2017年5月23日星期二

Sitting at the Feet of Jesus

Luke 10:38-42
Mary was Sitting
at the Feet of Jesus
Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethany, a village near Jerusalem, where Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived. They were good friends of Jesus. Martha welcomed these preachers of the Word warmly into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was busy with food preparation as she desired to serve the needs of others.
Martha was distracted with much serving. And she approached Jesus with her complain, “Lord, do you not care that my sister Mary has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”(v.40)
How then did Jesus reply?
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”(Vv.41-42)
So, Jesus corrected Martha for being too occupied with her table serving, for she was worried and upset about many things. He commended Mary for making the right choice to sit under His feet and to listen to His teaching.
There Must Be a Balance between Busy Serving and Listening to God’s Word
Though Martha had addressed Jesus as her Lord, somehow, she still murmured over His failure in meeting her needs. Instead of listening to Jesus, Martha commanded Jesus to do and say as she wished. She made “I” as her prime concern in her conversation with Jesus. She did not put her focus on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus reminded Martha that a prophet had come to her house with the Word of God. The primary focus of the host should then be entertaining and serving the prophet by listening to His words and not to be busy with her house chores.
Jesus said this to teach those who offer their hospitality to ministers of God, that the ultimate purpose of fellowship for believers should focus on God and His Word. God’s Word must be preached and heard. This is a good model of fellowship and ministry for the community of faith.
God desires us to receive Him by drawing near to Him and by listening to His Word attentively, just like how Mary did by sitting at the feet of Jesus. In the context of the Gospel of Luke, ‘sitting at one’s feet’ meant submitting to one’s authority. God wants to bless those who receive Him by sitting at His feet.
Jesus diverted their focus from serving, as a community lifestyle, to receiving the grace of God.
Martha liked to serve while Mary loved to listen and ponder upon the Word of God. Both of them were Jesus’ disciples, and they loved Jesus dearly. However, those who are occupied with ministering and serving must guard themselves well, so that they do not ignore the importance of feeding themselves with the Word of God or drawing near to Him.
Sometimes, a conspicuous ministry which draws attention as well as applauses from the crowd tends to draw us away from God too. We end up neglecting God and we refuse to think in line with His Word. In such situations, whatever we do become self-serving rather than serving God and His Word. Worse still, we overlook God’s sovereignty above all.
There are issues which can be settled later in the midst of our busy schedule. There is a time for ministry and there is a time for us to listen to the Word of God. We must balance our serving with listening, meditating and getting deeper into the Word of God.
We need to guard ourselves against the possibility of missing out the abundant grace that God has in store for us. It is because we usually sacrifice our personal times with God and forget to rely on Him fully when we are too occupied with our work.
Men and women in the business world enrol themselves in MBA courses so that they can advance their career. For us who serve God, there is a need for us to constantly quiet our hearts before God in order to listen, meditate and learn the Word to be equipped further in His truth.
We will experience burnt out situations quickly in our spiritual walk and come to our bottleneck if we focus merely on our ministries and lack in listening, learning and studying the Word of God. God is not pleased with such a serving model.
Why not Examine Own Self First?
The narrator projected Martha as someone who was over-concerned for others. She questioned Mary’s priority in life, and she expected Mary to flow in line with her ideal way of serving. She complaint to Jesus about Mary, and asked Him to uphold justice by commanding Mary to rise and give her a hand.
Nevertheless, Jesus pointed out Martha indeed was at fault. She was worried and upset about many things. Hence, she was unable to concentrate on listening to the Word of the Lord, and was distracted in her worship as well.
Jesus once shared a parable of seeds sowing. When seeds are sowed among thorns which stand for worries and anxieties of this life, the growth and fruits-bearing are halted (8:14). Jesus also warned His disciples to get rid of worrying about what to eat and what to wear on earth. All the worries of this life become a barrier to men when they want to focus on seeking God’s kingdom (12:22; 21:34).
Jesus knew Martha intended to do everything in order to serve Him, but she did not receive Him nor listen to Him wholeheartedly. God was not at the centre of her life.
In view of this, what made Martha different from Mary was not because she was busy with work while Mary was sitting there listening to Jesus. The distinction was about Martha’s distraction and Mary’s concentration.
Jesus said whoever obeyed His Word were truly His servants and whoever followed Him wholeheartedly would inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore, Mary had the right attitude whereas Martha was to change her response to God.
We might be concerned about criticizing others without considering our own deeds. What have we done for God? Do we do the right thing? Why do we do it?
Martha was called to serve the table, yet she also spent most of her energy criticizing others. There are people who do so little in church but are enthusiastic in airing their opinions and being critical and judgmental towards those who serve. They do not realize that they are indeed wrong while others might be doing the right things.
A community will not be effective if too much time is spent by people scrutinizing and judging one another. Those who only bother to look outwardly but unwilling to look within themselves are inclined to see a world full with injustice and ugliness. They will automatically see themselves victimized.
They complaint, “Why should I keep my hands clean when everybody does evil?”
They raise more and more questions and they start rationalizing their faults. They end up deceiving themselves to be the righteous ones, so that their conscience will not be troubled.
We should be aggressive in our self-reflection and be willing to be responsible for our actions. We have to be strict in self-discipline while be lenient to others.
What are you complaining now?
Do you feel that you have lost your peace and your joy, and you are defiant and everything seems to be loathsome in your eyes?
What you need to do is to sit down and do a self-searching. You might have a wrong expectation of others or you might have an attitude problem of over-concerning about others’ businesses.
Let’s get our emotion right and do our part faithfully. Do not be a busy body. Let’s not bother too much whether others are doing the right things. By so doing, you will be a happier man or woman on earth!
Do Silly Things for Jesus
In the ancient society where Jesus lived, people expected women to play the role and responsibility of serving their guests and making them feel at home. Martha’s complaint seemed to be reasonable under the expectation of such a culture.
What Mary did, signified a breakthrough in their tradition – to sit down and to listen to Jesus. Jewish women had no right to access to proper education.
Yet, Mary loved the Lord and she hungered for Him. She set her heart to want to hear the Word of the prophet as a way of receiving Him personally. She owned no significant ministry, yet she was blessed to take her bold step to break free from the bondage of Jewish tradition, and became then a silent witness for Christ.
Martha was trapped in the bondage of tradition where people thought that women were supposed to occupy themselves in serving others.
Jesus did not completely deny her worries and upset, but He considered Mary’s desire for His Word and the fact that she did listen to Him attentively, to be something better (v. 42). It was something that could not be taken away by their social value and expectation.
Indirectly, Jesus set women free from their role which was defined and confined by their culture. He enabled the role and position of the women to be enhanced. The power of the Gospel breaks every boundary! Those who hunger for God and those who love God must break free from fear of being demeaned and doubted in order to accomplish a new thing for the Lord. The Holy Spirit shall give us grace and strength as we move a step forward.

Do you experience any breakthrough in your journey of faith this day? Have you ever done something for Jesus out of expectation of others, something that is silly? What is the most important thing in your life you feel worthwhile to invest your time and money?  May God, grant you wisdom to make a right choice. 

2017年5月22日星期一

Life Transformation over the Top

Luke 9:28-43

Jesus’ Mountaintop 
Transfiguration

The mountains are the most ideal places to pray and experience God. At the mountaintop, we can have intimate fellowship with God and experience spiritual uplifting.

At all important junctures, Jesus would retreat, quieten down, and pray earnestly. This time, He brought with Him three disciples to the mountains to pray. But the three specially chosen disciples were useless companions. They fell asleep. Anyway, Jesus was often all alone in His experience of internal turmoil and struggles.

Although they were asleep, the disciples woke up just in time, by the grace of God. They witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus’ appearance and His dazzling white clothes. This was the eternal Christ in His post-resurrection glory!

Jesus’ transfiguration tells us that He is not merely a spiritual guru, He is full of glory, honour, and authority. He is the sovereign Lord of our lives.

Let’s come and look up to the mountains and behold the glorious and bedazzling appearance of Christ!

Go Up to the Mountaintop and Go Down to the Valley and Plains

The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountains and His radiant white clothes affirmed His identity as the eternal God the Son.

This was also an anticipation of Jesus’ glorification after His death, resurrection and ascension.

Moses represented the Law while Elijah represented the Prophets. The appearance of these two great representatives of Israel tradition next to Jesus showed that His identity is unparalleled.

Elijah and Moses discussed with Jesus concerning His departure (or, exodus), which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (v. 31). The two luminaries were cheering Jesus on, affirming and encouraging Him to accomplish his God-given mission. Their discussion was not merely about Jesus’ individual fate but involved the prophecies of the Law and the Prophets concerning the Messiah who would accomplish salvation for all nations through His suffering and death.

Jesus, the Messiah died on the cross to accomplish salvation, leading the people out of the bondage of sin and death, which we term the “second exodus.” In Christ, we receive God’s promised inheritance, which are the redemption of all things and a renewal of life.

Jesus’ mountaintop transfiguration is a kind of “peak experience.” We ought to desire this kind of peak experiences. These are like “tonic” to revive and renew us. We gain strength and solidify our faith through these peak experiences.

Have you ever had such “peak experiences”?

Let’s retreat to the “mountaintop” to pursue God’s presence and to desire the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We need to experience the miraculous signs and wonders, immerse ourselves in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, see visions, dream dreams, and have extraordinary fellowship with the Lord.

“Peak experience” is very good indeed! That’s why Peter said, “Why don’t we build three tents to keep the glory and not leave this mountain?”

But the tent-building project did not materialise because Moses and Elijah were taken away. Theologically they had to be gone. They were not supposed to linger in the tents along side with Jesus because their era had passed and now Jesus came and inaugurated a new era of salvation.

And then Jesus and His disciples went down from the mountain the next day and a great crowd met them. One of them cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my only son. An evil spirit seized him. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth. My son is hurt. You disciples wanted to cast it out, but they could not.”(Vv. 39-40)

Not only did the disciples fall asleep on the mountains, but now, back on the plains, they could not cast out a spirit.

They were really useless. Then God’s only son, Jesus reprimanded the unclean spirit, healed the only son of this father, and gave the boy back to his father, and the crowd was amazed at the majesty of God (vv. 42-43).

Jesus did not stay long in the mountains. Instead, He went down to the crowded valley and plains in order to heal those in need and cast out demons.

Jesus understood that His “peak experience” on the mountains was to equip Him to accomplish what was recorded in the Books of the Law and the Prophets. On the plains, in the countryside, Jesus fought against the forces of evil; set free those who were oppressed and enchained; and to sacrifice His own life for the salvation of the world.

Coming down from the mountains, Jesus served ceaselessly throughout His entire journey to Jerusalem until He arrived at another mountain, Golgotha, to suffer humiliation and to be crucified on the cross.

When He was crucified, Jesus was not accompanied by the illustrious Moses and Elijah. Instead, He was accompanied by two robbers who were crucified next to Him. This time, the Father did not speak from heaven. What a contrasting “peak experience”!

Whether it was the mountaintop or the valley and plains, whether on this mountain or on that mountain, whether it was the glory of bedazzling brightness or the glory of humiliation, Jesus embraced it all and never flinched!

Conclusion

We must not be contented with the busy service or the boring and monotonous life of the “plains”. We need to “go up the mountains” to experience God and pursue the sweetness and power of being filled by the Holy Spirit.

For example, we can have these experiences through listening to an inspiring sermon, or participating in praise and prayer rally, or signs and wonders conference, or silent retreat.

Let me quote the Alders gate experience of John Wesley which was his “peak experience”.

On May 24, 1738, John Wesley’s seeking for the grace of God ended in a meeting house on Alders gate Street in London. He wrote in his journal that now-famous account of his conversion: “In the evening I reluctantly attended a meeting in Alders gate. Someone read from Luther's Preface to the Epistle to Romans. About 8:45 p.m. while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."
It took John Wesley some time to learn how to live the life of faith, for he was not always possessed of joy and thought he had fallen from salvation. It took time for him to see that it is not Christ and good works, but Christ alone who saves, resulting in good works.
As time went on, John Wesley was mightily used of the Lord to reform England. His Methodists became a national force. John rode thousands of miles (as many as 20,000 a year) preaching as only a man filled with the Holy Spirit can preach, telling the gospel to all who would listen. He acted "as though he were out of breath in pursuit of souls." Wherever he preached, lives changed and manners and morals altered for the better. It is often conjectured that his preaching helped spare England the kind of revolution that occurred in France.
The “peak experiences” we are talking about come with responsibilities, that is, to “go down to the valley and plains” to serve the needs of the crowd.

As we serve, our character will be transformed and subjected under the authority of Christ. This is the way of achieving sanctification!

If we do not “go down to the plains” to serve, then all our so-called “peak experiences” are merely the pursuit of endless emotionalism. This will not bring any changes to lives or to the world.

When we go down to “the plain” to serve the crowd, we will see for ourselves the rampancy of evil and the sufferings of the people. We can truly practice the power of faith and let the almighty power and the brilliant glory of Christ overcome the evil forces of darkness. Serving at the foot of the mountain gives us a broader experience of life, which is filled with challenges and endless surprises!

Some people, even after many decades of believing in the Lord, are still telling the same old testimony. They talk about how they had experienced the Lord years ago when they were heartbroken, or when they fell ill, or when they failed their exams, etc.

This is akin to Peter requesting to remain on the mountain. One day we will discover that this particular experience cannot sustain us to journey on in faith. God wants us to experience His grace and faithfulness anew every day.

If we walk with God, every day will be a new day. We will enter new realms and experience new horizons. We will be able to tell fresh testimonies one after another. Forget what is behind and strive forward to what is before.

Where is your “valley and plains”?

Your “valley and plains” could be the workplace, or at school, or in your small groups, or in your various ministries, or at home, or in the messiness of human relationships; you need to take up the challenges and make things right.

I Will Move On Even All by Myself

A cloud overshadowed the disciples and a voice said, “This is My Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him”. After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone (vv. 35-36).

The Father spoke, Moses and Elijah departed, and Jesus was all alone. This description shows the importance and uniqueness of Jesus. The encouragement by Moses and Elijah had ceased and even the affirming voice of the Father had passed.

The “peak experience” of Jesus had come to an end and now He was alone. Who else could He rely upon?

All He had before Him were three drowsy disciples. Yet, Jesus persevered in His journey to Jerusalem where He would suffer and sacrifice His life to defeat the Devil and, thus, accomplish salvation.

There are many people who can’t stand being alone. They must hear the voice of others. If there is no one around, they will turn on the television to be comforted by the sound it makes. God wants to train each of us to endure loneliness in order to cultivate our tenacity so that we may be resilient against failures and frustrations. In this way, we will be able to withhold the realities of life which contain blood and tears, joy and uncertainties.

Are you all alone at the moment? Do you feel lonely? Do you feel disillusion? People around you don’t understand you? They can’t help you? Jesus also had to face many important moments alone!

The affirmations, applauses, and protection from those around us will pass away.

Many, who, despite having believed the Lord and were fed and taught for many years, are still unable or unwilling to be leaders or teachers. Some even refuse to lead prayer and list their excuse as “I don’t know how to pray! I am not qualified!” Yet, these are the same people who murmur and complain the most.

Do not throw a self-pity party. You can still journey on despite being alone. It is time to learn to stand up! You are all alone in this journey because God has chosen you. This is an honour for you. God is honing you to accomplish your mission.

The word of God proclaims, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”

We have no choice but to obey the Lord’s instructions and follow in His footsteps. Even though we may be alone, we still ought to stand up and serve, feed, and lead others. Do not wait for others to serve you!

Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment He was conceived in Mary. When He received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, He began His ministry. He preached the gospel, healed the sick, cast out the demons, called the disciples, and accomplished His mission by obeying the Father even to His death.

Likewise, let’s now “go up the mountain” and pray for the Holy Spirit to fill and empower us, so that despite being all alone and facing various constraints, we can stand up and “go down to the valley and plains” to take up the challenges and accomplish our mission. 

2017年5月15日星期一

Vineyard of Radical Grace

Matthew 20: 1-16

Workers in the Vineyard

The preceding texts, 19:16-22 tells an account of Jesus encountering a rich young man. The young man asked Jesus what good deed ought he to do in order to receive eternal life. Jesus said to him: "Go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.”

Seeing this, Peter responded to Jesus, “See, we have left everything and followed you, what we will get?”

Jesus then told the disciples of this parable, "workers in the vineyard", as an answer to Peter.

During Jesus’ ministry, many workers faced the problem of unemployment. Their lives had no basic security, and there were no labour union and social security to protect workers' welfare. During harvest time, the vineyard owners would use temporary workers to work the harvesting.

The "harvest time" here signifies the expansion of God’s kingdom in end-times when many workers are needed and lost souls are to be saved into the Kingdom. God the Father goes out (through the Son of God incarnated) to look for people to work in the vineyard, and gives them enough grace to operate.

During the time of Jesus, the workers normally worked from 6am and stopped at 6pm. They had to work twelve hours a day. The vineyard owner himself went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He promised to give a denarius to the workers. One denarius is equivalent to a day’s wage. These workers were feeling very fortunate to have found employment and were very happy to start work from early morning.

And then, this vineyard owner went out about 9am and he saw other workers standing idle in the marketplace. He was very compassionate for he could not bear to see people hanging outside wanting to be employed but found no work. He hired this second batch of workers.

The vineyard owner continued to go out to hire different batches of workers when he saw them standing looking for job. He actually went out a total of five times in a day (early morning, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 5pm) to hired workers to work in his field (vv.1-6).

He promised to pay them ‘what is right’. Now these workers might not expect to get a full denarius, but they trusted the owner would pay them proportionately.

And when evening came, the owner said to his foreman, “Call in the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.”

This fulfilled the Old Testament law which stipulated that the owner must not owe workers their wages overnight (Lev. 19:13; Deut 24: 14-15).

And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them also received a denarius. Now when those hired earlier came forward, they expected to receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.

So, they were grumbling unceasingly at the vineyard owner, saying, “These who were hired last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and under scorching heat.”

The vineyard owner replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree to work for me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to these last workers as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious at my generosity?” (vv. 13-15)

Why did those who come to work later also get a denarius? And if you were among those who were first to work, would you also grumble for being treated unfairly?

God's Grace 
is Sufficient for Everyone

The vineyard master resembles God the Father, and the vineyard pictures Israel or the people of God. God the Father calls the workers into his Kingdom to receive salvation and serve. By this, the grace of God is expounded before the question of fairness even got into picture.

God is just and fair! He promised the first batch of workers a denarius, and he gave them a denarius. God is also gracious! For those who performed less than a day’s work, God also gave them a denarius which was beyond what they deserved.

The workers who came late to work represented those socially-marginalized people who were sinners, tax collectors, the sick and lame. They were weak, miserable and insecure. If they only received a fraction of one denarius, the amount would be insufficient to cover the needs of their family for a day.

The secular logic is to ‘earn as you produce’, but this is not the Kingdom logic. God wants to hire all, so that no person will be left idle hopelessly. God wants to bless everyone so that everyone will have enough. God's grace is sufficient for everyone; no one will be neglected!

Today are you among the ‘late starters, uncompetitive ones’ or the ones in desperate need? You do not have to worry, because God’s grace is sufficient for you to overcome your hardship and insufficiency.

If we are, we must stop making excuses for our own insufficiency. We are to take up responsibility; start giving generously, leaving the comfort zone, upgrading ourselves, participating in the ministries. The reason is because God will give us enough grace to complete the mission. The last will be the first!

We note that the first group of workers grumbled because they were "red eye; evil eye". This means they envied those who received better treatment/reward. They did not share the same compassion of God.

Although they worked more than the other workers, they ought to be more thankful, as they got hired first, so they need not have to worry for the rest of the day. Without the grace of God in the first place, they would still be hanging around unemployed. Thus, they could not produce anything and of course, there would not be any question of reward.

If we see it this way, the first batch of workers had only gained something but lost nothing.

If you are the one who do more or give more, you need not complain. For a dying person on bed would usually regret that he has not done enough for the kingdom of God.

If you begin counting the blessings of God, I am sure you will find that God never short-change you!

God does not want us to develop this attitude of comparing with others. Let’s simply serve the Lord faithfully; and trust that God will take care of our needs. No matter what the needs were of these different batches of workers, that "one denarius" was the sufficient grace of God!

We often want to commensurate rewards with our efforts. We want "fairness" in light of what we earn or are worth. However, in this parable, Jesus shifts our focus from reward to God’s grace and generosity.

While Peter thought that his sacrifice was great and deserved more rewards (in Chapter 19), Jesus reminded Peter that reward was never earned. One can only be a recipient of the grace and generosity of God. Without the sacrificial life- giving Christ, we all would continue to be in bondage to sin – remaining unemployed, and heading towards destruction.

Christ first loved us. He sacrificed His life for the remission of our sins while we were yet sinners. We can do nothing to earn His grace. Whether we are early or late, strong or weak, in abundance or in need, the grace of God – the ‘one denarius’ is sufficient for us.

To Make Up for the Members Who Are Lacking

If we feel jealous at those who "work less, give less" and yet receive the abundant blessing of God, then we are ungrateful people.

We have forgotten that we are also the eleventh-hour workers who do not deserve the generosity of God in the first place.

We are all accepted, loved and saved by God, not because of our efforts but purely because of God’s own grace. God saves us not because we are lovable, but because He loves us in a radical way. It is by this radical grace of God that we are able to work in the vineyard of God.

We are to share God’s compassionate heart to bless those who are lacking. We are to identify with those under-privileged, those in need of food on the table and those looking for a roof over their heads.

We are to reach out to people for the salvation of their soul, and also help them in providing basic facilities to them so that their overall well-being is enhanced, and that a community of “shared abundance” can be established after God’s heart.

What happened to the workers who complained and whose eyes were evil?

How would they respond to the reproach by the vineyard owner?

The answer lies in how you and I respond to this parable today.

2017年5月7日星期日

Make Me an Empty Vessel

2 Kings 4:1-7

The Oil of the
Widow Increased

A member of the company of the prophets passed away, leaving behind him a widow and her two children. The widow and her children had lost all their support for livelihood. They were extremely poor that they piled up insurmountable debts.

This widow cried out to Elisha, the leader of the prophets, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two children to be his slaves.” (v. 1)

This woman had lost her husband, and then she was about to lose her two children. Misfortune indeed did not come singly for her. Her life seemed to come to a dead end. She was such a desperate mother on earth! Who can help her?

Elisha was willing to help this widow, but he wanted her to play her part in the first place so that miracles can happen!

God alone created the whole universe. He spoke into being the world, firmly established by His Word. God continues His work since then, but He invites men and women to partner him in His work.

Human beings bear the image of God, and are endowed with the ability to respond to his call. This is the prevenient Grace of God. Human beings are also commissioned to be God’s earthly representatives who will co-labor and co-create with Him. This is the cultural mandate and “vocation” theology.

Elisha asked her, “Tell me, what you have in your house?” (v.2)

The prophet seemed unable to foreknow. How then could he offer her help?

The widow answered honestly, “Your servant has nothing there at all, except a small jar of oil.” (v.2)

Indeed, her predicament was far beyond the intimidation of having her children taken away by her creditors. She found it hard to feed herself too. She was running out of her next meal!

Then Elisha instructed the widow, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbours, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels, and when one is full, set it aside.”

The widow obeyed the words of the prophet. She really did exactly what was told by the prophet, by asking her son to collect as many jars as possible. Then they shut their door behind them and filled their empty jars with oil.

Finally, she told her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.”

Then the oil stopped flowing (v.6).

The widow was thrilled with the miraculous provision but she was careful enough to first consult the man of God how she should proceed further.

The man of God said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” (v.7)

The story started with Elisha (v.1) and ended with him, the man of God (v.7). Apparently, it emphasized on God’s provision for man. But we were told in the middle that the widow and her sons were quick to co-operate with the prophet.

So, the emphasis of this miracle was more than God supplies for human needs. The form of the passage foregrounds the importance of human obedience to God so that miracles can happen.

Offer for God’s Use Your Only Jar of Oil

The miracle of abundant oil started from the first jar of oil which the widow surrendered for God’s use.

The widow was really broke and she had with her only a jar of oil. Her one and only jar of oil spoke about her poverty and shortage. Yet in the eyes of the prophet, it became a means through which God could accomplish great thing.

This little and humble jar of oil filled up many empty jars eventually. From a jar of oil, it turned out to be many jars of oil!

What we possess might be small in number. It might be insufficient and insignificant in the eyes of men. But God uses the little we have to accomplish something great. God’s grace is sufficient for us!

No one is so lacking, frail, and helpless and poverty stricken that he has nothing at all to offer up. Likewise, no one is so backslidden and fallen away beyond God’s restoration. There will always be a ray of hope that shines forth in the darkest moment of our lives!

As long as we do not give up and continue to hold on to the grace of God, and offer up our “only jar”; this last desperate effort will bring in the final victory! It is because our God is a faithful God who does the work of “increases, expands and secures” in the lives of his people. The grace of God is sufficient for us!

What do you expect God to do for you this day? What do you have in your hand right now?

Though it may be little and insignificant, do not give up but instead, offer them to God. Miracle will happen! With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. The end of man is the beginning of God!

Are you willing to submit to God by offering your very last jar of oil?

If we refuse to obey God, the jar of oil will remain as it is, and you may end up finishing it tomorrow. Which ending would you choose?

To experience increase, or to be consumed to its very last drop of oil?

To Have Faith
Means to Be Obedient

The stronger the faith the widow and her sons had, the more the empty jars would they borrow from their neighbours. The more empty jars they had, the more blessing they would contain.

Mother and children had to shut their door behind them and fill in the empty jars with oil. The air was indeed tense and exciting! It means that they were to do the operation all by themselves.

The volume of oil contained and the size of blessing received by the widow solely depended on her level of faith and obedience to God. And she was not supposed to rely on others.

We might get used to rely on others and God to carry out our tasks. We remain idle and are even lazy to pray because we rely on others to pray for us. This is a wrong attitude!

God wants our participation. He wants us to be responsible. We have to toil by putting in our efforts, and pray for the things to happen, adverse circumstance be turned around!

The money from the sale proceeds of the oil was more than enough for the widow to repay her debts. Not only that, she had surplus to sustain the livelihood of her family.

When God’s grace is poured down on us, we will be set free from our past debt, bondage and guilt, and our future are also secured!

God’s blessings for this desperate widow included “increases, expansion, deliverance from past guilt, and a secured future”.

Today, God is willing to bless us with these too. The problem is, how should our attitude be as we work with God to experience His blessing?

We should attempt great things for God, and also for our family, health, study, career and ministry. For the blessing, God bestowed on us includes “increase, expansion and security”.

We need not limit ourselves by holding on to a jar of oil which seems to be flowing all the times without the aspiration of “increasing, enlarging and securing future”.

We can have many jars of oil. It all depends on our faith and obedience to God. The more faith we have, the more we are willing to obey God’s instruction in preparing our empty jars.
The more empty jars we have, the more we display the characters of “humility, self-emptying, teachability and submission to God”.

What areas do you expect God to bless you abundantly, to fill you up with overflow blessing?
Offer to God this day many of your “empty jars”, for only empty jars are able to contain the oil of God pouring down from heaven!

If the jars you gather around are filled with greed, arrogance, bitterness, selfishness, pride and self-centeredness, you will not be able to receive the fullness of God’s blessing. Instead, you may be indebted more and more. Your life will be in trouble!

Do you desire to receive God’s blessing, power, protection, joy and peace? Are your jars empty?

If not for the blessing of God, the widow’s children would be captives of their past debt and would continue to be enslaved by it! The deliverance of God for the widow was wholesome, i.e. clearing her past debt and securing her future livelihood.

Today God also want to bless us with a wholesome salvation and deliverance. Are you still living under the shadow of your past? Are you still carrying with you unresolved hurt and guilt? Are you feeling despair because you are facing shortages right now?

Come to Jesus now with your “empty jars”!

Calling for unbelievers to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour:

Philippians 2:5-8 say:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The love and blessings are so abundant in him to the extent of overflowing into humanity. In that he emptied himself to become human and died on the cross so that we can be filed with his salvation.  For whoever places his faith on Christ, he will be a new creation. All his sins are forgiven and abundant power and grace will overflow in his life.
For those who are yet to make a decision to receive Jesus Christ into your life, and to receive Him as your personal Saviour, today is right time for you to receive Jesus. You just need to humble yourself like an empty jar, to receive Jesus into your life as Lord and saviour.  
When Jesus is Lord of our lives, we can rely on his fullness of grace to break free from our past sins, hurts, curse and present bondages, shortages. Let’s forget about the past and come to experience the saving grace of Christ!