Financial Survival For Christians, Part 4

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 4

Text: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Time: July 19th, 2010

We’re continuing our study of God’s promises for financial survival. Last time I talked about the importance of 2 Kings 4:1-7 for encouraging us in going through money troubles, but the passage is such an inspiration for everyone struggling financially that I thought I’d talk more about the verse because there is so much more to say that is helpful. 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.’” Now what’s so inspiring and encouraging about this particular passage is the creativity it shows coming from God to the people in need. God doesn’t just meet the widow woman’s financial need – he meets her need in a way that shows creativity and collaboration. God doesn’t just give her a miracle – something he could easily do, no doubt. But instead, he uses a number of different intermediary means to provide for her. He uses the prophet Elishah, who served as the mouthpiece of God, directing her in what to do and how to do it. He uses the neighbors, even though they didn’t know they were being used! They probably thought they were just giving her useless jars, or they might have thought she was crazy for wanting jars in such a desperate time! Finally, God uses a miracle by filling the jars with a continual supply of oil – although notice that the miracle comes last in order, not first. So instead of using a one-shot, sudden, out-of-the-blue supernatural miracle, which could have solved the problem instantly, God uses a long, drawn-out process that incorporates a mixture of miraculous intervention and also human effort or hard work. I think there’s a lesson in this passage for all of us when we go through financially challenging times – through a combination of God’s supernatural intervention and our own hard work human effort, God will meet our needs. He does not want to make it too easy or we’d get lazy, but neither does he want to make it too hard or else we’d get discouraged and give up. No. God wants to work his will through our lives during money troubles through a combination of supernatural assistance and our own human efforts. Let’s look closer at the passage and learn some more.

First, God wants us to learn the difference between “wants” and “needs.” 2 Kings 4:1-2, “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.’” I don’t think anyone would dispute that this woman had a legitimate need. She wasn’t confusing her wants with her needs, or vice verse. She really was in need! Look at her situation. One, she doesn’t have a husband, or in other words, a breadwinner, a wage earner. It was different in ancient times than it is today; the man was the provider; women didn’t just go out and find work because they were home preparing meals and keeping the house and raising the children. So she was trying to support herself and her two boys with no income. She was in financial trouble. But not only that, she was deep in debt! We don’t know how deep in debt she was but it must have been pretty big because they were coming after her two sons to take them away into slavery as payment. It sounds like Mafia-style debt collecting, so we know it was serious. And besides all that, they were starving. It says the only thing she had in her house was a little oil, no food, nothing. So this was a woman in financial need. Today, living in affluent America, it’s easy to confuse wants with needs. We may want cable or satellite television, but do we really need it? Note: if you are trying to survive financially and it comes to this – cut the cable, ditch the dish, you can get by without it, if that’s what it takes to survive financially. We’ve grown accustomed to such a high standard of living that we think EVERYTHING is a necessity or need, but that’s not so! Some people ask me, “Should a Christian ever take Food Stamps.” I always answer, “If it’s the only option you have left. If it’s an absolute necessity. If you would starve without it.” But if you are taking Food Stamps and you are still paying $50/month for cable/satellite/Internet hook-up, shame on you! You’ve got your priorities wrong. Learn the difference between a want and a need. Don’t take help from others unless you’ve done all you can to help yourself. God may just want to teach you the difference between a want and a need. We all want many different things, but we only need a smaller number of basic things. God may want to show that you are in financial crisis because you’re paying for too many “wants” instead of taking care of your basic and essential “needs.” One of the good things that may come out of this recession we are going through in the U.S. is it’s teaching us once again the difference between what we really need and what we don’t really need but we’d like or want. The whole economic crisis may be due to confusing these two things.

Second, God wants to teach us not to be too proud to ask for help, but not to ask for help unless we really need it. 2 Kings 4:3, “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.’” It’s funny how things have flip-flopped here in the United States. Fifty years ago I can imagine a pastor teaching his congregation to not be too proud to ask for assistance when they find themselves in need. Today, however, people don’t seem to have much of a problem asking for help and assistance, but instead today pastors need to preach a message of personal responsibility and remind people that they are to only seek help when they truly need it, not just because they might want it. In early America, proud farmers would nearly starve themselves and their families because they wouldn’t admit they were struggling. People would come to church on Sunday but never tell anyone they were in trouble or that they weren’t making ends meet. They didn’t want to burden others with their troubles. They needed to hear the message of God’s Word that it’s ok to admit we have needs and it’s ok to ask for help or assistance when in need – or when you’re truly needy. But today, the problem is people have the mentality they are entitled to as much help and assistance as they can get, so consequently, you have people “loading up” with every type of social benefit, program, or assistance they can get their hands on – with no reluctance or hesitation. They don’t ask themselves, “Now, is this only as a last resort? Is this something I can’t make it without? Is this an absolute, life or death necessity?” No. Instead, the mind set today is – get as much as you can, whenever you can. Sign up for anything and everything you can get, whether you absolutely need it or not. That’s wrong. Many of these federal and state assistance programs are crisis and temporary situations. But people today abuse them and turn them into long-term and casual sources of benefits. But apart from taking advantage of charity, there is a time when we should and must admit we have need and ask other people for help – when we’ve exhausted all of our personal resources and can’t figure out any other way to make it. Then, we should do what Elisha tells the woman to do, that is, go to others and ask them for something. People don’t mind giving to other people to help them if they know that it’s because it’s a necessity. At different times, we all need to reach out for help from others, because at other times we’ll be able to reach out to help others in need. We all need each others – that’s what community is all about. God may just want to teach us about real community during financially tough times. Let’s learn the lesson.

Third, God wants to give us a plan to help us get by in financially tough times. 2 Kings 4:4-7, “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.’” Now this widow woman and her sons had the prophet of God to tell them the Word of God for their lives, but we probably won’t have God’s prophet leading and guiding us, so we’ll have to rely on prayer and the Word of God, the Bible. But what’s exciting is that God will reveal to us a plan in the form of some kind of idea or concept that can help us make it through our financial struggles. Having some kind of plan a least gives us hope, even if the plan we have isn’t complete or isn’t totally practical. At least if we have a plan we can begin to get organized around it and start working towards something rather than just sitting around discouraged and depressed. God will always give us some kind of plan if we apply ourselves to listening to him in prayer and in the Bible, or some other godly means. Can you imagine this widow woman before Elisha’s plan? She must have been very discouraged and on the brink of major depression. We can tell she was getting pretty low because of her reply, “Your servant has nothing there at all?” She had no money, no possessions, no plan, no hope. A lot of people might feel like that today, as their money runs out, as they lose their job, as their home goes into foreclosure, as they get behind in their bills. But we need to trust God for a plan, some kind of plan. It doesn’t have to be the best plan in the world, it doesn’t have to be one that solves all the problems, but can it solve any problem, can it solve some problem? I’m convinced that if we ask God to give us some kind of plan to help us make it financially we’ll get something from God, we’ll get some kind of plan. If you’ve got more month at the end of the money, if you are buried under with financial obligations and liabilities and you have no means to fulfill them, ask God to give you a plan to make it work out. Now the plan could come from talking to a financial counselor, the plan may come from a book or magazine article, it could come from some other source, but the bottom line is – when we are facing financial difficulties we all need a plan, a way from point A to point B, so that we can then spend our time working through our problem rather than spending our time just thinking about our problem. There comes a time and place where we just have to start doing something, anything, rather than sitting around getting discouraged and depressed about our situation. A plan can help get us doing something, anything, about solving our financial situation.

Now in the case of the widow woman, the plan was for her and her sons to get all the jars from the neighbors as they could – we don’t know if she borrowed them or whether the neighbors just gave them. Then, the plan was to start pouring the little oil she had into the jars, and keep on pouring until the oil ran out, and then sell the jars of oil for profit, and use the money to pay off her debt and live off the rest. That was the plan, and it worked! Now notice that the plan called for a supernatural miracle from God. That’s typical. Most any good plan will call for some element of miracle for it to work. The secular world calls it good luck, fortune, catching a break, getting lucky. Because most plans work great on paper, but in the real work usually even the best plans go bad or something doesn’t work out as planned. So we always need God’s help even if our plan seems solid and foolproof. But in financially tough times we may need to pray to God for a miracle because we might come up with a plan from somewhere but making it work might take something extra. For some people, it might take a miracle from God to save losing their house from foreclosure. Or they may have a plan to save their house, but it’ll take a miracle from God to make the plan work out. Other people may have lost their job, lost their source of income and looking at their monthly bills they know it will take a miracle from God to make it through the month without falling behind. So what do we do in such situation? Do we just sit back and wait for a miracle from God? No. We start working some plan, any plan, the best plan we can come up with, and at the same time praying to God for supernatural miracles to either make the plan work or carry us over the problems we face. If you look at the passage it shows God sending a miracle – taking just a little oil and multiplying it many, many times, enough to fill up may jars – but it also shows the woman and her sons working with God in the miracle. God multiplied the oil, but the woman and her sons needed to do the leg work and gather the jars and do the pouring and then do the selling of the oil, in order to meet their needs. They couldn’t just sit back and wait for the miracle to come to them, they had to work to meet the miracle, which they did – and God met their needs through it. It’s the same with us today in this current financially tough recession time. We can expect God to meet our needs – that’s what Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in heaven by Christ Jesus,” – but we can’t expect him to do so without our active participation in things. Realize that God usually meets our needs through a process. Are you willing to pray and think through that process? Are you willing to follow up and work hard to carry out the plans God gives you to meet your needs? If so, we can have every confidence that we’ll make it through any financial difficulty we find ourselves in.

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2 Responses to “Financial Survival For Christians, Part 4”

  1. sarita ajit Says:

    Dear Sir,
    I and my family is in deep financial problem.(approx.Rs.6000000.00 in indian currency)
    now we don’t have to think also that how we can servive.we don’t have our house & even don’t have food to eat. we have two children, both are studing. now our family is praying to God for miracle our family.

    • jeffshort Says:

      thanks for writing, I’m sorry to hear about your situation in India. i wouldn’t have the right to tell you this unless God authorized me to do so in his Word, the Bible, but if you pray to God and believe in his Word, he will provide for you, someway, somehow. That may be difficult for you to believe in your desperate situation, but it’s true. But it’s important that you call upon the right God, because just any god will not do. Are you a Christian? Do you have access to the Bible? If so, then you have every reason to believe that God will hear and answer your prayers for assistance. Let up both pray to the Christian God that he will come through in some way to meet your most basic needs. “Father, in Jesus’ name, please meet the needs of this family in India, and show them that you are utterly reliable in time of need. If they aren’t already Christians, use this experience to lead them to the Savior, your Son Jesus. Amen.”

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