What Do You Have?

Title: What Do You Have?

Bible Book: 2 Kings 4 : 1-7

Author: Mark Adams

Subject: Provision, God's; Salvation



In 1962 Paul Henning wrote the theme song to a popular sitcom about a poor family from the hills of Tennessee. The song was recorded by bluegrass artists, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and it made it to #44 on the pop hit charts. It was also the #1 country western song that year. I’m sure that if I gave you the chance you could quote the lyrics of the entire theme song but in the interest of time, let me see how much you know of the first few lines. Join in when you can. “Come and listen to my story ‘bout a man named ‘Jed’ a poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed…and then one day he was shootin’ at some food and up through the ground came a bubbalin’ crude - OIL THAT IS…BLACK GOLD…TEXAS TEA…”

Like many of you, I grew up watching Jed and all his kin. We tuned in to The Beverly Hillbillies faithfully each week because it was a very entertaining show - even though it wasn’t all that REALISTIC. I mean, who could believe that some poor guy could just up and strike oil one day? Poor people never miraculously get rich on “black gold…Texas tea…” …or do they?


Well, our text from 2nd Kings tells us that something very much like this actually DID happen to a poor widow who lived during the years that Elisha the prophet served our God. Take your Bibles and turn to 2nd Kings 4 and follow along as I read verses 1-7.

1 - 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.”

2 - 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.”

3 - Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.

4 - 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.”

5 - She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring.

6 - 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.

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.”

This morning we are beginning a series of sermons designed to help us do a better job of embracing the foundational truth that God can be trusted to provide for our needs. Our study is based on six films produced by Crown Financial Ministries. Each film depicts a different Biblical account of God helping of an individual or group of individuals. We’ll be showing these six films during the Sunday School hour starting May 9. Be sure to read your SOWER for all the details…but the idea is that all adults will gather in the chapel at 9:45 and watch that week’s film - they average about 10-20 minutes in length - and then they will dismiss to their classrooms to discuss the Bible text in greater depth. I’m doing this because if ever there was a time when believers needed to trust God to provide - it is now - as our nation goes through a very difficult economic crisis.

Before we look at the main points of this Old Testament text let me give you some background. The prophet ELISHA in this story was the successor of ELIJAH - and whenever I hear ELISHA’S name, I’m reminded of an incident in my dad’s life.You see, my mom and dad had three sons, Mark, Jon, Matthew - and then finally after a great deal of prayers God answered as He has in the Fergis family…and blessed my parents with a little girl whom they named ELISA. My dad was serving a church in Seaford, Delaware at the time and his deacon chair was an old man who was hard of hearing. A couple days after my sister was born, he asked dad what they had decided to name of their new baby PK and dad said, “Elisa.” The deacon said, “ELISHA…another good Biblical name!!!”

Well ELISHA - not ELISA - succeeded ELIJAH. And ELIJAH was known as God’s fiery spokesman who confronted people with TRUTH. But, as the actor in the film clip showed, ELIJAH’S understudy ELISHA was known more as a tender healer who gave GRACE to people.

In my mind when you put these two similarly named prophets together - they ministered like Jesus, Who was known as one Who was “full of grace and truth.” The Bible says that Elisha was given a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and our text shows that he was indeed keyed into using that double portion in compassionate acts of mercy. As we heard and saw a moment ago, the story begins with this woman who is suddenly widowed. Her husband was one of Elisha’s disciples - part of his “company of the prophets.” Tradition tells us that his name was Obadiah - and 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 of God.

1st Kings 18:4 says,“While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, OBADIAH had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.”

Obadiah did this at great risk and also at what must have been a great personal COST. Think of how much it would cost to feed 100 preachers for any length of time! In fact, this could be why Obadiah died destitute. Perhaps he borrowed the money in order to provide food for these hidden prophets - and after his death his widowed wife was in danger of losing her young sons to the creditors….as they legally - if heartlessly - demanded they be sold into slavery to pay their father’s debts. Now - this shocks us today because selling our kids into slavery is of course illegal - even though at times their behavior makes us wish it weren’t. But - in a very real sense SLAVERY is still around because DEBT is still around and it is a nightmare that enslaves many families - especially in our current economic situation. I saw a statistic this week that said that 56% of marriages that end in divorce are largely because of debt.

If you struggle in this area then you know somewhat how this woman must have felt. You also know how DEBT can indeed enslave. I mean, it causes constant FEAR. It can keep us from BUYING A HOME or from sending our kids to COLLEGE. People who have experienced crushing debt like this know that as Proverbs 22:7 says, “The borrower is a servant to the lender.” And those plastic lenders we all carry around can be cruel masters indeed because if we are not very careful, they can eat up our paychecks…like the bumper sticker that says, “I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go.”

J. Rubin Clark puts it this way,“Once you’re in debt, interest will be your companion every minute of the day or night, and it’s working against you. It has no love, no sympathy. It is as hard and soul-less as a granite cliff, and you cannot dismiss it. Whenever you get in its way or you cross its course or fail to meet its demand, it crushes you.”

If you struggle with debt I would advise you to follow the financial principles found in God’s Word and get out of debt as fast as you can. We have some financial experts in our church who would be glad to help you understand and act on those principles - free of charge. Our text for this morning illustrates some of those principles - so let’s get back to it. What can we learn about all this from today’s Bible story?

(1) One very important fact this widow’s experience shows…is that God CARES.

Our Holy, almighty, all-knowing God not only HEARS our cries. He actually CARES about the pain and fear that PROMPTS them. So please hear me on this! No matter what your needs may be - no matter what nightmare you are going through right now - anything from crushing DEBT to crushing GRIEF, you can know that God cares deeply. Scripture reveals again and again that He has a special place in His heart:

for those who are alone and hurting
for people who have been displaced
for people who struggle with fear
for victims of injustice and abuse
for people trapped in sinful thoughts and actions
for people whose world seems to be spinning out of control as the debts pile up.
and God ESPECIALLY cares for widows and orphans

Consider these texts:

Psalm 68:5 says,“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.”
Psalm 146:9 says,“The Lord watches over…and sustains the fatherless and the widow.”
James 1:27 says,“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

Some of you can relate to the pain and emptiness that this widow felt because you’ve lost your spouse. I can only imagine how alone you must feel at times. Well, let me remind you that God knows what you are going through. He hears your cries in the night. He is your Defender and He will sustain you.

But as I said, God’s caring is not limited to widows. He cares about WHATEVER burden you are bearing…whatever fear you are wrestling with.

In Psalm 50:15 He says to us, “Call on Me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you…”

Psalm 134:15, 17-19 says,“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 10: 17 says,“You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; You encourage them, and You listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may be terrified no more.”

So listen, no matter what mountain-sized problem looms above your days and causes your sleepless nights, you can rest in this comforting fact: GOD CARES.

Last week, I had a rare joy. I got to go to the movies with my busy first year of pediatric residency son. He had a day off and invited me to go with him to see Clash of the Titans - in 3D. We had a great time and the 3-D effects were amazing. Now - if you’ve seen this movie or the old Harry Hamlin version - then you know it’s about the mythology surrounding the Greek gods and their interaction with mere mortals. You also know that in the film the Greek “gods” are self-centered. They are just as fickle in their feelings about humans - well as humans are. In fact, every human is represented by a tiny clay model and the gods on Olympus move them around on giant chess boards like pawns for their own entertainment.

Okay - that’s myth. Here’s reality. There is one TRUE GOD and He sincerely cares about you and me. He loves us and so He hears and responds when we cry out to Him - like a parent hears when a child cries out in the night.

Now - there are countless times in my life when my experiences have shown that God knows my hurts and hears my cries. But, the incident that stands out in my mind - because I shared it with my Bible study group last week - occurred when I was about six years old…when dad was pastoring that church in Seaford, Delaware….the one with the deacon chair who was hard of hearing. Now - I know I kidded with you last week a little - but this story REALLY happened.

The parsonage they provided for us to live in was actually a farm house owned by a church member, a pig farmer named MR. NANNY. We Adams’ children were permitted to go anywhere on the farm we wished - except inside the BARN because Mr. Nanny stored his equipment there and he was afraid we would be injured on it if we were to play there. But of course, we went in the barn anyway. Several times my brother Jon and I would sneak off to explore there.

One day some friends from out of town came to visit. They had two sons the approximate age of my brother Jon and I and we thought it would be a great adventure to show these guys the inside of THE FORBIDDEN BARN. Without telling our parents where we were going, we headed off and had great fun showing our peers around all the tractors and harvesting equipment. One piece of equipment that was stored there was what I believe is called a ROTARY HOE. I may have the name wrong but this “ROTARY HOE” was made up of several rectangles - each of which has dozens of 10" curved steel spikes protruding outward. When dragged behind a tractor all these curved spikes did a great job of tearing up hard ground to get it ready to plow and plant. When this HOE was stored as it was that day each of these rectangles of spikes would be folded up with the spikes protruding out…horizontal to the ground with their steel fingers curved upward toward the sky. Well, I was showing off - walking along the “hitch” in the front, like on a tight-rope or balance beam, when for some reason, it suddenly sprang upward, throwing me through the air like a projectile from a catapult. I came to rest impaled on one of these spikes with my feet dangling about 6 feet above the ground. The spike pierced my left side just below the rib cage. If we ever have a church swim party I’ll show you the scar. Well, my brother and our visiting friends immediately ran into the house to get help leaving me hanging there alone, and I distinctly remember what happened next. I hung there disoriented and trapped and scared for a few moments. I didn’t know what to do. And then I remember a “person” who suddenly appeared and hovered in mid air to my right. I believe this “person” was an angel sent by God to help me and he did just that. First he calmed me such that all fear left. I remember feeling instant peace and absolutely no pain. Then he told me exactly how to get down from the rotary hoe. You see, I was stuck in the middle of this web of steel fingers and I remember wanting to get down to my left - closest to the exit. But he would not let me do that - for some reason he told me this would not work. So, instead he helped carefully lift me off the spike and then guided each step, helping me wind my way through all the spikes to my right without further injury and then down to the ground. I am convinced that I could not have gotten down by myself. Well, as I stumbled out of the barn I met my dad running from the house. He picked me up and rushed me to the hospital in our guest’s car. This too was part of God’s active intervention - because you see our family car was in the shop that day. We would certainly have been delayed in getting to the hospital if this family had not been visiting. My father related to me that when the doctors examined me they were amazed. My chest had been punctured by this 10" spike missing my heart by a quarter of an inch but somehow my lung had not been pierced. It had inexplicably “moved over.”I was home in about a week - as good as new. But I wouldn’t have been if it weren’t for the help God provided me when He sent that angel to my aid. Thinking of this event over the years and hearing my parent’s side of the story has been a constant reminder to me that God knows my struggles. I am never unseen by His loving gaze. By the way, I don’t think my dad had medical insurance back then and so the hospital bill was a source of fear for him. But he told me that some wealthy individual in the community called him and said he would cover every penny of the bill. All this shows that God hears our cries. He responds when we call out to him - and this widow’s experience underscores this comforting fact. But there is more we can learn from her story.

(2) Her experience shows us that God uses our LITTLE to do MUCH.

Remember? When this poor widow came to Elisha asking for help, he answered her pleas with a question. In verse 2 he said, “What do you have in your house?” She said, “Your servant has nothing there at all, except a little oil.” Elisha said, “I want you to go to all of your neighbors and relatives and borrow every container you can put your hands on, Tupperware, Rubbermaid…it doesn’t matter. You can even use the cheap ones you get at the dollar store. And then I want you to bring all the containers back to the house, go inside with your sons, close the door and start pouring the oil from your jar into the containers.”

She obeyed and like Jed Clampett, she struck it rich in oil! It was gushing out of her small pot like it was bubbalin’ up out of the ground. God multiplied her small amount of olive oil, filling every jar she had. Only when the last container was full did the oil stop flowing.Now - olive oil was a precious commodity back then. It was a valuable staple of the economy because it was used in so many different ways:

People used it as a cosmetic
It was used as a medicine. Remember the GOOD SAMARITAN?
It was used to prepare food.
It was burned as a source of light.
It was used in religious rituals like announcing a king or burying the dead..
Plus, it had an incredible shelf life so it could be bartered and traded.

Well, after her “oil strike” this woman didn’t move to a mansion in Beverly Hills…but she had enough to sell and pay off her creditors - with plenty remaining for her family to live on. I assume for the rest of her life. The point I think we need to see here is that we have more than we think when we offer God the little that we have. I say this because, as this widow learned, God takes what we offer Him - even the little things - and He multiplies them and uses them in amazing, BIG ways. In fact, I believe that many times we think too small. We don’t factor in God’s power and so we don’t attempt great things for Him. I mean, the only limiting factor is our obedience. I think if that widow was still alive and still had empty jars, the oil would still be flowing…because our little is MUCH when we put it in God’s all-powerful hands. Think of all the Scriptural examples of this fact.

God used two weak and aged childless senior adults to be the source from whom an entire nation would spring.
He used a little boy sold into slavery by his jealous brothers to rule the nation of Egypt and eventually provide a food source for the Hebrew people.
God made a shepherd boy into Israel’s greatest King.
He used the skimpy lunch of another boy to feed 5,000 men on a hill side near the Sea of Galilee and to teach all mankind that Jesus is the Bread of life.
He used twelve uneducated men to turn the world upside down.
And a current example that pops into my mind is Kyle Donohue. With his skill as a plumber Kyle designed a water filtration system from various parts and God is using it to provide clean water for an entire village in the Dominican Republic. Hundreds - even thousands - of lives will be touched by his work. So write this down somewhere. When we give God control He does amazing things. You may think you are small and insignificant…but not in almighty God’s hands!

This week I read a story about an illiterate man who was converted through the work of the Salvation Army. He went regularly to the Salvation Army church. One day he came home rather depressed. His wife said, “What’s the matter?” He said, “I’ve just noticed that all the people in the Salvation Army wear red sweaters, and I don’t have a red sweater.” She said, “Then I’ll knit you one!” So she knitted him a red sweater. The next Sunday after he went to church, he still wasn’t happy. His wife said, “What’s wrong this time?” He said, “I just noticed all their red sweaters have yellow writing.” They were both illiterate, but she said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll embroider some writing on for you.” She had no idea what the yellow writing on the red sweater of a Salvation Army man said. But even if she did it wouldn’t matter because she couldn’t read. So she had an idea. She copied the writing on a sign that was in a store window opposite their home. She embroidered the words of that store sign onto his red sweater. When he came back the next Sunday, she said, “Did they like your sweater?” “They loved my sweater. Some of them said they like my sweater better than their own sweater.”What neither of them knew was that the sign on the store window she had copied read, “Under new Management.”I understand why the Salvation Army people loved his sweater because authentic Christ followers know that when we give God control of our life, He moves in and will use you in amazing ways.

Consider this…if you GIVE a little, PRAY a little, ATTEMPT a little…we will GET a little, HEAR a little and ACCOMPLISH a little. But if you give a LOT, pray a LOT, attempt a LOT…well, you can’t even imagine what will happen. Listen to God’s promise in Ephesians 3:20 “By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.” Friends, our LITTLE is MUCH in God’s hands!

Here is one final lesson this widow’s experience can teach us. It shows that…

(3) …God is our ultimate PROVIDER.

I mean, this widow knew who to run to when she had a need. Her response should remind us that we NEED God. We need Him to help us and guide us and PROVIDE for us. We weren’t created to live independent of Him. We are designed to live in intimate and dependent relationship with Him - to obey Him, seek Him, learn for Him, and ask Him for wisdom and help. Philippians 4:6-7 says,“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” 1st Peter 5:7 says,“Cast all your anxiety on Him because you are His personal concern.” And listen to Luke 12:22ff, where Jesus said,“Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.

For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

God has promised to provide for our needs. We can trust Him to do just that! This means we can give of our finances and our time to further God’s kingdom…without fear. We can obey God knowing He will indeed meet our needs.

George Mueller was born in Prussia in 1805 and was attending the University of Halle when he became a Christian. Up until then he had been infamous for his gambling debts, drunken stories, and escapades. But his life was transformed when he came to know Christ. He finished school and left for England to be a preacher. He and his British wife eventually settled in Bristol, England, where they saw many orphans roaming the streets…uncared for, unfed, often sick, and virtually guaranteed death at a young age. At this time, writers like Charles Dickens and William Blake had not yet brought attention to the plight of these children, and nothing was being done to help them. George and his wife decided to start an orphanage that would be entirely free of charge and for which they would never ask any money or support. When they had needs, they would go to God alone, trusting that He would give them everything they needed. Many people were incredulous, and so the Muellers’ purpose in starting the orphanage became twofold: The first was obviously to help the orphans; the second was to show people what it looked like to trust God for EVERYTHING. When the first orphan house opened, George and his wife, Mary, prayed for everything they needed. According to George’s meticulous records, God provided all that they asked for. By the time George died in 1898, over ten thousand orphans had been housed and cared for in the five orphan houses they built. During his lifetime a million and a half pounds went through George’s hands in the form of donation. He directed every cent for those in need. Through all this, Mueller never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five homes cost over £100,000 to build. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God. For example, on one well-documented occasion, they gave thanks for breakfast when all the children were sitting at the table, even though there was nothing to eat in the house. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with sufficient fresh bread to feed everyone.

After his death, a British paper wrote of George that he “robbed the cruel streets of thousands of victims, the jails of thousands of felons, and the poorhouses of thousands of helpless waifs.” Another newspaper noted that it had all been accomplished by prayer alone.


This week Sue came home from Ladies Bible Study very moved by Beth Moore’s lecture from the book of Esther. She was so excited that I decided to watch that week’s video with her and it excited me as well. Ms. Moore always impresses me with her grasp of the truths of Scripture. In this lecture she talked about the reversal of destiny seen in Esther’s experience - a poor Jewish girl living in Babylonian captivity - who became the queen of Persia. I think we see this principle of “reversal of destiny” in today’s Bible story as well, for this poor woman became rich. Her little became much. The best example of this principle though is seen on the cross. 2nd Corinthians 5:21 says,“God made Him Who had no sin, to become sin for us.” And then the next part of that verse reminds us that whenever an individual comes to faith in Christ, they too experience a “reversal of destiny.” Do you remember the words? “God made Him Who had no sin, to become sin for us…that we - the UNRIGHTEOUS - could become the righteousness of God.” Here’s another verse to illustrate this. 2nd Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” This widow was poor. She came to God and became rich. And every time a poor sinner comes to faith in Jesus he or she leaves with abundance. Wouldn’t you like something like that to happen to you today?

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