The prophet Elijah was a man who had always taken care of himself. But suddenly (in 1 Kings 17:2-7) God took away all of Elijah’s ability to provide and drove him into the wilderness. And there he taught him a major lesson, one that He has to teach anyone that He uses—the lesson of complete dependence.
Led down to the “Cherith Brook,” Elijah had to depend on the special provision of God for the food he ate and the water he drank. Cherith, in Hebrew, literally means “to cut down.” God was telling Elijah, “I’m going to cut you down, to remove any strength you have in yourself, even the capacity to take care of your most basic needs, and to teach you to depend completely on me.”
Before God can use us, He must first break us. God was breaking Elijah as a way of preparing to use him, and he is often at work in the same way in our lives. Someone we trust betrays us; or we lose our job; or we have a sudden decline in health. In all of this, God is at work—removing our idols, those areas of false trust, false joy, and false hope. Because if dependence is the objective, weakness is an advantage.
Paul said it like this: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that power of Christ may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9). On the face of it, that is just crazy. We do not naturally boast about being financially weak (poor), or occupationally weak (unemployed), or relationally weak (alone). But Paul boasted in his weakness because he knew that God’s miracles and his glories are found there, not in our strengths.
So rejoice in your weaknesses! And on the flip side, beware your strengths, because those are the areas you are most likely to forget God.
Just think about it: when Elijah was a young man, he got his food by earning money and buying it. And God was providing through those means; but it’s easy to forget that and to think, “I’m the provider here.” So God took the job away, put Elijah by a secret brook, and provided for him by special providence—a raven catering service. It’s easier to see God in that. Then the brook dries up, and God takes care of Elijah through an outright miracle, multiplying bread and oil. That leaves no room for doubt as to whether or not God is the one providing. The greater your need, the greater is God’s glory in the provision.
God loves to use the weak because he loves to show off His power. That’s why he so often works by revealing our weakness, not showcasing our strength. He does not want to put our talents on display, because although that might impress people, it will not help them. So he chooses the weak to shame the strong, the simple to confound the wise, and sometimes he humbles the strong—so that our boast would not be in our strength, but in Christ as our righteousness, strength, provider, and security.
The greater your weakness, the greater the chance for God to display His power. Remember, every miracle in the Bible has this in common: it starts with a problem. So if your life is in disarray, you are a perfect candidate for God’s miraculous intervention. Where has He made you weak? Can you rejoice in that weakness, look to God, and trust him through it? Will you learn the lesson of complete dependence? I can promise that if you do, nothing will ever be the same.
For more, be sure to listen to this sermon.