In 1 Kings 17, the prophet Elijah is sent to a widow’s home during a multi-year drought. He asks her for bread. Her reply captures her desperation:
“As the Lord your God lives, I don’t have anything baked–only a handful of flour in the jar and a bit of oil in the jug. Just now, I am gathering a couple of sticks in order to go prepare it for myself and my son so we can eat it and die.” (1 Kings 17:12)
Elijah urged the woman to bring him bread, declaring the flour and oil wouldn’t run out until it rained again.
Day after day, her jars never remained empty.
The Lord persistently filled the vessels.
Neither the flour jar nor oil jug wrought their own provision;
the Lord was their miraculous provider.
Why bring this Old Testament story into the midst of a Journey Study about an early church pastor? Philemon’s New Testament challenge, and perhaps your own circumstances, share similar threads with this long-ago widow, her lack, and her faith.
Daily, the widow who fed Elijah removed “that last bit” of oil and flour from their containers and experienced afresh the Lord’s provision. Philemon, as a believer who carried the Holy Spirit inside him, had the opportunity to do the same, look at his lack and experience the Lord’s Presence.
Paul prayed over Philemon, “I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.” (Philemon 6)
Paul’s prayer summons Philemon to become an active participant in walking out His surrender to the Lord while reminding him that effective faith is possible only through Christ.
As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:10, his work on behalf of the kingdom was effective only through “the grace of God that was with me.” The widow’s vessels were lacking, and as we look inside, or around us, we may come to much the same conclusion: lack. Philemon was already demonstrating faith, but the becoming effective of faith required a deeper knowing, a real-life, ongoing experiencing, of every good thing already set out for him through Christ.
Did God know, since the beginning of time, He would continuously satisfy the widow’s lack with His infinite supply? Abundantly, yes.
He knew the same for Philemon when He sent Christ to satisfy the debt Philemon owed for his sin. Just as surely as the Lord God knew He would give enough to the widow, He knew He would one day deposit His own Spirit of Holiness inside Philemon to lead and guide him into knowing Himself deeply.
Sister, take a breath with me, He offers the same for us.
How do we know more of the Almighty?
By reading His Word, empowered by the breathing of the Spirit of God in us.
Psalm 92 focuses on praising the Lord for what He has done and who He is.
The psalmist testifies of an experiential walking with and knowing of the Lord God.
“For You have made me rejoice, Lord,
by what You have done;
I will shout for joy
because of the works of Your hands.”
“You have lifted up my horn […] I have been anointed with the finest oil.”
“The Lord is just;
He is my rock…”
In keeping our eyes focused on “the glory of Christ” (verse 6), our growth will be cultivated by Him and defined by His character, enabling us to fulfill the Lord’s purposes, effectively living out our faith in the everyday.
As we practice tuning the ears of our hearts to know His voice through His Word, we will be drawn deeper into worship, which naturally leads to a life fully surrendered to the Love of Christ. Working like an ever-deepening spiral, the more we know Him, the more we will worshipfully surrender, the more our faith grows, and by the Spirit’s work, our effectiveness for the Lord increases exponentially.
This surrendered life resulting in effective faith, deeply refreshes the hearts of our “fellow ones”, brothers and sisters in Jesus. Joy floods and encouragement abounds from this rich well of surrendered following of the Lord Jesus.
“For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”
Paul observed the impact of Philemon’s life on those around him, and documented it in the pages of Scripture. May we live worthy of similar description by those in our spheres of influence!
The widow in 1 Kings 17 obeyed the Word of the Lord, offering up her lack to the God of infinite Supply.
Her act of faith-filled worship brought refreshment physically and spiritually while ensuring her survival and increasing her faith.
Paul prodded Philemon and, by extension, us, to do the same.
Suppose we chose to lift our lack to the Supplier in faith, listening attentively to learn His voice in ever more intimate ways through His Word, and allow Him to make our offering effective to not only His kingdom, but usher in refreshment to the Church?!
Dear sisters, I pray our hearts are captivated by the glorious Gospel:
Having conquered sin through His death and resurrection,
Christ has sent His Spirit to live within us.
May we recognize that on our own, we are ordinary earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7), as incapable of sustaining life as the widow’s hollow jars. Like Philemon, may our faith become effective as we embrace the Spirit’s leadership, surrendering every part of us to be used for His glory.
Philemon Day 5
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