Financial Survival For Christians, Part 3

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 3

Text: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Time: July 15th, 2010

We’re continuing our study of God’s promises for financial survival during economically hard times. Today, I’d like to consider a passage from the Old Testament, from the Book of 2 Kings, about a widow woman who had God meet her basic and necessary needs when everything seemed hopeless. Today, many people feel hopeless as they watch their home value drop below what they paid for it. And for many, they owe more on their home than it’s worth to sell. For other people, they’ve been out of work for months or even over a year with no sign that the employment situation will get better. Still others are making ends meet but going deeper and deeper in debt through credit card borrowing. Most people agree that this is the hardest recession they’ve experienced – and we still don’t know if the worst is over, or if we’ll go into a “double-dip” recession that makes things even harder. Is there anything a Christian believer can do, with reliance upon God, with prayer, with standing on God’s promises found in the Bible – is there anything that can be done from a faith perspective to get through financially hard times? Thank God the answer is “Yes!” The two great principles of prayer and promise – praying our way through financially tough times and standing on the promises of God – these two can get us through even the toughest recession. But just knowing about these two things doesn’t help us at all unless we are willing to use them. Of course, we should always be praying about everything, as the New Testament teaches us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” Philippians 4:6. I’ll say more on this passage in another message, but I mention it to remind us all that prayer should be a normal, every day activity in the life of a Christian. But it takes on special meaning in financially challenging times, because it is in such time that we must lean on God heavily with prayer just to survive. The other key to surviving materially in an economic recession is standing on the promises of God found throughout the Bible. I’ve already talked about a couple of New Testament promises for financial survival, but now I’d like to turn to the Old Testament and review another passage that gives us hope in the midst of money problems. 2 Kings 4:1-7, “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 little oil.’ Elisha said, ‘God 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.’ She left him and afterward 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. 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.’” When things seem hopeless, there’s always hope with God. You may feel that there’s no way you can pay your bills or make ends meet this month, but if you stand on God’s promises you’ll be surprised, as this widow woman, how God will meet your needs. Let me explain.

First, God wants us to use what we have during financially tough times. 2 Kings 4:1-4, “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 little oil.’ Elisha said, ‘God around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shit the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.’” The key question in this passage is, “What do you have in your house?” It’s tempting to turn entirely negative, just like this widow woman did, and over-generalize our condition, “Your servant has nothing there at all.” That’s the kind of thing we say when we start to feel financial pressure – “I’m broke, I can’t pay my bills, there’s just no way I can make it financially this month.” We say these kinds of things because from our perspective we really feel they are true, mostly because we haven’t either experienced anything this tough financially, or we can’t think of anything we can do to make ends meet. We aren’t trying to be negative or defeatist, we’re just responding honestly to how we feel. That’s how the widow woman felt. She made a sweeping negative generalization about her financial condition, “Your servant has nothing there at all,” But then, she remembered that she really did have something, some little thing left, a little bit of oil. She was tempted to dismiss it or leave it off the list, but because the prophet asked her, she had to be honest and admit that there was a little oil left. But I’m sure she didn’t consider it any help in her desperate condition. She almost missed or skipped over a very important point in going through a financial crisis – use what you have, do what you can. Because we get discouraged or depressed often when going through financial hardships, it’s easy to skip over valuable resources that don’t appear helpful, but under the right situation might just be the difference between us making it or not. The woman almost missed out, but Elisha the prophet wouldn’t let her. God won’t let you miss out on a resource blessing if you will stay in prayer asking him to reveal everything and anything that could be useful in getting you through the financial crisis. First of all, take stock in what you’ve already got in your house. Or, in other words, make sure you consider every possible resource you have access to. Take inventory. When you don’t know what else to do, thank God for every little thing you do have. We’re familiar with “Counting your blessings,” well you could also say, “Count your possessions” also in a financial difficulty. Something might prove useful; something might be helpful. This is God’s message to all of us.

Second, God wants us to do what we can during financially tough times. 2 Kings 4:5-6, “She left him and afterward 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.” The prophet Elisha forced the widow woman to think beyond her limited, negative evaluations of her resources. She was only looking at what she didn’t have, God forced her to look at what she did have. She didn’t have much, but she did have something. That’s what God will do with us if we listen to him – he’ll force us to look beyond the negativity of our hard financial situation. He’ll force us to count our blessings and in the process, he’ll show us how much we really do have after all. I’ve found it helpful when going through money troubles to always and frequently count my blessings, not just financial or material blessings, but every blessing I can think of. Count every blessing you can think of, and this simple act changes your perspective of negativity to one of hope and thanksgiving. In the process, count your financial and material assets too, finding that you actually do have something God can take and multiply. We need to use what we have, or at least, offer what we have to the Lord to use as he sees fit. Next, we need to do what we can – or in other words, exhaust all possible uses of the resources we possess. We all know it takes financial and material resources to live. While we don’t want to become materialistic and greedy in our pursuit of money and possessions, we must recognize that we need them to survive. But we need to use these resources to meet our needs, so in a state of financial crisis we need to use what we have because in a money crisis there is no tomorrow. A lot of people get discouraged and give up when they are in a deep financial crisis. They get depressed and simply quit trying, but as Christians we can’t do that, nor should we ever feel we must give up. With God there’s always hope – there’s always another prayer that can be prayed, there’s always another promise in God’s Word to stand upon. But we can’t just sit back and pray and believe the promises of God, we must also act upon any guidance God gives us in getting the resources we need. The prophet Elisha told the widow woman to gather jars and pour what little oil she had into the jars – keep pouring as long as she could! The idea here is to do something, anything. In this case, she was dealing with a prophet of God telling her exactly what to do. I’m guessing we aren’t going to have a legitimate prophet as our money coach, but we don’t really need one, because God can deal with each of us directly through His Spirit, if we are open to hearing his directions. What do you have to work with as far as financial and material resources? What can you do with these resources? Have you done absolutely everything to turn them into meeting your needs? Are you sure? Keep going until you can identify something you can do that can help the situation.

Third, God will take the little that we have and what we are capable of doing, and use these to meet our needs in a financial crisis. 2 Kings 4:7, “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.’” So using what little the widow woman had – what she thought was worthless – and instructing her what to do with what she had, the prophet Elisha showed this woman how to receive a miraculous provision from God. That’s what can happen to us when we look to God for help in our financial struggles. We might not get a miracle, because we might not need one, but on the other hand, we just might get a miracle if we need it! Whatever we need, we’ll get from God – that’s the promise of Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Now the passage in 2 Kings 4 tells us how we might get our needs met from God – through using the little we already have, looking for possibilities instead of impossibilities, doing whatever we can do according to our abilities, and then seeing how God uses us and what we have to meet our needs. Now normally, in normal times, under normal situations, we wouldn’t be forced to think so hard about what we have as far as resources, nor would we need to think and pray about how to use these few resources to meet our needs, but in a crisis situation we need to learn to think and pray differently. If you are going through a financial struggle right now, take stock in what you already have; don’t neglect anything. Then, for example, using the approach of Elisha and the widow woman, figure out what you could possibly sell in order to earn enough money to pay your bills this month. Elisha said, “Go. Sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” If Elisha were alive today he might tell you, “Go and sell such and such, or this and that.” You say, “I’ve never had to sell anything I’ve owned for money. I’ve never had to resort to that.” Well, maybe it’s come to that now; maybe you need to think and act differently than you’ve done before. Maybe this situation is different than you faced before. Financial survival is different for a lot of people than they are used to. But then again, the economy is different than it was before. Maybe your work situation is different than before. Maybe your debt situation is different than it was before. Maybe God wants you to wake up and do what you need to do to survive a financial crisis. If you are making enough being employed full-time, if you can pay your bills, then you don’t need to do what Elisha told the widow woman. If you are working part-time, but you receive some kind of temporary unemployment check that helps you make ends meet, then fine; keep on keeping on. But if you are in a true financial crisis, if you want to survive financially and keep current on your bills and avoid financial ruin, do what you need to do. If that means selling your personal “things” in order to survive – well, there’s biblical precedent for it. Don’t be too proud to do it, God isn’t too proud to tell you to do it! Maybe he won’t require that you sell some of your possessions, but maybe he will. If you have to in order to survive financially, see it as a blessing from

God and do it. Stay alive.

As Americans I think sometimes we become too attached to certain material possessions. There are plenty of things we could sell and should sell in the midst of a financial crisis. It isn’t enough to say, “I don’t want to sell these things, I like them.” It isn’t about whether we want to part with anything we own, it’s a matter of having to do it to survive financially. And surviving is very important because it’s alternative – not surviving – is really hard. Having talked to plenty of people about their experiences, going bankrupt is really hard, extremely difficult, not just financially but psychologically and also spiritually. This must be avoided at all costs. But even before bankruptcy, getting behind on bills is bad also because then fees and penalties and high interest start to accumulate so that it’s then even more difficult to afford each month. The catch is that the financial industry seems to hit people worst when they are down. Instead of easing up on people who slip behind on their payments, the financial system seems to be geared to beating people up even harder with fees, interests and penalties, making it even harder to get caught up and current. It’s as if they want to drive people bankrupt. They wouldn’t admit that, but that’s the way the system works. So the motivation to avoid getting behind on bills is very strong. We must be willing to practically sell any material possession we own in order to survive financially. We don’t have to hold a garage sale and put out all our possessions for public viewing – although a garage sale isn’t a bad idea for some people. We can simply take out a few want ads in the local paper and list a few of our items that we think might easily sell and raise enough money to pay our bills for the month. I know some people have sold things on Ebay, on the Internet, or using Craigslist and other buying and selling sites. I’ve never sold anything that way but I know people that have and it’s worked for them. I’ve sold some things through want ads. I’ve also sold some things through simply posting some flyers around town in certain locations such as the laundry mat or grocery stores, on the bulletin boards, for example. I’ve sold my car by putting a sign on it and simply driving it around; people see the ad and my phone number and call about it. I’ve taken some electronic gadgets to the Pawn Shop and sold some things there. Sometimes you don’t get the best price for things, but if you need the money and can take less than it’s work, it’s a good alternative. The point is that there are options, there are possibilities, there are alternatives to financial ruin. We can trust God to lead and guide us into theses possibilities if we’re willing to pray and act on any options he gives us.

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