How many of you have ever played the “if only” game. “If only” we had “a better job” life would be better. “If only” we had more money. We all tend to think “If only” we had whatever it is, our life would be so much better. You need to read this through the lens of your “If only”, through the lens of your greatest need. Let’s set the background for our study. The King of Israel, the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, and the King of Edom joined forces to destroy the King of Moab. Three against one, so they thought, “We’ll get an easy victory here.” But often in life, things don’t go as planned.
Anyone know what we’re talking about? Think you’ve got it all figured out and, “whoops,” your plans go awry. We had everything all lined out and BOOM…COVID-19. That’s what happens with these three kings. Instead of winning easily they find their troops stranded in the desert completely out of water. They have a very significant need. This story teaches us this principle…
Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God.
Your greatest need, your “If only” becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God. Our story begins in 2 Kings, chapter 3, verses 9-12.
“So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom; After a roundabout march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for their animals with them. “What,” exclaimed the king of Israel, has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?”
We thought we’d win easily but now God has screwed it up. We don’t see them asking God if they should do this in the first place. Now that it turns out to be a bad plan, they blame God and expect Him to bail them out.
“But Jehoshaphat, asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha, son of Shaphat, is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.”
He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah. There it is right there in the Bible, “Wash your hands!” Elijah was a great prophet who did great and miraculous things. Elisha is his apprentice, so Jehoshaphat thinks maybe Elisha can help us. When the nation of Israel was in a great drought, Elijah called on God for help and God sent rain from a cloud that started out the size of a man’s hand and grew into a big storm that watered the whole land. So these three kings think, “If Elijah could make it rain then maybe Elisha can make it rain.”
“Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with Elisha.” So the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.”
The three kings go to battle against the Moabites and think they’re going to win easily. Instead, they find themselves out of water and in dire need. The problem is they did not seek God’s guidance regarding this war, and now that they’re in trouble they want God’s help. “Oh no, we’re in trouble. Is there anybody who’s really in good with God? Maybe Elisha the prophet can help us out.”
Elisha had done some miracles of his own. He had parted the waters of the Jordan River. He spoke to a polluted spring of poisonous water and healed the water so you could drink from it. When a gang of hooligans were threatening him and making fun of his bald head, Elijah summoned two bears out of the woods to eat his attackers. This is not made up, you should read your bible. And you should never make fun of a guy with a bald head…just saying.
So the kings ask Elisha, “Can you help us out?” How does Elisha respond? He responds with a bit of an attitude. Elisha says, “Okay kings, you ignored God and went out on your own and now you’re in trouble and you want God’s help.” Elisha learned this from his mentor, Elijah, who was the king of attitude. One time Elijah went up against 450 false prophets of the false god, Baal. Elijah said, “Let’s have a little contest to see who the real God is. We’ll build a couple of altars. We’ll get two bulls. You sacrifice a bull to Baal, I’ll sacrifice a bull to God. You call on your god to send down fire from heaven to consume your sacrifice. I’ll call on my God to send down fire from heaven to consume my sacrifice. We’ll see whose God answers.”
The false prophets started praying to Baal to “Send fire. Send fire.” But nothing happens. They work themselves up into a frenzy crying out to Baal. They start cutting themselves drawing blood to get Baal to act. Nothing happens. Elijah starts laughing and mocking these false prophets. “Maybe you should shout louder. Maybe your god’s deaf. Maybe your god’s on vacation. Maybe your god’s in the bathroom and can’t hear you.” Again, this is not made up, you need to read your bible it’s in there.
Elisha does what Elijah did, he cops an attitude in verse 13.
“Elisha said to the king of Israel, “Why do you want to involve me? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.”
You hear his attitude?
“No,” the King of Israel answered, “because it was the Lord who called us three kings together to deliver us into the hands of Moab. Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord All Mighty lives, whom I serve, if I didn’t have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you.”
The King of Israel and Edom were not good and godly kings. But Jehoshaphat had been a pretty good and faithful king, a godly king. So Elisha says to the King of Judah and Edom… “If weren’t for Jehoshaphat…I wouldn’t even pay attention to you two. But because Jehoshaphat’s here… I’ll help you out. You need a prophet… I’m your prophet.”
Then in verse 15, Elisha makes a demand. He says, “But now bring me a harpist.” If you want me to prophesy, I need some worship music. This was not an uncommon practice for prophets to do. God inhabits the praises of His people.
Worship helps your faith grow and connects you to God.
Now the three kings think this is great because, “Elisha’s going to tell God to send rain. The harp music is playing this is going to be good.” But does Elisha give them a word of encouragement? No, he gives them a ridiculous command in verse 15 and 16.
“Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’”
The kings go, “Wait, we thought God was going to make it rain. Our troops are about to die of thirst, and you want them to do manual labor under the hot desert sun? Elisha says, “Yeah, I want them to dig ditches, irrigation ditches to trap water.” Because your greatest need becomes your greatest blessing when it drives you to depend on God.
“For this is what the Lord says. “You will see neither wind nor rain yet this valley will be filled with water and you, your cattle, and your other animals will drink.”
God says, “I’m not going to make it rain here. I’m going to make it rain somewhere else and then bring the water here through irrigation ditches, so dig Me some ditches!” God’s ways aren’t your ways. God doesn’t always meet the need the way we think He will or should. “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord.” You have no idea how powerful, how strong, how mighty God is. At the snap of a finger God can do this. And by the way, that other thing you wanted that whole defeating Moab thing, “He will also deliver Moab into your hands” but first, I want you to dig some ditches.
We’re talking about faith that works, faith that does something. Faith that believes that God is going to act, so we act and take a step toward God believing that God is going to take a step toward us. Let’s look at two principles of faith that works. The first principle is..
Only God can send the water, but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.
“Just as the body is dead without breath so also is faith dead without good works.” James 2:26
Only God can send the water but He wants to see your faith. Did the God of the universe really need these guys to dig a ditch? No, but He’s saying “You show me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.” God loves to see our faith. You see faith in our actions. In the Gospels, you see it again and again. When Peter was on the boat and saw Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee, he said “Jesus, tell me to come and I’ll come.” And Jesus said, “Come.” What did Peter do? He got out of boat! The other 11 disciples stayed in the boat… you didn’t see any faith. God wants us to participate in His miracles.
There’s a man with a withered hand. What does Jesus say to him? He says, “Stretch out your hand.” Jesus could have just healed his hand but He said, “I want to see your faith so stretch out your hand.”
There was a lame man who couldn’t walk for 38 years. Jesus tells the man, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk. I’m going to heal you but I’m not going to pick you up. I want to see that you have the faith, so get up.”
There was a guy who was blind from birth, Jesus picks up some dirt and spits in it to make mud. He smears the mud on the guys eyes and says, “Go wash your eyes in the pool of Siloam.” God says show Me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.
Too many people want God to show them His faithfulness but they’re not willing to show God any faith. Show Me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness. You want to quit smoking? Throw your cigarettes in the garbage and say “I’m showing some faith. I’m getting rid of these things. I’M DIGGING A DITCH BY FAITH.” You want to heal a damaged relationship? Forgive someone before they even ask for forgiveness. Treat someone with love when they are being ugly to you. What are you doing? You’re digging a ditch.
You want your kids to serve Jesus and be strong Christians? Read the Bible and pray with your kids. You want some spiritual water in your kid’s life? Dig a ditch, be a godly parent. You want God to bless your finances? Then tithe, give God the first 10% of whatever you make. Tithing demonstrates our faith and our dependence on God. You’re digging a ditch. And then He demonstrates His faithfulness.
The second principal of faith that works…
Real faith believes big but is willing to start small.
Too many Christians are not thinking big enough. “We serve a God who can do exceedingly and abundantly more than all you can ask, think or imagine.” It’s time to think big because we serve a big God. But when you think big you’ve got to be willing to start small. How do you dig a ditch? One shovel full of dirt at a time, you start small.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10
You start with what is in front of you. Only God can send the water, but He wants you to dig the ditches. You say, “God, we believe you can.” And then you start where you are with what you have. God loves it when we participate in His miracles because then He can see our faith.
“The next morning about the time for the offering of the sacrifice, there it was – water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water.” 2 Kings 3:20
You have a significant need in your life, and you think…”If only”. Your greatest need becomes your biggest blessing when it drives you to depend on God. Only God can send the water but He wants you to dig the ditch. Real faith believes big but is willing to start small.
Ask yourself these three questions.
Question 1. What is your “If only…” – What is your greatest need that can become a great blessing if you depend on God? Identify the need and make a conscious decision to turn it over to God. Jesus asks the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Answer that question.
Question 2. What “ditch” do you need to start digging? What action is God asking you to take to demonstrate your faith? Jesus told the lame man, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.” Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat. Elisha told the Kings to start digging ditches.
Question 3. What small step can you take today? Don’t be afraid to start small. Jesus replied, “Truly, I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…Nothing will be impossible for you.” What’s the groundbreaking step you need to take?
It’s time to dig a ditch!
Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Moves” “You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately. Those God uses the most are the ones who hold on to the least.” Did you obey God in area this week? Any more observations from your discussion last week?
- Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God.
- Only God can send the water, but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.
- Real faith believes big, but is willing to start small.
Discussion & Application
- During this message, did a time of need come to your mind? How did that time drive you to depend on God?
- Work through the three questions with your group and help one another with the answers.
- Question 1: What is your “If only”? Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:36 (NIV)
- Question 2: What “ditch” do you need to start digging? Jesus said, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:8 (NIV)
- Question 3: What small step can you take today? Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed… Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 (NIV)
Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.
Grow your faith with commitment to God by reading the following Bible passages this week.
- Day 1: 2 Kings 3:1-20
- Day 2: 2 Kings 3:21-27
- Day 3: James 2:14-26
- Day 4: Zechariah 4:1-14
- Day 5: Luke 11:1-11
- Day 6: Colossians 3:18-25
- Day 7: Hebrews 11:1-40