Body, Mind & Spirit

One of the goals I set for myself in 2009 involved reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I invited the Calvary congregation in Brownsburg to read along with me, and many in the church are doing just that. At the time of this writing, I am deep into 2 Kings, and I have learned some new lessons along the way.

Perhaps the most striking of these lessons involves God's provision during lean times - both personal and national.

For example, in 1 Kings 17, the prophet Elijah predicts a drought. The nation falls into lean times. Even Elijah is hungry. But as he travels through the region of Sidon, God directs him to a widow. She doesn't have much, but she shares with the prophet, and as a result, her meager jar of meal did not run out. It was enough.

In 2 Kings 4, we encounter a similar story with Elisha, the prophet who succeeded Elijah. There is a war (When is there ever not a war?) and Elisha encounters a woman whose credit has run out. The bill collectors are at her door, threatening to take her children as collateral. Elisha blesses her jar of oil and it overflows, providing enough for the family and enough to pay the creditors.

Later, Elisha returns home to Gilgal, only to discover that a famine has ravaged the land. The economy is in terrible shape. Elisha's prophet friends want to make a stew, but they can only find a few vines and wild gourds to toss into the mix. Another guy eventually shows up with some loaves of bread and ears of corn. Everyone eats, is satisfied, and there are leftovers.

And in 2 Kings 6 we read about a famine in Samaria that was so severe, the people were eating donkeys' heads and dove dung. (I wonder if Emeril or the Iron Chef could do anything with those ingredients?) Although Samaria is not on friendly terms with Israel, Elisha announces that the famine is seasonal in nature, and that the blessings of God will again rain from heaven.

Are there lessons here for our time? I think so. I plan to preach on these texts. I am reminded through these ancient prophetic stories that God is a God of abundance and blessing. Even during lean times, God is blessing, giving, creating. Often, we become anxious or fearful in our circumstances, or we believe that no one has ever seen it this bad. We consider 10 percent unemployment, but don't stop to remember that 90 percent are employed. Instead of sharing, we draw inward, or become even more selfish, instead of realizing that when we give, we also receive. Or we may think that God can't deliver through our own lean times.

But Jesus said it best: "Do not worry about tomorrow. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. "And where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Todd Outcalt serves as senior pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church in Brownsburg.