We say that a first impression can be a lasting impression, and indeed that is true. The first time we do something is often the most memorable. The first time we meet someone, we immediately begin to decide whether we like them or not. First impressions are indelible, and that is why they can also constitute a test of faith. Sometimes, we allow first impressions to blind us to later possibilities or to cause us to give up in despair. First impressions may be lasting, but they are not always correct. The Christian must always remember not to allow what they see by natural perception to blind them to what faith may behold (2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:1).
A good example of what I am talking about is found in the story of Elijah and the widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8–16). God tells Elijah to go to Zarephath in Sidon, for He has commanded a widow to provide for Elijah there. When the prophet Elijah gets to the gates of the city, he meets the widow whom God has appointed to take care of his physical needs. However, she is gathering sticks to cook her last meal in an attempt to simply delay the impending death of herself and her son for a few days more. Climbing inside of Elijah’s head, one wonders what his first impressions were of this whole scenario. Seems improbable, doesn’t it! How can the prophet of God ask a widow to feed him when she is down to her last meal? Amazingly, Elijah surmounts the test of first impressions and, trusting God’s word, proceeds to ask the woman to first feed him. The audacity of it! But God honors the faith of the prophet and the faith of the widow, performing the miracle of the bin of flour that was never used up and the jar of oil that never ran dry. Elijah passed the test of first impressions with flying colors.
Each of us will face the test of first impressions. The beginning of something is often the hardest. A new job, a new school, a new marriage, a new church, or a new ministry often presents some initial challenges that turn out to be greater than you anticipated or altogether different than you imagined. During this time, we can be tempted to doubt and therefore fall short of God’s full blessing. We can be bullied into taking the path of least resistance and get off track with God’s will. Elijah didn’t doubt or concede. He simply trusted God’s word and waited to see God do what only God can do. He believed to see God’s goodness, and so must we (Psalm 27:13).
When Adoniram Judson went to Burma (now Myanmar) as a pioneer Baptist missionary in 1813, he didn’t know it would be over six years before he saw his first convert. Today there are more than two million believers in Myanmar.
Don’t let first impressions be lasting impressions!