As Christians we claim we want God to show up in our church or our lives. When we say that, we usually mean we want some big, miraculous, showy demonstration of God’s presence. We want Him to show up BIG! Then we’ll know He’s for real. Then all those people who doubted will be put in their place. God showed up! But I really don’t think that is how He usually does things. Sometimes He does. I’ve seen some pretty spectacular healings. I’ve been in meeting where His presence is so overwhelming that it is difficult just to stay standing up. It happens and when it does it is very cool. But again I don’t think that is the norm. I think God shows up all the time, we just fail to recognize Him.
Here is one story that illustrates that. Let me set up the story. Ahab is King of the northern kingdom of Israel – not a good guy. Elijah is God’s prophet. There had been a drought in Israel for three years that God had sent. So we pick up the story in the book of 1st Kings [italics mine]:
After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”…
And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he [the servant] went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he [Elijah] said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he [the servant] said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he [Elijah] said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.
Here’s what I find fascinating about this story. Elijah believes God and acted on what God said He would do. Elijah heard the “sound of rushing rain.’ OK, come on now. It hadn’t rained in three years, but he is hearing the rain? Yep. Why? Because he believed that God would come through.
But that wasn’t enough. Elijah starts to pray for what God had already said He would do. If it were me, I think I would have just sat back and waited for the rain. Not Elijah, he joined God, he participated with God in carrying out God’s revealed will. He prayed and prayed. And he looked and looked for the answer. He sent his servant to look seven times for the answer. That is perseverance. That is tenacity. How many of us would have quit after the 3rd or 4th trip? How many of us would have started complaining that God wasn’t doing enough? Why wasn’t it raining already? Why is God messing with me? Why bother?
Lastly, Elijah saw God’s answer in a small cloud. That was all Elijah needed. He didn’t wait until he was fully drenched; the small cloud was enough evidence of God’s fulfillment of His promise.
When we say we want God to show up, what do we mean? What do we look for? Do we see Him in the small, perhaps mundane, encounters throughout our day? Or do we need the big show? Do we take Him at His word and join Him or do we sit back in skeptism until He proves Himself. Is the small cloud enough for you?
Next week – A baby? Really!