Have you ever wished you could have a long chat over coffee with someone whose story you read in Scripture?
For example, when naysayers discourage me from doing something I believe God’s called me to, I’d love to ask Noah how he handled all the jeering as he constructed a monstrous boat in preparation for a flood no one else believed would come.
As I prepare for an intimidating situation, I’d like to ask Moses about standing before Pharaoh (repeatedly) to ask him to release his slave labor force.
When I’m hesitant to obey God, it would likely be helpful to have a little conversation with Jonah.
The truth is, God recorded all we really need to know from each of these stories. Like good examples or warning sign posts, those we meet in Scripture offer advice we can implement today.
So, given the ongoing global pandemic, the social unrest, and the resulting economic upheaval, I thought this would be a good time to “ask” an ancient widow for advice on handling a crisis. Her story gives us at least five principles to follow.
We meet this woman in 2 Kings 4:1-7. Her husband, a prophet, had died, and his creditors wanted to take her two sons away as payment for their father’s debts.
This sounds pretty horrible. She’s already lost her husband and now fears the emotional toil of being separated from her sons. And surely she was concerned for their treatment.
But her crisis extended beyond these concerns. In those days, women couldn’t just go out and get jobs. Her sons were her very livelihood. Her situation was dire.
In her distress, she cried out to Elisha, a prophet known as a man of God, for help.
Elisha asked her what she has in her house, and she replied, “Nothing. Nothing but a small jar of olive oil.”
Elisha told her to go collect jars from neighbors, as many as she could find, and then start pouring the oil into the jars. As the woman followed Elisha’s instructions, the oil filled all of the jars she and her sons had gathered.
Elisha then told her to sell the oil, pay off her debts, and live off of the remaining proceeds. What a turn of events!
What can we learn from this timeworn account?
1. Ask for help from godly counselors.
The widow in this story knew Elisha was known as a holy man of God. Because of this, she knew she could trust his advice, even when it sounded ludicrous to human logic. Gather jars and start to pour? Well, yes, if Elisha said so!
Who do you go to for advice in a crisis? Can you trust their counsel?
2. Start with what you have.
Elisha asked the widow what she had. Though a little olive oil didn’t seem like a tremendous resource, in God’s hands, it was more than enough.
It’s like the little boy’s lunch Jesus used to feed 5,000 men plus the women and children who were listening to His teachings one day. God spoke the universe into being. He surely could have fed the crowd from nothing. But He allowed a boy to offer what he had.
Often, God has given us resources and experiences in order to prepare us for trials that lie ahead. Did you ever notice that after killing Goliath with a stone and a sling, David used Goliath’s sword in future battles? Victory in one battle offered tools for the next.
While we may be tempted to focus on what we appear to lack, it is wiser to recall the things God has already given us which may be useful in this situation.
What resources (finances, relationships, experiences, skills) has God given you?
3. Make room for a miracle.
When Elisha told the widow to gather jars, he instructed her to ask all of her neighbors and added, “Don’t ask for just a few.”
Imagine if the widow had only gathered two or three jars. When they were filled, she surely would have regretted her limited obedience.
Instead, she demonstrated faith by gathering so many jars that the oil produced had her set for life.
How can you demonstrate faith that God is able to restore your situation?
4. Allow others to experience the miracle.
Do you ever wonder why Elisha specifically directed the widow to take her sons into the room with her while she poured the oil? I believe it was so her sons would see the miracle take place. Their faith would be strengthened as they watched God provide the payment for the debt that they were going to have to pay in servitude.
Who do you allow into your story so that their faith can be strengthened by it?
5. See that your debt is paid and then live!
After the widow paid off her debt, there were funds left from her oil sales to cover her living expenses.
God typically provides an abundance of what we need. He feeds the 5,000 and gives twelve baskets of leftovers, too. He provided the Israelites with more manna in the desert than they could eat. He offered up His Son Jesus so we would not only have grace sufficient to pay our debts, but also for every day after we come to faith in Him!
If you’ve accepted Jesus’ offer to pay your sin debt, how are you now living in the grace “leftover?”
There’s no doubt: these are trying times. But as we follow the example of this faith-filled widow, we will find our God’s resources to be more than enough.
This month, as you pray for The Boaz Project, please:
- Continue to ask God to protect the health of our children in Russia, India, and Kenya, as well as their caregivers throughout this pandemic.
- Thank God for the resources He has provided through the Boaz community to care for the increased regulations, prices, and social unrest as a result of the pandemic.
- Pray that Joshua would heal after being beaten as a result of racism.
- Ask God for wisdom and creativity for our staff in Russia as we explore new means of caring for orphans, including ways to prevent them from entering the state-run institutions.
Believing in Miracles,