the order she gave it in. Had she simply kept that little bit for her child, they would have starved, but because her focus was on putting God first, there was always enough of all that they needed.
In the same way, having eyes focused on Jesus through all that life throws our way, will sustain us and help us to meet our kids’ needs better than we ever could alone. As we scrape the bottom of the barrel, we can be confident that God will always provide enough, not just to survive, but to thrive, as we fix our eyes on him.
We were challenged this week that if we want to reap generously, we need to sow generously (see Galatians 6:7). It is important that we sow in fertile ground if we want to have a good harvest. Motherhood has taught me that a child’s heart is the richest soil in which to plant seeds. For years, I’d read my boys Bible stories, pray with them, and try to bring up biblical principles as we went about our day. Deuteronomy 11:19 (NLT) says, “Teach [scripture] to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” In spite of this, I often wondered if any of these seeds were germinating. Finally, one day as I told them the story of Jesus’ death, their eyes filled with tears, and when they heard He rose again, they gasped with joy, their faces shining. “He’s alive!” they shouted, filled with excitement. I understood better than ever why Jesus said that “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” What a privilege to raise up those who have the potential to be the greatest in the kingdom! The time that we spend with our kids, the words we speak to them, and the example we set can yield an incredible harvest when our focus is on Jesus.
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)
There is a massive harvest awaiting us, and so many who need to know God’s boundless, overflowing love for them. As we pray for God to send more workers to guide people to Him, let’s not forget that those of us with children in our lives have an incredible opportunity to raise up the next generation of harvesters, whose receptive hearts will multiply the seeds of faith we plant today. As we look to God to bring us from a place of scarcity to abundance, let’s plant those tiny seeds of faith and love in the lives of the young people God puts in our path. Let’s raise up a generation that is the greatest in the Kingdom.