She was destitute, about to lose her own children to bondage…She didn’t know what to do but she knew who to turn to—the man of God would help. This widow was at her own wit’s end but not at the end of her resources. Elisha’s help started with the question: “Tell me what you have in the house?” (II Kings 4) It wasn’t much but there was a bit of oil tucked away in a jar. It was all that she had, and it was enough–that oil.
But first the gathering of jars, the getting out of her house and her helpless inactivity and seeking her neighbors’ favor: “May I borrow an empty jar, please?” She recruited her sons to the task of scouring the neighborhood in search of recyclables… the more the merrier. And then, as per Elisha’s instructions, she closed the door, pulled the curtains I suppose, and with just her two sons watching began to pour her ‘little’ treasure into the neighbor’s jars… And it just kept coming, filling the jars as fast as her sons could hand them to her till there was nothing left to contain the oil. Then it stopped. There was all she’d need to pay her debts and live happily ever after in freedom with her two sons at her side. All she had was all she’d ever need.
What do I have in my ‘house’, all tucked away and dwindling? As God’s own child indwelt by His very Spirit, all He’s given is all I’ll ever need for life and godliness (II Pet. 1:3). His Spirit residing within may seem a small thing but if I’ll open my doors to opportunity, if I’ll start looking for containers and quietly begin pouring my ‘little’ store into them it will be like streams of living water flowing from me to fill whatever containers I’ve gathered. Question: Am I collecting containers?
Now, it took a bit of faith on the widow’s part to just go ahead and follow those simple instructions. There’s no record of skepticism, or of her making excuses that her little store of oil could never amount to much. We don’t see her staring into the depths of her jar waiting to see the supply grow. She just collects a bunch of ‘vessels’ (any sort will do) and following instructions, starts pouring. What if she hadn’t gone scavenging for those jars or had settled for just what she had kicking around the house? She’d have missed the abundance of the supply God intended to give. He intended for her and her children to be debt-free and supplied for life! But the oil only flowed till the available jars were filled and then it stopped. “According to your faith be it unto you.”Mt.9:29
Without the pouring out, the supply remained a dwindling bit. But given empty vessels to fill, there proved to be plenty. Why would I expect to realize the power of the Spirit in my life without seeking out empty receptacles and starting to pour out my little trickle? It would be like plugging in a lamp but forgetting the lightbulb and the lightswitch! The electricity is there all right, but the circuit is incomplete and the power lies dormant. Screw in a light bulb and flip the switch and ‘Voila’, radiance!
Jesus’ own illustration is of a vine and branches. The sap flows as we stay connected to the vine. As we absorb His life and listen to His Words, we will know His heart. But it will be in the ASKING that the fruitfulness will come: “Ask whatever you wish [when you’re immersed in My Word] and it will be done for you. By this my Father Is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (Jn.15:7,8) The proof is in the (fruit) pudding as they say. The actual disciple is the one who follows the instructions—abide in me, let what I say abide in you, and ask!
Ask for empty containers. Where can this oil be poured? Where’s an empty spot I can fill? What do you want to do in the lives of people I touch with this drop of oil I have? I may not have much, but I can go into my prayer closet and begin to pour…and I can take what comes of it and follow-through. James puts it bluntly, “You do not have because you do not ask.” He goes on to add, you don’t get what you ask for because you ask for selfish reasons! (James 4:2,3) John says much the same thing: “And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” That’s the part I’ve memorized, but what he says next clarifies that our asking isn’t about us, it’s about God working through us to bless another. The very next verse says: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life… (I John 5:15,16)
As believers, boundless power is at our disposal, the power that raised Jesus from the dead! (see Eph.1:19,20) But it’s tucked away like a little store of oil in ‘jars of clay’ to insure that the neighbors know this power belongs to God and not to us! (IICor.4:7) We may not look like much but watch out world, when we start looking for empty containers to fill… because all we have is all we’ll ever need when God is in it!
God bless you in your scavenging of containers; may He pour you out a blessing that cannot be contained!
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Matt.6:6
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. Jn.16:25
**Read the widow’s story for yourself in II Kings 4 at Blueletterbible.org **
[I’m indebted to Andrew Peterson and his lyrical song: “All You’ll Ever Need” for the seed thought behind this blog, though I’ve interpreted his idea in a slightly different light…]