Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Breath of New Life, Part 6

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminds you there are no chance occurrences.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God is orchestrating the pieces, and God is weaving the story through the providential orchestration of circumstances.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, November 2, 2015.

Last week we looked at a biblical story of a woman who went through a roller coaster of life experiences. She was miraculously given a son, but then he died. He was raised to life, but then a new tragedy struck, and she lost her home.

Do you ever feel like your life is that way? Nancy is going to help us deal with those ups and downs in the final part of the series, “A Breath of New Life.”

Nancy: As I’ve been preparing the series on the Shunammite woman, I’ve found myself in conversation with a number of women who are in seasons of life that they had not expected, that maybe have caught them off guard, and many cases that are really difficult situations.

I was in a store the other day, just talking with the lady behind the counter, and another woman who was in the shop. We were just chatting and having a great conversation. Then the one lady left, and the woman behind the counter said to me, “That woman’s going through a really difficult time. Her husband has Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

As she described it, it sounds like he’s in maybe the final stages of that disease. I would have never known it by talking to the woman. She seemed so chipper. She didn’t seem like she was somebody who was bearing the weight of the world on her shoulders, but it turns out, she is. She’s in a difficult season of life.

I had one of my devotional books, The Quiet Place, in my car. I said to the woman behind the counter, “Do you think if I would sign one of these for her and let her know I’m praying for her that that would be okay?”

She said, “I know that that would mean a lot to her.” So just an opportunity, maybe. I haven’t seen the woman again. But I was able to minister into her life in a really difficult season.

I had another woman tell me recently, "My husband's job is changing. He's in his sixties now. He hasn't lost his job, but the way he's going to be paid is changing, and we don't know how we are going to be provided for." It's a difficult time, a difficult season.

I had another conversation recently with a young mom with two little kids. We were in a conversation with some others about what's happening in this world and some of the trajectories that our culture is on. She was kind of quiet. Then she said, "I'm just so scared of what kind of world my children are going to grow up in and what's going to happen to them." Now that she's a mom, she's thinking in ways that are different than when she was a twenty-something-year-old single. She's carrying that burden.

I have a dear friend whose mom was in a car accident ten days ago and sustained multiple injuries. I got the word the other night that she didn't pull through. Overnight her world turned upside down and inside out by unexpected circumstances.

As we have been looking at the Shunammite woman, we see a woman who experienced a lot of different seasons of life. Some of them were great seasons. She had a lot of blessings in her life, but some of them were hard things. She had a lot of hardships. She was a wealthy woman, we read at the beginning of 2 Kings 4, but she couldn’t have children. So that was a cloud in her sky. Then God blesses them with a child, but the child dies.

Again, as we’ve said earlier, this is a roller coaster, an emotional roller coaster this woman is on. Now as we come to 2 Kings chapter 8, this woman enters yet another season, one that she could not have imagined just a short time earlier.

This account in 2 Kings 8 is not as familiar as the one we’ve been looking at in 2 Kings 4, but some commentators think that this second account took place shortly after her son was raised from the dead. Let’s read the passage and talk about it—2 Kings 8, verse 1.

(By the way, if you’re reading through 2 Kings, this is a section where the stories are probably not in chronological order. What happens in the chapters in-between 4 and 8 isn’t necessarily in the correct sequence. The writer is trying to give us some themes and is putting these in a thematic order, so the things that happen in between these chapters aren’t necessarily in chronological order.) Verse 1 of chapter 8,

Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, "Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years."  

You see that God called for this famine, and it’s a reminder that God is sovereign over natural disasters. In a fallen, sinful world, He has ordained that these kinds of consequences will be reminders to all of us of an eternal judgment if we don’t repent. That doesn’t mean that there’s a 1:1 correlation between natural disasters and human sin, but it means we live in a prodigal world, and there are consequences of that.

God calls for this famine. We see that it was a localized famine—just in Israel—which suggests this was God’s chastening hand on His people, trying to get their attention, trying to bring them to repentance.

You discipline your children for their good, so they don’t turn out to be terrors. When they do rebel, you discipline—not because you hate them, not because you’re mad at them—but because you want to see them experience the blessings of a right relationship with God.

That’s what God was about in sending this famine on His people. The famine was going to be seven years in duration, and this woman is apparently widowed by this point. We don’t know that for a fact, but it appears that way. When we read about her in chapter 4, we were told that her husband was “old” then, and there’s no mention of him in chapter 8.  So I think it’s a fair assumption that she probably has been widowed at this time. So there’s another season of life.

She had been a wealthy woman with a husband and then a child, but how these things change. So don’t hold too tightly to any one season of life, but realize that God is writing the whole story. He has the whole big picture, and He is the one who is weaving it together to bring glory to Himself.

God uses the prophet Elisha to let the Shunammite know about this coming famine, and to encourage her to move away so that her life could be preserved. What a beautiful picture this is of how God cares for His own. She was part of the remnant in that day. The very few who were seeking God, who were listening to God, who cared anything about God. The rest of the nation by and large was backslidden, idolaters, pagans, following the practices of the surrounding nations.

God didn’t tell them. He didn't give them a way to get out of the famine. But God comes to this woman, this one itty-bitty woman whose name we don’t even know, but God knows her name. God knows her house. God knows where she lives. God knows her story.

God has a special heart, let me add, for widows. You see that all the way through the Scriptures. I know we have some widows in this room, widows who listen to this program. Let me just say: God knows where you live. He knows your story. He knows your needs. And He’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure, as your heart follows Him, to make sure that your needs are met.

God knows your needs.

So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years (v. 2).

Here’s a woman who listens to the prophet’s counsel, and she does what he says. Now, that sounds simple enough until you think that this woman had a nice house. It was a house with an addition on it, thanks to Elisha. She was a wealthy woman, so, presumably, it was one of the nicer houses in the neighborhood. She’d been there maybe for many years. She had roots in that place. She had friends. She had neighbors. She had extended family.

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the less I like the idea of moving for any reason. And yet, here’s a woman who apparently doesn’t question, doesn’t push back She takes this as God throwing a lifeline out to her and saying, “This is God’s provision, and I’m going to take it.”

She had this long-term relationship with the prophet. She had seen that he was God’s man, that he knew God, and she knew that his counsel could be trusted. Which leads me to wonder.

Who do you have in your life that gives you wise, godly counsel? Do you have relationships with people who know God and can speak into your life and help be discerning and give you good counsel in difficult times?

Proverbs 12 says, “A wise man listens to advice” (v. 15). Are you that kind of person? Or do you just make your own plans. Today we’re all so independent. I can see this woman saying, “I’m a grown-up. I can ride this out. Maybe it won’t be seven years. Maybe it won’t be that bad. My dad will take care of me; my son will take care of me.” You don’t see any of that. You just see a woman who wisely listens to counsel.

My dad emphasized that to us a lot while we were growing up that wise people are teachable people; they listen to counsel. Even though I'm in my mid-fifties, I can’t even tell you how often—many, many times on various practical and other matters of life—I am soliciting counsel from people who know more about lots of things than I do. Even when I think I know more, as a single woman, I find there’s such protection in having around my life godly, mature people, couples, women, friends, pastors, spiritual shepherds, who can help give input into my life. There’s a lot of blessing that comes when we’re willing to listen to and heed counsel.

This woman leaves what is familiar, what’s comfortable—her town, her home, the family property, the inheritance, the relationships. That took faith, and we’ve seen faith in this woman all along. She had to believe that in the land of the Philistines her needs were going to be better met than they would if she’d stayed in what was familiar and comfortable. Apparently, her needs were met as she got into the land of the Philistines over those years, though there are no details supplied of what happened over those years.

But verse 3 tells us,

At the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land.

So she survives seven years in land of the Philistines while famine is going on in Israel. Then she returns to Israel with her son and finds that she has lost everything. Apparently, her property has been confiscated, perhaps by the king. We don’t know what happened to it, but it’s no longer hers. In the Jewish culture, to have property to pass on from one generation to the next was your livelihood. That was hugely important.

She goes to the king to appeal for him to restore the house and the land. This is the king that earlier Elisha had said, “Do you want a favor from the king?”

And she had said, “I don’t need any favors.”

Well, now she did need a favor, so she goes to the king. This is the very house where she and her husband had provided for the prophet, and now it’s gone. So she goes and asks to get back what had been hers all along.

Just a reminder, ladies, of the temporal nature of material stuff—the temporal nature of wealth. You see it all through the Scriptures:

Proverbs 27:24: “Riches do not last forever.”

When we read about this woman in 2 Kings 4, she was a wealthy woman. That’s not the end of that story. She was a wealthy woman. She is no longer. “Riches do not last forever.”

Psalm 62:10: “If riches increase, don’t set your heart on them.” It’s not wrong to have them increase, but don’t put your hope in that.

Don’t put your hope in things; they can be taken away.

Proverbs 23:4–5: “Do not toil to acquire wealth. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

It can be so easily gone . . . a day on the stock market . . . a house burned to the ground. It’s stuff. It’s temporal. It is not forever. Don’t put your hope in it, and realize it can be taken away.

Now, she goes to the king, and the king just “so happens” (if you believe in luck, which we don’t) . . .

The king was talking with Gehazi [remember him?] the servant of the man of God, saying, "Tell me all the great things that Elisha has done." And while he was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land.

Who could have written that script?! Who could have timed it that way? It reminds me of Esther and how, just the sequence of events, it’s just so providentially ordered.

And Gehazi said, "My lord, O king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life" (vv. 4–5).

Split-second timing. How does God do that? That’s so amazing! That’s so God! Gehazi “happens” to be talking to the king at that very moment.

Oh what an encouraging reminder that our lives are not lived under chance. There are no chance happenings. As I often say, “I love living under providence” because you can trust that God is orchestrating the pieces, and God is weaving the story together, that He is steering and directing our lives through His Word, through spiritual leaders, as He did when He sent Elisha to tell this woman to leave town for seven years, and through the providential orchestration of circumstances.

Well, verse 6:

When the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, "Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now."

I tell you, when God restores and redeems, He doesn’t redeem part way. He restores fully, abundantly, with all the produce from the past seven years. So here, in a moment, the woman has gone from, as far as she knows, destitution, to a place of abundance. It’s all God. God is a restoring God.

So as we come to the close of this woman’s life, as we’ve looked at her story in 2 Kings 4 and 2 Kings 8, just a few takeaways.

Number one: Just remember that God cares for His own. God cares for His own. “Casting your cares upon him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5: 7). You see in the story God’s direction, God’s provision, God’s providence, God’s protection, Gods amazing care for His people.

There’s a lot of hard stuff going on in this world, and believers go through a lot of hard things. We sit in our relative comfort and ease, bemoaning and lamenting what’s happening to the economy. But there are people in war-torn parts of the world who would be glad to have our economic problems. Right?

There are believers in those places, and it’s true for them, and it’s true for us. It’s true for whatever you may be facing right now: God never forgets or forsakes His own. If you belong to Him, you are in Christ, Christ is in God. You are held in the palm of His hand, and nothing can take you out. You are safe. You may be in a battlefield, but you are eternally safe. Your needs will be met.

We have in the Scripture the Old Testament, as we’re reading here in the broader context, a God who is involved with nations, with kings, with Assyrians. He’s moving nations around. He’s having all kinds of cosmic things happen. But we also have a God who is mindful of and cares for women, individual women, women whose names we don’t even know, widows, bereaved moms, and a God who isn’t too big to care for them, a God who comes to their aid.

You may feel that your circumstance is out from under God’s watchful eye. Not for a moment! Yes, God’s concerned about what’s going on in the U.N., and what’s going on in the Middle East, and what’s happening in the worldwide economy and wars going on in the earth. He’s involved in all that stuff, but God cares about what’s going on in the four walls of your home and in your marriage and with your children and in your cube at work and in your relationships and in your life. He cares! He cares for you!

That means that we can live as children of God free from fear, free from anxiety, free from striving to control and manipulate our circumstances, freedom from having to fix it all ourselves. There can be freedom when we realize that God cares for us.

Then remember, as you look at this woman’s story, you can't out-give God. You can’t out-give God.

You can’t out-give God.

Here was a woman who was wealthy, and she used the wealth she had to use and bless others, and now it comes back to her. God gives back to make sure that her needs will be met in her time of extremity as she has been an instrument of blessing in giving to the lives of others.

In fact, if you go to 2 Corinthians—those two great chapters on giving, generosity, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9—listen to what the apostle Paul says about this whole matter of generosity. He says,

I don’t mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness, your abundance at the present time should supply their need [when you have a lot, let God use you as an instrument to minister to the needs of others] so that their abundance may supply your need (8:13–14).

When you have a need, God will use others to bring about abundance in your life.

She didn’t need the king early on when her needs were met, but down the road, as she had given, God used the king to be a means of getting restoration of her property, her land. And so God is a God that you can’t out-give.

And then, remember that your life, as we’ve said earlier, is part of a bigger story that God is writing. And that story, contrary to what you might think, is not about you, and it’s not about me. Your extremity, your adverse circumstances, your difficulties in life are a platform for God to show His power to the world around you.

Here is this Shunammite woman and her husband and Elisha the prophet who are a tiny minority in a nation that is given over to idolatry and debauchery, a nation that is coming under the judgment of God, a nation that is getting ready to go into exile. But you have these three, and a few others along the way, who, in the midst of that, live holy, set-apart lives, who know God, who trust God, who serve God, and who believe that in the midst of it all, “It is well . . . all is well . . . all will be well.”

Now how could you look at what’s going on in the world around them or in the world around us and say, “All is well”? It’s because you know that God is God, and God is good, and God is wise, and God is writing the script, that He has a story that He’s writing. And you’re one itty-bitty part of it. I’m one itty-bitty part of it.

We’ve got to get past ourselves and say, “Lord, I’m dispensable. If You need to write me out of the script in order to glorify Yourself, or You need to shake up my family, or You need to shake up my world, or I need to not just experience times of abundance but times of deprivation as well—whatever it is, Lord . . . If You give me a husband, or You don’t; if You give me children, or You don’t; if whatever You give, You take away, blessed be the name of the Lord, because in the end, all will be well. And all is well in heaven, and that’s where my heart is. That’s where my home is. That’s where my eternity is, and that’s good. All is well.”

In all of those seasons of life, in every season of life, God is faithful . . . God is faithful.

As we’ve said, this Shunammite woman went through different seasons of life—seasons of abundance and blessing, and also a whole gamut of painful circumstances and seasons, including infertility, death of a child, likely widowhood. She had to move to a different country (that’s not so a big deal today, but it would have been a huge deal then) for seven years due to a famine in her homeland. She returns home to find that her home and her land have been confiscated. And in each season, for better and for worse, she experiences God's providential care and restoration.

Circumstances change. Seasons change. There are good times; there are hard times. There are ups and downs in life. But the promise of God is that He will carry His own through every season of life.

Our tendency is to live in the past, the good ol’ days, or in the future—what I hope will change or be different—rather than living right now in God’s faithfulness. So many women live with regret, discontent, longing, pining, fear, "what if?" and as a result, they miss God's purposes and God’s provision for right now. Live in the moment with Him.

Don't miss God's purposes and provision for right now by living in discontentment and fear.

One of my favorite quotes is from Francis de Sales who lived back in the 1500–1600s. He said:

Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He has kept you hitherto to this point. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, He will bear you in His arms.

The same everlasting Father who cares for you today, will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

That’s a good word. That’s a word for our hearts today.

There is a hymn that perhaps is familiar to you that has been on my hear as I've been thinking about this woman and her different seasons of life. Let me read it to you, and I think it will have greater meaning.

Be still my soul, the Lord is on my side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave all to thy God to order and provide.
In every change, He faithful will remain.

Be still my soul, thy best, thy Heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, they confidence, let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still my soul, the waves and wind still know
His voice who still rules them while He dwelt below.

Be still my soul, when dearest friends depart
And all is darkened, and the veil tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.

Be still my soul, thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still my soul, the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone
Sorrow forgot, loves purest joys restored.

Be still my soul, when change and tears are past
All safe and blest we shall meet at last.

Thank you Lord for Your amazing faithfulness, amazing grace, and for the picture of this woman—a true woman of God—who gives us perspective and hope and faith to carry on in whatever season of life You find us today . . . and tomorrow . . . and the next day. We bless You. In Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us the source of true peace. Whether God chooses to answer prayer the way we want or He doesn’t, we know we have His presence.

The most important thing we get from crying out to God, is God Himself.

We are encouraging you to cry out to the Lord, and we are emphasising this in 2016. You’ll hear some programs through the year on prayer, and you’ll hear more about the Cry Out: True Woman '16 conference! To help you prepare for this emphasis on prayer, we’d like to send you the Cry Out 2016 Revive Our Hearts Wall Calendar. Each month includes a different quote on prayer from women like: Joni Eareckson Tada, Shirley Dobson, Evelyn Christenson, and Anne Graham Lotz and many others.

We’d like to send you the wall calendar when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size. Ask for the Cry Out Calendar when you call 1–800–569–5959l, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

“Hallelujah.” That word gets used a lot. Church goers say it in prayer. Sometimes just say it when they’re happy. Sometimes people use it to mock preachers. But using that word is very serious. Nancy will talk about it tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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