As 2015 approaches us, I am mindful of the scores of family and friends whose lives have been, in a word, “stretched” this year. Perhaps a wallet or purse string was stretched to the point of breaking; perhaps a wayward child left the family exhausted, or a loved one passed away. Personally, I have found my heart heavy and my mind overwhelmed with the amount of sickness that has surrounded me recently—cancer, lupus, Lyme disease, or continued struggles with diabetes or high blood pressure. It has been enough to leave me emotionally sluggish for most of this final quarter of the year. In speaking with a brother in Christ, I was reminded that these stretching conditions must exist in these last days; how else would we fulfill Jesus’ prophetic Word that ‘whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father‘ (John 14:12)? We should expect that we are being prepared to do greater works—“jobs” for the Kingdom, if you will, that we cannot handle yet.
God’s stretching of His people is not new; the Bible is replete of people who, like you and me, stood in fear and trepidation of what they were being asked to do for the good of the Kingdom (anyone remember Moses? Gideon?). One of many stories is found in 2 Kings 4, where we meet a woman. We are not told much about her, but we quickly discover that she was a widow, which in Biblical times probably meant that she owned little or nothing and had little means to provide for her family. We also learn that her husband loved the Lord; we can assume that if she was not a believer, she had at least heard the Word of God.
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 small jar of olive oil.”(vs. 1-2, NIV)
We could fantasize that the widow had attempted every fix she knew. At her wit’s end, we can imagine the desperation with which she approached Elisha. After all, according to her, she had nothing to give such that would save her children. I personally think her real plea to Elisha was something like this: ‘my husband was faithful to God, and now THIS happens?’ I, too, have reminded the Lord of my “righteousness.” Whatever I manage to utter in prayer, I find myself fretting, why is this happening to me?
Elijah’s solution to the problem seemed strange, but he understood the Lord’s math.
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 all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”(vs. 3-4)
If a neighbor came to ask for every jar I had, I would start with my best jars—the prettiest, elegant jars that I display around the house. Eventually, however, I would get around to the jars for which I would make an apology—those vessels whose cracks held a good story. And that is how I see the jars that she collected; some were well built, but others might have been barely functional.
What is key here is that, as long as she supplied vessels, no matter what condition they were in, they were supernaturally filled with oil. With that in mind, I ask you: how are you responding to your stretch assignment?
What vessels are you bringing to the Lord?
Each of us has something that is in jeopardy, short of the Lord’s help. Perhaps your ministry just needs you to operate in faith and just bring a vessel—that act that you cannot perfect, but He can. Perhaps as a student who needs to finish strong academically, you just need to bring a vessel—a final project, even if it is not perfect. Your business might need a vessel—an idea, no matter how crude. As the year ends, we just need to shut our doors (i.e., stop telling everyone our problems). Give the Lord vessels into which He can pour, and begin to praise Him for increase in advance.
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.”(vs. 7)
Belinda Bullard is a wife to her best friend and a home educating mother of three. Belinda is an author and the owner of A Blessed Heritage Educational Resources, a literature-based history curriculum featuring African-American presence in history, as well as the contributions of other races to American history. A chemical engineer by formal education, she also serves as adjunct faculty for college programs specializing in adult learning. She is a regular contributor to Heart of the Matter Online and Home Educating Family. Belinda blogs at Simply Belinda and Chronicles of a Blessed Heritage