Community Group Study Notes
- Based on what you heard in Sunday’s message, what does it mean for God to “fill our jars”?
- -What are some of the reasons a conversation on financial generosity may be uncomfortable or even awkward? Why is this a topic we need to discuss as a local church?
- -What is one action step you can take from what you heard in Sunday’s message?
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21
I wonder how many of you have ever had anyone in your life that God used to provide for you in a time of need? I'm talking about your back's against the wall, you're not sure how this is all going to work out, and somehow God used somebody in your life to be able to provide for you in some sense. Has that happened to anybody? There's a lot of us, right?
I was probably about 25. I could tell a bunch of different stories along that line, but at about 25 years old my wife and I were in Southwest Florida, and we were serving at a church we had only been at for a year and a half, maybe something like. Prior to that, I was serving on a staff at a church in the Atlanta area doing mostly student ministry. We really had probably as many high school students in our high school student ministry as the church that I went to in Florida had total people.
It was a church of about 300 people, and we went there. They graciously agreed to pay us, which I was so grateful to know that they were going to do. They said, "Hey, we'll pay you," but they were a small church, and they could only do what they could do. I was thankful that I had that opportunity, but basically we didn't have a lot. It was just how it was. If was calibrating my pay based on hourly in conjunction with the hours that I worked, I was about a $10 an hour employee. We were just glad that we had an opportunity and a job and the ability to be able to do what we were doing.
As we were serving there, we felt like about a year, year and a half, into this that God had called me to continue my education to peruse a Master of Divinity degree, and so we prayed through that. We know that was going to mean, for Edie and I, we were going to be eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches over the course of time because between the small house that we were renting and having a car payment and having utilities that we had to pay for, and of course our giving came off the top of all of that, we knew that there was just very little in the way of margin for us. The good news is is that I like peanut better and jelly sandwiches. That was good. Edie likes them okay as well.
We kind of were in that spot, and we came one night. I remember I was going to be driving the next day, on Monday, to seminary. I was going to New Orleans Seminary, but they had a campus, a full blown campus, in Orlando. It was two and half hours from my house, so my day started at 6:45 in the morning, and I would leave my house, drive two and a half hours one way. I would be in class from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a lunch and a dinner break, and then would drive home and get home at quarter to one in the morning. That was my day off, but that was part of the price for doing what we were going to.
We were in a Sunday night service at that time, and I recall thinking to myself, "I don't have enough gas in my car to get me where I'm going and back, and I don't have any money to put it in there." I was thinking, "this is not good. This isn't a good scenario." When you drive two and a half hours, it's a lot of miles, and I'm in a little Civic. I knew if I filled my tank up, I had enough to get me there and back. I was good.
After that Sunday night service I was thinking to myself, "This could be bad. I don't know what's about to happen." I'd like to tell you that I prayed. Maybe I did. I don't remember. I hope that I did, but I can't make any promises. I know that I fretted, but I don't know if I prayed. I'm not 100% sure if I'm being honest. At the end of the particular service that night, I still remember Paul Bess walking over toward me. Paul came over, and he stuck his hand out, and I stuck my hand out. It's just a Godly man in our church. Inside of his hand was $20 bill. I kind of was like, "What is this?" He's like, "Look, here's the deal. God told me that I'm to give you $20 every Sunday night until he says to stop." Of course, I'm beside myself. I'm kind of crying and thinking to myself, "You have no idea."
Of course in mind, I'm going, "Actually, you do have an idea, because God just told you to do this, right? You've got some idea, but you have no idea." Now I can put gas in my car and make it all the way there and back, and maybe even have a little bit left over to get a cheeseburger. I was living big time. This was incredible.
I was just super grateful for the way the Lord provided. It was really extraordinary to me that God knew what he was doing all this time. When he called us, he supplied, and all of that. I was just super grateful.
You probably have stories like that maybe in your own life. I heard from a number of people when I was talking to them in the atrium after the first worship gathering, and they were saying, "Boy, I've had something like that happen to me as well," and I've got numbers of those kinds of stories in my life where God has used somebody in my life to help provide.
The story that we're going to look at today is even more extraordinary than the one that I just told you even though you've seen these kinds of things happen in your life. This is a really extraordinary story. The time setting of the story is just a little bit after what we talked about last week when we were talking about Elijah and Mt. Carmel and what he was doing there with the prophets. It was just a little time after that, because Elijah at this point had now departed. Notice that I said he departed. He was on a chariot of fire, which would've been really cool transportation at that time. Elijah had departed, and he had basically raised up and given the mantle of his prophet leadership in Israel to a man named Elisha. You've got Elijah kind of passing the baton to Elisha.
Elisha had a double portion of God's blessing, and that's what Elijah kind of conferred on him. If you actually look at it in the scripture itself and you look at the number of miracles that are recorded that Elijah was a part of, you can look at Elisha's and see that there were twice as many because he received a double portion of the blessing of God. It's a really beautiful picture. Now, when we look at this passage, we're going to see Elisha interacting with a woman who was widowed. I want to show it to you. It's in the book of Second Kings, chapter number four. It's right at the very beginning of chapter number four. Here's what the first and second verse say.
"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. 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.'"
Now, we can see from the very outset that this woman is destitute. She is widowed. The Bible tells us that her husband was one of the company of the prophets. Now you say, "What were the company of the prophets?" Well, it was this group of Godly people, men particularly, that were meeting in Israel because Israel had gone into idolatry. You remember what just had come before, right, with King Ahab and Jezebel? They were killing off the prophets of God, and there was all kinds of bael worship and paganism. You got this group that was getting together to study the ways of God, study the scripture, and actually they were students of the lead prophets which would've been Elijah and, after him, Elisha. This man was a part of the Company of the Prophets.
Now, although the Bible doesn't tell us specifically who the man was that was married to this woman, he's now dead and has left her, the Bible doesn't tell us specifically who he was, but history actually communicates some things around who this was. When we read the historian Flavio Josephus, who wrote "The Antiquities of the Jews" way, way, way, way back in the day, when he wrote that it was a 20 volume set that he wrote in "The Antiquities of the Jews". I'm sure you were reading before you came here this morning, right? It's a 20 volume set, but in the ninth book of "The Antiquities of the Jews", in chapter four paragraph two, in the event you were reading it this morning ... I was, but in the even that you were, here's what we find is that Josephus tells us that the man that this passage is referring to was Obadiah.
Now, I mentioned to you Obadiah last week because Obadiah was part of the reign of King Ahab and Jezebel, and he was a God fearer that was in their midst. You remember that he was the one who took care of 100 prophets while Jezebel was on a killing spree trying to kill all of the prophets. He hid 100 of them and was feeding them and clothing them and taking care of them. Well, not only does Josephus testify that this was Obadiah, but The Chaldee Paraphrase also does as well, which is an Aramaic version of the Hebrew scriptures. It also says that this was Obadiah, and so do many of the ancient Rabbis.
If I can tell you that 100%, I'm not sure, but I can tell you this: History kind of attests to the fact that Obadiah was the person that's being talked about here, at least Obadiah's wife. They say that it went like this. That Obadiah, in caring for those particular prophets, ended up borrowing money from Ahab, although he didn't tell Ahab exactly why he was borrowing money. "Can I borrow some money, because I'm actually trying to help out some people that your wife keeps trying to kill, so can I borrow some money from you?" Ahab, because he was a part of the administration, gave him the money. He used that money, basically, to take care of the prophets. This is what history tells us. To take care of those prophets. Then, Obadiah died, Ahab died, and now Joram, Ahab's son, took over as the King of Israel and starts calling in the debts.
Now, the creditors have come knocking on this widow's house, and she's basically saying, "I am destitute, and I am in huge trouble because they're going to take over everything from me." You know that she was concerned because she had some sons. If she wasn't able to pay her debts, according to the law what was going to happen was that her two boys were going to be indentured slaves or indentured servants for six years. They would let them going on the seventh year in accordance with the law, but for six years they were going to be in slavery basically taken away from her. She did not want this to happen, so you've got to understand where this woman's coming from. She's destitute, she has nothing, and apparently she's sold everything in her house. She's probably tried to do everything she could, because when Elisha asked her, "What do you have?", she's like, "I've got this little jar of olive oil. That's all I got left."
In other words, she's probably tried to sell everything she could to try to pay her debt. It wasn't enough, and now she is kind of strapped down by debt. She doesn't have any hope for the future. Her future is bleak, and she doesn't even really have a plan, and so she calls out, basically, to Elisha.
What happens? Well, look in verse number three. "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. As each is filled, put it to one side.' She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons, and 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's 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 remarkable story really when he being to look at it in terms of the provision of God. It certainly starts out with a woman who is destitute and doesn't know what to do and calls to this man of God and says, "Look, I don't have anything. All I've got left is this little jar of olive oil in my house." Elisha says, "Okay, I've got a plan." She didn't have one, but he had one. "Here is this plan. Think about this. Go to all your neighbors and ask them for empty jars." She's probably thinking, "I don't know where this plan is going." "Go to your neighbors and ask for empty jars. Then, when you get all the empty jars, bring them into your house, close the door, make sure your kids are with you. Then I want you to take your olive oil jar that you have in your house, and I want you to start pouring it in those jars. Just keep pouring. Just keep pouring." She's like, "Okay."
The interesting thing is we don't have any reaction of hers in here except for the fact that she just acted on it. Then, once she filled all of that up, he said, "I want you to sell all of this to pay your debts. Whatever you have left, you'll be able to live on." It's a really remarkable story of the provision of God, even though it seems like Elisha's instructions are kind of weird.
Obviously, the math didn't work out for her as she was thinking about it, but God still had a tendency to do what he did, and he used Elisha to do it. Now, if we are looking at the story through the lens of the New Testament, when we have what I would call New Testament eyes to be able to see backwards into the story living where we live now to look back on this story, we really see a beautiful picture of the Gospel, don't we?
You see, here's what all of us need to understand. Every single one of us destitute, and we have been left that way because we have widowed ourselves or widowered ourselves based upon the fact that we kind of were joined together with sin. Now we have been left destitute, and we are, listen to this, under the crushing debt of sin that we could never in a million years repay. When we look at it going forward, we've got really no hope of a future because we are so overwhelmed by the crushing debt of our sin, but Jesus came and he offered us provision through his death, paying for our sin through his resurrection from the dead so that if we by faith will put our trust in him as the crucified and resurrected son of God, then what that means is he will fill the empty jar of our heart with the oil of his spirit.
He will allow us now, listen to this, to live a debt free left because he has paid it in full. Now we have the hope of a future not only in this life, but in the life to come because of what Jesus has done. We are no longer bound by the chains that held us up, by the crushing debt of sin and its bondage, but we have a secure future. It is all to the glory of God. Do you see it? Do you see it in this passage?
Now, that's probably why, when Paul was talking about this mystery of how God has filled our hearts with the oil of his spirit, that we have the presence of God in the person of Jesus, we have that inside of us, it's no wonder that Paul chose to use a picture of a jar to explain it.
Listen to what he said in Second Corinthians Four, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and is not from us." You see, ladies and gentlemen, all of us need to have a widow understanding when it comes to the reality of what God has done because he is the one that has done what he has done for his glory. This is not about us. We brought nothing to the party. We are destitute. We are helpless. We are bound by our sin. We are covered under an avalanche of debt because of our sin, and Jesus showed up, listen to this, and he was the chain breaker that broke through everything for us. He was the way maker when we had absolutely no way to be able to move forward. He's forgiven our sins. He's changed our life. He lives inside of us. He's given us a hope for now and a hope for forever because of what he's done. It is to his glory. It is his all-surpassing glory that we are talking about.
Do you understand what I'm saying to you today? Can anybody in here testify? Can you testify that Jesus has done those things in your life? Can you give a testimony that this is what Jesus has done in your life? When you didn't have a chance and you were bound by sin, he was your chain breaker. When you didn't have a way, he was your way maker. Can anybody in here testify to that truth? Well then, let's take a moment and do that because I think it'll do our hearts and minds good when we see this passage come to life.
All right, you can be seated. How was that for a break? Break to praise a chain breaker, right? This story, when we look at it with new testament eyes, we see the reality of the Gospel in it, right? That she didn't have a way, and yet God made a way. You see, that's kind of the big, even though it's simple, it's so profound what we learn from this story. If you wanted to write it down, you could simply say it this way: God provides for us even when the math doesn't work. God provides for us even when the math doesn't work. That's functionally what we're seeing in this story right here. What I wanted to make sure that we understood right off the top is that this is true for us individually. Just like God used somebody to provide for me when the math didn't work, I'm sure he's done the same thing your life. We know this to be true individually, but we also need to understand that it's true for us corporately. It's true for us as a church. It's true for us as a community of faith.
Over the last number of weeks when I've been doing this message series, I've been kind of sprinkling in to each of those stories of the faithfulness of God to our congregation through the years. I've been talking about the years that I've been here, because those are stories that are personal to me and that mean a lot to me, but God has been faithful to our congregation through years that preceeded me as well. You see, God has been faithful all along the line. When we basically, last year, in January of last year, when I kind of talked t our church about a five year vision for how we could continue to give ourselves a way and position ourselves to reach more people, because the mission of our church is about every man, woman, and child having a repeated opportunity to hear and to see and to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Basically what we were saying last year in January of last year was, "Hey, we're looking for God to do it again. We're looking for God to show his faithfulness again. We're looking for God to show up and show off all over again as he's done in the past. We're trusting him to do it into the future."
Do you remember that when I was talking? I had three big barrels. Do you remember this? They were right over here. That's why I'm standing here, because they were right over here. They're not here now, but you have to use your imagination. We've already done that today. You can use your imagination, right? There were there three big barrels, and the first one that I turned around had the word "Expand" on it. I started pulling stuff out of the barrel. If you remember, we talked about, I pulled out a popcorn box, and we basically talked about how were trusting the Lord that he was going to relocated Cheektowaga from a movie theater into a permanent space where they could be. We were going to just ask the Lord to be able to do that.
Then I turned around another, and we also talked about Niagara Falls too that maybe the Lord would open up a door over the next few years to be able to get into Niagara Falls os that we could have a campus there and reach people there. Then we turned around a second barrel, and that barrel said "Partner" on the outside. Basically what I talked about there was that we wanted to not take a step back from our Kingdom Come partnerships. We wanted to continue to aggressively partner with people so that we could see and hear the Gospel through all of these partners that we were kind of joining arms with and linking arms with.
Then I turned around a last barrel, and it said, "Release." If you remember what I talked about there, maybe you do maybe you don't, but I'll point you to that video from about a year ago so you can see what I said there and in reference to all of these things. Take a look.
Expand, partner. The last barrel. Release. You want to know what's in here? Box of matches. I like fire, because here's what we want to do. We want to light something on fire so that we can light something on fire. Oh. That almost burned me. Not myself. I don't want to light myself on fire. We want to light something on fire so we could light something on fire. We want to light the mortgage note of this place on fire so that we can leverage lighting this region on fire with our generosity and what frees up our ability to be able to make a significant kingdom impact.
The glory of God in all of this is that God has been faithful to us all along, even with this facility, and we are in a very good debt position right now. It's not crippling our ability to do ministry or any of those kinds of things, and we thank God for that, but if we could erase it, if we could smoke it, we would be able to be extraordinarily generous in our region for the sake of the glory of God. Expand. Partner. Release.
Now, is this going to take some money? Yeah. Yeah, but money's the little thing. It's going to take plenty. It's going to take two or three million more a year over the next five years to be able to do all that in addition to what we already do, and we're not taking a step back on what we already do. It's going to take that. You say, "Well, man, that seems like a lot." Money's a little thing, and by the way, if we were just faithful, wouldn't be an issue at all.
Let me explain. If our congregation ... Let's say we just took a number like 10%. Just using it as a number. We don't teach here that that's the law. We don't do that, but that's the law in the Old Testament. The law's reflective of the heart of God. What God was establishing was helping people to understand his heart. That everything is his. His ownership over things. Let's just say principally we talked about that now. Even though we're under grace, and grace is never subservient to the law ... When people like say, "Hey, man, do you guys have a requirement to give 10% if I come to The Chapel?" No. Absolutely not. You're free to give way more than that if you want to. Please. By all means. Feel free. Once you really start to learn lives of generosity, that feels like training wheels. That feels like the basement.
Again, we're just talking about one thing here. If our congregation would just give generally speaking at a 10% based on a very conservative kind of average household income that makes up all of these various zip codes that we come from, it wouldn't take us five years to do this. It'd take us closer to two and a half. Maybe three. That's it. If we were just faithful. If we were just faithful.
What's happened? We're a little over a year into this when we talked about this five year vision. What's happened? A couple things. One, on the expand side, you guys know that we are housing ourselves at the Cheektowaga place. You saw last week we're doing the build out and doing all of that stuff. What we ended up doing is we ended up restructuring the debt that we had which enabled us every year to save $50,0000. It was just a smart move that were able to restructure debt. As a result, we were able to acquire the property, the Movieland Eight Theater for Cheektowaga. Here's the new. For the whole build out for what we're talking about Cheektowaga, we believe God's going to allow to do it in cash because of what God has done.
Now, we believe he's going to allow us to do that. We do. We do. It's already started, and we're already cash flowing this. We're trusting that the Lord's going to allow us to do that kind of on the expand side, and we're investigating what God may do from the Niagara Falls side. We're not quite there yet, but we're praying. We're serving. We're looking. We're doing all that kind of stuff.
Then, on the partner side, I got some good news for you there as well. That's our Kingdom Come partnerships. You realize that year to year, year over year, that we've actually given 10% more this year than we did last year to Kingdom Come. Even while we're still doing all of this other stuff, we're still giving ourselves away at a higher rate than we were. That is something to celebrate. That's a beautiful, wonderful thing.
Then, on the release side, even though the debt side is on the back end of the five years as we structured it because of the other things that we're doing, we have been able ... Listen to this. The apex across the street that we own is now paid for. As a result, we have downed by our debt by half a million dollars in this past year. Thanks be to God. This is what God has done among us. It is a wonderful testimony.
I've got some really cool news just as well. Two pieces that I think you should know. Number one is that year over year in terms of our giving as a whole church, we gave 20% more this year than we did last year. That is to the credit of God and to people being generous. I thank God for that. Listen to this. We added, since the time that we shared this vision to now, we have added approximately 500 new givers to our church that have started giving that were not giving prior to. That's awesome. That's awesome.
The reason that I share all of that with you is because I wanted to give you an update a little over a year into this. Secondly is because is there more to do? You better believe it. You better believe it. We're only a year into this five year vision that we talked about. There is plenty more to do. Did we hit every milestone financially? Nope. We did not. In other words, are we on target to be able to do it? By the numbers, no. Here's the thing. God provides even when the math doesn't work. There are ways in which God has creatively been doing what he's been doing in all of this that we didn't necessarily forecast or foresee like that Cheektowaga where some of the service contractors have been providing in kind donations, which actually bring down our cost and is a cost savings real money to us. Those kinds of things that we didn't see coming that God just has a tendency to do because God does what he does.
Who would've thought he would've told a lady to start going and collecting empty jars. Right? Sometimes God creatively meets our need. Who would've thought that he would've told Paul Bess, "Hey, give him $20 every Sunday night until I tell you to quit"? I don't know how God does all the things that he does. He just does it. He just does it.
Now, are we all the way there meeting the numbers? No. Listen, I say this ... I get in trouble with our executive pastor and our finance people, because they're like, "Please stop saying that." Not really. I don't care about the numbers. I do, because they need to be there. We have to know what the targets are. We have to know real ideas about what we're doing. Those are important, but my concern is not about meeting a metric. My concern is whether or not we get done what God has called us to do. However God wants to do that, whatever creative way that God wants to open up for that to be done, that's all I care about. All I care about is the job getting done, because this isn't just about us. This is about people we are trying to reach so that every man, woman, and child might have a repeated opportunity to hear and see and respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm out of breath.
That's what this is about. We still have plenty of work to do, but we're doing good. I want to commend you. Generally, I love you folks, and I want to commend you that we can join together in generosity to see God do what God is doing.
I also want to pick up just a quick handful of things from our text today. Real quick. I'm going to run through. I want to see them. They're truths that we need not miss in this passage of scripture that I think may challenge you, may encourage you, but I want us to see them together. Here's the first one. The widow, when Elisha asks her about stuff, she's not asked for what she doesn't have. She's asked for what she did have. This widow is asked for what she had, not for what she didn't.
In fact, I want to you to look again at the passage. Here's what it says. After she basically said, "I'm in huge trouble, they're going to take my sons," Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me." Listen to what he said. "What do you have in your house?" She said, "'Your servant has nothing there at all,' she said, 'Except a small jar of olive oil.'" You realize that what the widow was asked for by Elisha, not what she didn't have. He didn't say, "What's missing?" He said, "What did you have?" She said, "All I have is a small jar of oil." Listen to what I'm about to tell you. Her provision was already in her house. Her provision was already in her house.
Here's why that matters to us from a corporate standpoint, from a collective church standpoint, for all of our campuses. I believe what God calls us to and what he's called us to over this vision of being able to reach men, women, boys, and girls with the Gospel and partnering together with others to do that when it's outside of ourselves ... Listen to this. When we're not just brand replicating but we are trying to saturate the place with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when that's the case, I believe God, when he leads us into that ... Do you know what? I think he's already provided for it. The provision is already in our house.
He's saying, "What a minute. Does that mean me?" It means us. It doesn't just mean me. I'm a part of it, but I believe the provision is already in the house. God is not asking us for what we don't have. He's asking us what we do. Every one of us. In fact, this is the way of Jesus. Do you remember in the feeding of the 5,000? There're all these people are there. It's like, "What are we going to do? How are we going to feed them?" Jesus doesn't say, "What don't we have?" He says, "What do we have? What do we have?" "Little bit of fish. Little bit of bread." "Feed them. Submit that to me. I'm going to multiply it for my glory. I'm going to multiply it."
God is not asking us about what we don't have. He's asking us about what we do, and how many of us are willing to surrender what we do have to say, "God, how would you want to multiply this for your glory?"
Let me give you a second truth. Told you I was going to buzz through these. Elisha didn't personally profit. He just wanted everyone to see God's glory. Elisha did not personally profit. He just wanted everyone to see God's glory. In fact, noticed what is says in verse number three and four. Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars, Mrs. Obadiah. Don't ask for a just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind and your sons, and pour oil into all the jars. As each is filled, put it to one side."
Isn't it interesting that Elisha, Elisha, he didn't say, "I'm going to do this, and then I'm going to get a cut." That's not what he said. Contrary to many of the so-called prophets of our day, hello, who are on TV telling us about all these things, and basically it's for them. Right? It's to be able to help out exorbitant lifestyles and all of that kind of stuff. Elisha, he didn't personally profit from this. He wanted everyone to see God's glory, starting with the widow woman. He wanted her to see God's glory, but he said, "Hey, hey, hey. By the way, make sure your kids are with you. I want them to see God's glory And your neighbors. You're going to go to them, and you're going to be asking them for stuff. They're going to be like ..."
Imagine how that went. "Hey, it's me, Mrs. Obadiah. Do you have any empty jars?" They'd be like, "What do you need them for?" "Well, a man of God is here, and he knows that I'm in trouble. I'm in huge trouble. They're going to take my sons. They're going to have to be servants, so he told me to go get empty jars. That's what I'm doing. I don't know fully how this is going to play out, but I'm pretty sure God is involved in it, and you should see it."
Imagine after it played out when the neighbors, who live like four feet from her ... Right? This isn't like you're going into some huge neighborhood, and you've got two acres of land and all that stuff. They lived on top of one another. They could probably hear each other through the walls. You know that they were like, "What? What?," because they got to see the glory of God. Elisha was not doing this for personal profit. Elisha wanted everyone to experience the glory of God's provision. Ladies and gentlemen, I need you to hear something real clearly from me. I've said it a million times. I'm going to say it again. In this five year vision, though it requires all of us making an investment in what we're doing, I will not personally profit from this. Just because we give more doesn't give me a bigger cut. That's not how we operate around here. I want you to experience the glory of God, and I want all of us to experience together the glory of God's provision. That's what Elisha did, and I want to take my cues from that.
Let me give you a third simple truth. It's this: Faith requires action. Faith requires action. Notice what happened in verse number five. She left him, the widow did. She left Elisha, and she shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her, and she kept pouring. She wasn't allowed to just sit around and do nothing. Elisha said to her, "You're going to have to participate. You're going to have to step out in faith. You're going to have to step out in obedience. I'm giving a word from God." This is what Elisha is doing. "I'm telling you what's going to happen, and you've got to do something. You can't just sit there doing nothing. You've got to participate. You've got to go collect all the jars, and then you got to bring them into your house, and then you got to start pouring. Then you start moving them around and keep pouring and keep pouring and keep pouring and keep pouring. You going to have to do this. You've got to participate. Faith requires action."
Listen, if faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, that does not call out passivity in us. It calls out obedience in us where we hear from God, we know this is God's direction, and we walk in it. Listen, it took action on my part and on Edie's part when we realized, "We've got very little margin, but God has called us to continue our education." We're having to pay for that ourselves, and we're continuing our education to get my seminary degree at a time when we didn't have very much money at all. We had some other responsibilities and all that stuff. At the end of the day, even though it seemed like we ran out of margin, it's not like we were living exorbitantly. We lived in a very small place. We were renting that place. We did have a car payment because I did need to drive to work. We did have some utilities, but they were pretty low. We gave as God called us to give.
We didn't have lots of expenses, but I still didn't have gas in my car. God raised up someone without my knowledge, because God was affirming, "This is what I've called you to do, and I'm going to supply." When it's God's will, it is God's bill. He's the one who takes care of us when he calls us to do something. God is the one who provides even when the math doesn't work, but it requires that we step out. I had to literally sign up for school. I had to say, "Yes, I'm going. Yes, Lord, I'm going to do this." In so doing, I had to step out in faith because I knew it was the Lord calling me to do it. I stepped out in faith, and God provided.
This is what we have to understand. Faith requires action. Let me give you a last thing. Here's the fourth thing. God doesn't run out of oil. We just run out of jars. I like this one. God doesn't run out of oil. We just run out of jars. Notice what the scripture says in verses six and seven: "When all of the jars were full, she said to her son, 'Bring me another one,' and he replied, 'There's not a jar left.' Then the oil stopped flowing, and she went and told the man of God. He said, 'Go sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.'"
You know, he told her at the very beginning. He said, "I want you to go get some jars." He said, "I wouldn't get just a few." What was the number? How much could they have gotten? As many as they wanted. As many as they ... What if they would've gotten twice the amount that they had? Oil still would've flowed. You know why? God doesn't run out of oil. He doesn't run out of oil. We just run out of jars. This is a great reminder for every ... Can you think about ... Listen to this. Think about when she's going around to the neighbors. "I need an empty vessel to hold oil." I imagine there's some neighbors that said, "You know, I've got this really tiny ... Here's like a cup," and they gave it to them. Some of them probably said, "Kind of out of my other stuff, but I've got a bowl." "Okay." Some of them probably said, "I've got a vase." "Okay." Some of them might've said, "I've got a bucket." "Okay." Right?
You've got cups and bowls and vases and buckets. You got all different sizes and shapes right here. Do you know why this is instructive for us? Listen to this. Listen carefully to this. The size of the jar is irrelevant. What is relevant is its emptiness and its availability. That's what's relevant. The size of the jar doesn't mean anything. It's about the jar's emptiness and availability. You see, all of us here are jars. We all are jars of different sizes when it comes to ... I'm not talking about tall. I'm not talking about that. I'm just talking about jars of different sizes even when it comes to maybe being able to give or to invest. All different types. You got little bitty cups. You got jars. You got bowls. You got buckets. You got vases. You got all different types. It really doesn't matter. What matters is our emptiness and our availability, so that the one from whom oil never stops flowing can fill us up so that we can be provision.
This is such an encouragement to me as I begin to think about it, because what would happen if every jar at The Chapel would empty itself and be available for God to fill it so that it could be provision? Let me turn that upside down. What if because of our unwillingness to empty ourself and be available that we are part of the reason the oil stops flowing? You can look at it whichever way you want to, but here's the bottom line. I want to be a vessel that empties myself before the Lord and can be filled so that I might be provision.
When Paul Bess came to me and just put a $20 in my hand every Sunday night, it's because he determined he was going to empty himself before the Lord and allow God to fill him so he could be provision in the life of another. I want to live that kind of life. I pray that I am living that kind of life. I pray that we all together can live that kind of life because I want us together when we stand before God.
You say, "Wait a minute. We're just standing before God individually." Yeah, we will in terms of what we've done with Jesus and that kind of thing, but I have a tendency to think maybe me and some of my fellow pastors in the region, we might give an account for how we have invested in the region together and how we have shepherded the region together and how we've gone after every man, woman, and child together. I have a tendency to think that may be the case. I also think that maybe we'll all stand up there and say, "Did we as a church, did we make investment and not be so consumed with stuff and consumed with ourselves, but we made investment for the sake of the Gospel?" For the sake of the Gospel, that can be done in a variety of different ways.
I get it. We all have different size vessels in terms of our ability to do that. I completely get it. That's irrelevant. It's about being faithful. Not about what we don't have, but what we do that he wants to multiply for his glory.
Let me finish this way. Three quick things. One, if you're here and you are someone who is a part of The Chapel, but you haven't gotten involved, you haven't started investing even financially in what we're doing, start. Take a step of faith. Put action to what you should do. Secondly, on Easter, I want you to pray about giving what the Lord would call you to give on Easter. We're going to do a "Don't Do the Math" offering. You say, "Well, what are you looking for?" I don't know. I'm not doing the math. Literally. I'm not doing the math. "Well, what's the target?" I don't know. I'm not doing the math. I'm just going to say, what if we all just showed up through the course of next few weeks before the Lord as empty vessels and said, "Would you fill us and give us provision so that we could bring our best gift?" Our best gift on Easter? We're going to do that as a family. I'd ask you to consider it as well.
We won't be making a big deal of it on Easter because we'll have so many guests and so many people who need to know the Lord we'll be concentrating on preaching Jesus, magnifying Jesus, and touching their lives. This is an opportunity for us to do that.
Thirdly, if you're here and you've never surrendered your life to Jesus, I need to remind you of something that this story teaches us when we look back on it with New Testament eyes. Is that you and I before we know Jesus were destitute. We have no hope of saving ourselves. There's no chance. We're so crushed under the weight of sin's debt that we could never rescue ourselves, but God has made provision for us in Jesus who stepped into our place and went to a cross even though he was sinless. He became sin for us so that we in him could become the righteousness of God. He rose from the dead after paying for our sins so that if we put our faith in him, listen to this, we can be forgiven of our debt. We can be in relationship and reconcile to God the father, and we can have the hope of a future that's not dark and helpless but is bright and joyful and eternal because of what God has done in Jesus Christ.
This is the hope of the Gospel, and if you need to know that hope, I pray when we dismiss in just a few moments you'll come by the fireside room because a pastor, a prayer partner, would love to talk to you about that for just a moment. Let's pray together.
Father, you've said so much to us in these moments, God, much of which I celebrate, God. I want to celebrate, God, the faithfulness of so many of your people. God thank you that I join them in being able to invest in Kingdom things, and that this matters, because where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. We don't store up for ourselves treasures on Earth where moth and rust destroy, but we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Lord thank you for those that have an eternal mindset and who are investing in the reality of seeing men, women, boys, and girls hear the beauty and the glory of the Gospel. Thank you for them, God, and for those maybe who haven't had an opportunity to join us in that process. God, I pray that you would call us all as a church to be a people who takes steps of faith, steps of action, and in so doing, God, you will provide everything that we need, even when the math doesn't work, because we don't want to be people who are stopping the flow of the unending oil that you want to give.
Lord, we love you. We thank you for being on this journey called life that you fill us, that you make us new, that you give us the joy and love that we can share, and the truth of the Gospel that we can share to those around us. I pray you continue to help us do that as a church that we would be faithful to you, that we would not be a place where flesh gets in the way, that we would operate in the spirit, and that we would yield ourselves in such a way to you, God, as empty jars, that you may fill us to overflowing so that we might be a provision for others. Thank you for that reminder this day. I pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.