I promise this will be the last time I write about shampoo, but there has been a “to be continued” that I did not expect.  As I write this a week after stating “I anticipate finishing off this bottle of White Rain today or tomorrow” the new bottle still stands by as my “shampoo in waiting”!  Every morning I look forward to emptying the old bottle, yet when I get in the shower the next day it looks like the same amount of shampoo remains.  At this point in time, it feels like I will be functioning with this broken cap forever.
It is starting to remind me of the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath: “The Lord told Elijah, ‘Go to the town of Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve told a widow in that town to give you food.’  When Elijah came near the town gate of Zarephath, he saw a widow gathering sticks for a fire. ‘Would you please bring me a cup of water?’ he asked. As she left to get it, he asked, ‘Would you also please bring me a piece of bread?’  The widow answered, ‘In the name of the living Lord your God, I swear that I don’t have any bread. All I have is a handful of flour and a little olive oil. I’m on my way home now with these few sticks to cook what I have for my son and me. After that, we will starve to death.’  Elijah said, ‘Everything will be fine. Do what you said. Go home and fix something for you and your son. But first, please make a small piece of bread and bring it to me. The Lord God of Israel has promised that your jar of flour won’t run out and your bottle of oil won’t dry up before he sends rain for the crops.’  The widow went home and did exactly what Elijah had told her. She and Elijah and her family had enough food for a long time. The Lord kept the promise that his prophet Elijah had made, and she did not run out of flour or oil.” (1 Kings 17.8-16)
Now, I am sure that you know that I am not expecting to die when this old bottle of shampoo runs out – after all, I already have a “shampoo in waiting” on the shower shelf.  But I am thinking there must be a lesson for me in there.  And, if there is a lesson for me, it likely is worth sharing with you.
The first, primary connection I make with the story is the issue of trust.  If you know that episode from 1 Kings 17, you likely remember that shortly after God made the promise to the widow through Elijah, her son died anyway.  The widow’s reaction was to say to Elijah, “Did you come here to cause the death of my son as a reminder that I’ve sinned against God?” (1 Kings 17.18) However, God had the opposite in mind.  He first brought her son back to life through Elijah … and then the flour and olive oil never ran out for the next three years.  In other words, God continued to feed the three of them until the famine was over.  I wonder how much this woman’s trust in the Lord God grew over that period of time, if after those three years she was saying, “the Lord MY God” instead of “the Lord your God”?
In yesterday’s Advent services I spoke of a progression that I believe God works in us.  I said the more our trust in God grows, the greater our joy in living.  However, trust and joy are not things that we can simply “will” into our lives.  Trust is a byproduct of faith … and since we know faith “is not our own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2.8-9), the issue of increasing our trust is really a matter of growing our faith.  This takes us to Romans 10.17: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  In other words, the best thing we can do to increase our faith and trust is to read God’s Word … study his Word … discuss word with others in a small group … listen to God’s Word.  I believe the progression is something like this:  God is at work in his Word growing faith … growing your faith will increase your trust … which produces greater courage and freedom … which leads to more joyous living.  It all starts with being in God’s Word regularly.

Or, simply put, the first, primary lesson of my shampoo bottle is that we can (and should), “Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and not lean on our own understanding.  (As we) in all our ways acknowledge him, he will make straight our paths.” (Proverbs 3.5-6).
The second lesson is that of gratitude and generosity.  Noting that God is both trustworthy and generous (after all, I do have a “shampoo in waiting”), prompts greater generosity in me.  He supplies me with more than I need so that through this surplus, he can use me to meet the needs of others.
For me, living a life of joyous trust starts with tithing – that is, giving at least 10% of my (pre-tax) income to the Lord as I say, “Lord, I know that I can trust you to be able to live on what remains.”  And that is just the start.  After that I generally find a surplus still remains, which gives me the added joy of helping in other ways … special offerings … individual needs … words of encouragement … lessons shared … lending a helping hand.
“All this from a 14-month-old shampoo bottle with a cracked cap?” you ask.  Yes! … well, actually no.  It is all from God who wants us to see him graciously at work in all things – with the emphasis up “graciously” and then “in ALL things” … so that our trust in him is continuously growing … and our joy in living with him is ever increasing … as we become more and more generous.  Here is the promise: “He will increase in every way what you have, so you can give even more to those in need.  You will be blessed in every way, and you will be able to keep on being generous.  Then many people will thank God.” (2 Corinthians 9.10-11)
I may be done talking about my shampoo bottle (even as it refuses to become empty), but I doubt that I will ever be done talking about faith … trust … freedom … joy … gratitude … generosity.  May our Lord Jesus so be at work in you through his word.

Shampoo, Part 2