Pastor G spends four weeks covering a few of the highlights of the prophet Elisha. He pulls out examples of how we can live our faith lives based on the experiences of Elisha.
This is week 2 of 4: “Dig Some Ditches”
Today, we are in the second week of a four-week message series looking at the old testament prophet known as Elisha. If you missed last week, we talked about burning plows, leaving behind anything that would keep us from following God and moving ahead. Last week, we burned plows. If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to share with you tonight let me hear you say or see you type HIT ME WIT IT G! I’M READY!
Today, we’re going to talk about digging ditches but before we dive in, I’m wondering how many of you have played what I call the “if only” game. You think “if only” I had “such and such,” life would be better, easier, or I would be happier. How many of you have ever played the “if only” game? “If only” I had a better job, “if only” I had more money, “if only” I had more hair, or at least hair in the right places. It stopped growing on my head but it has no trouble growing on my back in my nose and in my ears. If only hair would grow on my bald head again. If only God would answer this one prayer. Some lady might say, “If only I had a husband.” A married lady might say “If only” I had a husband with a job.” Another might say “If only I had a husband with a better job.” Another might say, “If only I had a husband with a better job who looked like Brad Pitt.” I don’t know what your “if only” would be. But throughout life, we all recognize that we have these needs, and we tend to think “if only” I had whatever it is, life would be so much better.
So, what I want to do today is encourage you to listen to this message through the lens of your greatest need, to experience the teaching of God’s word through the lens of your greatest need. And it’s my prayer that God would minister to you in a very very special way. The context for today’s message is that we’re going to see that there were three kings who joined forces to do battle against the Moabites. Three nations against one, they thought, “This should be easy. We’ll have a very decisive victory.” But often in life, things do not go as we planned. Who knows what I’m talking about? You think you’ve got something figured out and then, “Whoops,” things didn’t turn out the way we thought, and that’s what happens with these three kings. Instead of winning easily, they find their troops marching for seven days, wandering in the desert, and they realize they are totally and completely out of water. They’re about to die of thirst, their animals are going to die of thirst. They have a very significant need. And this story is going to teach us this principle.
Your greatest NEED becomes a BLESSING when it DRIVES you to DEPEND on God.
This will be good news for many of you. Let me say it again. Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God. Let’s read our Scripture text and let it bring to light this very powerful truth; we’ll start in 2nd Kings, chapter 3, and we’ll read verses 9 through 12 to get us going.
So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. After a roundabout march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for the animals with them. – 2 Kings 3:9
So, here are our three kings and their armies and they are in deep in trouble. No water. Look at verse 10:
“What!” exclaimed the king of Israel. “Has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?” – 2 Kings 3:10
In other words, we thought we’d win easily but now it looks like we’re going to be destroyed. What is God doing to us? I am PUZZLED! Look at verse 11.
But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.” – 2 Kings 3:11
Now, if you missed last week, Elijah was a prophet who recruited and then mentored Elisha. And if you know about the prophet from last month, Elijah, when the nation was in a great drought – a judgment by God that He had Elijah announce, God instructed Elijah to call on Him again and God sent rain from a cloud that started the size of a hand and brought one of the biggest storms from the smallest of clouds. And so they’re thinking, “Wow, if Elijah did THAT, maybe Elisha can help us as well.” Look at verse 12.
Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him. – 2 Kings 3:12
Now, let’s make sure we all know what’s going on here. The three kings are going to go to battle against the Moabites and they are sure that they’re going to win easily, but they do not and they find themselves in big danger; they’re out of water. Now, what you may not know is these three kings were not serving God; they were not seeking God. And all of sudden, when they’re in trouble, they do what a lot of people do who had no use for God before but then when big trouble hits, suddenly, “Oh yeah, God, we’re in trouble. Can you help us?”
And so they said, “Is there anybody who’s like really in good with God? Anybody who can do a little rain dance for us maybe, pull some spiritual strings?” And somebody said, “Oh yeah, there’s Elisha, the prophet. Maybe he can help us out.” And surely, they had heard about the miracles that Elisha was doing in this rookie year as a prophet; he had already separated the waters of the Jordan. Okay? Very impressive. He divides the Jordan River. Just like Moses parting the Red Sea yeah? Another time, Elisha spoke to a polluted spring of water. Okay? You drink the water, you die. It’s that bad. Okay? He spoke to it and healed the water so you could drink from it; the water was healthy and good. And another thing he did is when some young teens were making fun of him, because evidently he didn’t have a lot of hair, and the young teens were calling out after him, teasing him, ”Baldy, baldy, baldy,” Elijah kind of lost his cool and summoned two bears out of the woods. And the bears ripped the boys to shreds. That’s in your bible; I’m not making this up. You can’t make that stuff up. You should read your Bible. And you also should never make fun of a guy with a bald head because you may never know how much faith he has and how close a bear or two might be okay? So just don’t do that. Trust me and Dwayne Johnson on this. Don’t play. WOW! It’s like looking in a mirror.
And so these kings look to Elisha and ask, “Elisha, can you help us out?” What do you think he’s going to do? Let me tell you what he’s going to do. He actually cops an attitude; that’s what he’s going to do. He’s like, “Okay, okay, I get it. I get it, boys. Okay? Usually, YOUR plan is to ignore God. But now, you’re in trouble and you want some God action. Okay?
So, I’m going to be a smart-aleck to you,” and that’s what he is. He totally cops an attitude. You may say,” Where did he learn this from?” And honestly, he learned it from his mentor who was the king of attitude. Okay? Elijah was the king of attitude! We talked about this last month. One time Elijah, Elisha’s mentor, went to 450 false prophets who worshiped the false God, Baal. And he said, “Boys, let’s have a little contest. Let’s see how big your god is. We’ll get two bulls, you kill one. I’ll kill one. We’ll make a couple of alters. You call on your god to send fire from heaven. If your god doesn’t, and my God does, then you worship my God. If your god does and my God doesn’t, we’ll worship your gods. Let’s go boys; bring it on.” And so these false prophets, they call on God, “Send fire. Send fire,” and nothing’s happening. Elijah is sitting back laughing at them, talking trash. ”Come on. He said, “Maybe you should shout louder. Maybe your god’s deaf. Maybe your god’s on vacation.” He said, “Maybe your God’s in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet and can’t hear you.” That’s in the bible. I’m not making this up.
You need to read your bible; it’s in there. “Maybe your god’s going potty in the bathroom and that’s why he can’t send fire right now.” You should read your bible; that’s in there. And so Elisha does what Elijah did, he gets an attitude. And watch it. Here’s what he says in verse 13:
Elisha said to the king of Israel, “Why do you want to involve me? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.” – 2 Kings 3:13a
Okay? Can you hear his attitude? He’s bringing yo momma into it. “Yo momma’s a prophet. Why don’t you go ask your momma? Why are you trying to involve me?” This is fun, prophet trash talk going on! So he goes on. He said, “Call the prophets of your mother.” Look at the second half of verse 13:
“No,” the king of Israel answered, “because it was the Lord who called us three kings together to deliver us into the hands of Moab.” – 2 Kings 3:13b
Elisha responds to this claim, and he’s not done being a smart aleck yet. Look at verse 14, watch this:
Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you. – 2 Kings 3:14
Elisha is like, “Ummmm, I know the Lord Almighty pretty well. I am His prophet. I serve Him. So, listen here king, I know better. “You’re not serving him but I am. I just want to put that little dig in there.” Okay? “As surely the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I didn’t have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you.”
So he’s saying to the other two kings, “Okay, Jehoshaphat, he’s not serving God, but he did at one time fear God so if it wasn’t for Jehosophat, I wouldn’t have even time to pay any attention to you other two; that’s what I think about you. But because Jehoshophat’s here, I’ve decided to help you out. You need a prophet, I’m your prophet.” Then in verse 15, he makes a demand. And he says in the first half of verse 15:
But now bring me a harpist… – 2 Kings 3:15a
Elisha is like, “Okay, boys, if you want me to prophesy, I need some mood music. Give me a harpist. Go get me the biggest and most difficult instrument to move and bring it in here and get me somebody who’s good and play me some music if I’m going to prophesy.” I love it! It’s just kind of funny to me.
You may say that’s like really demanding. But the reality is, this was not an uncommon practice for prophets to do. There’s something about when you worship God through music and he inhabits praises of his people. For those of you who are followers of Christ, there’s something special that happens when your heart drifts towards him in adoration and praise and worship. In fact, when I prepare messages, I often put worship music on and it helps me to connect to God. When I’m praying for something really big and just want my faith to grow, I put worship music on and it connects me to God. And so that’s what Elisha does, he’s like, “Play the harp.” And so the three kings are there and they’re like, “Okay, he’s going to give us a word of encouragement. He’s going to tell us God is going to send rain. I can feel the music playing, this is going to be good.” And what does he do? Does he bring them a word of encouragement? No, he gives them a ridiculous command. Look at the end of verse 15 and verse 16:
While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came on Elisha. He said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Dig this valley full of ditches.’ – 2 Kings 3:15b-16
Huh? Wait, wait wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I thought God was going to make it rain and we’re going to take our shoes off and run through the puddles and enjoy the rain. And you’re telling me when my troops are about to die of thirst, you want them to do serious manual labor under the hot desert sun? You want them to dig ditches? Elisha says “That would be a yeah, I want them to dig some ditches.” The kings had to be thinking “But there’s no sign of rain anywhere; we’re in a severe drought.”
And Elisha is like: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I want you to dig some ditches and we’re going to see that your greatest need often becomes your greatest blessing when it drives you to depend on God!” Look at verses 17-19
For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts. This is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord; He will also give the Moabites into your hand. You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones.” – 2 Kings 3:17-19
Elisha says, this is but a slight thing, this is but a small thing for God to do. No big deal for Him. In other words, you have no idea how powerful, how strong, how mighty our God is. At the snap of his fingers, our God can do this. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord. And oh, by the way, you know that thing you wanted, that other thing, yeah, he’s going to do that as well. He will also deliver Moab into your hands and you will eventually score a major victory over your enemies. God is going to give you the victory, but first, He wants you to dig some ditches. There’s the context of our story. And what I want to do in the rest of our time together is I want to try to apply this directly to our lives. What does that mean for us today? What are we talking about? We’re talking about faith that works. Now there’s a play on words here that is intentional. I’m talking about faith that is effective. In other words, faith that moves the heart of God and it invokes a response from God. I’m talking about faith that works.
At the same time, I’m not just talking about faith that is effective but I’m also talking about faith that is active. Faith that works; faith does something. Faith that believes that God is going to act that we act and take a step toward God, believing that God is going to take a step towards us. Let me show you TWO PRINCIPLES OF FAITH THAT WORKS. The first one — this is so good I don’t know if you’ll be able to contain yourself because it gets me really excited —
1) Only God can send the WATER but sometimes he wants you to dig a DITCH first!
Here’s what James, the half-brother of Jesus says about this in James 2:26:
For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. – James 2:26
A body without breath, without spirit, is dead, and our faith, without any works, is also dead. Only God can send the water but sometimes he wants to see your faith in action; sometimes He wants you to dig a ditch. Now, do you really think that the God of the universe NEEDED these boys out there digging a ditch to hold the water? No, no, no, no, no, no. God can do anything. God spoke the entire universe into existence. God can just speak, “Ditches everywhere!” and BOOM! Ditches are instantly everywhere. Do you see that? Ditches everywhere, lakes, oceans.” I mean, God can do that. He didn’t need them to do that. But instead, it’s almost as if he was saying, “You show me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness. You show me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.” Because, God loves to see our faith. All over the New Testament you’ll see it again and again. The bible will say, “When Jesus saw their faith.” How do you see faith? Like if I’m praying, do you see faith?
I’m praying and you’re like, “Oh man, do you see the faith smoke rising from his brain? No. You don’t see that. You see faith by our actions. When Peter was on the boat and said, “Jesus, if that’s you, tell me to come and I’ll come.” And Jesus said, “Come,” what did Peter do? He got out of the boat. That’s when you see faith. Okay? The other 11 disciples, you didn’t see any faith in their actions.
But Peter, the guy that got out of the boat, you could see his faith. I believe there are many times when God wants to sees us participate in his miracle; it’s still his miracle but he wants us to participate. One day, there was a guy with a withered hand. What does Jesus say to him? “Stretch out your hand.” In other words, I can heal you but first want to see you believe I can heal you.” What else could Jesus have done? Jesus could have said, “Jesus power….ACTIVATE,” and the guy could have been healed without even knowing where the juice came from. He could have done that but instead he said, “I’m going to heal you but I want to see your faith to stretch out your hand and expect God to act.”
Another time there was a guy who couldn’t walk. His entire life he has been crippled. Jesus looks at him and says, “get up, pick up your mat and walk. I’m going to heal you but I’m not going to pick you up. I want to see you have the faith to believe that what I said was true. So get up.” Only God can send the water but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch. God says you show me your faith, I’ll show you my faithfulness.” Look at what Hebrews 11:6 says:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. – Hebrews 11:6
I believe there are too many people that are just sitting back and waiting for God to show them His faithfulness but they’re not showing God any faith. You need to take a step of faith. You need to put your faith into some kind of action. You want to quit smoking? Maybe you just throw all your cigarettes in the garbage on the way out and say, “There’s some faith. I’m getting rid of those things.” You are digging a ditch aren’t you? You want to heal a relationship that’s gone bad, you may need to choose forgive them before someone else even asks for forgiveness or you may need to choose to treat someone with love when all they are doing is being ugly to you. What’s that? You’re digging a ditch. Yeah? You are putting your faith in action and trusting for God’s faithfulness in return.
People say, “I want more money in my life. I want more margin. I want my finances to go farther.” And yet, they do not tithe. God gives us a ridiculous faith principal, yes, absolutely, completely ridiculous to the human mind, it seems totally absurd and ridiculous. The principles is that if we give our first and our best of our finances to the work of God’s kingdom He will bless the rest of our finances. And those of you who are tithers, you know the supernatural power of God that keeping 90 percent of our income with His blessings goes much further than keeping 100 percent without God’s blessings. Give away 10% of your income if you want your finances to be better. I know, it sounds crazy.
It is a story of ridiculous faith, but it is true. What are you doing? You’re digging a ditch. Only God can send the water but He wants you to dig a ditch. I know a lot of single guys, you’re like, “Oh, man, I want a wife. I want a wife. I want a wife. God send me a wife.” You’re sitting on your butt at home, waiting for some smoking babe to knock on your door, carrying a bible, going, “Hey, you big stud, take me to church or lose me forever.” And God’s looking at you going, “Brush your teeth, iron a shirt. Sell your Xbox, move out of your mom’s basement, get a full-time job. Ask somebody out. Buy some flowers, get involved in your church. Meet people.” Only God can send the babe but you’ve got to brush your own teeth. Only God can send the water but — somebody else, help me out — what do you need to do? DIG A DITCH.
Principle #1 – Only God can send the water but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.
The second principal, if you’re taking notes is this:
2) Real faith believes BIG but is willing to start SMALL. Real faith believes big but is willing to start small. I know too many people who call themselves Christians that are not thinking big enough. We serve a God who can do exceedingly and abundantly more than all you can ask, think or imagine Paul says. It’s time for us to think big. We serve that big of a God. I know just as many who won’t think big and yet at the same time, they are not willing to start small either. Think about this: How do you dig a ditch? How do you dig a ditch? If you’re living in the 18th century, the 1700’s, how do you dig a ditch? You take a shovel one load of dirt at a time. Right? What do you do? You start small. You start small. Sometimes, you have to start small. There may be some of you, you’ve got a big vision and where are you going to start? You’re going to start small.
You’re going to start with what is in front of you. You’re going to be faithful with what God has given you. You’re going to start small. I know one true story about a girl named Savanna who wanted to do something very special to help families who had special needs children. And what she realized is that all over, there are these families who cannot go to church because the needs of their family are greater than the ability of churches to meet. And so these families either don’t go to church or they have to go to church separately. And she thought, “Someone needs to do something about that. There are so many like this. And I want to make a big difference.” But she didn’t know how to make a big difference so guess what she did? She started small and she found one family and said, “Can I help take care of your son so you can go to church together?” And she became a part of this family.
And people saw what she was doing and thought, “I’d like to do that as well.” And the families with children similar to this, they know each other and they started talking, and now at one church location I know, there are over 50 people who serve over 50 families that can now be a part of a church family because somebody was willing to start small. How do you do something big?
You start small. What big vision do you have for making a significant difference in the world that you’re holding back on starting because you don’t know how to start big? It’s ok. Start small. When Annette and I first started walking every day we didn’t do 26,000 steps the first day. What started as a 1-2 minute walk each day, if I was lucky, – 2-4 thousand steps maybe – has now become much more! Thinking big but starting small. Dig some ditches and trust God for the water!
I want to encourage you to think big but be willing to start small because only God can send the water but he wants you to dig the ditches. You say, “God, I believe you can.” And then you start where you are and you do what you can and you trust God for the rest. God loves when we participate in his miracles when he can see our faith because faith without works is absolutely dead. Let’s get back to Elisha and the three kings. 2 Kings 3:20 says:
The next morning, about the time for offering the sacrifice, there it was—water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water. – 2 Kings 3:20
When we show God our faith, He shows us His faithfulness. Only God can send the water but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch. YAY GOD? HALLELUJAH! Some of you, right now, you’ve got a significant need in your life, and you think, “If only, If only God would meet that need. If only God would answer that prayer.”
Don’t ever forget that your biggest need can become your biggest blessing when it drives you to depend on God because only God can send the water but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch first. Real faith believes big but is willing to start small. I pray that we will always be a church full of people who think big but are willing to start small, believing by faith, long before there’s a cloud in the sky or any sign of water, that if I’ll dig the ditch, God is faithful enough to send the water.
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~