Financial Survival for Christians — Using What You Already Have

Title: Financial Survival for Christians – Using What You Already Have

Text: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Time: June 25th, 2013

One of my favorite passages for finances is found in the Old Testament, 2 Kings 4, the account of Elisha the prophet and a widow woman. Why is this passage one of my most favorite in respect to financial survival? Because it shows the combination of divine supernatural assistance from God and our own human responsibility in raising the resources we need to survival financially. It combines both of these elements together to give us a great illustration how God acts on behalf of his children to provide for their needs. 2 Kings 4:1-7, “The wife of a man from the company of the prophet 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 replied, ‘except a little oil.’ Elisha said, ‘Go 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 tall 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.’” It’s a short passage but it gives us all the essential elements of an encouraging example for any Christian who is struggling financially. Lots of people are still under financial pressure even though it looks as if the worst of the financial recession is over. But it really doesn’t matter what is happening in the economy in general, because what really matters is one’s own individual financial situation. Am I covering my monthly expenses, or do I have to borrow just to make ends meet? Am I finding a constant source of income, or do I have to scrimp and scrounge enough to cover costs each month? If you are financially ok, then God bless you, and you probably won’t find this message as helpful as someone who is struggling right now. If you are going through financially tough times, you’ll be particularly interested in this message because it will give you hope, and maybe even a way through your financial challenge. I’ve found this section of the Bible helpful when going through financial struggles, so I hope you’ll find it helpful too. So let me break it down into some bite-sized pieces in order to understand what God is trying to teach us.

First, when you’re in financial difficulties make an inventory of what resources you’ve got. 2 Kings 4:1-2, “The wife of a man from the company of the prophet 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?’” The woman expressed the need and the first thing the prophet, the man of God Elisha, said to her is, “How can I help? What have you got?” Now what’s curious is that the prophet asked the question, “How can I help?” I can’t prove it, but I think it wasn’t so much a question to the woman than it was a rhetorical question Elisha was asking himself out loud. She told him her problem, then he started thinking to himself, “How can I help this woman?” It was more of a thought reaction than a question for her to answer, because he then immediately, before she has a chance to answer, asks her his real question, “What have you got in your house?” Now what’s Elisha doing by asking this question? He forcing the woman to take inventory of any resources she still has available. In other words, Elisha was helping analyze the situation by finding out everything she had to work with – any money, any material possessions, any resources, anything. He just wanted to know where she was at financially at the present time, so that he’d know how to advise her. She quickly responded, “Nothing, I’ve got nothing.” Isn’t that typical? Isn’t that human nature? She exaggerated. She overstated the situation. Yes, she was in a bad way. Yes, she was facing a bad situation. But after she blurted out that she had nothing, she added this, “Except a little oil.” By taking inventory she was forced to look realistically at her situation, not just emotionally. Come to find out she wasn’t totally empty, she still had a little oil left. God’s message for Christians in financial difficulty is this – take stock in what you’ve already got, make an inventory of all the resources you have on hand, financial, material, and so forth. Make a list so that you’ve got an objective report on your present financial and material situation. You may think you’ve “got nothing!” But go through your house, go through your possessions, your bank accounts, all your resources – and make a thorough inventory. Find out what’s left that God can multiply or use in some way to meet your needs. The woman was tempted to leave out the oil because she couldn’t imagine how that could help her situation. So too, we might be tempted to leave out resources we own that we can’t see would help us, but include everything in the resource list. If you are struggling or even falling behind in your bills, the best thing you can do is take inventory, just like Elisha told the woman to do. But there’s more.

Second, when you’re in a financial struggle ask God to multiply what you’ve already got, or give you what you don’t have, in order to survive financially. 2 Kings 4:3-6,  “Elisha said, ‘Go 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 tall 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.” The woman took inventory and found she had a little oil left. Then God, through the prophet Elisha, guided her to collect jars and fill them with the oil. So through a combination of her own human effort and God’s divine supernatural power she witnessed a miracle – the oil lasted until all the jars she gathered had been filled! She and her sons had collected as many jars as possible from friends and neighbors, so they played their part, but it took the supernatural power of God to keep the oil flowing into those jars after it would have normally and naturally run out by itself. And this is how God will usually meet our financial and material resources in life – through a combination of our own human efforts and God’s divine power. Some people err in that they pray and trust God, but don’t work hard enough to contribute to their own financial survival, while others err in they try to do all the work themselves and neglect proper prayer and faith in God. Both extremes are wrong. We need to do as best we can humanly speaking and also trust God through prayer and faith for financial survival. Are you praying to God daily for your finances? Are you standing on God’s promises found in the Bible concerning finances, for example, standing on encouraging passages like the one we’re examining today? Are you working as hard as you know how and following up all financial leads? Are you playing your part in the divine-human equation? Yes, God could send a supernatural miracle totally apart from your best efforts; maybe he will. But usually God combines both human effort and divine power to meet our needs. So we take inventory of what we have already, then ask God for a plan, a way to meet our financial needs. The widow woman got the plan through the prophet of God, but today we’ll probably get a plan from God through prayer and reflection on our situation. Or maybe we’ll get a plan of action from a book or message or talking to someone. But then after we get the plan of God, there’s a final step.

Third, when you are hurting financially work the plan God gives you to provide for yourself financially. 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.’” Ok, so the woman and her sons follow God’s plan – the particular plan for them in their situation, of course, because each person’s plan will be different in the details – they collect jars and pour oil into them. Now they have all these jars of oil laying around. Then Elisha tells them the last step, the part that will make them money and meet their financial challenge – go sell the oil and pay off your debt and live on the rest. And it worked! God multiplied the oil, but they still had to sell it to earn money enough to pay off the debt. They worked the plan because God wasn’t going to work it for them. And that’s a lesson for us too when we are facing financial difficulties. We shouldn’t expect God to do everything for us supernaturally; we should figure on working just as hard, only with God’s help that will get us the resources we need. The big problem with our secular world today is that it leaves God out of the picture. It tries to solve its own problems without God with only its own power. That’s humanism, that’s secular self-sufficiency. People file for bankruptcy every day because they don’t turn to God for his help in meeting their financial needs. People get their homes repossessed or their car taken back because they aren’t following God’s plan for finances. Now there is no one plan from God for all financial situations. Every person’s plan will be a little different. For example, in the biblical account, the woman and her sons had to go out and get jars. People gave them jars because jars were cheap and it was no big thing. But they needed God to multiply the little oil they had because that was something they couldn’t do on their own. It’s the same with us today. God may lead us to do something, but we need to turn to him in prayer constantly to multiply our human efforts because usually we won’t be able to work the plan without God’s help. For example, today God might lead us to take inventory and we find we’ve got something of value in our house, maybe something that’s worth something financially, but we need God to bring the right buyer at the right time in order to sell the item. Maybe what we’ve got isn’t financial or material, but we’ve got training or experience or knowledge or skill that can earn us financial resources. That’s basically what work is – trading our time, energy, knowledge, skill, etc. for financial compensation. So we might earn some extra money on the side with a second job or part-time, on the side work. This is an example.

What plan will solve our financial problem? That’s between the Lord and yourself, because each situation is different. Elisha asked the woman, “What do you have in your house?” If you’ve got a house, you might have extra space, for example. If so, maybe you can rent out a room to someone to bring in some extra income. For some, that might be an option, for others it won’t be. If you’ve got property, maybe you can make some money from the land, growing something in the warmer months, or renting out space on the land for storage. I don’t know. The point is, like Elisha pointed out to the woman, take stock in what you’ve got available as a resource. Then, once you’ve identified your resources, ask God how you can exploit your resources to earn you more income. In the woman’s case she had oil that was sold for profit. In your case, it will be something else that God can use to provide for you financially. It’s going to take prayer and thought to determine how God wants to multiply your resources and how he’s going to do it. The life of faith is an adventure. We don’t know ahead of time how everything is going to work out, but by faith we trust God that it will all work out somehow, some way. But it’s exciting to live the life of faith with God because you never know how he’s going to provide. Sometimes he brings us a supernatural miracle “out of the blue” that basically solves the problem immediately. At other times he works with us by leading and guiding us in how to utilize our resources, and then also assisting us a little here and there along the way. That’s usually how God works in our lives as Christians financially. Sometimes he wants us to struggle and labor in order to teach us something, or make us appreciate something when we get it. But God is our heavenly Father and he knows what’s best for us at all times. We shouldn’t get discouraged because we have to go through struggles in order to make ends meet. If we stay in prayer and staying faithful to God, if we trust in him to lead and guide us along the way, he will provide for our financial needs. He’s promised in his word to do so, “For my God shall supply all my needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19. As we go through the challenge of raising the needed resources to pay our bills we should constantly turn to this promise for the Word of God, along with pursuing God daily in prayer. If we do, we can be 100% certain that God will assist us in obtaining anything we need.

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