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 3 of 4: “Grab Some Jars”
Today, we’re in the third week of a message series on “Elisha.” If you were here the first week, we burned some plows and cooked some cows. Last week, we were digging ditches. Today, we’re going to grab some jars. If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to tell you tonight please do me a favor and say or type HIT ME WIT IT G! I’M READY!
Today, I hope this message ministers to everyone but especially, I believe it will speak to those of you who feel overwhelmed, if you feel like there’s too much going on, like you’re in need right now, if you feel like you don’t have enough energy, maybe enough time. Some of you may feel even like you’re really low on faith. I’m praying that this message would build your faith and minister to you in your time of need.
Over the years, as a pastor, I have had many different conversations that show me how common this type of pain can be. I was talking to a guy once who just looked desperate as he explained to me his financial dilemma. And he just said, “I am so far in a financial hole,” he said, “I can NEVER – EVER dig myself out it.” And you could just feel the pain and see it in this guy’s eyes because of the financial pressure that he was experiencing. I talked to a single mom once who works a full-time job and she cleans two homes on the side just trying make ends meet for her and her three children and she said, “Greg, there’s just too much. I don’t have any help; I can’t raise these kids alone anymore. I don’t know how I can possibly continue to do all this and to make it.”
One time there was a 14-year-old boy and he was in agony because his mom and dad are divorcing. And you could tell there was kind of this tension, “which side are you going to choose,” “are you on her side or his side?” And he just looked up to me and he said, “Pastor G, the emotional stress is too much for me to handle. I am freaking out!” If you find yourself today on empty, you feel like there’s just too much in one area of life or another, it’s my prayer that God would use this story from Elisha’s life to minister to you in a deep and a life changing way. So let’s dive into God’s Word; we are going to start with 2 verses just to set the context and then we’ll read some more and let God speak to us. Let’s look at 2 Kings 4:1-2. Here’s how the story starts.
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 small jar of olive oil.” – 2 Kings 4:1-2
Now, let’s talk about these two verses because there’s actually a lot in them. The first thing you’ll notice is we don’t know this poor widow’s name. We don’t know who she is. According to Jewish tradition, many believe that she was actually the wife of the prophet Obadiah. And if this was the case, then it would be no wonder she was in financial need because Obadiah was known for protecting and providing for 50 other prophets. So if indeed, it was Obadiah’s wife, he would have taken all the resources he had to meet the needs of other prophets.
And quite honestly, it would not be uncommon at all for a prophet’s family to be financially struggling because they would spend the majority of their lives on the run, trying to survive and so it was very difficult to make ends meet. So if you can picture this, we’ve got now a widow, we’re going to guess somewhere maybe in her early 30’s, maybe mid 30’s, she’s just lost her husband, she’s got no chance at meaningful employment because, in this culture, women were unemployable unless they would take the job that no woman would want to take. Right? Unless she is willing to sell her body she has nowhere to turn. And so she’s in a really really devastating place. She’s lost her husband. And now, the creditor is coming after her two sons because the law said if you can’t pay your debts, they can take your sons as slaves, and they will be slaves until they’re released in the year of jubilee. So it doesn’t get any worse than this for her. Humanly speaking, she has no hope whatsoever. She’s lost her husband, she can’t pay her bills, and now she’s going to lose her sons. It doesn’t get any worse than this.
And that’s something I always try to remember when I face what I call life’s smaller problems. It’s amazing how riled up I can get about things that are really not a big deal. And yet it happens all the time. For example, if you get really really riled up because the G.P.S. on your iPhone made you turn a street or two too early again, okay, that’s an entry-level problem. All right? If you’re at the restaurant and you’re just devastated because they put too much goat cheese on your salad. “I told you I don’t want a lot of goat cheese on my salad. Now my lunch is RUINED!” That is an entry-level problem. Right?
If you’re really really devastated because you only got seven likes on your most recent selfy on Instagram, and no one said, “Hashtag, you’re so beautiful I can hardly stand it.” And you wonder what did I do wrong, was it the wrong side? Should I have done this side? Maybe I should have done a mirror shot. You know? Do I look okay in my new dress? Or maybe I should have done a duck face. Okay? Those are entry-level problems. You follow me? The reality is many of you today, you don’t have entry-level problems. You’ve got some graduate-level problems going on right now. Your marriage is barely hanging on and you don’t know if you’re going to make it. Someone that you love just betrayed you and lied to you and what you thought you had, you don’t know even know what it is anymore. You’ve got a child that may be going the wrong way and you’re mature enough to know if they keep going down that road they’re going to end up in a place they don’t ever want to be. And you’re in agony because you’re watching someone you love to make decisions that are going to hurt them.
Some of you, you may be in a financial situation where you don’t know how you’re going to get out of it. And there is such stress, you just feel strangled in that kind of financial agony. For others of you, it may be a health issue. You went to the doctor or someone you love that did, and if there’s not a miracle from God, you don’t know what’s going to happen and you may end up experiencing the very thing you wished never would happen. You’ve got a graduate-level problem. If you’re in significant need today, I want to give to you the key thought for this message that I believe God is going to drive into our spirits to build our faith. If you’re taking notes, I want you to write this down.
And I hope it blesses you as it blesses me.
When you don’t have what you really WANT, you will discover that God is what you really NEED.
Let me say that again because this is really important. When you don’t have what you really want, you will discover that our good God is what you really need. Let’s unpack this story and let this point come to life for us. This woman is in significant need and she expresses her need to the prophet, and what does the prophet do? Let me first tell you what he doesn’t do. What he doesn’t do is say, “Oh, man, that’s a bad problem. Stinks to be you. Glad that’s not my problem. Have a nice day.” He doesn’t blow her off. He doesn’t say, “Oh, that’s too bad. I’ll be thinking about you. Have a nice day.” It’s always funny to me when people say that. Like if I’m hurting, don’t tell me you’ll be thinking about me. Like what are you doing? “I’m thinking about you.” Don’t think about me, at least pray for me if you can’t physically do anything for me. Don’t just THINK about me! At least PRAY for me! Do something significant.
Elisha doesn’t just think about her or pray for her. He makes himself available to her and you see this in verse 2. Let’s read it again. Elisha replied to her and what did he say? Let’s say it aloud together. He said these five words. He said:
Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you?…” – 2 Kings 4:2a
How can I help you? Not so hard to say to someone right? The same number of words as “I’ll be thinking about you!” or even “I’ll be praying for you!” Instead, try “How can I help you?” You want to make a difference in this world? You want to be filled with joy? You start every day and say, “God, I am available as Your divine representative.
Anytime there is a need that I become aware of, even if I can’t directly meet the need personally, I want to stop, listen and act to at least be a conduit for the help needed in order to minister to this person.” You do that and your whole perspective of life shifts. Now, when someone at the office says, “I’ve got a problem” or “I’ve got migraine headaches,” or “My husband is driving me crazy,” or “My kid is going off the deep end,” what you say is, “How can I help you?” And you make yourself available just like Christ would, just like Elisha did. Then Elisha says to her something that is very profound, he respects her dignity and says, “Tell me what do you have in your house?” In other words, he doesn’t say, “I’m here with ALL the answers, don’t you worry your pretty little head a minute more, I am here to be the problem solver.” No. Instead, he respects her dignity and says, “Let’s start with what you DO have and let God fill in the missing parts. God will meet your needs through what you DO have.” She replies, your servant has …what? Everyone help me out. She says your servant has “NOTHING THERE AT ALL.” “…Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said…… – 2 Kings 4:2b
Isn’t it interesting that when you’re hurting and when you’re lacking, all you can see is what you don’t have and you miss all the blessings that you do have. This is going to speak to somebody because when we get down and we’re depressed, and we’re hurting, we’re just consumed with what we don’t have. “I don’t have enough money so I can never be happy.” “I don’t have a spouse so I can’t really have a meaningful life just now.” We fall into this trap all the time. ”I don’t have what I want so life doesn’t matter.”
I’ve heard of people who walk into a closet with clothes everywhere. And what do they do? They touch all of them and then they say? “I have nothing to wear.” They can clothe an entire village with what they have but yet they say, “I’ve got nothing to wear.” All they are focused on is what they don’t have and they completely overlook what they do have. It’s funny how when you’re in need, all you focus on is what you don’t have. And this is exactly where this poor woman was. She lost everything and all she could see was her lack. “What do you do when you don’t have much?” If you’re taking notes, write this down. God is going to speak to someone here and tell you to: Stop waiting for what you WANT and start working with what you HAVE. Somebody say AMEN! Stop waiting for what you want and start working with what you have. Look at 2 Kings 4:2 again.
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 small jar of olive oil.” – 2 Kings 4:2
She said, “I have nothing… Oh, well, not literally nothing. I guess I do have a small jar of olive oil.” “I don’t have anything at all. Oh yeah, except this one little thing, this insignificant thing, this thing I can’t even believe I mentioned it. Because clearly it is worthless. So I really have nothing, even though I technically have something.” We do that too don’t we? We think that way too don’t we? Stop waiting for what you WANT and start working with what you HAVE. You may say along with the young widow: ”What good is a small jar of olive oil?” Olive oil was actually incredibly valuable in that culture because it was very rare and had tons of important uses.
Olive oil was used in cooking, which is a good thing, it was used to help lamps burn, which is a good thing, it was used as a moisturizer because you couldn’t go to Bath and Body Works and get some stuff to squirt on your face. It was used to help keep leather pliable, it was used to keep iron from rusting, it was used as an offering to God, it was used to help anoint people in religious services. It was very valuable but she didn’t have a lot; she only had a little. So even though it was a valuable commodity she didn’t feel like she had enough of it to matter. I’m so thankful that we serve a God who specializes in doing a lot with a little. AMEN? I said, I’m so thankful that we serve a God who specializes in doing a lot with a little. AMEN? And this is going to speak to somebody today because we serve a God who is absolutely capable of doing quite a lot with very little. All through Scripture, we see evidence of this again and again.
Remember – we just talked about this on Sunday a few weeks ago, remember when Jesus taught those thousands of people all day, and at the end of the day, everybody’s hungry, and the disciples say, “Who is going to feed these thousands of people?” And everybody goes, “I don’t have any food.” A little boy showed up willing to share all the food he had brought with him, five loaves of bread and two fish. The disciples looked at the food they had and then looked at the thousands of people they had to feed and said “All we have are five loaves and two fish.” In other words, “We don’t have a lot. We only have a little.”But in the hands of the Son of God, that little bit became a lot and they fed the thousands of people and even had 12 basketfuls leftover because we serve a God who can do a lot with a little. AMEN?
Remember in the Old Testament when a whole army was afraid of the Philistines because of one giant man, Goliath, who stood them down, guess who God used? A little shepherd boy with a little bit of faith and a little stone who stood up to the fierce giant and said, “Who are you to come against the armies of my living God? Everyone thinks you’re too big to beat. I think you’re too big to miss. Somebody duck, I’m taking this guy down.” And God used a little boy with a little faith and a little stone to take the big giant down. I’m so thankful that we serve a God who specializes in doing a lot with a little. AMEN?
And in the New Testament, scripture is really clear. Jesus said if you just have a little bit faith, not a lot, that’s all it takes. Some of you say, “I’m really low on faith right now. I only have a little.” We serve a God who can do a lot with a little. YAY GOD! Jesus said, “If you just have faith the size of a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, then you can say to this mountain, “Be removed and cast yourself into the sea,” and you will have what you ask for. If you just have a little bit of faith, that’s enough because we serve a God who can do a lot with a little. Elisha asked the widow, what do you have in your house that God can use and that’s what I am asking you today too. What’s in your house? What do you have? Notice God never said, “What do you want,” or “What do you think you need,” but “What do you have.” Let’s stop waiting for what we want before we act and start working with what we have because God has given us everything we need to do everything He wants us to do.
So many people say: we cannot do enough because we do not have enough. A person of faith says, “God can do more than enough even with the little we have. It is actually a good thing for our faith fur us to have very little to work with. If we always had everything we needed, God wouldn’t be able to show us what we need to see. I am so thankful to my God that he has taught Annette and I to do a lot with a little instead of always giving me what I wanted. I don’t know how this will speak to you, but some of you, you’re going to look at what you have and say, “I wish I had something else so I could do something more significant.” And God’s going to say, “No, no, no. Stop waiting for what you want and start working with what you have.” There may be a guy in here who says, “Man, I’m not a good enough provider for my family. I wish I could do more. I don’t make a six-figure income; I wish I did.” And God would say to you, “Hey, you’re home six nights a week with your children. That’s more important than stuff you buy anyway.” Stop waiting for what you want and start working with what you have.
The second thought that we learn from this awesome story is this:
We’re going to offer God all that we HAVE, and trust him to give us all that we NEED.
Offer God all that you have and trust Him to give you all that you need. Watch this come true starting in 2 Kings 4:3 Let’s read it:
Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. – 2 Kings 4:3
Week one, we burned the plows and cooked the cows. Week two, we dug the ditches. Week three, we’re grabbing some jars.
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.” – 2 Kings 4:3-4
Now what’s going on here? Go get a bunch of jars. All you have is a little bit of oil, but if you’ll trust God and pour out what you have, then put that jar aside, God will refill your jar and give you what you need, and you can keep on pouring. This reminds me of that magic trick you see illusionists do, you know the one? Where they take pitcher of milk and they just keep on pouring and pouring and pouring and it never seems to run out? Only this wasn’t a magic trick. God really did this. When the widow had the faith to offer all that she had then God gave her all that she needed!
She left him and 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. – 2 Kings 4:5-6
As long as there was an empty jar, God would fill it but when there were no more jars, 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 4:7
She went and told the man of God and he said — here’s the good news — “go sell the oil and pay your debts. Your debt has been paid for. You and your sons can live on what is left. You don’t have to be afraid now. No one is going to enslave your sons.” When she offered what little she had, God gave her everything she needed. As long as there was an empty jar, the oil kept flowing.
Remember, we have said that the account of Elisha’s exploits is a tale of ridiculous faith. I mean, from the world’s point of view, think about it, this is a ridiculous request,. Elisha asks her to empty out everything she has. All she has is a little olive oil and Elisha asks her to give that up as well and to trust God to provide what she really needed. That is how our God works. When we show him our faith, we get to see his faithfulness. I can tell you there have been many times in Annette and I’s marriage where we had very little. There have been times when we had no food in the house and four mouths to feed and we didn’t know how we were going to provide dinner for the kids. This was before I got super fat, okay. There were times when we didn’t have enough money to get birthday presents or Christmas presents for the kids and it was tempting to focus on what we didn’t have instead of what we did have.
We were leading a church and we were encouraging people to be givers and a lot of people were holding on tightly to all the things they could give. They had their hands clamped down on their time and their talents and their treasures. They were scared to give anything to God because they looked at what they had and said “I have so very little. I can’t risk the little I have.” Annette and I needed to model a life of faith. We didn’t have much but we tithed on what we had. We often gave well beyond that tithe. We shared our home by taking people in who needed someplace to stay. We shared the food we did have. We only had very little but we trusted it to God. We poured the oil out just like the widow in this event from Elisha’s life.
And it took faith on our part to do all that. It was scary because in human terms, when we looked at it, it was very clear, we didn’t have enough. And I don’t know how that will speak to you but at some point, when you take what you have, and stop waiting for what you want, but you offer what you have, God will do something special. Elisha told the widow, ”Go grab some jars. Grab a bunch of jars.” In that culture, jars weren’t made of glass or plastic-like they are today. They were earthen vessels, made of wet clay and then fired in a kiln oven to make them firm. They are just jars of clay. Notice he didn’t say what color, he didn’t say what size, he didn’t say what shape. What did he say? The only requirement is that the jars must be what? Empty. It could have been any kind, color or size of jar. It just needed to be empty.
You see, a lot of times, God is looking to pour all kinds of blessings into our hands but He can’t because our hands are already full. Our hands are clamped down tightly on the small amount of stuff we think we need, things we refuse to let go of. So our hands are not empty to receive the overwhelming blessings God wants to give to us. Now, how does all this apply to you? Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 4:6-7. Paul writes:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6
That’s pretty incredible to think about isn’t it? We sometimes take inventory of our lives, all our stuff, our homes, cars, money, toys, etc. and we say, “Well, this is what I have. This is what I’m worth.” But in our assessment, in our taking of inventory, so often we completely forget to write this down on the balance sheet. If we are Christ followers then we have the incredible treasure that Paul just described, shining in our hearts. Inside of our hearts is the light of God, the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. So often, we think about what we have and we say: “Your servant has nothing there at all, except a small jar of olive oil.” But that’s not really true is it? We have this incredible treasure as well. That’s what Paul calls it, a treasure. Look at verse 7:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. – 2 Corinthians 4:7
We have this treasure, which is Christ, the knowledge of God’s glory, in our hearts. Paul says we have this priceless treasure in what? JARS OF CLAY! What are jars of clay? That is our bodies. We are clay pots, jars of clay. We were formed from the dust, from the clay of the earth by the hand of God. We are dirt critters. We are jars of clay. What did Elisha tell the widow He needed to perform a miracle for her? God was looking for a bunch of empty jars of clay. God is looking for you and me, jars of clay, because He wants to pour His oil into each of us.
When we empty ourselves of self, when we empty ourselves of pride, when we empty ourselves of greed, when we empty ourselves of our own agendas, when we empty ourselves of all the minor possessions we hold on to so tightly and we finally come to God totally empty, then He fills us with oil. Oil, throughout Scripture is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. And suddenly you realize when you don’t have outwardly what you wanted, it is God that you truly needed and your jar of clay becomes filled with His glory, with His love and with His Holy Spirit.
And suddenly you realize you have always had more than enough; He is sufficient in every single way. You see when you are weak, He is your strength. When you’re hurting, He is your comforter. When you’re lost, He is your guide, when you’re hungry, He is the bread of life that nourishes you. When you are thirsty, He is the living water. When your life is unstable, He is the rock that does not move. When you are finally okay with knowing “I do not have what I wanted,” suddenly you discover God is the only thing you ever needed.
Someone came in here today, and someone is listening online later, and you are empty. Truth be told, right now, you just feel empty. You feel like you are lacking what you need in life. You don’t even have a little oil left, you are completely empty. You are ready to look to and find God and say “Fill me up Lord! Fill me up!” He is going to overflow your heart with His spirit. Stop waiting for what you want and start working with what you have. Offer God all that you have and trust God to give you all that you need. Because when you don’t have what you really want, you will discover that our great and good God is what you really needed.
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~