This was the last preach I did before I headed off to Mattersey Hall (I was actually heading off that day to Mattersey), my home church at the time was having a prayer and fast day and so I was asked to do a preach on prayer. This was what I concluded with, all the blessings.
Good morning guys. As you may of you noticed, today we’re going to be focused on prayer and fasting, and the reason why we fast is so we can focus more on God, to take away distractions and focus on him alone, Jesus says that we can’t live on bread alone, but on every word from the mouth of God. But one thing that we always suspect is that whenever we turn everything off and focus on him, we are going to audibly hear God and that we are going to be in a full conversation with him. Sadly from past experience I can say that this is not the case. He doesn’t come in with a band and says “Hey Curtis I’m here, what do you want to talk about?” But rather he is there in the silence and we just be in each other’s company.
An example is when me and Matthew were in primary school, we would be eating our lunch and regularly we wouldn’t say much to each other (I know, us two quiet!). But it wasn’t because we didn’t like each other, it’s that we had a strong friendship that we didn’t need to kill it with words, that’s the same with what God wants. He wants us on that level of relationship where we don’t need to tell him everything we need or want, but just to be with him and not say a word, because in the silence is when we can truly understand God, and I think it says that brilliantly in 1 Kings 19 If people would like to turn to that chapter for me please? The context to this as Elijah will explain, that he is on the run from Jezebel and has managed to get to Mount Sinai, then God has told him to go and stand before him on the mountain, the same as Moses did many, many years before, this is what it says:
“There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” ” – 1 Kings 19:9-13
Elijah saw all the chaos and heard all the loud noises made by the fires and earthquakes, but God wasn’t in those big visual phenomena, as it says he was there as a whisper. When everything faded away it was just Elijah and God, those two together being with each other. We see the two talking to each other and how that transpires for Elijah in the tale. But what I want to focus on is that if Elijah was focused too much on all of those loud noises, then there’s a chance that he would not of heard God asking him that question, and the same with us if we miss out on God talking to us, and a chance to act on it then it may be too late. An example of this (which is where we’ll be looking at) is in Ruth. If you read the book of Ruth, you shall see that God is not in there making a booming voice, he is mentioned by name but God himself is not in there.
Where was he? Was he busy? Did he leave the gas on back at home? Did he have to pick up Jesus from school? Was he not there? Or like many other times, was God is there working in the background whilst we’re all panicking in the foreground? Let’s have a look!
Where Is God?
So one thing that I noticed whilst reading this is that we get this feeling that Naomi (Ruth’s mother-in-law) is quite bitter. She asks people in her town of Bethlehem to not call her Naomi (which means pleasant), but rather to call her Mara (that means bitter) because in her own words “God made me bitter!” God made her bitter! Naomi’s husband, Elimelech made the conscious decision to take his family to Moab when there was a famine in Israel, then Naomi chose to stay when Elimelech (her husband) died, then she chose to stay when her sons died, only when the famine was over did she decide to go back to Bethlehem and she comes in bitter, but not because she learned her lesson the first time, not the second or third time, just when it suited her! But no! She’s right! It is God’s fault, because I can relate.
Whenever something bad happens to me, it’s not my fault, it’s not my responsibility, it’s all God’s fault! When I make myself a cup of tea and I go in the fridge to find there’s no milk, that was God’s fault! (Curtis, maybe you should’ve gone and got some milk after you used it up) When I was at the shops on Thursday and I didn’t have enough money to go and get some shower gel, God placed a curse on my bank account (No, that was you having pancakes for breakfast at Wetherspoon’s) I go on my knees and I cry out the same as Naomi “The Lord has brought misfortune upon me!” (Curtis what are you doing?) “THE LORD HAS MADE ME BITTER!”
Or maybe I am talking complete nonsense and maybe Naomi, just like us sometimes, should start taking responsibility for our actions. There used to be a programme on Cartoon Network called ‘The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy’ (anyone remember this?) and there was an episode where Billy gets a bad luck snail in his brain (I’m not going to explain it now), but the snail eventually comes out and Billy is bad luck free, he then runs to the kitchen to celebrate with ice cream but he runs into the door, he starts crying and says “Oh no! I gots the bad luck again!” To which Grim starts laughing and then explains “No child, that wasn’t bad luck; you’re just stupid!” And maybe we’re Billy and maybe we do silly stuff and we can start blaming it on other things, maybe God, maybe old wives tales, but not ourselves. Instead of blaming God for all of our problems, we need to give God those problems. We turn to God and we say “Here’s my situation, I’m giving it to you now Lord. Do with it as you will.”
But as we see, even though Naomi is hurling abuse and saying God is responsible for all the wrongs, God is working behind the scenes, righting those wrongs. Which is what God does for us on a daily basis, God knows every hair on our head, so of course he knows our problems and the things that worry us, I mean I’m going away to learn more about him for three years and I have so many nerves! But God knows that, and he’s going to be there in those situations when I worry and ultimately in the end, it’s all a part of his plan. This also goes the same for you too, whatever you may be going through and you think that God is distant, he’s not. He’s with you right now, and he’ll always be with you.
God Is Working!
We see this coming into fruition in chapters 2 and 3 of Ruth, where Ruth meets Boaz, who is a relative of Elimelech and she tells Naomi about him, she gets excited due to the law in practice where Ruth can get married to him. We see God doing something, a spark has been set off, and we get ever so excited don’t we? When God plants a thought or an idea in our brains and it’s now our job to see that come to life. A friend of mine, Jacob Tyers from Carlton Pentecostal Church had the idea of all youth groups in the city coming together to worship Jesus for the past few years, and last week he had his first ever ‘Fused 2gether’ meeting. God planted something in Jacob’s brain, and he took that plantation and he went along with what God wanted. Same thing with Naomi and Ruth, God planted in Naomi’s head of the marriage between Boaz and Ruth and started going to work. Now what I’m not saying is God has planned everyone to be an expert on love. But what I am saying is that if God has planted something in your heart, and you know that’s what God has handed to you, then you need to pick it up and run with it. Because God doesn’t give us this whether we initially like it or not, but rather that it’s good for us. Like vegetables (I refuse to eat them still!)
He Has Done It!
And if we carry on with what God wants us to do, we will ultimately be happy and satisfied. As is Ruth and Boaz as the two eventually get married and Naomi then has a grandson. That grandson is Boaz, who then has Jesse as a son, and Jesse is the father of David. King David of Israel and a descendant of Jesus. I mean, if that’s not God working then I seriously don’t know what he does. He manages to find a new family for Ruth and Naomi, and even manages to squeeze in the saviour of the world. I’m not saying squeezing Jesus in is a bad thing, quite the opposite. It’s the cherry on top of this cake. How God can literally put himself in the picture and ultimately makes it better. The same way how we can have God squeezes into our lives, he can make everything better for us.
And everything that he did with Naomi and her family, he did that all without a single word. I can if I was in her situation and God didn’t say anything to me, I would freak out. I would be jumping up and down and I would definitely say that I would be bitter! But as seen, God was there and he put all the pieces in place and he didn’t need to tell her what was going to happen at the start. No booming voice, no prophecy, nothing!
So what can we take away from this? Well since today is focused on fasting and prayer, I encourage you that when the worship is over and we come into that time of prayer that we can be there with God and talk to him, there may be an instant response but there’s the chance you won’t hear anything back. But don’t be discomforted, because God will listen to those prayers and he will begin helping us in whatever way it may be.
Lord God, I thank you that you care about us and you listen to our prayers, thank you Lord for the story or Ruth and seeing you work in their lives is so remarkable, I pray that as we continue with the fasting and the praying that we can listen to your gentle whispers and you can plant something in our hearts so that we can continue praising you and the works that you have done for us so far.
In Jesus’ name, amen.