God's Grace Is Sufficient
(Read 2 Kings 4:1-7)
I. God's people can and do get in a bad way.
The prosperity gospel that is so popular in our day is nothing but a lie of the devil. God's people have typically been persecuted for the faith. As a result they have suffered extreme poverty. Any Bible student will see this.
Very godly people are not exempt as we see in verse 1 of our text. The dead husband was a prophet of God. He was a God fearing servant of God and of Elisha. He was a man of good report, especially among the people of God. There was nothing negative whatsoever said about this man; but only good and positive. Some, if not most, of the greatest Baptist preachers were poor in this world's goods as this man was. This has been a common concern over the years, for Baptist preachers to die and leave their families with no material provisions. This ought to stir up the Lord's churches to consider those who selflessly watch and labor for their souls, to be sure that the men of God are cared for, and their families after them.
In our text the man of God died and left his family with a debt in which they had no means to pay. The creditors were coming to take the children away and to make slaves of them as payment for the family's debt. The prosperity gospel people would disown this poor family. Some of God's people in America today get in a bad way, but few ever get this bad off! When we get discouraged and think God has forsaken us, think on ones such as these who were worse off than we, yet the Lord had not forsaken them.
This is just one of many such occurrences in both the Old and New Testaments where God's people are found in a state of severe poverty. In the New Testament the poor saints at Jerusalem were impoverished because of persecution. Likewise, many of the gentile churches were also ostracized and persecuted for their faith, bringing them to poverty. In time, sound churches were all driven out into the wilderness to hide in the remotest mountains and desolate places of the earth to escape their enemies. There they dwelt for over a thousand years until the protestant reformation, and even then they were largely persecuted and impoverished for their faith.
So I will emphasize again, the prosperity gospel of many modern day false preachers and evangelists, is nothing but a lie of the devil! The Bible teaches us that "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." In fact, if more of true Baptists would take the stand our forefathers took, we would no doubt suffer as they suffered. I'm afraid that we don't want to own this kind of suffering today. I'm afraid we are too in love with this old world and its pleasures and comforts, to suffer for Christ. The fact of the matter is that, not only might the godly suffer persecution and poverty, but they are most likely to. Wow! How many are preaching that today. That kind of preaching would scare most church goers from ever attending church again. What about those who are true Baptists. Are we ready and willing to suffer with the people of God for the cause of Christ no matter what the cost?
II. God will provide for His people.
On the other hand, though God may not give us material prosperity, He does provide for the needs of His people as He sees fit. As a general promise of God, the Lord normally gives sustaining grace to provide for food, shelter, clothing, and so forth. I know that sometimes, for His own will and purposes, God allows His people to go without even these basic necessities. Sometimes they even suffer starvation unto death, but therein He gives them abundant spiritual grace to overcome the physical pain and suffering, and thereby they glorify God even in their death.
We want to see from our text, some of the ways that God provides for His people.
1. God uses what we have (vs. 2).
All this widow woman had was a pot of oil. She also had the ability to be industrious and to employ herself and her children in work. This may seem insignificant to us and hardly worth mentioning. But this is extremely significant because more often than not we overlook and disregard the small things, or those things that appear small to our eyes. Health, strength, and the ability to do work, are well worth mentioning. What would we do without these? What did this poor widow woman have? She said "nothing" but a pot of oil; the emphasis being on the word nothing. She didn't regard the pot of oil, or her health, strength and abilities as being of any use or value to her circumstances. There is a song entitled "Little is much if God is in it". Well I don't know the song, but the title sure is true. If God gave it to us, then it is something and not nothing. Never discount what God has given us, however small it may seem to us. He just might turn it into a gold mine! What do you have?
2. We should prepare and plan for great blessings (vs. 3).
There is nothing that our God can't do. There is nothing that He doesn't own. He loves His people, and takes pleasure in providing for them. In faith we should expect great things because we have a great God. Bring your vessels not a few! Come expecting a great blessing from the God of all blessings. It may be His pleasure to give you abundantly more than you ask or think- isn't He able? Isn't He the same God today as He was yesterday?
3. We should shut the door (vs. 4).
Let God bless us privately within the doors of our own house, within view of our own families only. Our God is a personal God. He takes pleasure in blessing His people while all alone with Him. The whole religious world out there is making a big "hoopla" and boast of miracles, and of signs and wonders. "Come to our church and pastor Flesh-Ball will work you a miracle you won't believe". The emphasis being on "our church" and "our preacher" and "look what we are doing for God", supposing that God is among them. I dare say that most, if not all, are nothing but phony bologna scams and emotional hypes, with no miraculous power displayed whatsoever. And then again, Satan is the biggest counterfeiter this world ever knew; so believe not every spirit or miraculous work. One day the false prophets are going to ask Jesus: "… Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (Matt. 7:22b). But Jesus will answer "…I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. 7:23b).
So close the door when expecting to see the Lord work. Think of Moses alone at the burning bush, and up on Mount Sinai- alone with God! What wonders that he saw while all alone with the Lord. What about Elijah when God sent the ravens to feed him by the brook. What about Peter, James and John, that inner circle of disciples, who when alone with Jesus beheld miracles that no other man saw. The Lord takes pleasure in blessing His children in secret, in those intimate moments alone with Jesus. It is then that we experience His great power and love for us personally, which reassures us of His love for us and His presence with us, and reaffirms our love and trust in Him.
4. We must do what the Lord has instructed (vs. 5-6).
Faith works. God will bless us as He sees fit, but He does expect His people to carry out and complete the tasks He gives us. We are not talking about works for salvation, but for service and blessings. Herein Armenians and Calvinists both may error. The former suppose they work for everything, including salvation; whereas the later often don't think that they should work for anything. The Bible does teach conditional blessings. We who believe in sovereign grace need to realize that the Lord expects faithful service and obedience from His children. Lackadaisical Baptists have missed the mark in their service to the Lord. I suppose a good rule of thumb for us Baptists would be; don't expect any more from the Lord in this life than we are willing to do for ourselves and for Him in faithful service. Yes, He certainly does do for us when we don't do for ourselves or for Him, but our attitude should be one of willingness, surrender, and of unfailing service.
5. God gives the increase.
We seek the Lord's help, and we do what He instructs us to do, but it is God Who must give the increase. It is His power that causes the oil of His grace and blessings not to stay until all our needs are supplied. It isn't from within us or our strength that the blessings come, but from Him and His power. Where is the boasting? It is in our Lord Who loves us and provides for us. May we never forget, that unless the Lord gives the increase of His blessings, all our labor shall profit nothing. We need to look at everything in life this way. We go to work at our jobs and receive pay. We go to the grocery store and buy food and supplies to live on. We stock up our pantries and our deep freezers. Then, if we're not careful, we say "look at all that I have provided". We become self-sufficient in our thinking, and as a result we lose faith and trust in our God. What's worse, we can become unthankful and ungrateful to God. It doesn't matter what we have done or how hard we have worked, it was still God Who gave the increase. He gave us our jobs and the ability to work. He caused the rain to fall and the crops to grow so that the supermarkets can be full of food for us to buy. He gave us liberty in this country that we as citizens may enjoy the blessings of the land. We should look at every provision in our life as a fresh miracle of God's abundant grace. Even the food in our deep freeze! Hasn't the Lord preserved yesterday's blessings so that we can enjoy them today?
6. We are to pay our debts first.
We are to be responsible and pay our debts and rightful dues in this life. "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another…" (Romans 13:8a). Some Christians, including some preachers, think that this world owes them a hand out; that they shouldn't have to pay up their rightful debts and dues. This is wrong! Too many Baptists have bad reputations in their communities for not paying their bills. This is a reproach to Christ! This woman was instructed first to pay the creditors with the increase that God gave her. We should keep a clean slate as honest upstanding citizens in our communities. Who will listen to our gospel if we have dishonest or slothful reputations in matters of unrighteous mammon? (See Luke 16:1-12).
It is also for our own good that we pay our debts, that we secure those things that belong to us, which in this case was the woman's two children. We must pay our rightful debts and dues so as not to bring evil upon others under our trust and care. What if this woman would have done foolishly and wasted her money. What would have become of her children? They would have been taken away from her, and made slaves. So we are responsible not only for our own selves, but also for others who depend on us.
7. She was instructed to live of the rest.
In other words, she was to use the rest of the money wisely to provide for herself and her children. She wasn't to hoard it up so as to be greedy and miserly, which is a great evil. I've known people who wouldn't even provide for their own needs because they didn't want to spend their money. They just hoarded it up for a day that never came. This can be a disease with people. She wasn't to waste the rest of the money on riotous living and foolish spending on nonessentials and luxurious living. Money seems to burn a hole in some people's pockets. If they have a little money they feel like they just have to spend it. This also can be a disease with people; especially in this credit card age when we can spend money that isn't even ours! God's people are not exempt from unwise use of money. For so the Lord said in Luke 16:8b: "…the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."
We should be conservative, conservative Baptists. Use what God gives us wisely, and He will give us more. Get the most out of a dollar. The following example may seem funny, but to us when raising our family it was serious business. My wife could practically buy a "new" wardrobe for our four children at a yard sale for only a relatively few dollars. For the cost of one new garment, she clothed the entire family. And she got some very nice clothes too; not old rags. She even would buy fantastic deals at yard sales and rummage sales, and then turn around and sell the same articles of clothing later for more than she paid for them. She probably made more money on clothes than she spent. She even gave clothes away to the poor and needy all in the same process (kind of like Robin Hood!). If she hadn't done this, I don't know how we would have clothed our family. I always worked, but it takes a lot to live these days. We also had Christian brothers and sisters who gave us their children's hand-me-downs, and so the Lord sustained us as we used His provisions wisely. A lot of you may be able to relate to the story above!
We need to be wise budgeters and careful spenders, so as to use our God given resources to the fullest of their potential. The younger generation today need instruction in these things. They often think that they should start out in life with a high paying job, a new car (or two), a new house, and wear all new expensive clothes. What a rueful awakening they will get when they awake in the ocean debt. And often times we are in part to blame, because of the example we set before our young people. We need to be there teachers in these matters, as parents and elder Christians, both in word and by example of temperance in our lives.
III. His grace is sufficient.
After all said and done, come what may, God's grace will be sufficient. His grace will carry us through; it is all we need. His grace is sufficient in material things, as we've just seen in our text. His grace in sufficient to supply all the faith we need. Some have more faith, and some less; but whatever faith we have, if we have faith at all, it is sufficient. His grace provides us with sufficient knowledge, wisdom, and understanding; both in the physical and spiritual realms. Again, we may have different proportions of these graces, but whatever God has given us, it is sufficient. His grace has supplied us with sufficient strength to do all that He would have us to do, whether physically or spiritually. Some have more strength than others, but whatever He has given us, it is sufficient.
Some have more and some less of these things. Some have more of one thing and less of another. But whatever He gives us, it is enough! We might pray and ask the Lord for more of something, but whatever we end up with, it will be enough for us. If we are God's child, He bestows blessings on us according to His riches and grace. We can rest assured that what He gives us today, and what He will give us tomorrow, will be enough! This widow woman in our text underwent great heartaches and trials, but God's grace was sufficient for her needs. He provides our needs in His own way and in His own time as He sees fit; but His grace is always sufficient.
We must realize that whatever we have is according to the distribution of His grace; whether physically or spiritually. If we have not because we ask not, then we need to ask! This widow in our text did. God does want us to ask Him. This shows our realization of our dependence on Him. All men are dependent on God, but all men don't see and acknowledge their dependence on Him. On the other hand, if we have not because we ask amiss, then we need to repent, and learn to ask for a right motive of heart.
May we see that His grace is sufficient:
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
And may we be content with what the Lord provides by His grace:
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
1 Timothy 6:8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
May the Lord bless this message to each one of His people, that we might learn the lesson of God's sufficient grace in our lives. May we also learn contentment, which is deeply rooted in the sufficient grace of our God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you know not the Lord this morning, then this message means little to you. May the Lord open your eyes to see your need for His sufficient grace in the salvation of your soul. May He grant you repentance of your sins and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior. Believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day for your justification and eternal life. This is where the knowledge of all-sufficient grace begins in your life, when you believe that His grace is sufficient to save your soul from eternal destruction.
(Sermon preached by Pastor Burke at the Faith Baptist Church of Lawtey, Florida)