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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Elisha and the Shunammite Woman

Elisha and the Shunammite Woman
 Creating an attitude of expectation
2 Kings 4:8-37

The story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman is one of my favorite Bible stories because there are hidden treasures and lessons to be found in it.  Back in the Old Testament days, God would raise up prophets to speak His Word to the people.  And all the Jewish people recognized that these prophets were from God and that they carried God’s Holy Spirit anointing on their lives. 

Elisha was one of God’s powerful prophets who lived around 575 B.C. and traveled around Israel spreading God’s Word and performing miracles and healing the people.  On his many journeys Elisha often traveled through the country of Shunem and a woman who lived in Shunem wanted to get to know Elisha better so that she could know more about Elisha’s God.  She invited Elisha to come to her house for dinner and let him know that he was always welcome to drop by for dinner any time he was traveling through Shunem.    

Here is how Scripture starts telling the story.  “It happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and this woman persuaded Elisha to come to her house and have dinner.  So as often as Elisha traveled through Shunem he would turn in there for dinner.  The woman mentioned to her husband, ‘Look now, I know that Elisha is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly.  Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall of our house: and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand: so it will be, whenever he travels by here he can turn in and stay in this guest room.’ ” (2 Kings 4:8-10) 

This Shunammite woman had seen Elisha preach and perform miracles and healings in God’s Name and she wanted to see more.  She was intentional in helping Elisha by cooking dinners for him and building a guest room for him so that she could get closer to him and to his God.  She had seen God’s power flowing through Elisha.  And by making a room for Elisha in her home, I believe she was making room for God in her life. And making room for the supernatural and perhaps for God’s miraculous in her life too!

The Shunammite woman approached God’s prophet, Elisha with enthusiasm and her attitude created an atmosphere of expectation.  She believed his God was holy and I think she was open to coming closer to his God. I think we could follow her example and create an atmosphere of expectation when we come to God, knowing that God is good and He wants to guide our lives.    

During his travels, Elisha spent many nights in the comfortable room that the Shunammite woman and her husband built for him.  He enjoyed many dinners around their table.  Scripture tells us that one day Elisha asked the Shunammite woman what he could do for her perhaps to return her kindness, and she couldn’t think of anything.  So Elisha told her that in a year she would have a son.  This woman had never been able to become pregnant and now in older age she and her husband would finally have the baby they had always wanted!  Indeed Scripture tells us that the Shunammite woman did have a baby boy the following year!  

But the story doesn’t end here.  Six or eight years later the Shunammite woman’s little boy got a very bad head ache and died!  Scripture says that when her son died the Shunammite woman ran to Mount Carmel where Elisha was performing miracles and she insisted that he come back with her and pray that God would bring her son back to life.  Elisha rushed back to her home with the Shunammite woman and held her dead little boy and prayed to the Lord.   And God answered Elisha’s prayers and the little boy sneezed and came back to life again.  (2 Kings 4:32-36)  This woman had a holy boldness that would not take no for an answer.   And God honored that.

Another woman we read about in the Bible also had great expectations for what God would do for her, and she also received her miracle.  Here is the story.  “Suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.  For she said to herself, ‘If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.’ “(Matthew 9:20-21) 

This poor woman had been sick and losing blood for twelve years.  She must be very weak losing blood for all of those years.  But this woman knew who Jesus was, - that He was the Son of God and that He had the power to heal.   She had seen Jesus heal and she knew people who had been healed by Him.  And she knew what she wanted from Jesus.  She wanted to be healed. 

This woman touched Jesus’ robe and Scripture tells the rest:  “”Jesus turned and saw her, ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’  And the woman was healed from that moment on.”  (Matthew 9:22) 

Jesus said that this woman’s faith healed her!   She must have had the kind of faith that pleases God for Jesus to tell her that her faith was the cause of her healing!  So what was her faith made up of?  How can we have that kind of faith too?  First she knew who Jesus was and she believed that He could heal her.  And she knew what she wanted from Jesus.  She wanted to be healed.  And she went about getting what she wanted from Jesus.

 If we are to have faith like this woman, the first thing we need to do is to know who Jesus is – to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior and Lord of our life.  We need to believe in His power and ability to save us and answer our prayers.  And secondly we need to know what we want from God.  He invites us to “Ask and we will receive” if we believe in Him and if what we ask for is in His will.

Perhaps we need to make up our minds that we want more from God and more from ourselves than we have been experiencing in the past.  Why settle for less?  Why walk away with empty hands when God would have us take away blessings and miracles for others and for ourselves. 

Scripture says: “If we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”  (Romans 8:25)   It sounds like perseverance is also part of faith.  God calls us to be people of faith and when we have faith in God, an attitude of expectation comes along with faith!  We are willing to persevere or to keep on waiting and praying when we have an attitude of expectation.

Of course we need to be cautious to avoid negative expectations.  Many of us are not receiving answers to our prayers because we are not expecting to receive answers to our prayers.  Scripture says: “…anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.”  (Hebrews 11:6b)   God wants us to expect good things from Him and diligently seek Him.  Do we do that?

  If we have a loved one who we have been praying for and there have been no turnarounds we can start out by worshipping the Lord.  Praise Him and thank Him for all He has done.  Lose ourselves in the majesty and power of God and how He is able to take care of our loved one and her problems.  Look to God instead of the difficulties of our unanswered prayer.  The more we concentrate on God the more He will reveal Himself and then our expectations will rise.  And we will have the faith to receive or persevere for our answer whenever it arrives. 

We make room for God by renewing our minds.  By letting the Holy Spirit move in our hearts.  By taking time each day to wait on the Lord. We are like the Shunammite woman and that room she built represents an attitude of expectation.  If we want to experience God’s miracles in our lives we need to make room for God in our lives each day and come to Him with love and joy and expectation.  God is waiting for us to come!
Many of the ideas in this blog were taken from Kynan Bridges book, “The Power of Unlimited Faith”

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Living Out a Life of Faith

Living Out a Life of Faith

Every believer in Christ is called to live out a life of faith.  Scripture says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  (Hebrews 11:6)  It seems that faith is the main ingredient we need if we are to follow God’s call.  The world calls us to follow a thousand seductive paths, but God calls us to follow Him.  If we answer God’s call we are promised His presence and His provision!  If we follow God’s call to believe and to trust Him it will be a grand adventure!  No mundane and boring journey here!  But what does it mean to follow God with a life of faith? 

First of all, faith must be based on a foundation and Scripture says that the foundation of our faith is the Word of God.  Scripture says:  “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”  (Hebrews 11:3)   This scripture says that the Word of God framed our very worlds!  The Bible describes God’s Word not just as ideas written on a page but as “living” and pregnant words with miracle working power!   The Word is alive. 

  Scripture says: “It is the Spirit who gives life: the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”  (John 6:63)   Jesus’ words were not just precepts and principles written on a page.  They were the very Spirit of God and life being released through the Word.  Scripture says: “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are One. “  (1 John 5:7)  The truth is that Jesus is the Word. (John 1:1)  

Our faith is only as good as what it is built on.  If we put our faith in anything else other than God’s Word it won’t last. Fame or fortune or even faith in another person won’t make it. Gotta have the real thing. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and Righteousness.  Jesus is the solid Rock and everything else is sinking sand.

The definition of faith is to have confidence or conviction of the truth of something.  But in this world, our faith in God is constantly under attack.  Scripture says that God gives each of us a “measure of faith”. (Romans 12:3)   The measure of faith that God gives us is precious and we need to protect it and exercise it and build upon it.  Unbelief is a system of thinking that is contrary to the Word of God.  Unbelief puts limits on our faith.  We get discouraged and start believing that God can’t do what He promises to do.  We need to watch and pray!     

When the Israelites left Egypt, God promised them that He would take them back to their own land.  Many of the Israelites didn’t believe that God could keep his promise and get them back.  They were afraid of the people in the land who were as tall as “giants”. The Bible describes how the generation of Jewish people who left Egypt had a hard time believing God. Here is what Scripture says. “The good news was preached to us as well as to them: but the word which they heard did not profit them, because it was not being “mixed with faith” in those who heard it.  (Hebrews 4:2)  What a verse!  The promises of God were helpful to some of the Jewish people.  But God’s promises were not helpful to the other group of the Jewish people who also were given the same promises!

 Why ? Because, Scripture says that Gods’ promises were not “mixed with faith” or believed by these  people!  Scripture says that God wants us to believe Him!  God’s promises need to be mixed with our faith.   

The Israelites had been promised that God would let them enter the Promised Land.  But when the time came for them to go into their land, their lack of faith prevented a generation of Jewish people from entering their land.  They refused to go into the land and they didn’t trust God to help them as He promised He would.  A whole generation of Israelites wandered in the wilderness for many years, finally dying there and never enjoying the fruits of their promised land, because of their lack of faith in God’s promise to them.  Let us not make the same mistake they made!

We can stop looking at our “giants” and our limitations and set our eyes on God’s Word.  We realize that the “impossible” things in our life right now are temporary.  God tells us that He will answer our prayers if we ask Him in faith.  But our faith is everything!  It is the supernatural “key”.  If we dare to believe God we will see the glory of God in our lives.

This doesn’t mean that we won’t have “giants” in our lives.  Faith in God is not a formula that we can use to get everything we want!  We are called to have faith in God, not faith in getting things!  Sometimes God over rides our requests for reasons that we have to trust Him for. Isaac was the son of Abraham, a gentle kindly man and one of the patriarchs.  And he had a great faith in God.  But Scripture says that Isaac didn’t get everything he wanted in life.  Isaac’s faith did not keep him from physical problems. Isaac was blind for many of his mature years until his death.  His oldest son Esau was a great disappointment to him and to his wife Rebecca. Esau did not care very much about the blessings of God that he was in line to receive.  He sold them to his brother Jacob for a bowl of beans.

 It seems that Esau did not try to follow his father Isaac’s God.  His parents taught him that he was not to sacrifice to idols but he married women and raised children who sacrificed to idols.  As an adult, Esau lived near his parents with several of his heathen Hittite wives and children.  Their evil lifestyle was so upsetting that his mother, Rebecca grumbled to her husband, Isaac saying that her life had become miserable because of them. Then Rebecca added that if Jacob followed Esau’s example and married heathen women she might as well be dead.  (Genesis 27:46)  Isaac’s life wasn’t picture perfect even though he trusted God and tried to pass his faith on to his sons, Jacob and Esau.      

The Bible gives us many accounts of people of God who had faith and were able to experience the supernatural moves of God!  Moses was one of those men.  Scripture says:  “By faith he (Moses) forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.”  (Hebrews 11:27)  Moses looked beyond the natural to a world filled with unlimited possibilities.  Because Moses had faith in God, God was able to use him in a mighty way to lead his people out of Egypt to the Promised Land. 

God wants to use you and me and our faith too.  How can we grow a strong faith?  Jesus said in Luke 4: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”  Our faith grows by getting into the Word of God.  Almost every habit and behavior we have is a result of what we think about or study or meditate.  Scripture says: “As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.”  (Proverbs 23:7)  What are we thinking?  Are we filling our hearts with God’s Word or are we filling our mind and our mouth with doubt and unbelief?

Another thing we can do to strengthen our faith is to watch our words. Our words have the power to hurt or heal.  Romans 10:10 says: “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”   It would seem that believing requires speaking!  What we say, what we confess- is important. 

I want to live a life of faith as I am sure you do too.  But sometimes I have hardened my heart to God’s voice when it wasn’t convenient to hear! I am asking that God will forgive me and speak to me and help me hear His voice and live out a life of faith.   

Some of the ideas in this blog are taken from Kynan Bridges’s book, “The Power of Unlimited Faith.”