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Do you ever feel overwhelmed with a given situation(s) in life? Even good things can be overwhelming and I’m assuming that since you must be upright and taking in oxygen in order to be reading this — you’ve experienced that overwhelmed feeling in your life. I’m there right now.
It’s a slightly overcast day as I sit through the lunch hour at a busy little coffee shop here in Kalispell, MT. The lady next to me just finished a work-out and is sipping a cup-o-Joe while playing word games on her iPhone. A young mom with a 12-14 month old child are ordering some snacks (while the kid grabs all the juice bottles easily within his reach). An older gentleman is in his second hour of reading the paper by the window while the lady behind me is laboring over some difficult (maybe painful?) project on her laptop. She keeps cursing under her breath.
I am staring at my laptop, earbuds in, music on and Bible open to 2 Kings 4. It’s in this passage that I am reminded that sometimes God overwhelms us by answering our prayers in ways we never imagined. Overboard Ministries started in January of 2011 with the goal of publishing a book about pain. On April 7, that mission was accomplished and in a very short amount of time, the vision for OBM started to grow. Project Joseph was just a gateway drug — God was moving this ministry into something more significant.
As Project Joseph got published, I began to realize how many people I knew who had a great book written, but couldn’t find anyone to publish it. Self-publishing has evolved so much in the past three years, but still there are prohibitive costs and a semester of education needed to wade through the options. While I was researching our publishing/printing options I made a few mistakes, accidentally did a few things right and immersed myself in the game of book publishing. This paid off as the vision of OBM grew to be a publishing house for other authors.
Shortly after making that known, a friend and fellow pastor, Barry Bandara, called me up with a book he was working on about the family. Soon after that, my friend and fellow blogger Jamie Hart passed along a contact he had with a man, Steve Etner, who was working on a manuscript about how to discipline the mind for godliness. By the end of May, two new authors had signed contracts and we were moving forward with their books.
My wife and I continued to pray that God would expand OBM to reach more people with the message of our hearts: People living life out of the comfort of their boats and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom. Yesterday God gave us a big “Boy-Howdy!” when friend, author and youth-ministry guru Mel Walker agreed to publish his next book with Overboard Ministries. I hung up after our two-hour phone call, jumped for joy, then gulped for air — this is big for us. Mel is an established author (five titles to his credit), has a large following and has huge influence on youth ministry in our circles. He is the president and founder of Vision for Youth, an organization that exists to train the next generation to love and serve God with all they’ve got. Without a doubt, this partnership could be very significant for us, for Mel, for VFY and for the impact on youth ministry across the country. (Mel’s next book is about inter-generational church ministry. It will be a powerful book bridging the gap between traditional youth ministry and the house-church movement.)
Back in 2 Kings 4, Elisha the prophet meets a woman who is in dire straights. Her husband just died. He had some serious debt. The only collateral his creditors would accept were her two remaining sons. All she has to her name is a little oil. Bye-bye kiddos if Elisha doesn’t do something. This woman was overwhelmed.
Traci and I have been there. Early in 2011 we were struggling on a lot of levels, trying to make ends meet financially, trying to keep our marriage strong and our kids growing in the Lord and we launched a couple of new projects just to make sure life stayed interesting. We didn’t have much to offer, but we gave what we had.
Elisha asks the widow to give what she had. She has oil and Elisha reminds her that God works with us where we are, with what we have. He doesn’t wait for us to get better gifts, more money or a better pedigree; He finds us useful today if we’ll but turn to and trust Him. Verse three says it all:
“Elisha said, ‘Go around and ask all of your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.’”
God was ready to ‘pour out’ his blessing and all He requested was a willing, faithful and obedient widow to trust His lead. She didn’t have to have any skills. She didn’t have to have any possessions. She didn’t even have to be debt-free. She just had to be ready to grab the side of the boat and jump out on the water when God said to “come”.
The widow obeyed, the jars got filled with oil from the first jar that had so little in it. Her boys kept bringing in jars and one after another as God’s goodness overflowed. When the jars ran out, so did the oil. She sold what she had and was able to pay her debts and live off the remainder. God delivered in a big way.
Can you imagine the roller coaster this widow traveled on? What a day! First it started with not having enough and fearing the loss of her two sons. It moved into a being part of an unbelievable miracle that created an unheard-of provision for her family. It ended with a house full of jars full of oil — enough to start selling them off so that slavery could be avoided by her sons and security could be provided for her family. I bet her day started and ended the same way: She was overwhelmed.
I think we’re feeling a bit Overwhelmedified* with Overboard Ministries today. Some of the early 2011 struggles are still here today. And sometimes when you can’t see the way of God’s provision, you sit back and pray and trust and hope while you plan, scheme and try to figure out a solution. You’re overwhelmed by obstacles in front of you because you can’t yet see God’s ultimate plan. But He has a plan and often it’s fulfillment seems to hinge on our ability to trust Him to provide using mechanisms already in place. The widow had oil. The widow had friends and neighbors with jars. While God could have miraculously put money in her bank account, He chose what she already had to provide a way of escape.
When Elisha commands her to collect jars in verse three he says, and “don’t ask for just a few!” She asked God for help and God tested her. He was going to give to her what she had faith to believe He would provide. Then in verse six you see just how much they trusted Him:
“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘there is not one jar left.’”
They grabbed every empty jar they could find! If you’re overwhelmed today, call out to God for His help. Ask Him for what you need then prepare the ‘jars’ to receive what God has in store. It’s not that we name-it and claim-it, but we must believe that God can deliver in a big way when it comes to our needs. When speaking about wisdom, James says when we ask,
“[we] should believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” — James 1:6-8
You see, God answers prayer consistent with the faith from which we ask. I believe God loves to overwhelm His children with answers bigger than His kids could imagine when they trust Him to do so. Unfortunately, we all-too-often ask like James describes; we know we should pray but we don’t really believe God is going to respond. How do I know? Because we don’t start pulling out the extra jars we’re going to need to receive all of God’s answer.
Today we are overwhelmed by God’s goodness. He filled up more of our jars but we’re banging on doors and asking for more pots. I don’t want to stand before Him one day and discover how much more of His goodness I could have shared in if only I had trusted Him to do what only He could do. Faithless living isn’t for Overboard Ministries and I hope it’s not for you, either. Those who are going to get out of the comfort of the boat and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom are going to have to carry lots of jars. There’s no other way!
So step out in faith and take the plunge — life is better on the water!
*Ove-er-wuh-elm-DEAD-fide: The state at which an individual is so overwhelmed, they are nearly petrified with fear and/or anxiety and/or the need to use the restroom promptly.