Learn Humbly // Day 22

Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.  – William Carey

I’ve encountered hundreds of people who ask me how they can exercise faith during those hard, dry seasons of life when nothing seems to go right. Many of them say it would take a miracle for their lives to turn around – for their marriages to survive, their businesses to succeed, their kids to return. Talking with these folks, I always try to make two things clear: God is in the miracle business, and there’s no formula or magic words. He’s not a genie, here to grant our wishes. If you only had one month to live, the temptation might be to plead with God for a miracle to extend your life. And while our lives are clearly in His hands, and He can definitely heal physically, the miracle you truly need might have more to do with your priorities and relationships.

Maybe you’re looking for a financial, physical, or relational miracle in your life. Miracles are not only possible; they’re more common than we think. God cares for us and wants to work in our lives. The hard part is remembering this when we come to a crossroads and must choose how to respond. That great theologian Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Not a lot of help. Whether we’re facing a painful loss or confronted with choosing between two good options, the only way to experience the miraculous is to move in God’s direction. There’s definitely no formula, but the Bible does offer practical counsel for receiving the miracle you need. Four guiding principles emerge from an Old Testament story of Elisha (a prophet) and an unnamed widow. Here we see the process God always uses when He wants to work a miracle in our lives. It begins with a dire situation and a plea for help: “One day the widow of one of Elisha’s fellow prophets came to Elisha and cried out to him, ‘My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.” (2 Kings 4:1, NLT).

On the heels of a terrible loss, this poor widow now faces an impossible situation. She has lost her husband, and because of this, she’s in a financial bind. Creditors descend and threaten to claim her most precious possession in the world – her children – if she doesn’t pay. She’s in a quandary but her story reveals the first principle to receiving the miracle she needed.

If you want God to work a miracle in your life, you must first admit your need. If you want God to work in your life, you have to admit that you need Him. Miracles never take place until you acknowledge the situation is impossible without God. Of course, we hate to admit it when we have a problem, much less acknowledge that we can’t fix it ourselves. We would rather hide our troubles from others; pretend they don’t exist, or try to manage them on our own. Often we complain about them, but that’s not the same thing as being vulnerable about our inadequacy to solve our own problems. And yet God cannot work in our lives until we acknowledge that His intervention is essential and invite Him into the situation.

The widow in this story admits that she needs help. The prophet’s response, though, was less than encouraging and seemed a first glance without compassion for her need. “Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you?’” (2 Kings 4:2). His response seems rude, as if he’s frustrated that this woman is bothering him. But something else emerges here. I think Elisha was simply refusing to let her put her trust in him. He was saying, “Hey, I can’t help you, but I know the One who can. I know the God who can work a miracle.”

We can transform a defining moment into a miracle only by admitting our need and then going to God as the only One who can ultimately meet that need. Where do you go when you have a problem? Do you call the psychic hotline or consult your horoscope? People try all kinds of things when they are in need, and it seems the more desperate we become, the crazier we get in looking to outside sources for help. There’s only one outside source who can provide the miracles we need. We can go directly to God, the only One with the power, wisdom, and love to focus on our best interests.

Now we’re prepared for the next principle. After his initial response, Elisha asks another strange question: “Tell me, what do you have in your house?” (2 Kings 4:2). God always asks this question before He works a miracle in our lives. Like the needy widow, we often get so caught up in what we don’t have that we overlook the possibilities of what He’s already given us.

God had already given this woman the beginning of her miracle; she just didn’t recognize it. We have to stop and assess what we have to work with. God always begins to work from where we are and with what we have; He doesn’t just zap us and make everything peachy in one fell swoop. God asks, “Well, what do I have to work with? Stop worrying and start looking!” So you have to take everything you have and give it to Him. Your time, talent, resources, and energy, no matter how limited they may seem, are God’s starting place. Your willingness and surrender activate God’s intervention and blessings.

If you’re going to see God transform your circumstances into His destiny for your life, you need to follow the third principle we find in this story. You need an attitude adjustment that shifts your thinking from negative to positive. Look at how she responds to the prophet’s inquiry: “‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a little oil.’” (2 Kings 4:2). She starts out negative but quickly recognizes that there was one thing she had that she was overlooking because it seemed so insignificant. It would have been easy for this woman to have said, “Your servant has nothing at all. Period. End of story. I don’t have anything!” But, instead, she turns it to the positive by adding, “except a little oil.”

This shift in attitude requires faith. She acknowledges there’s one small resource, one ounce of possibility. In so doing, she exercises faith, which ignites hope. She’s not in denial, but she’s not willing to give up. Faith is not ignoring the present reality; it’s acknowledging that with God all things are possible. It’s not faith to pretend that a problem doesn’t exist – that’s either stupidity or denial. Faith doesn’t deny the problem; it helps you see it from a new perspective, through God’s eyes.

If you don’t look through the eyes of faith, those small blessings will be over looked, and you’ll say, like the woman said at first, “There’s nothing in my house. I have huge needs and serious problems. I don’t see anything good in my situation.” To shift to the positive and discover God’s perspective, you must look through the eyes of faith. When you do, suddenly your attitude change provides room for God to work a miracle in your life.

God loves to take the little bit we have and multiply it, because then He alone gets the credit. God loves to take the ordinary and do the extraordinary, because in doing so He reveals more of who He is. Often we stifle His ability to provide the miracle even as we’re praying for it. We become fixated on negative words, blaming others and worrying, focused on what we don’t have. None of these are conducive to faith or a shift in perspective. We can’t recognize what God is doing in our lives if we’re wallowing in our own negativity and self-pity.

The fourth principle for receiving the miracle you need is the most important one of all. We must respond in obedience and serve others. In the widow’s situation, Elisha asks her to do something very unusual. “Then he said, Go around and borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels – and not a few… Then pour out [the oil you have] into all those vessels, setting aside each one when it is full.” (2 Kings 4:3-4, AMP). Now this is a strange thing for the prophet to ask her to do. “Go out and borrow all the containers you can find.” Strange, but apparently that is what God wanted her to do. And in fact, this is exactly what God ask us to do if we want a miracle in our lives. He asks, “What’s in your house? What do I have to work with?” And then He quickly moves to “Look for empty vessels to fill.”

This is just opposite of my natural reaction to need. When I have a problem, my attitude becomes “I can’t focus on anyone else’s need right now; I have needs of my own, I don’t have time for anyone else; I’m overwhelmed and need to take care of myself first.” My first inclination is to hoard the little bit of time, resources, and energy that I have left. We are usually unaware of the empty vessels that surround us every day, because we’re blinded by our own problems and worries. If you choose to look, empty vessels turn up everywhere: at work, in your family, in your neighborhood, in your church. Children are naturally empty vessels waiting to be filled with our time, energy, love and attention. God asks us to give what we have, no matter how small it may be. He asks us to consider others before ourselves and to trust Him to take care of our needs and to be used by Him to meet the needs of others.

It’s a paradox that we may never fully understand. When we move the focus off ourselves and onto God and start pouring our life into others and yielding to His direction, then He stars pouring His miracles into us. As counterintuitive as it may seem the best advice I can give you when you’re going through a problem is to look for empty vessels to pour yourself into. There is a certain logic to it. Why would God want to bless us if we’re not willing to bless anyone else? We are blessed to be a blessing. When you move toward helping someone else, then He moves to help you. God waits to see if you have the faith to step out and start meeting someone else’s needs and trust Him to meet your own. It’s so unnatural that it’s supernatural.

If you want to see miracles in your life, then find some empty vessels to pour your life into. Elisha tells this woman she has to take some action to get her miracle. She has to go out and get all the empty vessels she can find and bring them home. But look what happens when she does: “When the vessels were all full, she said to her son, bring me another vessel. And he said to her, There is not a one left. Then the oil stopped multiplying.” (2 Kings 4:6, AMP). Obedience brings blessing. The miracle God provides may not look like what we asked for, but ultimately we recognize how He has given us more than what we could have even imagined.

God says, “If you will give Me the little bit you have, I can do great things through you.” In Mark 10:27 we are assured that all things are possible with God. That includes anything and everything you’re facing, right now, this very minute. But you have to admit you need help. You have to go to God, then assess what He has given you already to work with and focus on Him instead of your limitations. Yield to Him, and pour your life into empty vessels, trusting Him to provide what you really need.

Personal Challenge

1. What is the miracle you need in your life today? How do you see these four principles at work in your situation?

2. Make a list of “empty vessels” in your life right now — people around you who need your input, resources, love, and attention. Pray for God’s leading, and look for a way to pour yourself into this person’s life this week.

  • Melissa

    While we often have good intentions and KNOW this…how easily I can be distracted and not remember to follow through. While we might have faith in God, I think we often forget to turn to him in time of need. I know I do. I have every intention of relying on him and so quickly get distracted. Spiritual ADD is the worst. LOL. Praying for many blessings for everyone today!

  • susan

    God knows your heart Milissa & He is pleased with you!