So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”
2 Kings 4:2
Have you ever been in a situation that has caused you to be in a state of pure panic? Maybe you unexpectedly lost your job or have incurred a debt as a result of an unanticipated illness. Perhaps you’re a student who miscalculated your college expenses and got a bill you didn’t expect. We’ve all had that moment when we panicked because in our adverse circumstances, we forgot that we serve a miracle-working, “shows-up-when-you-need-Him” God.
There is the story of a widow whose husband died suddenly. He was a prophet’s disciple and left his family in debt when he passed. Creditors were threatening to take the widow’s sons to make them slaves because of this debt, and she went to the prophet Elisha for help. As you can see from 2 Kings 4:2 above, Elisha first asked, “What have you in your house?” And her initial response was to say “nothing.” How many of us, when confronted with an unanticipated situation, panic and immediately experience a crisis of faith because we believe we have “nothing?”
However, as soon as the widow said that she had nothing – as if it jumped into her mind – she remembered that she had some oil in the house. But it seems like this didn’t mean anything to her because she said, “except a jar of oil.” In my mind, I experienced this verse as though she was saying, “we have nothing of importance in the house. Just a jar of oil.” That word “just” can be a terrible word because it reveals a mindset that we undervalue who we are or what we possess. I don’t like it when my friends say it’s “just” me; as if their presence isn’t important. The fact that it’s you means all the world to me because I have no other you in my life. You are unique.
In the midst of the widow’s limited thinking, God shows up to reveal what he can do with “just” a jar of oil. Elisha instructs the woman to get as many vessels as she can and to pour oil from her jar into the vessels. He specifically tells her to get “empty vessels, do not gather just a few” (v. 3). This widow and her sons started pouring oil from her jar into all of the vessels borrowed from neighbors and God’s Word says that her jar continued to give oil until the family ran out of vessels. The widow was able to sell the oil and the money was enough for her to pay off her husband’s debt and to provide for her and her sons.
As you meditate on this lesson, ask yourself:
- Are you of the mindset that you have nothing? Even worse, have you been tempted to believe that you are nothing?
- What valuable object or gift do you have in your life that you think of as being “just a jar of oil’ when god can multiply that gift to bless you and your family?
- Read 2 Kings 4:1-7. Did you notice that the jar of oil only stopped producing because the widow had not secured more vessels? Are you limiting God’s abundance in your life by not having secured enough vessels?
Published on Jan 19 @ 3:51 AM EDT
By Loretta Shelton and Pastor Marlin Harris
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7
The Apostle Paul uses an illustration in 2 Timothy 4:7 reminiscent of competing in the Roman Olympic games in order to demonstrate the Christian believer’s life of faithfulness. He says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
What is remarkable is that Paul makes these comments while imprisoned in a Roman jail knowing he is at the end of his life, and consequently at the end of his God-given mission. Throughout Paul’s Christian journey, he remained steadfast and loyal to his calling, despite the unimaginable obstacles and perils that he faced. Paul remained faithful to his ministry for the sake of Christ by fighting what he called “the good fight of faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). This means he maintained a godly character, lived by Biblical principles, and was unwavering in his faith and trust in God. This characterized Paul’s life regardless of the unpleasant circumstances that he was often attacked with. He did not rely on his past service, but he persevered and served God until crossing the finish line at the end of his ministry on earth.
Like the Apostle Paul, we must live this Christian life with the same convictions and fortitude as the athletes who were competing in the Roman games. Christians must run the race, fight the good fight, and endure hardships valiantly, in order to receive the prize of an incorruptible crown that never fades away. The qualifications required to receive this coveted prize are to run lawfully and diligently until we finish. Running this race means honoring God with our hearts and bodies, developing a character that looks more and more like Christ each day, and living a life that pleases our Father, and is worthy of the great redemption that we have been graced to receive. We must start, run, and then finish the race. We will finish, because no believer ever runs the race of his life alone. The Lord Jesus Christ runs with us, and He will get us to the finish line, if we stay the course and “finish well and finish strong”.
When you are running the race of life there are a few things you want to be sure to do. First of all, you must be spiritually prepared for the journey. This spiritual preparation is impossible without being filled with the Holy Spirit, for which there is no substitute. The scripture is clear that we are to be empowered by the Holy Spirit if we hope to accomplish anything in this life that brings glory to God. The Spirit of God empowers us with wisdom, strength, and godliness that causes the blessings of God to rest upon our journey. He alone conditions our hearts to endure the pain of the race, and to not turn back or give up before we reach the finish line.
Secondly, we must endure the necessary disciplines needed to prepare us for the rigor of the race we are to run. When runners prepare for lengthy marathons they will often spend months preparing themselves physically for that one race. They will attempt smaller races and work their legs and test their endurance with exercise regimens. They do this so that when they are in the ‘big’ race, they will have the strength to finish. Finishing our Christian race is more about the strength of our spirit than it is about the desire we may have in our hearts. Many people start out with Christ, and they desire greatly to finish, but they have not developed the spiritual strength to endure the trials and tests that befall them along their journey and they, sadly, fall away.
Jesus speaks about this reality in Matthew 13:1-9 when He shares the Parable of the Sower, where he outlines four different scenarios of seed-planting. One of his 4 scenarios involves a farmer who sowed his seeds in soil that was cluttered with rocks. He says that the soil received the seed quickly, but because the ground had not been tilled and prepared, the rocks were too numerous in the soil and made the soil depth shallow. Soon the seed died in the soil because there was no depth created by tilling. This is what happens to any of us who set out to run this Christian race, and we have not had the hard, stony rocks in our hearts, minds, and habits broken up and tilled away. Without the discipline of dedicated study of the Word of God, the daily practice of prayer, and regular worship and thanksgiving to God, we will not be able to break those hard rocks that have settled into our hearts and have made them resistant and impervious to the convictions and truths of the Word of God.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, every sincere believer must have an ardent and passionate desire to finish their race well. God placed that desire in your heart when you gave your hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ. The only way to satisfy that aching and longing in your soul to finish well is to daily discipline your life with the Spiritual practices of prayer, worship, and time in the Word. As you attend to the things of God, He will attend to the cares and desires of your heart. Let’s lay aside the weights and the many distractions, and run this race with all we have so that when we are finished, we will feel our Master’s embrace and hear him say, “Well done”.
Holy Father, we all have our own individual race to run. May You grant us the strength and the conviction to run our race well. Remove the hindrances from our path, and unchain our feet from the heavy weights and burdens that have weighed us down. Lord, grant us the freedom to run and not get weary, and to walk and not faint. In Jesus’ Strong Name, I pray. Amen.
Spend today surveying your life to determine what are those weights and distractions that make it difficult for you to finish your race well. Consider those challenges, temptations, and tests that you are engaged in daily, and actively name them before the Lord, and make the decision to do whatever is necessary to lay them aside. Seek the Lord for His strength and lean upon the Holy Spirit for His guidance.
Published on Jan 31 @ 12:38 AM EDT