The Prerequisite for Spiritual Passion


alivebright_1024x1024The Prerequisite of Spiritual Passion

Text:  2 Kings 4:1-7

Since we have arrived in Zambia, I have heard several people make comment about wanting to experience a spiritual breakthrough.  It seems to be a common expression here and around the world, but what do people mean by it?  Well, there are many things, but here at Kitwe Church, what do we mean by it?

What is a Breakthrough? A breakthrough is a major advancement in your life.  Breaking past an obstacle that once hindered you.  Shattering that glass ceiling in your spiritual life to reach new heights. Some of the people who have said this to me were people who were not yet believers.  They know they need something bigger than themselves to make sense of the circumstances they face in their lives. Others who have said this to me are people who are genuine Christians.  They have experienced God’s power.  Many of them have even experienced great victories in their personal spiritual lives.  God has even used them in great ways for ministry.  However, they are now going though a spiritual slump.  They feel like God is far from them.  They want to experience God’s closeness and power again.  They want to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others…but they have become discouraged and disillusioned and wonder if God will ever use them again.  They need a breakthrough.

Often in sports we use a different phrase to express this desire for a breakthrough.  When you see an athlete who wants to move to the next level from secondary school team to the university team, from University to the professional teams, from the minor’s to the major’s you will often here the coach ask, “How hungry are you?”  They are asking about passion.  They don’t want someone who just wants to look good in a uniform.  They want someone who is passionate for success.  They want someone who wants to give what it takes to be a winner, not just reap the rewards of being a professional – the fame, the fortune, etc.

Well, as Christians, we should be hungry for victory also, not just satisfied to look over past victories.  We want spiritual breakthroughs.  We need to be hungry for God.   The question for today is: Are you hungry for God?  How bad do you want spiritual victory? That is what we will be looking at today.

Today we will examine our hearts to see if we are hungry for God; to see if we have a passion for God and His kingdom.

When there is a transition of power in Lusaka, there are new occupants that enter the State House.  The old residents leave and the new ones move in to make their home there.  Not long ago President Sata’s family moved out so President Lungu and his family could move in. I don’t know how much changes in the State House during such a time of transition, but in America almost everything changes.  There is always a period of transition designed to allow the new residents of the White House, particularly the First Lady, to redesign, remodel, redecorate and refurnish the White House according to her personal taste. It is understood that the taste of the new first lady is often very different from the taste of the previous one and so part of the transition is to allow her to reconstruct the internal elements of the White House according to her particular liking. But for that to occur, the old must first be emptied out so the new can come.

Years ago an American Pastor named Tony Evans preached a series on this topic that greatly impacted me and I later adapted it for a series of my own that I preached in the States.  Now I want to pass these truths on to you.

Today we are going to consider the prerequisite of spiritual passion.

As you probably know, the word prerequisite is just a big way of saying a requirement that must be met before you can participate in something new.  For example, in school before you can enter a university program there are some prerequisite classes that must have been taken and the student is required to have already completed grade 12 of secondary school.  Finishing grade 12 is a prerequisite for starting school at a university. Well, today we are going to look at the prerequisite for spiritual passion.  What do you have to have in your life before you can truly have a passion for God and be used by him?  What is the prerequisite that you must have before you get your spiritual breakthrough?

In order for you to have a break through; in order for there to be room for the new thing that God wants to do inside of you, the old things must go. You see, it is hard for a new thing to happen inside of us if we are still crowded out with the old things.

In our passage today of 2 Kings 4:1-7 we have a short but powerful story of scripture.  It is about yet another lady in crisis.  She is in a desperate situation.  She needs to hear from God in the most urgent of ways. Join me in seeing how this woman faced 5 struggles that tempted her to doubt God – to lose faith in His goodness and power.

1. The Problem v. 1-2 The first two verses outline the problem for us. Let’s look at this crisis a little closer.

A. She is in emotional pain – her husband has died.

B. She is in financial pain – the creditors have come.  She didn’t have enough money after his demise to make the payments.

C. She is in physical pain – she was hungry.  The refrigerator was empty.  There is physical debilitation when there is no food.

D. She is in maternal pain – the creditors have come to take her children as collateral to pay her debt.

E. She is in spiritual pain.

When she comes to Elishah, listen to the pain in her voice.  “My husband, your servant, feared the Lord…”  In other words, my husband’s spiritual beliefs and our present condition don’t match up. (He was an adult son of one of God’s prophets). Perhaps you can identify with this lady in one or more of these areas.  If you are in any of those categories and any that I have not yet mentioned, then this message is for you. We are told that this woman cried out to Elisha.  Her pain drove her to the preacher because her need was from the Lord. Her pain drove her to the Lord as her final option.

Now, what the text does not tell us is whether she went to Elisha first or if she went to him last, but this is something worth considering because there is a difference – a big difference. I don’t know whether Elisha was the first stop on her road to recovery or if she had been to the bank already and been turned down.  Whether she had already been to government agency and been declined, whether she had been to friends and family and been rejected before it occurred to her, I better go to church. I don’t know whether it happened that way or if it happened with her realizing the desperate situation she was in and then turning to God immediately.  But I know it was serious because she was not calling for an appointment. I know someone has a serious concern when they show up at my house in tears.  I know they are serious when they call and ask me if I can come to them at that very moment.  What they want is to hear from God and they are hoping I can help deliver that message. The text says she cried out to Elisha.  Why? Because she wanted Him to tell her a message from the Lord.  In the midst of her problem she focused her eyes on the problem solver – Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides.

2. The Problem Solver – God

Now, you will notice that this point is not addressed in any specific verse in our passage, but it becomes clear when we understand the core values of the Jewish culture of that day and the mindset of the Jewish religion.  So, let me share some details of the Jewish worldview with you. In Judaism you could not approach God directly.  You always went through a mediator.  If you wanted to speak to God then you went to a priest who would pray for you.  He would intercede on your behalf and offer sacrifices for you to communicate to God.  However, if you wanted to hear from God you would go to a prophet, because God spoke to His people through prophets. This woman thought – a prophet speaks on behalf of God. Sine the prophet spoke from God, she wanted to know from the prophet what God had to say and what God was going to do to alleviate her pain, solver her crisis and give her a breakthrough.   She went to Elisha to get to God because her situation was bigger than any man could fix.  Her situation was larger than the normal programs of life could resolve.  The creditors were at the door to collect her most prized possession – her children.  She had nothing…absolutely nothing…except God!

Now, here is an important lesson for us all. You will never discover that God is all you need until He is all you have.  No, as long as you have your own resources and ideas you will rely on them.

So let me say it again, You will never discover that God is all you need until He is all you have.

When you get to this point in your life you don’t pray formal patterned prayers anymore – you cry out.  You don’t conform to “high church” culture.  You abandon protocol and you cry out.  When you get in such a desperate situation that you recognize God is all you have, you don’t care what people think of you.  You don’t care if they think you are professional and sophisticated anymore – you cry out.

When you hear the Bible talk about crying out you are hearing desperation.  Sometimes the Bible says someone spoke or someone said.  But when you hear the Bible say that someone cried out you are hearing someone who is very serious, someone who is desperate.  This person recognizes their need and will not stop until that need is met. Think of how a baby acts when it is hungry. When that baby gets hungry enough it is not whimpering.  It is crying out.  It wants all to know that it needs to be fed.  It wants food..not a pacifier. God tells us in His word, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit.  Blessed is He who hungers and thirsts after righteousness for he shall be filled.”

Let me tell you now the principle that we must not to lose sight of and that principle is this:  The amount of your emptiness will determine the amount of your filling. 

So, why are we not seeing more of God’s power, more of God’s presence, more breakthroughs’ that can only be as a result of the hand of God? The answer is simple…We’re too full!  Now the question is, “full of what?”  Usually it is good things that we substitute for the best thing. When God allows a problem or a trial to come into your life, one of its primary goals is to make you hungry.

The problem is that when God brings things into our lives to make us hungry for him, too often we will settle for something less than God.  It is like being filled with ice cream & cake instead of being filled with meat and potatoes.  Both will make you feel full, but both will not satisfy your need for real nutrition.  Sweets are what, we call in America “junk food.”  We settle for a sermon snack here, a song snack there. We settle for encouraging words and compliments from others.  We look to our husbands and wives to meet the needs that only God can fill.  Is marriage a good thing?  Of course!  But not if we let it become an idol.

All of these good things will only disappoint us when it comes to times of trial, but God will not.  In our times of trials, too many of us settle for spiritual sweets instead of the bread of life!  Our trials are meant to drive us to Jesus Christ – the bread of life! God desires negative circumstances to drive us to Him.

Before the age of digital cameras, people used to take photographs with film.  The film would produce an opposite picture of what actually had taken place.  Things that are really black would look white on the film and things that were really white would look black.  A professional photographer would have to take his film into a dark room.  The reason he had to take it into the dark room where it is pitch black is because a photographer’s goal is to turn a negative into a positive.  He goes into the dark room in order to take raw material and turn it into a finished product.  It is dark inside there.  It is lonely inside there, but it is purposeful inside there because the darkness is designed to get you ready for the dark. But not only is there darkness in there.  There is often cutting and pasting of the photographs.  They are being cropped to get the desired result.

That is a good description of how things are for us when we go through trials.  It is like we are the film and God has us in a dark room.  When God has you in a dark room and there is no light it is because he is trying to take a negative and change it into a positive, but the question is how hungry are you. This woman was in the dark room.  So she cries out to the preacher.  Why?  Because she wanted to hear from God the prophet’s job was to say “Thus says the Lord.” The prerequisite to spiritual passion is spiritual hunger –  the prerequisite is emptiness.This woman was empty!  Her emptiness made her hungry for God!  She wanted her breakthrough.

The question for today is: are you hungry for God?  How bad do you want God? This woman wanted it so bad that she cried out and she was serious.

So what answer did she get?  She was about to go through a faith building process.

Let’s take a look at the process.

3. The Process v.3-5

Get jars from your neighbors. Get more than just a few! That sounds like something we preachers would say doesn’t it?  Leave it to a preacher to tell you to do something that doesn’t seem to have any connection to the circumstances you find yourself in, right? Can you imagine what was going through her mind?  “Elisha, come on now.  Are you crazy?  I came to you for help and you give me this.  I don’t think you understand.  I need money, not a bunch of borrowed pots.  I am empty!!! “And Elisha says, “I know.  Now I want you to get all the additional emptiness you can.”

Now please follow what I am saying.  I am going somewhere with this.  He says, Call you neighbors and multiply your emptiness.  Take your emptiness, go to your neighbors to get their emptiness, and then bring their emptiness into your house. Some of us have multiplied emptiness.  I know my family does right now.  Another way of saying that would be, You’ve got a mess, your family’s got a mess.  Have you ever said, “Everyone wants to bring their problems to me and I’ve got my own.  I have enough to deal with myself.  I don’t need their emptiness.”

Remember the principle; the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling.  If you are empty and there is emptiness that surrounds you – your neighbors, your family, your church family – when God connects your emptiness with their emptiness what God is doing is increasing the possibility of your filling because the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling. What the preacher did was give her a new perspective – a new way of looking at things; a different approach to a normal problem.

We all have debts of some kind, we all have pain, we all have crisis; but his answer was not the same answer that she would have gotten at a bank or a psychiatrist or from a politician.  He comes up with the thought of increasing your emptiness.  And now she is faced with a question:  Do I believe the man of God?  It all boils down to that.  “Do I believe that what he is telling me God is what God is telling him?”  Do I believe that what he is saying comes from the mouth of God?  It is a matter of faith!  Without faith it is impossible to please God. All those that come to God, even those who come crying out, must first believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.- Hebrews 11:6

The question now is, do I believe Him – do I believe God, because when it comes to getting your blessing or your breakthrough God will often use odd methods to validate…to prove whether you trust Him or not.

If you are looking only for logic when it comes to living the Christian life you will find yourself often confused because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, as high as the heaven is above the earth so is the difference between us and God.  So when it comes to your spiritual breakthrough, when it comes to seeing God do what you need done in your life He may get you to take on new emptiness and new problems before He fixes the things you came to him for and you must step out on faith.  You must obey when you don’t feel like it.

How many of you use an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning?  I am not a morning person.  I have to use an alarm or I will miss appointments.  I love staying up late and working into the late hours of the night, but you see, especially in Zambia, everyone else seems to be an early riser.  When your alarm went off this morning saying to you it is time to get up, many of you, particularly those of you who are not morning people, decided to obey the alarm even though you didn’t feel like it.  You didn’t want to get up at that particular time, but the alarm went off and said it is time.  So even though you did not feel like you wanted to, you crawled out of bed and started getting ready to come to the church service.  Even though the alarm went off and may have interrupted one of your nicer dreams perhaps keeping you from the full 8 hours you desired to have you decided to obey the clock and got up because you wanted to come to worship God and hear from Him.

Well, trials are God’s alarm clocks for our spiritual breakthroughs.  Often God’s alarms go off at what we would consider the wrong time.  Often God’s methodologies seem to ring in the wrong way.

The question of faith is never the question of feeling.  The question of faith is never “how do I feel right now about what God has said to me.”  It isn’t that those feelings aren’t real.  They are real, but the question of faith is a matter of believing God.

Faith is always acting like God is telling the truth.  By the way, God always tells the truth!  We must then take action based on his truth.  That is faith – ACTING like God is telling the truth. If you get up when the alarm rings you have acted properly no matter how you feel.  We have to get to the point where we trust God to change our feelings when He asks us to act in faith.  We have to trust Him to change our attitudes from not wanting to do what He tells us to do because we believe that if we do what He tells us to do He will change how we feel about it. Well, this lady was hungry – literally and spiritually – because her crisis was deep.

You say, “I’ve been hungry for a long time.  I’ve been waiting a long time for my blessing – and it only gets deeper.  Things seem to be worse rather than better.”

Well remember, the amount of your emptiness will determine the amount of your filling.  So if your emptiness is getting deeper that means God is going to poor more into it when He fills it. So Elisha says to her, lady you go out and get your neighbors empty vessels and don’t miss the point.  Don’t get a few!!!  You go get additional emptiness. Have you ever noticed that when you get hungry enough sophistication doesn’t matter anymore?  You do not care what people think of you.  Have you ever seen sophisticated, important, serious people real hungry?  You know, beggars on the street aren’t concerned about how they appear.  They aren’t worried about how begging is not the appropriate way to get the money they need to get their next meal.  They are out there on the street in the cold, in the hot, letting you know that they are desperate.  They have a need! When you get hungry enough you aren’t worried about what everyone else thinks.  This woman became a public spectacle.

How do you get your neighbor’s vessels? You have to ask. Everyone knew she had nothing and yet her children came around asking for empty vessels as if they had something to put in them.This woman was so hungry that the text says in verse 5 that she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons.  They were bringing the vessels, the pots, to her and she poured.

She was hungry enough to obey the word of God.  Therefore they began pouring the oil into the vessels. How does this apply?  What does that mean? If you are going through a trial, I know you are hurting yourself, but the problem is that if you are like me, often when you are hurting you think there is no one who exists but me, myself, and I.  When you are hurting yourself it is then time to become a minister to others, specifically others who are facing the same thing you face. When God sees that you are willing to not only cry out for your emptiness, but willing to pick up the emptiness of others then you’ve given God that much more to fill up for you.  You see when we are so focused on our own needs we forget everybody else, but when we desire not only to receive a blessing but to be a blessing God sees within us his own heart.  It is more blessed to give than to receive.  We have joined Him in His desire to bless those in need. Go to your neighbors find how you can be a blessing for them too, how you can intercede for them too, how you can minister to them too.  Increase your emptiness. You know, we don’t collect emptiness.  We don’t look for opportunities to go to our neighbor and see their empty pots; after all I have the same problem.  But oh, when God sees He can minister through you and to you He can’t wait to pour out those blessings, which is exactly what he does for this woman! Well, this woman stepped out on faith and she engaged in the process that God laid out for her.  Now let’s look at the result.

4. The Product v 6-7

In verses 6-7 it says, And it came about when the vessels were full that she said to her son bring me another vessel and he said to her there is not one more and the oil stopped.  Now you’ve got to picture this miracle.  This is what I call a breakthrough.  She has one little jar of oil.  That is all she has, but here is what God did.  As her sons brought in the pots that they had borrowed from the neighbors she poured the oil into the pots, but the oil kept coming.

All she had was one jar of oil but when she cried out to God for herself and was willing to take on the emptiness of others God multiplied the little that she had.  Now little was not little anymore.  Just like the song says, “Little is much when God is in it.” Pot after pot after pot is filled with oil.  She calls out for another pot because she got the point.

The oil will keep flowing as long as emptiness keeps coming.  When that is happening who wouldn’t want more emptiness?  But her son said there are no more pots and then the oil stopped.  Elisha said don’t get a few because he knew what God would do.  What was once empty is now full.

Then Elisha gives her a business opportunity because faith never means sitting down and doing nothing. Waiting on God does not mean being inactive.  It means being trusting.  It means do what you should do while you wait for Him to do what you cannot do.  Be active while waiting for Him to do what ONLY He can do. So, Elisha says, “Go sell the oil and pay the debt.”

Now, where is this oil located? In the pots.  Who do the pots belong to?  The neighbors.  Who is she going to sell the oil to?  The neighbors because the oil is in the pots and every housewife had to have oil.

Here are a few lesson we can get from this story:

A.  When God blesses one person that blessing flows out to meet the needs of others. At this time in Israel’s history the kingdom was going through tough times.  It is likely that most of these neighbors were lacking sufficient oil also.  Some might have had maize, some might have had tomatoes or other plants, but been lacking oil.  Now, by meeting this woman’s need God has also met the need of those around her.

B.  God had the solution before she came with her problem. Here’s another truth here that applies to our situations as well. The solution to her problem already existed before she cried out to God.  In other words, the answer to her prayer was already in her house and she didn’t even know it because she didn’t have the eyes to see it yet.  It was there all along but it just hadn’t been sanctified or set apart of God yet.   The answer was already there she just didn’t have the spiritual eyes to see that the prophet Elisha could already see. She hadn’t gotten empty enough yet.  She thought that just because she was hungry that she was hungry enough but until her hunger broadened beyond her, to consider others beside her, she did not see the depth of how hungry she could be nor the miracle that God wanted to perform. But when she got God’s divine eyesight everything changed.  You see, some of our breakthroughs are already in place.  God has already got it situated.  We just don’t see yet.

C. The blessings stop when the emptiness stops.  When we get filled with things then the blessings stop.  We need to view ourselves as clean and empty pipes that the blessings of God can flow through to meet our needs and the needs of others.

D.  When the blessings come, we must take care of our obligations first. She said, HELP!  I have no money. The creditors are coming to take my boys. Now notice what Elisha tells her.  Elisha said, get out of debt and you and your sons can live on the rest.You know, the tendency when you get a blessing is to forget your responsibility.  He says, You go and pay your debt and when you do there will be enough money left over for you and your sons to live on. She went to God for a debt break through, but he gave her that debt break through with a bonus.  That’s when you know it is from God, because it is exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think.  He gives you what you requested, but because your emptiness increased by taking on the emptiness – the needs of others – He multiplies that.

So here we are at the end of the message and again I return to the big question.

How hungry are you?

Now, I know you want God’s blessing.  But are you hungry enough to passionately pursue God and be used by God to passionately help someone else.  Are you that hungry as an individual?  Are we that hungry as a church? Are you hungry enough to go into God not caring about what others think of you and cry out to God because you view Him as your first and last resort or are you still trying things without Him because if you are you aren’t hungry enough yet.

So, what are you going to do with what you have heard today.  Have you recognized the things that you have been settling for?  Have you recognized the things that are crowding out what God wants to do in you?  Are you ready to get ride of them?  Are you ready for some emptiness?  Are you willing to take on the emptiness of others? Or are you going to leave here the same as you came.  You got your sermon snack for today.  You will be back for another next week?

I hope we will all leave here having met the prerequisite for spiritual passion.  I hope we will all be empty enough to be hungry because the amount of your emptiness determines the amount of your filling.

So again I ask, Do you want God? Are you hungry for Him?

To listen to the audio of this message go to http://tinysa.com/sermon/719151242202

(I am appreciative to Dr. Tony Evans for his message by this same title which inspired much of what you have read here.)

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