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When There is Nothing There

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Gwen Smith

Today’s Truth

“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” (1 Kings 18:43-44, NIV)

Friend to Friend

I have a Christian girlfriend who is caught between faith and a hard place. Though she is a committed Christ-follower she struggles to believe God’s promises and feels helpless to the circumstances of her trial. She prays – but wonders if God no longer listens to her. She daily looks for the light at the end of the trial-tunnel, yet sees none.

Have you been there? Are you, or is someone you love, there now? God’s ways and timing are mysterious – no doubt. At times, His ways can even seem frustrating. But He is good. He graciously provides strength and hope when we call on Him… but waiting on God can be such a difficult spiritual discipline.

Time and time again in Scripture we are shown beautiful pictures of God’s faithfulness to those who wait on Him and call on Him. Snapshots of God’s faithfulness displayed in the life of Elijah are simply fascinating. (Pause to read chapters 17 and 18 of 1 Kings now.) Elijah was the most dramatic and famous of all Israel’s prophets. God worked in and through him powerfully and miraculously, but even Elijah went through seasons of waiting and wondering – just like my friend. Just like each of us.

For years, Ahab (king of Israel) and his wife, Jezebel, had done evil in the eyes of the Lord. They worshiped Baal – an idol – instead of the one true God, which provoked the Lord to anger. Then God called Elijah to the scene. Elijah told Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (1 Kings 17:1) As you can imagine, Ahab wasn’t too happy about that ‘word’ and, in his fury, he wanted Elijah dead. God had other plans though. He directed and protected Elijah and provided for all his needs throughout the time of the drought.

In the third year, the Lord sent Elijah back to king Ahab, and a showdown of showdowns went down on Mount Carmel. Like a celestial boxing match with Baal and his false prophets in one corner and God and Elijah in the other, a battle began. The prophets of Baal took the first swing. They made a sacrifice to their god and cried out to him for hours to consume their offering with fire. Baal was silent and unresponsive because he was not real. Duh.

Elijah knew he served a powerful, living, and responsive God, so he advanced to the center of the ring and took his swings with confidence. He repaired the altar of God, prepared the sacrifice, and then prayed for God to reveal His deity by consuming the offering. God flexed His divine muscles and answered Elijah’s prayers instantly with an all-consuming fire. Knock out!

After the showdown was over, God told Elijah to deliver a new message to King Ahab. “And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” (1 Kings 18:41) So Ahab went to eat and Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel to look for evidence of God’s rain-miracle.

“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” (1 Kings 18:43-44)

What struck me as I studied this passage is the fact that Elijah didn’t get his miracle right away this time. Could God have opened up the sky and poured out a storm immediately? You bet. Did He? No. Elijah had to wait. His servant had to look for the miracle…and look…and look…and look. Seven times.

Hallelujah! You and I aren’t the only ones who have to wait, friend!! God’s will is God’s will. It bends for no man. Yet ours can bend to His and, as a result, we will find strength and peace – even in the waiting.

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on…” (1 Kings 18:45a)

God moved. Once again, He was faithful. He can be no other way.

Now think about this. God used Elijah in really big ways. Elijah spoke on God’s behalf, was God’s front-line man in raising a dead child back to life in order to bless a widowed mother, and he was the lead character in a miraculous God-show that brought fire from heaven… consuming an offering and connecting the hearts of wandering people back to the heart of God. We’re talking big God-stuff! Yet even Elijah experienced difficult situations and was forced to wait on God.

When discouragement sets in and you feel unheard – when you are forced to wait on God – when you find yourself caught between faith and a hard place – when there is nothing there… no evidence of God’s miracle on the horizon – remember that God is faithful, powerful, and responsive. He has seen you through trials in the past and He will see you through trials in the future. Even in the challenges you face now, you are seen, you are heard, and He is able. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always.” (Psalm 105:4)

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, I worship You, the One, true God! You are mighty and powerful; full of never-ending compassion and love. Please help me to see you when I face trials and to trust Your heart when circumstances discourage me.”

In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Write this verse out: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always.” (Psalm 105:4) Keep it handy. Read it out loud. Memorize it.

Is there someone in your life who is in a period of waiting? Do something to encourage them today. If she is in a financial bind, consider writing a note and sending it with a gift card. If she is struggling with a strained marriage, a complicated job frustration, or a difficult parenting situation, reach out to her. Pray for her. If you know a single mom, consider helping her with her children. Allow God to encourage someone through you today.

More from the Girlfriends

Girlfriend – God placed a burden on my heart to encourage you today. I know this was very personal and timely for some of you. Let’s meet on my facebook page to talk about it and pray through it together. www.Facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic

If this devotion resonated with you and if you would like to learn more about how your brokenness can be reworked into a picture of God’s beauty, don’t miss Gwen’s book Broken into Beautiful. Every step of transformation begins with the heart of God. Broken into Beautiful will take you there. To order the book, go to Amazon or, for a signed copy, visit Gwen’s website: www.gwensmith.net.

LOVE MUSIC? Check out Gwen’s new CD, Uncluttered. Now available on iTunes! The songs of Uncluttered are purposed to sweep you away from life-noise and to focus your heart and mind on the one thing that matters: your relationship with Jesus Christ.

9 Responses

  1. Melody says:

    God woke me up at 4:42 am this morning, one of them is to read what He told you to write. He is amazing! Thanks

  2. Natalie Derrick says:

    Thank you so much!! I needed this word greatly today. I will keep looking for God’s miracles! :)

  3. Alicia Roark says:

    Sometimes waiting on the Lord to see where He is leading isn’t always easy. The Story of Lazarus is a prime example of Jesus having Mary and Martha to wait. TWO WHOLE days they waited. Upon Jesus’ arrival, Lazarus had been in the grave 4 days. Talk about the stench of death!

    In the onset of this amazing story, the situation seems hopeless. Why 2 days? Why not go right away? Simply because He wanted to make sure the Father got the glory and that there was simply no other explanation.

    I can see Mary and Martha standing at the front porch looking down a dusty road just waiting on Jesus. Then they get a glimpse of Him coming down the road. It was their promise coming down that dusty road. It was time for God to get the glory. It might’ve seemed awfully grim in the beginning but oh what a difference it makes when Jesus passes by. He might wait 2 days, but always remember…When He’s 4 days late He’s still on time!

    Praising the King of Kings,
    Alicia Roark

  4. Mary Cibulsky says:

    Thanks Natalie for posting this today. Boy – could I use it! I love this – it’s like an online bible study when you can’t get away.

  5. Oh my goodness….I cannot believe how God works sometimes. And why shouldn’t I? He is God. I posted on my blog this morning about feeling such a distance from God…and then I read this when I get to my desk at work. I am a Pastor’s Assistant, so I work at my church…in a place where seemingly, God should never feel distant! This is so what I needed this morning! Thank you…and thank God!

  6. Tammy Burchett says:

    I just want to thank my special friend Elizabeth. I am a single mom going through a valley And she has been such a encouragement in our time of trouble. And ask all Girlfriends In God to life her up in prayer as I am thinking of her now.

    • stacey says:

      That’s God working to minister to you through this friend. There is a lesson for us in the valley /storm. Sometimes the lesson isnt realized at the same time until sometime years after but make sure you learn your lesson. “My thoughts towards u are for good… not of evil, to bring you to an expected end”

  7. Amy says:

    I have constantly been asking the Lord to reveal himself to some of my friends and family, because I know that He will do it. But sometimes, when something happens that doesn’t look like God is working, I get discouraged and almost lose hope for them.

    This is such a wonderful reminder that God works through the times when it looks like He is absent. He is always faithful, and I need to remember that He is God. He is in control, and He surely knows what He’s doing.

    The only thing I have to do is stay faithful to Him, and be patient.
    Just this devotional says. God has been faithful in the past, and He will be faithful today and always!

    Thank you for this encouraging Word!

  8. stacey says:

    This was such a blessing I never looked at this miracle this way before and seeing that this powerful man of God had to wait. Sometimes we give up after 2 or 3 times.

    I remember praying for my healing in Feb. 2011 as I have been affected with severe Sebhoric Dermatitis and told God straight up I am not looking for a healing that takes place gradually, but i needed an instant healing. Basically expected him to do so in the week of fasting n prayer. Today, I cant remember when last I prayed for my healing, which I realize is happening gradually. But I humble myself to accept his way in my life, one thing never waivers though is that I am sure He loves me and I trust His love.

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