Sermon for 1/10/2010
Road Signs (Day 22 of One Month to Live)
2 Kings 4:1-7
A. If we had only a limited amount of time to live, the temptation might be to plead with God for a miracle to extend our lives. This is called bargaining. God doesn’t work that way. Oh, God might grant mercy and extend our lives but not because we negotiate a treaty with God. We must remember all of us are going to face that day when we die.
C. Faith moves mountains, but faith in Jesus does not dictate what those mountains are going to be. Some think, “If I just have enough faith, God will grant me a miracle and this disease or cancer will go away.” The bad side of this thinking is that some start to believe, “Because I don’t have enough faith, I still have this bad condition.” Very destructive to our well being and to our relationship with God.
B. Chances are we won’t be cured of our diagnosis (don’t forget we are all terminal), but God always wants us to be healed spiritually. That is not a cop out, it is true. What good is it if a man is cured but loses his soul?
D. Maybe our crisis is not one of health, but financial or relational. Maybe our marriage is in shambles and we beg and plead with God to bring that relationship back from the dead. Maybe the boss has told us that there needs to be some cut backs at work and he calls us in and says that we are the one that is laid off. Our marriage ends in divorce or our job is no more. Is it because we didn’t have enough faith?
A. The concept of crisis in Chinese is represented by two words, “danger” and “opportunity.” When we manage the crisis of our lives following the example of Jesus Christ, we are able to turn the dangers and disasters of life into opportunities to fulfill the will of God in our lives.
B. When the crisis comes, we are faced with choices. No, not choices, “opportunities.”
C. When we are facing a painful loss, the only way to experience the miraculous is to move in God’s direction. How do we do that?
D. There is no formula but the Bible gives us some direction.
Thesis: I find several road signs that can help transform our crisis into an opportunity from 2 Kings 4.
1. Admit our needs (Vs. 1)
A. This widow is in a bad situation. Upon the death of her husband, she now has to face a financial bind. The creditors want to take her children if she doesn’t pay up. She comes to Elisha and is very open with him about her crisis.
B. If we want God to work in our lives, we have to admit that we need help.
C. Most of us hate to admit when we have a problem; much less acknowledge that we can’t fix it ourselves. We want to hid our problems from others; pretend they don’t exist, or try to manage them on our own.
D. We might complain about our problems, but this is different than acknowledging that we need help desperately. We must confess this to others.
E. We cannot get any help until we admit our needs. In working with Celebrate Recovery, it is frustrating to think of the people who would benefit but don’t come. Cannot help them until they admit their needs.
E. This widow goes down that one way street and is honest with God and others about her needs. She comes to Elisha with her needs. However, it appears she hits a dead end.
2. Must go to God with our needs. (Vs. 2).
A. Elisha’s response seems rude at first glance, as if he’s frustrated that this woman is bothering him. More than meets the eye here. I think Elisha was simply refusing to let her put her trust in him. Maybe he was saying, “I know only God can work a miracle.”
B. We must start by going down two one way streets. The first is admitting our need. The second is acknowledging that “the help of man is worthless (twice in Psalms).” Miracles never take place until we acknowledge the situation is impossible without God.
C. In the gospels we have the story of a woman who suffered from a condition of bleeding for twelve years. She sought help but look at what Mark says, (Mark 5:26 NIV) She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
D. There is only one outside source who can provide what we need. We need to go to God, the only One with the power, wisdom, and love to focus on our best interests.
3. What do you have? (Vs. 2)
A. Two signs to turn down one way streets, this one is a stop sign. “Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
B. God asks this question before He works a miracle in our lives. Like the needy widow, we often get so caught up in what we don’t have that we overlook the possibilities of what He’s already given us.
C. God had given this woman the beginnings of her miracle; she just didn’t recognize it. We have to stop and assess what we have to work with. God always begins to work from where we are and with what we have; He doesn’t just zap us and make everything peachy. We must take our gifts, passions, and struggles and give them to God. Our time, talent, resources, and energy, no matter how limited they may seem, are God’s starting place. Our willingness and surrender activate God’s intervention and blessings.
D. Lemonade is a short movie about 16 people who lost their jobs. They all say about the same thing, “It is the best thing that happened to me.” Why? Because they dove into their gifts, passions and struggles and made changes to reflect more of whom they are, who God created them to be.
E. Live like you were dying. In that song the best thing that happened to that man was the diagnosis that he was close to death.
4. You turn allowed (Vs. 2)
A. We see this widow responding by saying, “I have nothing at all.” Our first reaction when problems come our way tends to be negative. With sweeping exaggerations, we declare that everything is bad, nothing is good.
B. But that is not the end of her response, “Except a little oil.” We see that her faith is starting to show. Faith is not ignoring the present reality; it’s acknowledging that with God all things are possible. Faith helps us to see things from a new perspective, through God’s eyes.
C. God loves to take the little bit we have and multiply it, because then He alone gets the credit. Often we become fixated on negative things and start worrying. We can’t recognize what God is doing in our lives if we’re wallowing in our own negativity.
D. (Rom 8:28 NIV) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
5. Yield ahead (Vs. 3-7)
A. Elisha asks her to do something unusual. This is different, but this is exactly what God asks us to do if we want a miracle in our lives.
B. Our reaction to a crisis is “I can’t focus on anyone else’s needs right now; I have needs of my own. I don’t have time for anyone else; I’m overwhelmed and need to take care of myself first.” During our crisis we are unaware of the empty vessels that surround us every day, because we’re blinded to our own problems and worries.
C. God wants us to consider others before ourselves and to trust Him to take care of our needs and to be used by Him to meet the needs of others.
D. In 2008 when I was let go from a church, I focused on the needs of others. I was already involved in a volunteer hospital chaplain program. I did it more. I was talking with a child about baptism and after I was let go he came to me and wanted to be baptized. I preached at churches that I never dreamed I would enter. I helped some people at Wal Mart. It was very healing for me to focus on someone else’s problems.
E. This is a paradox that we may never fully understand. When we move the focus off ourselves and onto God and start pouring our life into others and yielding to God’s direction, then He starts pouring His miracles into us. When we are going through a crisis we need to look for empty vessels to pour ourselves into.
F. Why would God want to bless us if we are not willing to bless anyone else? We are blessed to be a blessing.
G. Obedience brings blessing. The widow’s problem was solved because she did what God said to do. The miracle that God provides may not look like what we asked for, but we recognize how He has given us more than what we could have every imagined.
H. When I received the car, the man couldn’t leave his house. Another cancer patient who is a notary came over to notarize the deal. Clyde said when he heard the news he got dressed and came as soon as he could. He is blessed in the midst of his crisis.
I. God is saying, “If you will give me the little bit you have, I can do great things through you.” All things are possible with God.
J. (John 6:8 NIV) Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up,(John 6:9 NIV) "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"
K. (John 6:48 NIV) I am the bread of life.