In the last blog posted I promised to return to this passage of scripture and consider some thoughts that come to mind related to the filling of the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind that when oil is mentioned in scripture it can generally be referred to as a type of the Holy Spirit. So, with that said, let us begin.
If you are like most working folks I have known, you have had days when you looked longingly toward the time when you could retire. I am now beyond that stage of life and can confirm that it feels pretty good waking up in the morning knowing that you do not have to get dressed, eat breakfast, grab a lunch, and head out to work where your schedule is decided upon by the your employer. That is the typical scenario of most working folks throughout the roughly 40-year period of their lives. I reached the age of retirement about twelve years ago at this writing. Since that time, within my circle of friends, I have seen many others reach that point. They all seem to express that same feeling of relief when they refer to the day on which they retired. Their schedule now has become their own, and in most cases, they do whatever they feel like doing upon the arrival of each new day.
When we look carefully at today's scripture we find that this poor widow also entered into a similar type of situation: Elisha told her, "Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest." She had come from starvation near the point of death to comfort and contentment for the rest of her life. Whenever she needed cash she simply sold a little oil. And she apparently had plenty enough oil to last the rest of her life.
So, what does that have to do with our hopes for Early Retirement? Well, it depends upon how we apply the word RETIREMENT to our own lives.
Elisha told this poor widow to go and borrow as many barrels as she could find. Her sons even helped round them up. We are not told the total number of barrels but they may not have been too difficult to collect as folks generally have little need for an empty barrel. As she poured the oil from her pot into each barrel God kept refilling that little pot with more oil. Had she and her sons been too busy to go out and collect barrels who knows how soon the oil would have been exhausted. But she was willing to put forth the effort to borrow as many barrels as could be found. So now, since the example set by this poor widow seems to be a type from the old testament, how should we look for ways to apply it to our own lives? Please consider these thoughts that passed through my mind as I read this lately:
When we are born again God's Holy Spirit comes to dwell within our bodily vessel. We have a very weak relationship with the Lord on that day. Some folks seem to be satisfied with that weak relationship. But others are not content to struggle day-by-day, living in a world filled with temptation to sin and other enticements that quench the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They realize that, to become more acquainted with God they need to hang out with Him on a regular day-by-day basis. Because hanging out helps them to become more and more familiar with His likes and dislikes, just as when we spend time with anyone else we wish to befriend.
But here is the issue we all face: Where do we find the time to do this? After all, we get up early in the morning, go about our day, and go to bed at night. And there are very few folks who generally find themselves with idle time to spend each day. Well, I believe one of the key words in today's scripture is the word, borrow. We each have 24 hours at our disposal each day. We have been blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit within ourselves. God sets no limit on how filled we can become with His Holy Spirit. And I have found that the more time I spend with Him, the more I am aware of His Holy Spirit within me. And, the more awareness I have of His presence, the more I can relinquish my cares and troubles to Him and realize the true feeling of retirement from the issues of life. But I learned long ago that I needed to borrow from that reservoir of 24 hours each day in order to satisfy my hunger for His presence.
In today's culture of busy-business it may not be that easy for some folks to find any empty barrels. But if we look diligently we can find them. For example, did you ever consider the evening television prime-time entertainment industry to be an empty barrel. How about Facebook, or YouTube, or Twitter, or . . . you fill in the blanks. There is nothing wrong with using these mediums as a means of pleasure in our lives, but when you stop to consider how many of the 24 hours are spent each day looking into an empty barrel such as these, we may want to consider borrowing from them and filling each one with the comforting oil of God's growing presence in our lives. Early retirement may be in the evening for some or in the morning for others. But God promises that there is no limit to the number of empty barrels He will fill for each of us. Find some empty barrels; spend some time filling them with His presence, and retire your heart from the cares and burdens of this temporary life on earth.
There are so many ways this passage of scripture could be applied to all of our lives. And if you have been a child of God for very long you have surely heard messages preached and lessons taught on how important this story is for each of us.
If you are looking for some interesting reading in the old testament you can find some heart-blessing stories in the book of 2 Kings where we read of the miracles God performed through the ministry of the prophet Elisha. That is where I was reading this morning as I worked my way slowly through the word of God one more time. As I read this section of scripture two thoughts passed through my mind and settled in my heart. And I will take a moment and share them with you in today's blog.
The first thought has to do with hardships we face from time to time. For, if this woman would never have lost her husband, this type of the filling of the Holy Spirit would not be here to teach us a valuable lesson. But her husband did die, leaving her and her two sons without any means to support themselves. And we are brought into the picture when there is NO food left on the shelves and all she has in her possession is a small pot of oil. Oil has no nutritional value in itself so at first glance it was of no use to her and her sons. There was no welfare system available. She did not become a beggar. Women at that time were not employable. She had no other option but to turn to the man of God.
Most of us have never been in a situation like that of this poor woman. But there have been times in our lives when we may have felt like we were. In a previous blog I think I mentioned how, when I was teaching in the public schools and was told I would be teaching electronics the following year. I had NO idea of what the word even meant at that time. But if I were to keep my teaching job I had to begin borrowing barrels. As it turned out I took an electronics course during the summer and fell in love with the subject to the point that I became licensed to operate a commercial broadcast station. And a couple of years later became chief engineer of a Christian broadcast station and began serving the Lord full time for many years. There have been a few other times similar to that but I will let you recollect on your own experiences.
The important thing we should learn from this is that God often brings about hardship in preparation for a blessing. As this poor widow turned to the man of God for help, we need to do the same when the hardships of life come along. Our Man of God is Jesus. Philippians 4:19 - "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Not only did this widow end up with enough oil to pay her debt but as the scriptures says, ". . .and live thou and thy children of the rest.
God took that small pot of oil and turned it into a 401(k) left to her by her husband. Without his death it would never have become available. Keep in mind; God did not turn her hardship into a life of ease - He simply met her needs. And He promises to do the same for each of us who truly put our trust in Him.
OK, that was the first thought that settled into my heart this morning. I originally planned on putting both into this single blog, but my preference is to keep these as short as possible. So we will consider the next blog as part two. In the mean time let us count the blessings of what we do have, and put our trust in the Lord for all things that confront us, rather than becoming angry or depressed over our current circumstances - which is so often our first reaction.
At the time of this writing it is All Saints Day which is a very old traditional Christian holiday. In fact, halloween gets its roots from this day, celebrated on November 1st. All Saints Day is a day when we celebrate those Christians who hold an honorable place in our hearts and lives. Therefore, on this day I wish to honor my grandma Esta who is the one responsible for my salvation in July of 1951. Her story is one of love and patience for me when I was a child.
I was a very spoiled little boy who she took to church with her many, many times. And I paid no attention to the preaching and would sit and stare at the floor or roll up the church bulletin, or draw pictures on it. But it wasn't until she took me to hear Billy Graham as he held his first campaign in Seattle, Washington, that I actually obeyed her request for me to sit up straight and pay attention - which I did that day and heard and responded to the Gospel. So today I say "Thank You" to my Lord Jesus and my grandma Esta for being so kind and patient toward me.
I have to say that many years passed before I became aware of my need to read the Bible and spend time in prayer. And when my life came to a point where I realized how important it was to make this a priority each day, I was much older physically than I was Spiritually. I had a lot of growing to do and was eager to get started. The one thing I took to heart and wanted to obey was Jesus' instructions on how to pray. Therefore, I began my time with Jesus each day by praying the way He wanted me to. I recited the words as He had spoken them. But soon I began to consider the context of each part of His prayer and replace His words with mine. And to this day, even this morning, this is what I pray, and thoughtfully consider what those words mean to me, and how to manifest them into my life today. It generally goes something like this:
- My Father, which art in Heaven - I get to call the creator of the universe "My Father."
- Hallowed be thy name - I need to keep in mind Who it is I am standing before as I speak this prayer.
- Thy kingdom come - Fill my soul with Your presence and make my heart your kingdom, where you are King and I am just a servant.
- Thy will be done - Help me to put my will aside and be thankful for the choices you make for my life.
- On earth as it is in Heaven - I need to remember where my citizenship truly does exist.
- Give me this day my daily bread - The income I receive from Social Security and the little that comes in from mrkent.com is truly a day-to-day gift from my Father.
- And forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me - Against whom am I holding a grudge today? Show me who and how to forgive them first.
- And lead me NOT into temptation - Help me stay in a close relationship with You all day today.
- But deliver me from evil - Protect me from the attacks of the devil and his demons.
- For Thine is the kingdom - You ARE the King, whether I recognize it or not.
- And the Power - You have the power to answer my prayers in some of the most unbelievable ways.
- And the Glory - I have to remember that You get ALL the glory and I get none.
- Forever - Forever lies beyond my own understanding.
Teach me as I read your word - cleanse my heart of the desire to sin - fill me with your Spirit - and give me wisdom.
That is how I begin my day. It may sound a little simple to some, without a lot of great theological depth, but that never seemed to bring me very close to my best friend. That kind of thinking never made it possible for me to wrap my simple mind around just how special I am in His heart. I am sure He thinks the same of you also. And do you want to know something special about all this?
We get to call Him "Father."