Summary: You have more than you think when you offer the little that you have.
The Paradox of Growing
Rev. Brian Bill
January 9-10, 2016
[Fill up front of platform with various containers and bottles and jars]
These containers and bottles and jars all serve different purposes [show dark chocolate covered walnuts and Citrucel].
Many of them are Ball Mason jars. Some are even “perfect” or “ideal” [show jars].
A man named Mason first developed these jars but sold off his rights and died a poor man. Then the five Ball brothers perfected the process. After receiving a $200 loan from their uncle George, their business exploded. Here’s a picture of these guys. You’d think they’d be a little more joyful, wouldn’t you? Maybe they just ate some dill pickles that were stored in their jars.
These jars are used in all sorts of ways today. Some are used for canning but I also came across articles on the web with these titles…
• “50 Ways to Use a Mason Jar”
• “100 Clever Ways to Repurpose Mason Jars”
• “Over 60 Mason Jar Wedding Ideas”
• “DIY Mason Jar Room Décor”
• And on Pinterest, “One Million Ideas for Mason Jars”
So here’s a question. What do all these containers and bottles and jars have in common? They’re all empty…well, except this one with chocolate in it [hold up chocolates]. Anyone want some? Not sure how long they’ve been in the jar.
Do you feel empty today? Does life seem to be coming apart at the seams?
Last weekend we looked at “The Practice of Growing” as we were challenged to stand firmly, to be stubbornly faithful and to sacrifice fully in 2016. Today we’re going to discover “The Paradox of Growing” as we meet someone whose life was falling apart. She found help and hope in the midst of her emptiness…and so can you. She learned this truth: You have more than you think when you offer the little that you have.
Follow along as I read 2 Kings 4:1-7: 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.” 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.” 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.”
Elisha is the prophet that came after Elijah. Elijah was known as God’s fiery spokesman who confronted people with truth. Elisha, his understudy, was more of a tender healer who gave grace to people. In tandem, they ministered like Jesus, who was known as one who was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Elisha, who had been given a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit performed double the miracles that Elijah did (14 to 7 – sounds like a football score).
Elisha guided this wounded woman through a seven-step process that has application to our own lives as well.
1. Verbalize your needs (1). The story begins with a woman who is suddenly widowed. Her husband was one of Elisha’s seminary students and he “feared the Lord.” Tradition tells us that his name was Obadiah. If that’s true, then we know that he was a key player during the time when the awful king Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel were trying to annihilate the prophets.
Obadiah hid a number of the prophet-preachers in a cave and personally took care of their needs, at great personal cost. We see this in 1 Kings 18:4: “And when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.)” Perhaps that’s why he died destitute. He may have borrowed the money in order to provide for the prophets.
To her credit, this young widow doesn’t run away but instead she “cried out to Elisha.” This word means, “to moan and to weep uncontrollably; to shriek out of grief.” She was in bereavement and facing impending bankruptcy: “But the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”