Have you ever felt like God led you somewhere only to be disappointed by how things turned out once you got there? Why does the God who makes the rains fall and the rivers flow…sometimes let those same rivers run dry? Join us as we learn how – and why – to trust God even when our circumstances aren’t what we expected.

When Provisions Become Problems

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



1 Kings 16:30-17:7

Have you ever felt like God led you somewhere only to be disappointed by how things turned out once you got there? Why does the God who makes the rains fall and the rivers flow…sometimes let those same rivers run dry? Join us as we learn how – and why – to trust God even when our circumstances aren’t what we expected.

Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. It’s such an honor to have you with us today. We’re starting a new series today, as Justin mentioned, and it’s based on the question “What do we do when the river runs dry?” And what I mean by that is what do you do when something that’s been providing for you, something that’s been supplying your needs, something maybe even that’s been a sense of sort of security for you, suddenly stops providing? It stops supplying. It stops being that source of security. You know, and that might be, like, it might be a job, right? I mean, I think we tend to look at our jobs not only as the source of our money, but they also are often kind of a source of identity. So, what happens when that source of identity suddenly, like, the company closes, and we get let go? Right?

Or maybe it’s a relationship, you know. We have relationships that are the source of all kinds of things, of joy, and hope, and peace, and all those kinds of things. You know, maybe it’s a marriage relationship, maybe it’s a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a cherished friendship, or maybe a relationship with a child. What happens when those relationships go south, when they kind of sour and they stop supplying some of those things that you were looking to them for? Or maybe it’s just an ability, right? Maybe it’s a physical ability that’s declining as you age, and that’s hard. Or maybe it’s a mental ability. Maybe you’re one of these people who’ve always prided yourself on not being subject to, you know, anxiety or depression, but lately, it just feels like you can’t break out of that cycle, and you feel like you just don’t have the mental strength that you used to have.

In the world that I live in, I talk to a lot of pastors, and lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with pastors who are telling me that, you know, basically, up till the pandemic, they felt like they had led their congregations through just about every kind of problem. And they’d done that successfully. Not perfectly but successfully. And then COVID hit, right? And, you know, suddenly, everything just changed. I mean, we shut down the churches and said, like, “How do you lead people that you’re not able to even talk to in person or see face to face?” You know, then on top of that, of course, you know, we had racial injustice, which led to all kinds of racial tension. And then there was, of course, political division. And it just kind of felt like everybody was mad about everything, right? And now there’s sort of economic uncertainty.

And I’m talking to a lot of pastors who are going, “I’m just not sure that I have what it takes to keep leading.” And that’s hard for them, in part, because they feel like God led them to ministry, and that God has been the source of their strength and their ability to lead and to love. And that makes it that much harder, right? I mean, it’s one thing when the river runs dry, but what about when the river that runs dry is a river that you feel like God led you to. It’s all that harder, right? And in fact, I think a lot of us have that experience.

In fact, can we just be honest with each other online and in person? If you’ve ever felt like God’s led you to somewhere and then it just didn’t turn out the way you thought, and in fact, it feels like after you got there, everything was great, but then it felt like the river started to run dry. If you’ve ever had that experience, can we just…can we be honest with each other? How many of us have had that experience? Yeah. There’s a lot of us saying, “Yeah, I’ve been there.” It’s a pretty common thing. So, that’s kind of what we’re gonna talk about today. What does that mean? What does it mean when the river runs dry? Does it mean that God’s forgotten about us? Does it mean He’s given upon us, that He’s turned his back on us? Well, the good answer is no, but that’s not necessarily a huge amount of comfort when you’re staring at the dry, cracked mud at the bottom of a river that you used to drink from, right? So, what does it look like to trust God when the river runs dry?

Our guide for this series is gonna be a man named Elijah. And if you wanna follow along, we find Elijah’s story in the Old Testament, in the book of 1 Kings. So, if you wanna start making your way to 1 Kings 17, that’s where we’re gonna begin today, and we’re gonna be in the next few chapters over the next couple weeks, is we’re gonna walk through Elijah’s life. Now, here, let me set the scene. It’s 870 BC. It was a long time ago. But the problems they faced then are really the same kinds of problems we still face, are very relevant to us today. But it’s about 870 BC, and we’re in the land of Israel.

And if you’re kind of new to the Bible, what you need to know about the Israelites, also called the Hebrews or the Jews, is that they were God’s chosen people. God picked them. And he didn’t choose them because they were better than any other people. He chose them because he kind of needed a place to get started. He needed a people in order to accomplish a purpose. And that purpose was ultimately to bring Jesus into the world, to save the world through his death and his resurrection. But to do that, to bring the Messiah, He needed kind of a stage for that to happen on, and the Jewish people were the stage. And so he chose the Jewish people. And he didn’t force them into a relationship. He invited them into it. God never forces himself on us, he invites us into relationship. And when he invited the Jewish people into relationship, they agreed. And so he agreed to be their God and for them to be his people.

And so they entered into something called a covenant or an agreement. And basically, the covenant was this. God said, “Hey, as long as you pursue Me, I’m gonna provide for you. But if you pursue other gods, then you’re gonna lose access to My provision,” kind of a natural logical consequence. Unfortunately, Israel is no different than the rest of us, and we kind of have these cycles where we pursue God, and then we kind of get what we want, and we get satisfied, and we kind of forget about God, and we’re kind of at the bottom of the cycle.

And that’s kind of where we are as we join the story today. Israel has moved into a period, a season where they’ve kind of forgotten about God. But it’s kind of a worse season than anyone’s that have come before that because they’ve got a leader who’s completely forgotten about God. He’s actually turned to a completely different god. They had a leader named king Ahab. And here’s what the Bible says about Ahab. It says, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” So, he’s number one, right? He’s number one on a really bad list. Okay. He did more evil than anyone before him. And he did all kinds of bad things, but maybe the worst of them as the king of God’s people is this. “He set up an altar to Baal in the temple of Baal that he built.”

Remember, he’s the Israelite king, he’s the Jewish king, but he’s built a temple to Baal, and he set up an altar to Baal. And if you don’t know what Baal is, Baal was one of the gods of the Canaanite people that were around the nation of Israel. Okay? And so the king of Israel has now set up a temple to this false god, and he’s created an altar of this false god. So he’s not only worshiping this false god, but he’s actually encouraging and inviting and leading the Israelite people to pursue a different god as well. And that’s kind of where we pick up the story.

Now, there’s one other thing you need to know about Baal, and that is that he was the fertility god. In other words, he was responsible for all things green and growing. And one of the things that he was thought to provide was dew and rain, the dew and the rain that watered the crops and fed the rivers and all that kind of stuff. And that’s gonna become really important in a second. Baal was actually known as the Lord of Dew and Rain. That was one of his titles, the Lord of Dew and Rain.

Now, Chapter 17 Verse 1 says, “Now Elijah, the Tishbite from Tishbe in Gilead…” I’m gonna pause for just a second there because we need to make sure we understand our hero in this story. Elijah is a prophet, and a prophet is a person who delivered messages to the people from God. Sometimes we hear the word prophet or prophecy, we immediately think about telling the future. And that might have been an element of what they did, but that was really just kind of proof that they were actually speaking for God because only God could predict the future. The most important thing the prophet did was deliver messages from God to the people. Okay? So, he’s a prophet, and he’s got a very interesting name. His name is Elijah. And in English, we pronounce a ja sound. But in Hebrew, there’s no ja, so it actually would’ve been Elijah (E-Li-Yah). And what that means is that Elijah’s name was “Yahweh is our God.” That’s what his name meant. “Yahweh is our God.”

Now, Yahweh was the perfect personal name of God. When God was revealing himself to Moses, and he said to Moses as a burning bush, he said, “I want you to go down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let my people go.” And Moses was like, “Yeah, they’re gonna have questions. And I just don’t think that the burning bush is gonna do it because they’re gonna go like, you know, ‘Well, who told you to come down here?’ And if I say the burning bush, I’m gonna look like an idiot. So who should I tell them sent me? What’s your name?” And God said, “My name…” He trusted Moses and he trusted the Israelite people with his name. His name was Yahweh. It means “I Am.” But that was his name. It was his personal name.

And so now we’ve got a prophet, and his name is basically Yahweh is my God. Okay? Now, understand what he’s doing is he’s going to challenge the king of Israel who’s basically saying, “Baal is my god,” right? So, “Yahweh is my God” is on a collision course with “Baal is my god.” And if you listen really carefully while you read those words, you can almost hear epic music building in the background, right? You can almost hear some distant voice going, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” Because that’s what’s happening. This is a setup to a showdown, right? It’s a setup to a showdown to figure out who is really the real God, who’s really the true God, right?

Okay, so, Elijah, Yahweh is my God, goes to Ahab. And he said to 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.” Now, remember, Baal is the Lord of the dew and the rain. And so now God says, “Yeah, there’s not gonna be any dew or rain.” Because what happened is Elijah just coming to Ahab, and he’s like, “Oh, that god that you think he provides the dew and the rain, yeah, no, no. And because you think that he’s the source of your supply, there’s not gonna be any more supply. There’s not gonna be any more dew and rain until you understand who really is the source of your supply. So, until God speaks, because you’ve learned your lesson, there’s not gonna be any of that provision that you’re looking for.”

And let’s be honest. While that makes sense on some level, it’s also hard, isn’t it? Because it’s not just Ahab that’s about to go into a difficult period of history. All of the people are gonna struggle. There’s gonna be a lack of water to water the crops, so there’s gonna be a famine in the land. People are going to suffer. They’re going to struggle. And we have to ask the question, like, “Why would God do that?” And the answer very simply is this. It’s that the people had gotten confused about the source of the supply. Are you with me? The people had gotten confused about the source of the supply.

See, as long as they could go out in the morning and their feet got a little bit wet, and there was dew in the ground, as long as they could look at rivers swollen with the rains, they could easily go, “Well, Baal’s doing a pretty good job. Baal’s a pretty good god. He’s giving us everything that we need.” And so they began to basically get confused about the source of the supply that they depended on. And then the problem is this. It’s that when we get confused about the source of the supply, we start to trust what isn’t trustworthy. We start to assume that this thing that we thought was giving us what we needed will continue to give us what we need. But in fact, it doesn’t have that ability.

Just recently, I was in the airport, and when I was waiting for my plane, I did what I always do. I always sit strategically, which means I sit as close to an outlet as possible. I found an outlet. I sat there. I didn’t really think I needed the outlet because it wasn’t a long flight, I was gonna be getting on the plane quickly, and I had quite a bit of battery and I didn’t wanna put the cord and make people trip. So I just wanted to make sure I was near to that source, right? And so I was doing my stuff. And then, you know, as is so often the case these days, there was a flight delay. And then there was another flight delay. And pretty soon, I’d been there like three extra hours. And I was like, “Oh, my battery’s getting a little bit low. I should start to plug it in.” So I grabbed my power adapter. I started to plug it in. I realized, “This is a sticker.”

Did you know people are doing that? They’re like going around and they’re putting these stickers of power outlets on the wall. Listen, there is a special place in hell reserved for people who do this kind of thing, okay? And I had this panic moment where I was, like, I thought there was plenty of juice there. That thing has got no juice at all. And then I looked around and everybody else, of course, had grabbed all the real ones. And so I just had to sit there in a panic, going, “I’m not gonna have enough juice on this flight. What am I gonna do? Am I gonna talk to people? I can’t do that.” Right?

See, here’s the reality. I had begun to trust a supplier that didn’t have any juice. And that’s kind of what’s happening here, right? They’ve gotten confused about the source of their supply. And because of that, they’ve transferred their trust to something that’s not actually trustworthy. And so, sometimes God dials back the supply to draw back our trust. Do you hear me, church? Sometimes God dials back the supply in order to draw back our trust.

I’m gonna encourage you to think, in your life right now, is there a place where you feel like the supply is running low? You feel like there’s a place, maybe something that God’s led you to, but it doesn’t seem to be flowing in the same way that it used to be? And you’re a little confused by that. Maybe you’re struggling with that. Maybe there’s some doubt that’s creeping in. And you’re wondering, “Why would God do that?” And I want you to realize this, that there’s an important question that needs to be asked, which is just “Is God dialing back a supply in order to draw back your trust?” Because that happens. It happens. Our minds get a little confused about the source of our supply. And we gradually transfer the trust without even realizing we’re doing it.

I used to make a living as an itinerant speaker. And when you’re an itinerant speaker, you depend upon a steady supply of speaking opportunities to pay the bills and to put food on your table. And for several years, there was a steady supply of those things. And then kind of out of nowhere, it just sort of felt like the supply dried up. The speaking opportunities got fewer and farther between. And here’s the thing. I’m so embarrassed to tell you this, but I’ll tell it to you because if it happened to me as a pastor, not that that makes me holier or anything, but, like, my job is to think about God kind of 24/7, right? And if it could happen to me, who’s like his job is to think about those things and spiritual things, if it can happen to me, it can happen to absolutely anybody.

And here’s what happened to me. That moment that the speaking opportunity seemed to dry up, what I did was, I’m so embarrassed to say this, what I did was I went, “You know what I need to do? I need to lean hard into search engine optimization. I need to make sure that when people are searching Christian speakers, they get to my website faster.” And I thought, “I need to buy some more Google ads, right, so that when people type in ‘Christian speaker,’ you know, my website comes up.” And listen, there’s nothing wrong with any of those things. There’s nothing wrong with marketing. Sometimes God uses those things, absolutely. But those things are not the source of the supply.

But I kind of leaned into those things. And as you might imagine, nothing got better. And I got frustrated and a little bitter, and I just was like, “God, why has the river run dry?” And then one day, I had one of those Holy Spirit moments. I was driving, and I just had this unbelievably clear realization. I suddenly thought, “Huh. The problem isn’t my marketing game. The problem is God turned off the tap.” I was like, “Why? God, why would you do that?” And I had this immediate answer. Immediately, the Holy Spirit said, “Maybe because you moved your trust from God to Google.” The Holy Spirit’s very sarcastic with me. I don’t know why that is.

I was like, “Ah, I cannot believe that I did that.” But that’s exactly what had happened. I’d gotten confused about the source of my supply, and so I transferred my trust to something that really wasn’t trustworthy. So, I pulled off the road. I was actually on C-470, and I pulled off the road, and I just had this moment of kind of come to Jesus where I said, “Jesus, I can’t believe I did that. I’m so sorry. But I know that you were the only source of my supply. And if you want to use those things, that’s great. But it’s all you that I depend on.”

And listen, I’m almost hesitant to tell you what happened next because I don’t ever wanna give somebody the idea that God’s a vending machine. God’s not a vending machine, but He’s also not a slot machine. Okay? He’s not a vending machine, meaning it’s not a matter of put this in, press these buttons, and get this specific result. He’s not a vending machine. But He’s also not a slot machine where you’re like, “I’m gonna put some stuff in, and I have no idea if there’s gonna be a payoff at all.” No, no, no. There’s always a payoff with God, and it’s always good. It may not be the good you were expecting, but it’s always good.

So, I’m hesitant to tell you because I don’t want this to sound like God’s a vending machine, but I feel like I need to be honest with you and give God credit. I had that come to Jesus moment. I said, “Jesus, you’re the only source of all the supply. I’m sorry I forgot that. I can’t believe I did, but I’m so sorry.” It’s all I did, and then I went on driving. And that afternoon, I had three separate invitations to come speak. Coincidence? I don’t really think so. So, that question’s really important. And I have to ask myself the question on a pretty regular basis. Is God dialing back a supply in order to draw back my trust? I challenge you to spend some time thinking about it this week.

So, the dew and the rain, he says, “They’re done. They’re done until you figure out the source of your supply.” “And then the word of the Lord came to Elijah.” He said, “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.” Now, what God’s doing here is he’s protecting Elijah. There’s probably a principle here, something along the lines of, you know, when God directs, he also protects. Because God understands that what Elijah has just done is deliver some really bad news to the king, bad news to the people. And he knows that at this point, Elijah’s become enemy number one. And you might go, “Well, that’s not fair. He’s just the messenger.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. We can say, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” But the messenger is always the most convenient target, right?

And so, He’s protecting Elijah. He says, “Go and hide in this ravine.” And so Elijah goes. God also says this. He says, “You will drink from the brook, the brook that made the ravine, the river that made the ravine. And I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there. And so he did what the Lord told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and he stayed there. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening. And he drank from the brook.” He drank from the river.

Now, I want you to do me a favor. Set aside the fact that he was eating food brought by birds, because I realize that’s just a little bit like “Ugh,” right? What’s really going on here? Well, there’s a principle here, and the principle is this. It’s where God guides, he provides. Okay? When God guides you to a place, he will provide for you in that place. He will never guide you somewhere where you don’t have what you need to survive, and he never guides you to do something that you don’t have the supply that you need to accomplish whatever he’s called you to do.

Now, that may or may not be in you, but he will provide it to you. And if you find yourself in a place right now where you’re going, “Well, I feel like God’s guided, but I don’t feel like he’s provided,” then it’s possible that either you’re trying to do something he never called you to do, he didn’t guide you to do, or you’re trying to do it without looking around to find the provision that he has provided. Sometimes we assume that it’s in us rather than in the people around us. I make this mistake all the time. I get to this place as a leader where I feel like, “Man, I just don’t think I have anything left in me.” And the reality is I don’t, but that’s not the provision. It’s the people God has brought around me that I need to trust. Just this past week, I realized that I’m making that mistake. Where God guides, he provides.

Now, there’s a little bit more going on here. And to explain, I need to geek out for just a second. Is that gonna be okay? Here’s what I need you to notice. When God says here about this brook and the ravens, he does kind of an interesting thing. He starts off with the brook, then he talks about the ravens, and then at the end of it, he talks about the ravens, and then he talks about the brook. He reverses the order of the brook and the ravens. And all of God’s people went, “So?” Right? What’s that got to do with anything?

Well, like I said, I gotta geek out for a second. This is a feature of something called chiasm. A chiasm was a way of organizing material where you had a series of kind of keywords or maybe even themes in the first half of a passage. And then in the second half, you go back through the same themes, but in completely reversed order. Okay? And some of you are like, “Oh, this is cool.” And if you wanna learn more about this, I have literally written a book on it. It was my doctoral dissertation. It received critical review, mostly from people looking for a cure for insomnia. So, I don’t highly recommend it. And nobody needs the contents of that book.

Here’s the only thing you really might wanna know about a chiasm. What a chiasm does is a couple things, is it puts emphasis on some places in a passage and it usually puts emphasis on the outside ends, so the bookends, the beginning and ending thing, and on the center. There’s a lot of emphasis placed there. Now, in the center here, what we have is a very interesting statement, which is, “So he did what the Lord had told him.” He left where he was and he went to where God was guiding him, right? And this is so important because, yes, God guides and he provides. And where God guides, he provides. But only if we go. Do you hear me? God might very well tell you, “Hey, go there and I’ll provide for you there.” And you’re like, “So where’s the provision?” You know, we gotta go. Where God guides, he provides but only if we go. And Elijah went. He left where he was, and he went into this place. He went into this ravine, and that’s where he experienced provision.

The other part that’s emphasized because of the way this is structured is the outside ends. And it’s interesting that the outside ends is the river. It’s the brook. And I say that’s interesting because I think our natural temptation here is to focus on the ravens, right, because that’s the miracle. The river is not a miracle. I mean, the river is kind of what you expect. There’s a ravine. How did the ravine get there? Well, there was a river in it. So, of course, there’s a river there. The ravens are what we wanna talk about because, like, you know, ravens don’t usually bring people bread and meat. So, that’s a clear miracle, and we love the miracles. And it’s easy when we have a miracle to go, “God is the source of that miracle,” right? But what we’re being reminded of here is that God’s not just the source of the ravens, He’s also the source of the river. But the river itself is a supply from the source, from God. That’s why the emphasis is there, because we can forget about that part of it.

You know, some of you have heard me say that, you know, we had several years where my youngest daughter struggled with chronic abdominal pain. We went through everything. And there was so much prayer. Many of you were praying, we’re so grateful for that for, for God to heal her. And eventually, we found out what was going on. She had a vein that was being constricted, and they were able to open that vein up in surgery, and it was dramatic improvement. She was basically cured by that. And I had a good friend say to me at one point, “Hey, are you disappointed that God didn’t heal her?” And I was like, “But he did.” And what he meant was “Are you disappointed you didn’t get a miracle instead of God operating through the mundane?” And I was like, “Hey, the fact that, you know, God gave us a doctor who saw something to refer to a specialist, who ended up seeing something that nobody else had the ability to see in an X-ray, and that she had the knowledge to do with surgery. She understood the human body enough to do that. And we had, you know, anesthesia and all these kinds of things. Those are all gifts of God.”

But see, we forget about those, right? We forget about all the ways that God supplies our needs through the mundane. And what we’re being told here is please do not forget that God is the God of both the ravens and the rivers. He supplies both supernaturally, but also naturally. And it’s important that we recognize that. It’s important that we ask ourselves this all-important question, “What provisions do I need to thank God for? What provisions do I need to thank God for?” Because here’s the thing. Here’s what we need to do. Number one, we need to recognize that God is the source. And we need to, number two, thank him for the supply. Number three, regardless of the delivery system. Are you with me, church? We need to thank him as the source. We need to recognize him as the source, thank him for the supply regardless of the delivery system.

So, here’s what I wanna challenge you to do. I wanna challenge you to do a provision inventory this week. Grab a piece of paper. Sometimes we draw a big circle. Label that circle “God’s provisions.” Now, draw kind of a line down the circle. On the left side, I want you to write down all the ways that you feel like God has provided supernaturally for you. Those things that have happened that you’re like, “I don’t know how to explain that, except that God’s looking out for me.” Write those down. I think all of us have a few of those. Some of us may have a lot of those. That’s great. Write all the ones you can think of down. But then on the other side of the list, I want you to start thinking about all the ways that God supplies your needs through more natural ways, because God is a source of those too. He’s the God of the ravens and the rivers. And write down all those things that God has supplied you with, even though maybe you don’t immediately recognize his hand behind them because the delivery system is a little different.

Now, why am I asking you to do this? Because gratitude is good for us. Gratitude is good for us. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s also the powerful thing to do. Gratitude changes us. Gratitude, you know, it improves our perspective. Gratitude means that we focus more on what we have than on what we don’t. Without gratitude, we’re always thinking about the things that we don’t have, and that leads to frustration, and bitterness, and a lack of joy. And so, gratitude improves our perspective. But gratitude also gets our eyes off of the supply and onto the source. And that’s really important, because if that doesn’t happen, if we don’t move our eyes from the supply to the source, the provision can actually become a problem. See, gratitude keeps God’s provision from becoming a problem. You’re like, “Well, how could it be a problem? How could a provision ever become a problem?” When it becomes all we’re paying attention to. See, gratitude gets our eyes off of the thing and onto the king, gets our eyes off of the thing that the king has given us and onto the king who gives. And it focuses on a relationship rather than just a particular thing that comes because of that relationship.

And listen to me. It’s always better to have a relationship with the provider than possession of a provision. It’s always better to have a relationship with the one who can always provide than it is to have possession of a provision. But unless we’re living gratefully, what happens is our eyes are fixed on that provision, and we get so caught up in holding on to that provision. And then, as unfortunately happens far more often than we’d care to accept, the provision goes away, the river runs dry, and we’re devastated. Unfortunately, sometimes the river runs dry. Check this out.

“Sometime later, the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.” And on one level, that makes perfect sense, right? Yeah. I mean, there’s been no rain. Of course, the river ran dry. But on the other hand, remember God led Elijah to this place. This was a place of provision, and now the river has run dry. And if Elijah was anything like me, and probably if he’s anything like you, that moment was hard, and he was probably a little confused. He was probably a little frustrated, maybe a little disappointed with God. Maybe even there was some anger or some bitterness. It’s the natural things to feel.

Why would God do this? Why would God let a river that he’s led us to run dry? I think the answer is actually pretty simple. It’s a simple truth. It’s a counterintuitive truth. It’s a little bit of a surprising truth, and it’s a slippery truth. It’s a truth that’s a little hard to hold onto when we’re staring at the cracked mud of a dry river that we used to drink from. But it’s a simple truth. Why would God let the river run dry? It’s because he loves you. Specifically, God loves you too much to let his provision become a problem.

How could his provision ever become a problem? Well, we’ve already seen one way. It happens, number one, when we get confused about the source of the supply. We end up trusting something that doesn’t got any juice. It can’t supply what we need. But somehow when we got confused about the source of the supply, we ended up transferring our trust to something that was absolutely untrustworthy. That’s one way that the provision can become a problem.

The second way is just this, is that we get tempted to stay in the place of provision instead of following God to what he has next. And he always has a next. Jesus didn’t say, “Come hang out with me,” right? What did he say? Jesus said, “Come follow me.” Because Jesus is always moving. He’s moving out on mission. He’s moving to the next thing, and he wants us with him. And when we go with him, we’ll find that where he guides, he provides. We’ll find that if we’re with the source, we’ll have plenty of the supply that we need. Not necessarily always what we want or what we think we need, but what we actually need, and our good Father knows that we need. But he’s inviting us on an adventure. But it’s an adventure that comes from following. And if our eyes are on the provision, then we get tempted to stay in the place of provision rather than following God to what’s next.

As we continue on over the next few weeks, what we’re gonna see is a consistent pattern. Elijah does really well. God provides, and Elijah thanks God for that. He enjoys that. But then that provision kind of dries up. And so God says, “Okay, now, next. And you gotta come over here.” And so he continues to do that. And it happens over and over and over again. And because he’s following God, he gets to be part of things that are unbelievable. Some of the big miracles in the Bible actually come through these stories of Elijah. He gets to see God doing incredible things through him. He gets to experience God doing incredible things in him because he followed, because he didn’t give into the temptation to stay in the place of provision, but instead, he followed God to whatever he had next.

When I first moved to Colorado, we joined a small church down in Castle Rock. And man, it was God’s provision in so many different ways. We were coming out of a church that had been kind of dry, and we came into a church that was driven by the Bible, and it was gospel-centered. And so that was just this breath the fresh air, and it was like drinking from a river. It was awesome. You know, we were a little nervous moving out to Colorado. We didn’t know anybody. My wife, especially, she’s a big-time extrovert, and so leaving behind family and friends was hard. And she found really good friends in this church. In fact, the senior pastor’s wife became one of her very best friends. There were just so many ways God was providing.

And then about a year in, we started to notice there were just odd little things happening we couldn’t quite explain, like key people suddenly were gone from the church, and we didn’t really understand why. And then one day, I was looking for something in a folder of stuff in the office, and I found canceled checks that had my name signed on them. And I was like, “I didn’t sign that.” The pastor had been signing my name on checks. And he wasn’t embezzling, but he was spending the money in some pretty unwise ways. And there needed to be two signatures, so he just faked my signature. And we became aware of some really unhealthy things that were happening there.

And I’m gonna be honest with you, I was like, “I don’t wanna touch this with a 10-foot pole. I don’t wanna confront this. I don’t wanna challenge this. This is a place of provision for us. This has been such a river that we’re drinking from. This has been so good. I’m going to seminary, and they’re paying the bills for that. And we’ve got friendships and relationships. And, you know, my salary’s helping to pay the mortgage on the house. I don’t wanna touch this provision. I wanna stay here.”

And then through a series of events, I had a guy call me, and he basically said, “You know, I can’t tell you how I know this, but I kind of know some stuff that’s going on. And dude, you’re the only one who’s in a place to speak some hard truth and ask some hard questions.” And it was clear to me that was the voice of God speaking through this man. And so I had to go, and I had to raise some of these issues, and it did not go well. At the end of the day, he ended up leaving. My wife lost her best friend. There was just tremendous anger around that. And it was hard. And I just remember kind of looking at what felt like the cracked mud of a dry riverbed that had once flowed and we’d been drinking deeply out of.

And then God brought a man to help lead that small church who, honestly, probably the most important mentor I’ve ever had in the pastorate. His name was Doug, and I just…man, I’m so grateful. He wouldn’t have been there. The senior pastor had actually asked him to leave the church earlier. And so, when the senior pastor left, this man came back, and, oh my gosh, he was just such a saint. And he spoke such truth into my life and spoke life into my life. And my wife found new friends. And we got to be a part of something over the next several years that we would’ve missed out on otherwise.

Yeah. I know what the temptation is to try to stay in the place of provision instead of following God to what’s next. But listen to me, God loves you too much to let his provision become a problem. So, let me ask you this question. Is there a provision that’s becoming a problem? Is there a provision that’s tempting you to get a little confused about the source of the supply, or maybe a provision that is tempting you to stay in that place of provision rather than following God to what’s next?

Would you pray with me? Jesus, we thank you for your provisions. We recognize today, as one, we proclaim the truth that you are the only source of our supply. Holy Spirit, speak to us about those places in our lives where we’ve gotten a little confused about that. Maybe those places where we’re trying a little too hard to stay in a place of provision, and you’re inviting us to the next part of the adventure. Reveal those things to us. Give us the strength and the courage to follow. Holy Spirit, we invite you to speak to us. Flood us with the reality of all of the ways that you supply miraculously.

But moment after moment, day after day, through things that we don’t even realize that you’re behind, give us eyes to see that because we wanna see you as the source. We wanna thank you for that supply. And we do it right now. We thank you for your provisions. But Lord, more than anything else, we are grateful that we have a relationship with the provider because that’s so much better than any of the provisions, and we don’t ever wanna let any of those provisions take your place. So, give us a new passion for you.

I know maybe that there’s people listening to this today that they don’t have that relationship. And maybe for the first time, they’re realizing they need that. And if that’s you, that is what you need. You need a relationship with the provider. You may be thinking you need another provision, but you don’t. You need a relationship with God, of the ravens and the rivers, the only God who can supply all of your needs. And He’s done everything necessary so you can have that relationship. He sent his own son, Jesus, who came. He died on the cross to pay the price of the sin that separates us from him. Three days later, he rose from the dead, and he offers us salvation and forgiveness and relationship simply by faith, by saying yes to following Jesus. And if you’ve never done that, today is the day. I encourage you to have this conversation with God right now. Say “God, I’ve sinned, and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I believe you rose from the dead, and I’m ready to accept forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God. So, Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you. I’m gonna follow you from here on out. Amen.”

Hey, can we celebrate those who’ve made that decision and started that relationship with God today? Hey, if you did make that decision, we would love to know about that. We’d love to be able to encourage you into some next steps in that relationship. So, would you do this? If you’re watching online, you can click the button that’s right around me. That’ll tell you how to do that. People, if you click that button, you will tell us you made that decision. Wherever you are, you can also do this. You can text the word “Jesus” to 80875. Let us know you’ve made that decision. Hey, would you stand up with us? We’re not done yet today. We need to spend some time thanking the God of the rivers and the ravens, the God who supplies all of our needs, if we just remember that he is the source.


CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



1 Kings 17:10-24

Your reaction to loss tells you a lot about your trust in the source of your stuff. When your river runs dry, focus on the who of how you’ll be brought through your circumstances, not the how. Dry river beds are a great path to follow to your source of life. Check out this week’s message about a prophet, a widow and their demonstrations of faith.


CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



1 Kings 18:1-16

One continuing fight throughout our lives is the fight against fear. We can’t win the battle against fear on our own, but we can acknowledge it, and move forward in faith and win daily encounters. The key to winning is feeding our faith, not our fear.


REZA ZADEH | read his bio



1 Kings 18:17-46

One of the greatest questions we can ask ourselves is “Who or what do I worship?” We all worship something, it’s how we are designed. As we look at 1 Kings 18 and a showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, we can draw parallels to our own lives and ask ourselves this question: “Are we giving our worship to powerless idols or the living God?”


CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



1 Kings 19

People are made of spiritual and physical components and when either of those are overly depleted, you can find yourself wrung out and in a dry spot. We need to determine where we’re spending God’s provisions that aren’t leaving us enough strength for it all. Join us as Craig speaks to common mistakes that keep us from experiencing God’s renewing presence.