Good morning. I hope you all are enjoying this series. If you missed it, in the first week we saw the prophet Elijah calling Elisha to succeed him. Elijah’s response was so amazing as we saw him immediately burn his plow and leave everything to follow God. And then last week, Elisha asks some people to dig ditches in a valley, to dig irrigation ditches, long before there’s any sign of rain. So we have seen some amazing things, some challenging things, as we look at the commitment and the faith of Elisha. Today we are going to see a widow who was desperate. She was about to lose her sons to her creditor, to be sold as slaves, when she encountered Elisha. All she could see was what she didn’t have. But God through the prophet Elisha, was going to show her that she had everything she needed to do what God wanted her to do. And so God is going to do more than she could imagine. He is going to provide in a miraculous way; that built not only the widows faith, but is going to build your faith today as well.
Now this morning, if you find yourself on empty, you know, where you feel like you don’t have anything more to give, and yet maybe, much is expected. It has been my prayer that God would use this story to minister to you in a deep and a life changing way. So let’s get into our text in 2 Kings, chapter 4, verses one and two, and allow God to speak to us. Let’s read together at verse one:
2 Kings 4:1-2
The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves."
Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?"
"Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil."
I wanted to stop there and talk about these first two verses because there’s so much that needs to be said. And first of all, we know that she was the wife of a prophet, we don’t know her name, but we know that she was in financial need. You know, it’s not uncommon for a prophet’s family to be living in poverty. Many of them are on the run to save their lives, trying to survive, and so it’s very difficult to provide for their families. So this woman she’s just lost her husband, the creditor has come to claim her debt, and she has no means with which to pay him off. Not only that, but the creditor is coming to take her only hope, to take her two sons as slaves. So it doesn’t get much worse than this.
But the reality is, that many of us do have some serious problems going on right now. You know, maybe your marriage is barely hanging on and you don’t know how you’re going to make it. Maybe they lied, they betrayed you, and what you thought you had you’re not even sure if it would ever real or sincere.
Or maybe you’ve got a child this going down the wrong road and you know that if they keep going down that road that can end up in a place that they don’t ever want to be. So your broken and distressed because you’re watching someone you love make decisions that are going to hurt them.
Some of you, may be in a financial situation, where you don’t know how you’re ever going to get out of it. And you feel like life has a stranglehold on you. There’s just so much stress, so much fear, and no hope in sight.
Or maybe it’s a health issue. You went to the doctor or someone you love went to the doctor and if there’s not a miracle from God you don’t know what’s going to happen. You may end up experiencing the very thing you never thought would happen.
And so, in the same way, this widow has a very significant need, and yet the power of our miracle working God is about to explode and transform her whole situation. And today, if you have a significant need, God is going to do something in our spirits that is going to build our faith, and that is going to release the miraculous in our lives. You see, because what this widow discovers, is that when you don’t have what you really want, you discover that God is all you really need. So she goes to the prophet Elisha, it says in verse one, “that she cried out to Elisha” and she tells him of her need.
Now I want you to notice what Elisha does. He doesn’t ignore her, he doesn’t blow her off, he doesn’t tell her, “I’ll be thinking about you”, but he makes himself available, and in verse two says, “How can I help you? What do you have?” He makes himself available. And you know, if you want to make a difference in this world, you’ve got to make yourself available. Tell God, that you’re available, that you want to be a conduit, a channel of his grace, to minister to those who have great needs. And just make yourself available like Christ would.
So Elisha, asked her, “Tell me, what do you have in your house?” Do you notice his respect? He doesn’t come to her with all the answers, but he respects her and says let’s start with what you have. And she replies, “Your servant has nothing there at all…” Isn’t that so much like us, you know when you’re hurting, and when you’re in need, all you can see, all you focus on, is what you don’t have, and you miss all the blessings that you do have.
You know, it’s like the ladies in my house, I might get in trouble for saying this, but you know, they can walk into a closet full of clothes, dig through them, look at them, touch them, and then say, “I don’t have anything to wear.” And it seems to me like you could clothe an African village with what they have, yet they stand there and say, “I’ve got nothing to wear.” You see, so many times we find ourselves so focused on what we don’t have, that we don’t even see what we have.
And this was exactly where this widow was. She was in need and all she could focus on was what she didn’t have. She had lost everything and all she could see was what she lacked. But here’s what God was going to show her and what we need to see, she needed to stop waiting for what she wanted and start working with what she had.
So Elisha asked her what she had in her house and she says, “Your servant has nothing there at all, except…” Except what? Can you say it with me? “A little oil.” A little oil right? She says I don’t have anything there at all. Oh yeah… Except this one little thing. She needed to stop waiting for what she wanted and start working with what she had. I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful that we serve a God who specializes in doing a lot with a little. You see, because all through Scripture, we see time and time again, that our God is totally capable of doing a lot with a little.
In John’s gospel, Jesus had been teaching thousands of people, and at the end of the day everybody was hungry. The disciple Philip said, “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish… but how far will they go among so many?" (John 6:7-9). Yet this little boy said, “I don’t have a lot” but he took what he had and in the hands of the son of God, a little bit became a lot and they fed the thousands and even had 12 basketfuls left over… because we serve a God who can do a lot with a little (John 6:13).
In the Old Testament, when Israel was afraid of the Philistines, because of one man named Goliath, a little shepherd boy with a little bit of faith and a little stone said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). That little shepherd boy with a little faith and a little stone took that giant down. Everybody else thought he was too big to beat, but David knew that “in the name of the Lord,” he was too big to miss (1 Samuel 17:45).
You see, Jesus makes it very clear, that if you have just a little bit of faith, “Faith is small as a mustard seed,” not a lot, “You can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move” (Matthew 17:20). Because we serve a God who can do a lot with a little.
And so Elisha says to the widow, “What do you have?” It reminds me of the time the Lord asked Moses, "What is that in your hand?" (Exodus 4:2). Notice that God didn’t say, “What do you want” or “what do you need” but he said, “What do you have?” The Lord has really impressed upon me, that we need to stop waiting for what we want, and start working with what we have. You see God has given us everything we need to do everything he wants us to do.
And I’ve seen this, you know we started in what was the size of two-car garage. Now here we are in a 6000 square-foot building and again we’re looking at how we can best utilize the space, and praying for a bigger space. That was one of our goals from last Sunday night’s Catalyst Meeting. You see, God gives us what we need, we just need to trust him for the increase at the right time.
So we’ve got to stop waiting for what we want and start working with what we have. We’ve got to pour it out!
Look at this in verses three through seven. Watch what happens when we offer God what we have and trust him to give us what we need.
At verse 3, “Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."
She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one."
But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.
She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left” (2 Kings 4:3-7).
All this widow had was this little bit of oil, but Elisha knew that if she would trust God and pour out what she had, that God would refill her jar and give her what she needed so that she could keep on pouring. And I just love that… that does something in my soul… that stirs something deep inside of me. This is awesome!
Elisha said, "Go get some empty jars.” Because when she had the faith to offer what she had, God was going to provide, God was going to give what she needed, and that’s exactly what happened in verse five. Her sons kept bringing her jars and the Bible says, that she kept pouring. As long as there was an empty jar, God would fill it, but when there were no more jars, the oil stopped flowing. You see, when she offered what little she had, God gave her everything she needed.
Verse seven tells us, “That she went and told Elisha, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
Isn’t that an amazing story of the miracle power of God? For Elisha to ask her to empty out everything she had and to trust God to provide what she really needed was crazy. It was unreasonable, it was a radical faith, but this is important, because when we show God our faith we get to see his faithfulness. When Christ’s Community Church began meeting in Emmitsburg, when we began serving this community, we didn’t have much to offer. But as we came week after week, poured out what we had, used what God had given us, God has not only provided, but God has multiplied and poured out blessings upon this church. As we love, as we give, and as we serve this community God is blessing and providing for our needs. I need you to know this because we cannot miss the power of this.
You see, at some point in our faith walk, we need to take what we have, and stop waiting for what we want, so that God can do something miraculous in our lives. God told the widow, “Go ask your neighbors for empty jars.” You see, this is the ingredient for your miracle. God didn’t say go get a certain size or shape of jar; the only requirement was that it was empty. He can use any shape, size, or color jar; it just needs to be empty.
Here is what it says in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7: “God…made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay…” Now you’ve got to wonder what God means by that? And here’s what he is saying, he’s speaking about our bodies, in another place he refers to our bodies as being a tent (2 Peter 1:13). And so what God is saying is that we have this treasure of Jesus Christ, these great riches of the Gospel, the Good News, in these bodies. In these weak, temporal, passing bodies. And this morning, God is looking for a few empty jars.
You see when we empty ourselves, God is able to use us in a greater capacity. When we empty ourselves of self, of our own agendas, and come to God totally empty, he fills us with oil which has always been a symbol of the Holy Spirit. When we come to him empty, with nothing to offer, we suddenly realize that God is what we needed, that he’s enough, and that he sufficient in every way.
Maybe this morning, you realize that you don’t have what you wanted, you’ve been discontent, and suddenly you’ve discovered that God is exactly what you needed. That you came in today empty, you’re lacking, and this morning if you ask, if you welcome him, if you receive him, he’s going to become everything that you’ve ever needed. Stop waiting for what you want and start working with what you have. Offer yourself to God and trust him to give you what you need. When you do that… you will discover that our God is all that you really needed. Would you open up those jars of clay and just say, “Yes God, you know my need.”
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
February 22, 2015