Good morning! Please turn in your copy of God’s Word to 2 Kings. We are starting a new message series this morning called “Overflow: Living the Generous Life.” And I want to be really transparent with you and tell you the reason for this particular sermon series. In a couple of weeks, we are going to be voting on our budget for 2020. And, if I’m being really honest, you may look at the bottom line for this year’s budget and feel a little…overwhelmed. Because it’s a big budget. It may be the biggest in the history of Glynwood. You might be looking at your own finances, and you get even more overwhelmed. You feel like you are already stretched to the max, you already feel a little guilty every time the offering plate comes around, and here we are increasing the budget?
And if you are a guest with us this morning, you may feel kind of like you do when you turn on Christian radio or NPR and realize its pledge week. You’re thinking, “Honey, we picked the wrong week to visit. They’re going to be talking about money. Well, take heart. Because for one thing, we’re not just going to be talking about money. We are going to talk about what it means to move from overwhelmed to overflowing in every area of our lives.
Because it’s not just our finances that are making us feel overwhelmed. We live in a society in which people don’t just overspend their budgets and overdraw their checking accounts, but
they overbook their calendars. They overload their emotions. They (or can I switch to “we”?) overwork our bodies. We overprogram our days. And we overvalue the opinion of others.
And in doing so, we overlook our physical and emotional health. We are overcome by stress. And we feel overwhelmed by expectations and demands.
So this morning, I want to introduce you to an Old Testament prophet named Elisha. Elisha ministered primarily in the northern kingdom of Israel from 848 BC to 797 BC. About 51 years. We are going to look at three key scenes from his first few months of public ministry. And as we are studying him, we are going to zero in on how we move from overwhelmed to overflowing.
Scene One: A Big Ask (2 Kings 2:9-10)
The task before Elisha was overwhelming. He had been Elijah’s protégé for years. Way back in 1 Kings 19, the Lord directed Elijah to annoint Elisha to be his successor. Talk about some big shoes to fill—Elijah had faced down the prophets of Baal. He’d raised someone from the dead. He’d called down fire on the enemies of Israel. And perhaps most significantly, he stood against an absolutely corrupt king who was leading the nation away from God.
When we get to 2 Kings 2, we learn that the Lord is about to take Elijah to heaven. So You can imagine that Elisha might be a little overwhelmed. Three different times, (verse 2, 4, and 6) Elijah tells Elisha to leave him. And three different times, Elisha gives the same answer—“As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”
Lesson: Don’t move from the Master
Even when we are overwhelmed by our circumstances, we cannot move from our Master. I think these three times Elijah tried to get Elisha to leave him might have been a test. Elisha has been following Elijah for some time now. Will he leave him now? If it was a test, Elisha passes it—I will not leave you.
If we ever want to move from overwhelmed to overflowing, realize it won’t be a move away from Jesus. We might be in a season of life where we think, “I really don’t have time to invest in Jesus. Finals are coming up, or there’s a big project at work. I really don’t have the financial resources to tithe. We have a son about to graduate, and college is expensive.”
But those of us who have trusted Jesus as our Savior are obligated to keep our eyes on him no matter what challenges we face. We have confessed the Jesus is Lord. That means he is Lord of our schedules. He is Lord of our contact list. And he is Lord of our bank accounts. John 15:5-11 (it says John 5 in your sermon notes—sorry about that) says
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. [abide means stay connected. Your translation might say “remains”] 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
Did you catch verse 7? If we are wanting Jesus to bless us, we have to stay as close to him as Elisha stayed to Elijah. We have to say, “As the Lord lives, I will not leave you.” And when we do that, the promise of verses 7-8 is that we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be done for us. You see, God is glorified when God’s children are fruitful. And God will not tell us to be fruitful without supplying what we need in order to bear fruit.
Now, if you are thinking I’m veering into prosperity gospel territory, I’m really not. If you just look at the second half of verse 7—ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you—then it makes a relationship with Jesus sound like Aladdin’s lamp, and we just rub against Jesus for a little while so we can get what we want. That’s not it. When we abide in Jesus, and are committed to never leaving his side, then we are committed to seeking His glory and not our own. So “whatever we ask” is going to align with His desires, not ours.
That helps us better understand the request Elisha makes of Elijah. Let’s go back to 2 Kings 2, and look verses 9-10:
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” 10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”
Elisha makes a big ask of Elijah. “Let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” This doesn’t mean that Elisha was asking to be twice as powerful as Elijah, although if you count up the number of miracles God performed through Elisha compared to Elijah, there actually are twice as many. But Elisha isn’t asking to be twice as powerful.
And it doesn’t mean that Elisha is asking that his ministry be twice as long as Elijah’s, although, again, it kind of turned out that way. Elijah’s public ministry was 27 years; while Elisha’s was 51.
No. According to the biblical law of inheritance, the heir of a father’s estate received the double portion of the inheritance. So Elisha is simply asking for confirmation that he really is going to succeed Elijah in ministry.
This matters because of our second lesson. If we are going to move from overwhelmed to overflowing, then we have to Move from comparison to contentment . Elisha wasn’t asking to be twice the prophet Elijah was. It wasn’t about comparing his ministry to someone else’s. Elisha was completely content being the prophet God called him to be.
What about you? If you are being honest with yourself, how much of your overwhelm comes from comparing yourself to others? Comparing your kids to other people’s kids? Comparing your vacation photos to other people’s vacation photos. I wonder if in our church life how much of our busy-ness as a church comes from comparing what our church is doing to what other churches are doing?
Friends, you have to be content with who God has made you to be in Christ. God doesn’t want your imitation of anyone else in the kingdom. He wants you. Proverbs 14:30 says (and I like it in the New International Version), “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Let’s have a heart at peace, and let’s make up our mind that we aren’t going to overwhelm and overwork and overstress ourselves thinking we need to have a “double portion” of what everyone else has. Ecclesiastes 4:6 says that it is better to have one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”
Scene Two: A Big Faith (2 Kings 4:1-7)
Let’s look at our second scene. It’s worth pointing out here that Elisha immediately began operating in the power of the Spirit once to took over the mantle from Elijah. And the vast majority of the miracles God performed through him were for the benefit of other people. That by itself is a lesson for us—that when we receive “a double portion” of God’s spirit, it isn’t for our benefit. It is for the benefit of others. We are blessed to be a blessing. And one of the first encounters Elisha has is with someone who also went from overwhelmed to (literally) overflowing.
In chapter 4, Elisha is approached by the wife of one of the prophets Elisha was mentoring. Read with me…
4 Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” 2 And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”
This widow is in pretty dire straits. Her husband has died, there’s bills to pay, and the creditor is coming to take her two children to be slaves until the debts can be paid. And the only thing the woman has of any value is one jar of oil.
It would be easy to complain here, wouldn’t it? What would you do? Some of you have been there. Some of you are there right now. Your credit cards are maxed out, you are underwater on your mortgage.
Isn’t it interesting that sometimes the last thing we think to do is cry out to God. And absolutely the last thing we want to do is admit to our neighbors or friends or church family that we need help. So what does this woman do? First, she cries out to God’s prophet, Elisha. And what does the man of God tell her to do?
3 Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. 4 Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.”
The woman tells Elisha that all she has is one jar of oil. Notice what Elisha doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “Well, start cutting back. If the recipe calls for half a cup of oil, use a quarter cup and mix it with water. I know the bread won’t taste as good, but let’s see how far we can stretch it.” He doesn’t say, “Ok, let’s sell that, and then we will adjust our budget to make ends meet.”
Instead, Elisha says, “Take what little you have, trust God with it, and see what happens.” And God performs a miracle with it! The woman humbly goes to her neighbors and asks for every container they have. Big ones, small ones, tall ones, short ones. It had to look like a middle eastern Tupperware party on her kitchen table. And it must not have made a lick of sense to her. She might have been thinking to herself, “Maybe he didn’t hear me right. I didn’t say, “I have so much oil that I’ve run out of containers.” This is ridiculous.
But she goes and borrows every Tupperware bowl in Palestine, and look what happens…
5 So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”
Isn’t it interesting that God’s blessing didn’t stop flowing until she ran out of things to put it in? That’s a huge lesson for us! Why would we submit such an aggressive budget? Why would we have so many line items? Why would we be planning so many events? Why are we looking to take on an overseas mission project? Because we believe that God is able to fill up every container we bring him. We believe that if God chooses to stop blessing our church, it won’t be because He’s run out of blessing, but because we’ve stopped bringing him vessels to put it in.
So here is our lesson: In order to move from overwhelmed to overflowing, we have to move from grumbling to gratitude. Philippians 2:14 encourages us to “do everything without grumbling or complaining.” Instead of stressing out about what we don’t have, express our gratitude for what we do have by being generous with it. Place it in God’s hands, and watch what He does with it. Psalm 13:6 says, “I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” God doesn’t cut corners when He blesses us. He deals bountifully with us! And when we are rooted in him and established in him, then we can overflow with gratitude (Col. 2:7)
So let’s look quickly at our final scene this morning. And truthfully, I think these three verses may tell us more about our approach to the church budget than anything else I could talk about this morning.
Scene Three: A Big Heart (2 Kings 4:42-44)
One day, Elisha and his servant are hanging out together when a man comes from one of the nearby villages with a gift.
42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack.
Now, we know from verse 38 that there’s a famine in the land. So this is a pretty generous gift. And maybe Elisha’s servant is thinking, “Whoo-ee! Me and the boss are gonna feast tonight!!!” So imagine his servant’s disappointment at Elisha’s next words:
And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’”
And the truth is, twenty loaves of bread and fresh ears of grain is way more than Elisha and his servant could eat. That much food would probably go bad before the two of them could finish it. But it was way less than what 100 people could eat. That little food wouldn’t even come close to meeting all their needs.
I think this is exactly where a healthy church budget should be. If we are looking only at ourselves, our budget ought to make us say, “Wow—that’s a lot of money. Do we really need this much?”
But if we look at the needs of the world outside these walls, it ought to make us say, “Wow—that’s not nearly enough! God, would you please make us good stewards of what you have given us, so that we can meet as many of those needs as we can?”
And when we do that, when we open our hands and put what we have been blessed with into God’s hands, He will use it and expand it and multiply it beyond what we ever thought possible.
Elisha’s servant obeyed his master. He took what they had been given, and verse 44 says he set it before the men. And they all ate and had some left. Once again, just as God did with Elisha in the first story and the widow in the second story, God moved the servant from overwhelmed by the need to overflowing with God’s blessing.
I believe he wants to do the same thing in your life, and the same thing in the life of Glynwood Baptist Church. This isn’t the season to hold back. We must move from closed handed to open handed. And trust the words of Malachi 3:10
10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
[Invitation] You might be here and the first point about never taking your eyes off the master may not mean much to you because you’ve never set your eyes on the Master. You can do that this morning.