Steven Furtick - Frozen Oil and Chosen Vessels
The Lord put it on my heart to share from this passage and this thought with you. I wanna speak to you today from 2 Kings 4:1-6. Really I wanna speak to someone who is in a deficit in an area of your life. The more I become exposed to, I'm convinced there're many different varieties of poverty. So you can be rich financially, and broke emotionally. You can be rich financially, and broke relationally. You can have a lot of responsibility and not a lot of joy. You can have a lot of joy and not a lot of influence.
So I learned that poverty, although we tend to associate it with finances, can be a poverty of a different kind. That really helped me when I first started preaching, I thought, and I was telling Mike this this morning right before I came out to preach, how some people come to church and take the bus and some people come in a Bentley in the same church. So you kinda feel on the surface, like, well maybe, you can't preach the same message to the person who is in the top tax bracket and maybe the person who hasn't had a job for two and a half years. But, you learn over time, if you pastor people and pay attention that everybody has a deficiency. We're not all that different.
The reason I like this text from 2 Kings 4 is because it seems like a small little practical almost incidental miracle on the surface, but understanding the surrounding context and the life of the prophet Elisha, he just finished solving a problem for three kings. Right after this, he performs a great miracle for a very wealthy woman. And, sandwiched between those two magnificent miracles on a grand scale where he's consulting political advisors like a real prophet would and where he's hanging out with a top donor, there's something that happens that seems so small on the surface. And, that's where my assignment is today in 2 Kings 4:1-6. I hope to be able to preach it to you on a very personal level.
So let's read the text together and discuss it a bit. "The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord". Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that are not the result of our disobedience. Have you noticed that life doesn't make allowances for your crisis? That the universe doesn't send out a memo when you're having a bad day. Hey everybody be nice to her today. Her mom is sick. It would be nice if life's demands would accommodate my crisis, but they don't. So the bills were still due although the woman did not have the means. So this creates a sense of deficit. The very desperate deficit in her life as it turns out. And, this crisis is not a national crisis. It's a personal crisis, but the man of God takes time for one woman just like he took time for three kings.
I love that. That just touches my heart so much because he's not just presiding over a royal wedding across the pond somewhere, but he's right up in your life while you're crying at night and while you're trying to figure out how to build your own relationships. God is into that. Touch somebody, say, "God is into you". So she comes with this need. Probably seems small in the scope of a big, bad, important prophet whose commanding kings, but she comes to him boldly and says, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now, his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves. Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you"? So it sounds like he's about to get the checkbook out, but then he makes this weird move where he answers his question with a question. "Tell me, what do you have in your house"? She said back, "Your servant has nothing there at all..."
That's why I'm coming to you. If I had something to put on EBay, I would've done it by now. Do I need to back up and take it from the top? I told you nothing, "except a small jar of olive oil. Elisha said, 'Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars.'" This dude can't hear. He's good at talking, but he can't hear. I don't need jars. I need oil. I'm broke. I don't need something to put nothing in. Or do you? See, in the beginning, when God created the world it was without form and void and the first thing that God did was to form it before He filled it. I'mma keep reading this Bible passage 'cause we only have so long. "'Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.' She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, 'Bring me another one.' But he replied, 'There is not a jar left.' Then the oil stopped flowing".
The gravitas of that last verse is such we gotta read it in the King James Bible. Like the one your grandmother had. That big one. I'm gonna put it on this big screen for you. The King James Version of that verse. I'm gonna take my title from this one verse. "It came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, 'Bring me yet a vessel.' And he said unto her, 'There is not a vessel more.' And the oil stayed".
I wanna speak today for a few moments about "Frozen Oil and Chosen Vessels". So if there are many varieties of poverty and if the abundance of our life really consists in the flow, like Jesus said that, "From your belly will flow rivers of living water". Or like it says in Proverbs that, "From your heart flows the issues of life" so you gotta guard it. It is instructed that Elisha the Prophet in performing his first miracle, cut off the flow of the Jordan River. First thing he did when he became the prophet was to grab the mantle that fell off of Elijah. Who, by the way, he was known for giving strange commands as well. When he called the false prophets up to Mount Caramel you can read about this in 1 Kings 18, 19.
It's amazing because the people were in a drought. He said, "Whichever God answers by fire is the true God". He was challenging their idolatry. When he got up there on the mountain before he called down fire, he made them pour water on the wood because sometimes God will make a situation seem impossible to men so that when fire falls, and the wood starts to burn, you won't think it was because of the quality of the firewood, but it is because of the power of God. If you got wet wood in your life today, start rejoicing, right now. God is setting you up to do something so special. He wants all the credit. He wants all the credit so He allows this woman to get down to seemingly nothing.
Do you notice that her first instinct when the prophet says, "What do you have in your house"? is to say nothing. Her first instinct is to minimize what little she has left. I can't prove this. It's not in the text. But just imagine with me. Maybe, I don't know, prophets are weird. Maybe Elisha asked her that question and when she started to answer, maybe he made eye contact with her. You know awkward eye contact? You got anybody in your life who has really low relational skills? People have no concept of personal space. You got any close talkers in your life?
Lemme see if you've got any close talkers in your life. You know how some people just look at you a little too long and a little too hard? Like, eye contact is good, but it can come to a point where it's a little awkward. I can see you're a little sleepy, right now, Look at your neighbor. Look at 'em so hard in their eyes that they feel what I'm talking about. I want you to make eye contact. Come on, staring contest. All over the church. You too, Raleigh. Awkward eye contact. Look at 'em while I talk. She says nothing, and Elisha just waits. Somebody say, "Nothing". Ask the person next to you, "Really, nothing"? Because, sometimes, we get so overwhelmed by our scarcity, that we minimize our supply.
One of my friends was complaining so hard the other day. I thought he had me confused with a professional counselor. After a few minutes, I was tired of it. I can listen for a minute, but he would not shut up. Finally, I said, "Bro, do you have anything going good for you, right now"? He said, "No, nothing". I said, "Really? Nothing? Not eyelids"? Let me see your hands. You walked in this room. You woke up this morning. That's not nothing. Huh? That's not nothing. So the first thing that I see in the miracle is Elisha instructs this woman who is at a deficit to check her oil.
I wanna preach to you today, "Check Your Oil". It is possible that you are overlooking the very thing that God wants to perform a miracle through. When you've lived in a deficit long enough it can be difficult to appreciate the supply that you have especially when you've lost a lot. She's lost a husband. She's spent almost everything. She's got one little jar of oil in her freezer. I know it's not a freezer, but go with it. It goes with my title frozen oil. She's got a little bit of oil. Just a little bit of oil. It's so little in fact the oil is so small that she doesn't even think it's worth mentioning. OK. I'll say it. God is about to do a miracle through something that you don't even think is worth mentioning. Something so small and insignificant in your sight, that your first instinct is to not even mention it. But the enemy wants you to despise your oil. Because, he can't steal your oil. Oil in the Bible is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
When they would anoint a king in the Bible they would anoint the king with oil. It represented God's empowerment. It represents joy and gladness. It's symbolic of the Holy Spirit that came on the day of Pentecost to live inside of us. So when I preach about oil, I'm not talking about something that you keep in your pantry. I'm talking about something that you have in your heart. The gift God gave you. The people God put in your life. The idea God gave you. The time He gave you. The season you're in. If I were your enemy, and I knew I couldn't take your oil, what I would do instead is to get you to think that your oil was so little that it wasn't even worth using. That's why some people sit in church week after week after week after month after month after month after year after year and stay in their deficiency and never realize that what you've got is something.
Somebody shout, "It's not nothing". It's not nothing. I feel it in my spirit today. It's not nothing. Somebody shout, "My gift is something. My life is something. My praise is something". Now, high-five somebody, say, "I got something, how about you"? For too long I've been comparing my oil with yours. My oil might not be as much as yours, but God won't hold me accountable for your oil. We learned this from Elijah. "Go look and see if you see anything in the sky". The servant came back. Nothing. "Go look again". Nothing. "Go look again". Nothing. "Go look again". Nothing. "Go look again". Nothing. "Go look again". Nothing. "This is getting really old, Steve. Can you just get to the point"? How old would it get if you were the one running to the top of the hill to look at nothing? Finally, by the time you do see something it's so small you minimize it. There's a cloud. Somebody shout, "there's a cloud the size of a man's hand".
See, it's not the size of the cloud that determines the size of the blessing. It's not the amount of the oil. It's not how smart I am, how well-educated I am. It's not even my estimation of myself. If God calls me and chooses me, nothing on Earth shall be able to stop me! Shout if you believe that in the back of the room! Check your oil. Might not be much, but it's not nothing. It's not nothing. I think it's harder than ever to feel OK about our oil, because we got too many ways to check other people's oil. Whether it's their vacation, it's gonna make you feel like a crappy parent, it's gonna make you question your oil. 'Cause they're gonna all be smiling in the picture.
Let me tell you something that happened right before the picture. It was almost a divorce. Those kids almost went up for adoption. But they can't put that on the 'Gram. Touch somebody, say, "Enjoy your oil". So I'll tell you exactly what the Devil's doing. He can't take your gift. He can't take your calling. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. God doesn't change His mind about what He gave you. If He can get you to think it's so little that you don't use it, he can starve you. I realize that God gave me a ministry. The Devil can't take the ministry that God gave me. But if I give up my joy then I will forfeit my ministry. If I give up my joy I will forfeit my marriage. The Devil can't take my marriage. But if he can get me to despise my oil, like, to make me think I'm not a very good husband. Or I don't have what it takes to be a dad. Then I'll say, "It's nothing," when it's really something.
Notice by the end of this passage this woman has a house full of oil. It was not until she poured the oil that it became more. When you feel poor you don't pour because you hold on to what you have. So when you feel like a poor parent it keeps you from wanting to try. Talk to me. I can go from here to here real quick as a parent. Really quick as a parent. You look so perfected, right now. I can't figure out where one real person in this whole church is that will say, "Even if you figure out how to change diapers, they stop wearing them". It doesn't work anymore.
So there are things about me and things about you that make us feel insecure and make us say, "You know, it's nothing". When it's really something. But it seems small. It seems small. It's overshadowed by something that seems, when the need seems so big compared to the supply you call it nothing and you don't use it. So it doesn't multiply. You send the crowds away so they can get something to eat. You give away the opportunities God gave you 'cause it's nothing. What you have is nothing. The need is great.
My marriage just hit a 16-year milestone. We celebrated 16 years of marriage. I love when I do that. 'Cause there's always people that have been 40 years and they look at me like, "What"? I think it's significant. I took Holly to Oak Steakhouse. We dined together. Let me tell you how good the date was. The date was so good when we got home the babysitter was texting us that the fire alarm was going off in the house. It was a storm in Charlotte that night and something tripped the smoke alarm. Abbey's freaking out on the porch. I had other plans for post date. So I'm driving fast down the driveway, right? Can I talk to y'all? But the kids are on the porch and the fire alarm's going off in the house and it's not a fire. The alarm system is bugging out. She already tried to take the battery out.
So Abbey is freaking out. I'm holding her 'cause she's seven. When I grabbed her she stopped crying. I felt like the dad of the decade because I knew what to do. I knew if I started singing "Hamilton" from the "Hamilton" soundtrack that Abbey would stop crying. It worked. She stopped crying. I felt like the man for about five minutes until we had to call the fire department not to put out a fire, but to turn off the alarm. What made it worse was when they got there when only the brave showed up at my house they're walking down the driveway the nicest firefighters you would ever wanna see, let's hear it for the firefighters.
These men come walking down the driveway and my wife is the one in the house trying to fix the detectors because I don't know what to do. And I'm holding Abbey and five minutes ago I was the man and here come the firefighters and they're looking at me like "Really dude"? I can tell that the one that's coming in first goes to the church. He didn't say it, but he had that look in his eyes like you're my pastor and I'm ashamed of you. You're much bigger on the screen. What kind of man are you? So I didn't make eye contact. I just thanked 'em for their service and they got it off. There was no carbon monoxide and we're alive to tell about it. Isn't it funny how I was the man one minute, but then now you gotta understand it's little stuff? It's not always some big shame that the enemy brings to make you feel.
This is where I always got it wrong. I thought that you had to go through something sexual that caused you this great traumatic shame to keep you from really trusting God. Or I thought maybe you had to go through a season of your life, you know, eight years in prison or something like that and then you would live with regrets. But I found out it is the seemingly insignificant insecurities that make you feel like I'm not a real man. I'm not a real mom. Now I'm yelling at my daughter just like my mom yelled at me. I'm just repeating the cycle. It causes you to despise your oil. That's exactly what the enemy wants is to use a small little thing to get you to miss your miracle. Because your miracles is hidden in what you've been overlooking.
The reason you've been overlooking it is because it seems so small to you. The reason it seems small to you is because you are insecure about what you're not. So he'll work on you until you call it nothing. "What do you have to be grateful for"? Nothing. "Really, nothing"? What are you good at? Nothing? We went around the table the other day and I asked a group of people, "What are you really great at"? It took us all a long time to answer. I wonder why that is? 'Cause we're so humble? Or because the enemy has messed with us so much now 'cause we're all on the verge of 40 and we've gotten so familiar with our deficiency. When you've lived in a deficit for a long time it overshadows the oil that you do have. He wants you to despise your oil. He wants you to despise the season of life that you're in. He wants you to be thinking about how much time you used to have back before or how much time you're gonna have when.
Meanwhile, the question of the prophet is not what do you wish you had in your house? What do you have left? Because that's what God is going to bless. What you have left. God is gonna bless what He gave you. You are His chosen vessel. And the oil you have, is the oil you need. And the strengths you have, are the strengths you need. And the experiences that you've had, are the experiences that you need. But notice this, the oil only flows when it is poured. You can pray over it. You can cry over it. You can wish for it. But until you pour it, it will stay one small jar. If the enemy can't take your oil he will try to get you to stop pouring. And some of you have stopped pouring. You got your heart broken. You poured your love into your last relationship, and it didn't work out. And they left you, and they hurt you, and they turned away from you.
So you stop pouring. And when you stop pouring, it stops flowing. You used to encourage people, and then you got discouraged. And you stopped encouraging. But God told me to tell you, keep on pouring. Because the more you pour, the more it's gonna flow. I feel like preaching until somebody pours out the praise you've got. Now. We tend to think, I'll pour more when I get more. But the way it works in the order of God is it becomes more as it is poured. Isn't it just like God to command you to pour something that you don't feel like you have enough of? Strange instruction. I don't have much. Pour it out. It's the weirdest strategy in the world, but I'm gonna tell you I think this stuff works. I think as you pour it out, it becomes more. Really I'm convinced of Him. 'Cause I tried that thing where you feel sorry for yourself when you're discouraged. I tried the other thing where I encourage somebody else when I felt discouraged.
The first one took me deeper into my deficit and my discouragement. The second one is the weirdest thing because I didn't feel like I had it to give. I wanted somebody to encourage me. And bitterness will keep you from pouring what you have while you wait for what you want. And so then you stay poor. You stay frustrated. You stay stuck. You stay in bitterness. I wonder was the woman a little disappointed? That the prophet told her to pour something. It's frustrating when you have to pour into someone else, when you really wish someone would pour into you. Yet, the more you pour, the more it flows I'm just telling you what to do the next time. I know you haven't had any struggles in the last 7 years, but in case you go through something this year. The more you pour the more it flows. The more you pour, the more it flows. Y'all getting it over here?
And so the Devil's so crafty that he will put you in a state where you'll tell yourself, nobody appreciates me, so you'll stop giving yourself. And it will reinforce that self-fulfilling prophecy. Nobody appreciates me. They won't appreciate you because you'll stop pouring and they'll no longer have anything to appreciate about you. That's why Holly said the other day, they don't they don't even care what I cook. She talking about the kids. She said, they only want the noodles. She made this meal. She made this meal. And if you're considering marrying, you know, in this age that we live in right now. There's a lot of things that can attract you to a person. I appreciate many qualities about my wife. I appreciate the fact that she has excelled to the point where she now... Can I tell y'all something? She grows her own Swiss chard. Do you know how bougie that is?
So now, here's some homegrown Swiss chard and some chicken. And when the kids went back for seconds, she said they don't care about the chicken. They don't care about the home grown Swiss chard. They just want the noodles that $1.29 box of noodles. They would be happy with just a noodles. I said, girl I know exactly how you feel. I feel that way sometimes when I'm preaching. The Devil will tell me that, you know, they really don't care. They're not gonna remember this sermon. It's the craziest thing. I'll get into self-pity and it's like, you know, they don't appreciate my Swiss chard, my scriptural Swiss chard, my biblical chicken. But I looked at her, I said, girl, if you don't cook it for anybody else, keep cooking the chicken for me. It's not even about those little brats. Let them eat the noodles. Give me the chicken. I want the Swiss chard.
Now, you gotta have this sense in your life servant of God that I'm not doing it for them. Because sometimes you will pour into people and they won't say a word. But they're not your source. I said they're not your source. I might be pouring into people, but I'm pouring for the Lord. So I can keep pouring if you appreciate me. I can keep pouring if you don't. I can keep pouring if you stay. I could keep pouring if you walk out. Who am I helping? Make some noise. Some Swiss chard preaching. I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful that God kept pouring into me when I seemed unprofitable. And so I gotta keep pouring. It said that she kept pouring. I wonder how stupid she felt when she first started pouring?
Now, once it starts working, it was probably kind of fun. And I will point out one thing that I thought was kind of funny. We were talking about this J.J.. Weren't we? How Elijah told her in verse 3. Give me the verse. "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars". And then in verse 5 it says, "She left him and shut the door behind her". And her son's they brought the jars to her. She made her kids go to the neighbors. You heard what the man said? But she did one more thing I wanna point out, and is what enabled her to pour. She shut the doors. And that's such an important detail in this text. Because it is what you pour out in private. When no one is looking.
And a lot of us are so busy praying for more oil, more opportunity, more, more, more, more, more. And God says, pour, pour, pour, pour. And the more you pour, the more it flows. You're never gonna pour out what you have while you're so busy consulting what everybody else has. You be like the woman who came in and poured out that expensive fragrance on the feet of Jesus and all the men around called it a waste, and she called it worship. Because you're always gonna feel like it's not enough. And even if you feel like it is enough, you feel like it doesn't matter. Have you had a day like that in the last seven, where you felt like this doesn't even matter? Shut the door and keep pouring. In fact, sometimes the best thing to do is shut your mouth. And keep pouring. And keep pouring. Because the oil only became more when it was in motion. And the oil only flowed when the vessels were ready.
I don't think this message is really about the oil at all. I think it's about the vessels. Because when Elijah told her to go around to her neighbors, he gave her a very specific type of vessel to request. He said make sure they're empty. Make sure they're empty. God can't fill what's already full. That's why it's so important that you pour out your pride. That's why it's so important that we pour out our own opinions and come before the Lord empty. Because listen, when the vessels are ready, the oil will flow. And there's something strange about these vessels that we only learn with the "New Testament, Revelation".
This is 2 Kings 4. But if you jump a couple of centuries over to 2 Corinthians 4 you get the full message. Where Paul says, "'We have this treasure in Earthen vessels.'" Why would God put something so special in such a cracked vessel? What keeps you from showing up, is your cracks and your conflicts? But that is the very place that the blessing flows through. Paul said, "We have this treasure in Earthen vessels". That the excellency of the power might be from God not from us. One season at our church, that I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, I said to Holly, I just don't feel like I'm the pastor that they needed. The reason I said it is because the need was so great in my experience was so small. At this particular point, I had just turned 30 and the church was already about the same size as the town I grew up in. That'll make you stop and pause. That'll make you feel like not enough.
If you ever felt like not enough wave at me. I don't like to do this alone. It's a very vulnerable feeling. Yeah, I said I don't feel like I'm the pastor that they need. She looked back at me, cold-blooded and said, "You're the one we've got". Y'all are clapping at me, but I'm saying it to you. You're the mom they got. You're the dad they got. You're the son they've got. You're the daughter they've got. You're the one God chose. You are His chosen vessel, and He chose you. Not in spite of your cracks, but because of them. That ensures that people will not compliment the vessel. They will value the oil. It is what God put inside of you. But you've gotta pour it out. I wanna pray for you today.
Stand to your feet because I wanna pray for you in this moment. If you've been in a deficit emotionally, spiritually, relationally, financially. Deficits come in many different varieties. But if you are that empty vessel today, and you come to the end of yourself, I got good news for you. That's the starting place for God's supply to be poured out in your life. And my God shall supply all of your needs according to His glory. Not according to your quantity of oil. But according to his glorious riches. I have preached this message today with the hopes that in this moment you would see yourself as a vessel that God is ready to fill. When the vessels are ready, the oil will flow. And it's good when you feel empty. It's good when you feel like you're not enough, it's good when you know your need. Because then you remember your source.
Right now in this moment, I wanna ask that everybody who needs a touch from God today in an area of your life where you've been feeling deficient. I wanna ask that you just close your eyes lift your hands to Heaven and forget about all the people around you. Let's shut the door for a moment. Let's come before God in honesty and sincerity like this woman did with the prophet. She knew where to go first. She took her needs to the man of God. She didn't run around from neighbor, to neighbor, to neighbor like we tend to do sometimes. She went to God first. If we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added to us, but if we run around, if we don't open our hearts before Him we will die for the lack of what he has already provided. There is oil in your house. There is a reason to be grateful. There is a strength in this season of your life.