Grace For The Journey
Gladys Aylward, missionary to China more than fifty years ago, was forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng. But she could not leave her work behind. With only one assistant, she led more than a hundred orphans over the mountains toward Free China. During Glady’s harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng … she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. A 13-year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. “But I am not Moses,” Gladys cried in desperation. “Of course you aren’t,” the girl said, “but Jehovah is still God.”
When Gladys and the orphans made it through, they proved once again that no matter how inadequate we feel, God is still God, and we can trust in him.
There are times in the Christian’s life when we feel utterly inadequate. There are times when trouble comes and we simply can’t cope, we are in too deep, but we learned that “My God will meet all your needs out of his glorious riches in Christ.”
But there are other times when our inadequacies show through in different ways, other than just being inadequate to face trouble.
- The times we had an opportunity to share the gospel and we didn’t know what to say, or how to answer them.
- When we are asked to speak or teach and we know our presentation and words weren’t great or even incomplete.
- When we have a conversation with a friend and we want to point to God’s help and hope but we stumble and stutter because we feel so inadequate.
If we let this sense of inadequacy get to us, then the devil will have been successful, and we will be driven to despair, and not attempt anything again.
It’s refreshing to hear the apostle Paul, and man immensely gifted, and experienced – he was trained as well as anyone could be trained, and yet, he asked, “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).
The verses we will look at today deal with times when our efforts are marred by our mistakes, and when our labor is insufficient due to our shortcomings. And in both cases, we see a wonderful truth that Paul lays down in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
Gods provision extends
To our inadequacies
As well as our needs.
In 2 Kings 4:38-44, God provides two Old Testament miracles that help us see two powerful truths.
1) Christ Can Overrule Our Mistakes.
In Verses 38-41, the Bible describes a time when there was a famine in the land. Famine was God’s judgment on the wicked nation of Israel. Is famine always God’s judgment on any nation? No. But in Israel’s case it was part of Israel’s national constitution – the covenant. In His covenant with Israel, God had decreed blessings for obedience and curses for abandoning God’s ways. Famine was one such sign of God’s wrath. And so, there was famine in unbelieving Israel. We read in these verses that the godly prophets also experienced the famine
Elisha arrives and is teaching the prophets and he instructs his servant to put on a big pot of stew. One of the prophets heads out into the fields looking for extra herbs to put in to bulk it up a bit, and to add some flavor. He finds a wild vine, gathers several gourds from it, and hurries back to the kitchen. He doesn’t take the effort to find out what kind of fruit it is. He chops them up and dumps them into the stew.
Then the rest of the prophets come in, and the meal is served out. It is not hard to imagine the pleasure on the face of the prophet as they get a little extra in their bowls. But then a shout goes up, “There’s death in the pot!!” Whether someone recognized the poisonous vegetable, or whether they had taken a taste we don’t know. But in an instant, they go from having a great meal to eat to not having anything to eat.
That doesn’t sound too serious to us. Normally they could just prepare another one. But these are days of famine. Food is scarce. Providing food isn’t a matter of spending a few moments in a supermarket and additional minutes in front of the stove or oven. It may take a large part of the day to gather enough food together to make a meal. All that effort has been wasted, but more important, precious food has been spoiled.
How do you think that young prophet feels now? I am sure he might have had thoughts like, “I should just have stayed in bed today. I can do nothing right. Now everyone’s upset with me. I always get it wrong.”
And then Elisha stands up. He asks for flour. He dumps the flour into the pot and then stirs it in. I am sure the young prophets are wondering, “What difference will that make?” The vegetables are still in the pot.
We shouldn’t think of this
As some sort of magic,
Nor should we think of Elisha
As some sort of early scientist
Who has figured out that
The properties of this flour
Can neutralize the effects of this poison.
It is just another visual symbol
That it wasn’t Elisha that changed the stew,
It was from miracle-working hand of God.
It was a symbol that the men would remember all their life, as they ground the corn to make flour, as they used flour to bake bread, you can almost hear them saying, “Do you remember the time Elisha threw the flour into the stew, isn’t God great?” And then the man of God, to whom they have cried out for help, speaks again, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And as they start to eat, perhaps somewhat cautiously, they find that there is nothing harmful in the pot!
I wonder how the young prophet feels now? The meal was no longer wasted – it had been redeemed, rescued from the rubbish pile. Can you feel his relief and gratefulness? His labor had been marred, ruined, it had been a sincere, but dangerous mistake. And yet, God overruled his error.
Have you ever found that? You have sought to act in a Christian manner towards someone, and you have only succeeded in alienating them. You thought you were doing something right, and you have only succeeded in hurting them all the more. And you think to yourself, “I should just have stayed in bed, I can do nothing right.”
- Perhaps as you have tried to live out the Christian life as a witness in front of family, friends, or work associates, you have made mistakes, and you feel, “I’ve blown it, I’ve ruined it.”
- Perhaps you have tried to set an example to other Christians, and now you realize that you were wrong in what you did. And it’s too late to undo it.
- Perhaps someone has come to you for advice, and you have sincerely given them advice, and when you check with another Christian you find that you have told them the wrong thing. And you feel so discouraged.
- Or perhaps you have dealt with your children in a certain way – you thought it was the right way at the time, but now with hindsight you see that it was detrimental.
Is there anything you can do in these circumstances?
Do exactly what the prophets did – In verse 40 they cried out to God’s official representative. We are to do the same – Cry out to our great prophet, the one who intercedes for us before God – Cry out to Jesus.
It seems awfully ineffective doesn’t it? You’ve been talking to someone and trying to explain the gospel and you are so nervous that you mess up on several points, and it’s all topsy-turvy and you stumbled in places, and you left out bits you shouldn’t have, and I say to you, “Go home and call out to Jesus.”
What’s the point? Surely what has been said has been ineffective? What good will praying do? It’s about as ineffective as throwing flour into a pot of stew. The vegetables are still there. But . . .
We have a God who is powerful,
And Who delights to show
His power through our weakness.
And you can pray to him, “Lord, take what I said and make them remember the bits that are important, and make them forget the bits that aren’t. Take what I did and bring good out of my mistake Lord. Take what I said and use the good. Lord you know I was only trying to serve You, I thought I was doing what was best, but now I see how wrong it was. Please overrule my mistake.”
And here is the wonder of having Christ as our Savior . . .
“God works all things for the good of those who love Him.”
This isn’t to say that we can be careless or even sin with abandon, and God will follow around after us and clean up. But . . .
When we have sincerely
Sought to serve Him,
And in our weakness,
Have got it wrong,
We can come to God
And the power of God
Can overcome our mistakes
As surely as He
Overcame this cooks blunder.
What an encouragement it is to see that the Lord does not allow our errors to derail His kingdom or destroy His people. How many times does Christ cushion our folly, redeem our errors, and neutralize our stupidity?”
And there is a wider application here. Even the mistakes that we have made in sinfulness, perhaps before we became Christians, or even when we were Christians, Christ can overrule them and turn them for good. Some of you may have made wrong decisions in your past and you have to live with the consequences of those decisions, but you have a Savior who doesn’t undo the past, but who overrules the past, and can turn these things for good. So don’t despair, get on your knees and seek His intervention.
We will look at the second powerful truth in tomorrow’s blog.
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”