Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Breath of New Life, Part 3

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss asks, “Are you growing in contentment?”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you’re not satisfied with what you have, you won’t be satisfied with what you think you want.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, October 28, 2015.

What’s the deepest longing in your heart today? Nancy will show you how to have a balanced perspective toward that longing, praying earnestly that God will meet that desire, and being content if He doesn’t. Today’s program is part of the series "A Breath of New Life."

Nancy: We come today back to the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4. If you’re just joining us, this is a woman who lived in the town of Shunem. We don’t know her name, but she’s called the Shunammite. We’ve seen that she’s a wealthy woman who extends hospitality to the servant of the Lord, Elisha, who is the prophet of God.

Let me just backtrack and read the paragraph we read in the last session, 2 Kings 4 beginning in verse 8, and then we’ll continue in this passage:

One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. Let us make a small room on the roof with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there (vv. 8–10).

Now, when you think of a room on a roof, don’t think of our peaked roofs, think of a flat roof and building a structure, just adding on a room to a house. That was the place where it could most easily be added on. This woman and her husband opened their home, opened their hearts. They showed hospitality to the prophet Elisha.

This reminds me of what the apostle Paul says to Philemon in verse 7 of his Epistle to Philemon:

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

I think that’s what Elisha could have said about the Shunammite woman and her husband: “I’ve derived much joy, much comfort from your love, my brother and sister.”

This is a family relationship between believers here, because the “hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” The ministry of hospitality is the ministry of refreshment. As we were saying in this room before we started recording here today, keep in mind that to be hospitable doesn’t require that you be some gourmet cook or to be always baking, making everything from scratch, grinding your own wheat. If you do that, that’s great, but don’t feel that you have to. I know people that are like growing their own coffee—well, not really growing it. They’re so serious about it—grinding it. That’s great if you can do it and want to.

But I’ve shown hospitality in my home with very hastily prepared meals at times. Sometimes, “Do you want to come over for popcorn and something to drink?” I bought one of these coffee makers, recently (because I’m not a coffee drinker), so I got one that you can put the little cups in and make it. You pick your own kind, and people love it!

I’ve served certainly hundreds, maybe thousands, of cups of coffee in my home. Somebody said to me the other day, “Thanks for making coffee available in your home, in spite of the fact that you’re not a coffee drinker.” That’s blessed that family.

You can show hospitality in ways that don’t require huge amounts of time. Your house doesn’t have to look like it’s on the front of a magazine. If you’re having people in your home, it won’t look like it’s on the front of a magazine, because the only place homes look that way is on the front of a magazine! Right?

The gracious ministry of hospitality is a way to reflect the heart of God to others. One old-time writer who talked about this passage made this point, “While we are doing good to others, we are always in the way of finding good for ourselves.” We see that this is exactly what happened to this Shunammite woman.

She extended hospitality to the prophet, Elisha, and blessing came back to her. Let’s pick up in 2 Kings 4:11: 

One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, "Call this Shunammite." When he had called her, she stood before him. And he said to him, "Say now to her, 'See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?'" (vv. 11–13).

Now, this woman had never charged Elisha and his servant for her hospitality. She never asked for anything in return. She wasn’t expecting anything in return. She was just doing it to be a blessing to them. But Elisha was, as a good guest would be, appreciative. He was grateful.

He was touched by this woman’s kindness, and he didn’t take it for granted. He wanted to know if there was some way he could be a means of blessing for her. But, what do you do for the woman who has everything? So he sends his servant to ask her, “Is there anything we can do for you? Is there any way we can bless you? Do you want us to speak to the king for you?”

Elisha knew the king, King Jehoram who was the king of Israel at the time—the son of wicked King Ahab. Jehoram actually owed Elisha a favor. In the previous chapter, 2 Kings 3, there was a rebellion where the confederate armies of Judah and Israel and Edom were fighting against the nation of Moab, and the people of God in the armies had no water.

They had called on Elisha to pray, and God had miraculously revealed to the prophet that He was going to provide an abundance of water, which He did. Therefore, the Moabite army was defeated. That’s a long complicated story you find in chapter 3. God had used Elisha to help win a victory for the Israelite army.

So he says to her, “Do you want me to ask the king to return a favor? I don’t need anything from him, but perhaps I could ask him for something for you.” Elisha isn’t looking for anything for himself, but he’s glad to use his influence to help someone else. “Do you want us to ask the king or the commander of the army for something?”

Now, think about the things this woman could have asked for in response to this “blank check.”

“Yeah, it would be nice if I could have a bigger house so we could have more room, more stuff, more . . .” whatever.

[But] she answered [simply], “I dwell among my own people.” And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered [Elisha], “She has no son, and her husband is old.” (vv. 13–14)

Let’s just unpack that for a while. First of all, this woman has no child. There was, in that culture, the shame of barrenness. To be married and not have a child was considered to be a curse. It was a shameful thing, not because God said it was shameful, but people considered, “God hasn’t blessed you with children—there must be something wrong with you.”

And then, this woman would have no male heir. Her family line, family name would not continue in Israel. We see that her husband is older and is likely to die before she does—she’s likely to become a widow. She’s going to have no means of provision for herself after her husband dies.

This is a serious thing in that culture, that this woman has no child. So here’s a woman who has human reason for discontent, for resentment, for restlessness, but here’s a woman who is satisfied with what she has. She has what she needs.

They asked, “What can we do for you? Ask us anything!”

She said, “I dwell among my own people. I’m fine, I have what I need.” She lives among extended family, so she has their support, their protection. Now, that’s not always going to be the case, as we’ll see later in this series. When it comes to the point where she doesn’t have provision, God is going to providentially intervene to meet her needs in other ways.

But, she has what she needs right now; she’s content with what she has. She has a husband; she has a home, and she’s not focused on what she doesn’t have, which is a child. She’s using this season of life—imperfect as it is—to reach out to others.

She’s not pining about her childlessness. She’s still being a giver, a nurturer of life. She’s making a home, she’s making a nest, she’s serving others. There is just no evidence that this woman, even though she doesn’t have a child (the implication is that she can’t have children) there’s no evidence that she’s bitter or discontent.

One commentator made this observation on this verse, “How few are there like this woman on the earth? Who is so contented with what he has as not to desire more?” Imagine if somebody were to say to you, “Write your own ticket, write your own check. What do you want? What do you need?” Would you have a long list in your heart, even if you didn’t give it to them? Or could you say, “I’ve got what I need. What I have is enough.”

Not even mentioning the fact that the one thing she perhaps most longed for, she didn’t have. She didn’t bring that up. There’s such a human tendency we have to crave more, not to be satisfied with what we have. For many of us, what we have is never enough.

That is fueled by reading catalogs. I’ve come to points in my life where I just have to toss the catalogs. I get a lot of them for some reason. I know if I hold on to them, I’m going to be fueling discontent in my life. I’m really happy with what I have until I see what I don’t have.

Last year’s styles are fine for me until I see all of this year’s styles. I know it’s not just me. That’s one reason, among many, that I tend to stay out of malls. They don’t help my spiritual life. They don’t help me be more content. If you’re not satisfied with what you have, you won’t be satisfied with what you think you want.

If you’re not satisfied with what you have, you won’t be satisfied with what you think you want.

I see in this woman a heart of contentment. The Scripture talks to us a lot about that. First Timothy 6—we read from that in the last session. Let me read another paragraph from 1 Timothy 6,

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (vv. 6–8).

That’s simplicity isn’t it? Not having to have more, not having to accumulate. And not just stockpiling the stuff we have, but cleaning out our closets. Getting rid of stuff, using it to bless and benefit others. I looked at some things in my closet the other day, and there are some items that I have multiples of that I’m not using.

As I was studying this passage, the thought just ran through my heart, “You need to get rid of some of this stuff.” I do that periodically, but I need to do it again. Maybe you need to do that again, as well.

There was an old-time minister named William Jay who lived in the late 1700s, early 1800s. He wrote a piece about the Shunammite woman, and there’s a fairly lengthy passage here. I don’t usually like reading lengthy statements from other people on the program, but I just thought this was so good on this whole issue of contentment as we see it lived out in this woman.

I want to read it to you. He says,

The truth is, that happiness does not depend on external things, but upon the principles and dispositions of the mind, and therefore, that happiness is as accessible to us in our present state as in any imaginable one.

You can be as happy with what you have now as you think you would be if you had stuff you don’t have now. He goes on and says,

Cultivate, therefore, happiness within. Seek it not in superior station, but in a contented mind. Endeavor to reduce your wishes rather than to enlarge your means.

Guard against a roving mind. Make the most of present enjoyment and of actual possession, in distinction from the future and the imaginary. Enter that school in which the apostle studied and was able to say, "I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Confide in the providence of your Heavenly Father, as concerned in fixing the bounds of your habitation. [Let your Heavenly Father decide how much space you need, where you should live and what is good for you.]

Trust Him, as engaged to make all things work together for your good. Leave him to choose your inheritance for you, and then in the end, you will be able to acknowledge, "The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places. Yea, I have a goodly heritage."

You will do well also to remember that this is not your rest; that you are only strangers and pilgrims upon earth and that, in a very little time, it will be a matter of indifference to you whether you have been poor or rich, splendid or obscure.

Seek after a well-grounded hope of heaven. This will reconcile you to any privations you may be called to bear upon earth, and should you even walk in the midst of trouble, this will revive you and you will be enabled to say, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed; for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."1

“Seek after a well-grounded hope of heaven . . .” Be content with what you have now, with what God has given you here, and then ground your heart and your hope and affections in the hope of what is yet to come, the hope of heaven.

I see that in this woman, that heart of contentment, and that’s the kind of heart I want to have as well. In verse 14, Elisha says to Gehazi, “This woman who says she doesn’t need anything—she’s content with what she has—what then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answers, “Well, she has no son and her husband is old.”

So, this is a great idea. This woman could use a son, she needs a son. She apparently would love to have a son. She can’t have a son, there’s no hope of her having a son humanly speaking. Why bring this up? There’s nothing that can be done about this. What can Elisha do? What can Gehazi do? This woman can’t do anything. Her husband can’t do anything. Her husband is old . . . the implication is she’s barren.

Why bring it up? Well, it’s humanly impossible . . . but, God. God. So Elisha says in verse 15,

"Call her." And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway.  And he said, "At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son."

Wow! Talk about a reward for your hospitality.

This was amazing! This must have been the last thing in the world this woman expected to hear, but Elisha discerned God’s plan to bless this couple, to bless this woman, with a child. She says, “And she said, ‘No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.’” What’s she saying? “Don’t mislead me! Don’t get my hopes up, if they’re not going to be fulfilled!”

But verse 17, “The woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.”

So here’s a woman whose husband, at least, is old. She may have been past child-bearing years herself . . . we don’t know. She had no children. Jewish women were eager to bear children, because that was the blessing of God.

Here’s a woman who was past the point of hoping that she could ever have a child, but God knows the unfulfilled longings of every person’s heart. In this case, God said, “I’m going to grant you the desire of your heart.”

God knows the unfulfilled longings of every person’s heart.

Psalm 113:9 says, "He makes the barren woman to be a joyful mother of children." Let me remind you what Pastor William Jay said in that long quote I read just a few moments ago: “God may not bless you with the physical blessings that you’re longing for.”

We have women in this room, likely, who can’t have children, and that doesn’t mean that you cannot be fully blessed by God. There’s no promise in this story, or in God’s Word, that God will grant every longing of your heart, including that great longing that so many women have for a child. That’s where we need to remember that it’s God Himself who fulfills the longings of our hearts.

He is the fulfillment of those longings. He may choose to give you a child, even in your old age, but He may not. The woman who is content with what God has given her, and with God Himself, will have a means of joy in her life regardless of whether those longings are fulfilled in this life or not.

The person, the woman, who has her heart fixed, or set, on heaven is going to have joy. I say that as a single woman who does not expect to have a husband—or children (biological children). But I know that I can find, and do find, fullness in Christ by embracing, by accepting, as God’s gift to me the season of life that He has me in—which is to be a single, older woman, and to minister and pour into the lives of others.

I’m blessed! Does that mean that I never have those unfulfilled longings? Does that mean you will never have those unfulfilled longings? It’s alright to have unfulfilled longings. What isn’t alright is to let that make us discontent, depressed, discouraged, or to become demanding that God fulfill those longings.

It’s alright to have unfulfilled longings. What isn’t alright is to let that make us discontent, depressed, discouraged, or to become demanding that God fulfill those longings.

So, here God gives this woman that desire of her heart, but fills her with Himself. As one commentator said, “Thus did she joyfully experience that the God of Sarah and of Hannah still lived.” God, who had given Sarah a child in her old age, God who had given Hannah a child when she was barren, God in His providence and wisdom—for His kingdom purposes—chose to bless the Shunammite woman with a child when it was not humanly possible.

This was something beyond her wildest dreams. Can you imagine the change that took place in that household? You know what bringing a child into your home does when you have a child at twenty-two. Imagine it at whatever age she and her husband were, and never thinking that there’d be a child in that home.

They were probably the age of grandparents, and now bringing a child into their home—the change that came about—but also the joy that God brought to this woman. Going back to Pastor William Jay, he says,

And thus, she who built a chamber for the man of God has the prospect of her house being built up in Israel . . . She who had distinguished herself by her generosity and friendship is rewarded by the gift of a life, the most precious.

God is rewarding in this way this woman’s graciousness and her generosity to the servant of the Lord. I think of that principle in Scripture. It doesn’t mean that you’ll be blessed with a husband, or with a child, because you’re hospitable, but you will be blessed.

Hebrews 6:10, “God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.” God knows how you’re serving. He knows the behind-the-scenes, unapplauded ways that you serve, and He will reward.

Proverbs 11:25, “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Or as Jesus said in Luke 6, “Give and it will be given to you.” So as we look at this passage, I want to just remind us that there is nothing too difficult for God. There is no longing that God cannot fulfill, if and when He knows that’s what will bring the greatest glory to Him.

At that point, God can and He will, in His providence, grant the desires of your heart. But, in the meantime, and even if God never grants those unfulfilled longings because He wants to glorify Himself in a different way, that’s where we must learn to trust God’s provision and God’s timing in our lives.

I look at this woman, and I’m reminded that I don’t want to waste any season of my life by pining for what I don’t have, for what I wish I did have, or over what I do have that I wish I didn’t have. I want to be in the moment, to be in the season, and to use it to the fullest for God’s glory.

And then—the reminder to give and to serve in whatever ways you can in this season of life. Ask God, “How do you want me to use what You’ve given me, to be a blessing and a means of grace in the lives of others?” And watch God pour back into your life as you’re a channel of blessing to others.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us the peace that comes from godly contentment. That message is part of the series "A Breath of New Life," a look at the Shunammite woman from 2 Kings 4. In this series, we will encounter some people who cried out to the Lord on behalf of a dead child. Sometimes, we realize all we have is God, and all we can do is cry out to Him.

That’s the theme of the 2016 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. Each month you’ll find a different quote from a friend of the ministry, talking about crying out to the Lord for help in our communities, churches, nation, and world. Here’s Nancy to tell you more about this wall calendar.

Nancy: Here's one of the quotes I've written for this calendar:

There are no human solutions to the tidal wave of evil in our world; nothing short of divine intervention can overcome the darkness of our day.

That's why we need to be crying out to the Lord. This wall calendar will be a daily reminder to you throughout the year ahead to cry out and seek God's face, to seek His divine intervention in our land; believing Him to do that which only He can do. We need a visitation of His Spirit so greatly. So I want to encourage you to call and order your wall calendar today. We'll be glad to send you one when you make a gift of any amount to help support the ongoing outreaches of Revive Our Hearts. To make a gift and to ask for your copy of the "Cry Out" calendar, just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

My prayer is that this calendar will be a daily reminder in the hearts and homes of thousands of women all across this country to be seeking the Lord, crying out to Him for mercy, throughout this year ahead. It's exciting to me to think that you and I can be a part of what God wants to do in turning around the tide of evil in our world as we go to our knees and cry out to Him to intervene.

Over this next year we will be in a heated election season where all kinds of people are making all kinds of promises about what they can do to turn things around. Can I tell you that ultimately there are no political solutions for the evils and the ills prevailing in our world today. Only God can make the difference. That's why I believe that those who go to their knees and cry out to the Lord in faith and humility are the ones who will ultimately move the hand of God to intervene in this critical point in the history of our world.

Leslie: We’ll send you the “Cry Out” calendar when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation this week. Ask for the calendar when you call 1–800–569–5959. We’ll send one calendar per household for your donation of any size. That’s 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com

When crisis hits your life, where do you turn? As you continue to study the life of the Shunammite woman tomorrow, we’ll see how she responded when the unthinkable happened. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1 Rev. William Jay, Lectures on Female Scripture Characters, 14–16.

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