Today we are concluding a sermon series on the lessons we can learn from those lesser known people in the Bible. These folks got their stories included in the Bible for our benefit. Their stories teach us how to live our lives. The Bible says, “These things happened to them [the people in the Bible] as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.” (1st Corinthians 10:11)
Today we’re going to look at a guy named Elisha. He’s often confused with his mentor and spiritual father, Elijah. You may have heard of Elijah. He’s the prophet who had the contest with the 450 prophets of Baal. Both were to prepare a bull for sacrifice, lay it on the altar to their God, then call upon their God to send down fire to consume the sacrifice. The prophets of Baal went first. They cried out to Baal all day but they did not receive an answer. Elijah then build an altar to the Lord, and had his servants prepare a bull and place it on top of the wood on the altar. But before praying for Yahweh to send down fire to consume the sacrifice, he had his servants pour twelve large jars of water over everything so it was soaked through and through. Then Elijah prayed to his God, and Yahweh answered him by sending fire down, consuming the bull, the wood and even the altar. Then Elijah commanded his servants to kill all the prophets of Baal and they did.
When the king, King Ahab learned Elijah had all his prophets of Baal killed, he was furious. He told his wife, Jezebel, who ordered Elijah to be killed. So Elijah went into hiding and was overcome with depression. He felt he was all alone, that all of Israel had abandoned their God. That’s when God came to Elijah and told him to go and anoint two kings, Hazael over Aram and Jehu over Israel, and anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet. The Lord comforted Elijah with these words, “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (1st Kings 19:18) Elijah was not alone after all. He just could see what God was doing because he was too busy hiding and feeling sorry for himself.
So that’s how Elisha came to be the apprentice of the prophet Elijah. Elijah was not going to be an easy act to follow. But here’s the really cool thing: Elisha went on to do twice as many miracles as Elijah and because of that he can teach us a lot about how to live in between miracles so we don’t miss them.
The Christian life is to be filled with miracles! It’s to be a life filled with miracles. It’s not supposed to be a dull, boring, business as usual life. It’s to be a miraculous life. It begins with a miracle. The fact that anyone ever comes to know Christ is a miracle. Left on our own, we would never surrender the throne of our hearts to Christ. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them….” (John 6:44) It took a miracle for us to come to faith in Christ. And it ends with a miracle, the resurrection of our bodies to eternal life. This life of faith that we live is to be filled with miracles, and yet most of life is lived in between the miracles. Elisha can teach us a lot about living in between the miracles.
Sometimes we miss the miracles happening around us because we don’t understand what constitutes a miracle. There are two kinds of miracles. There are the miracles we read about in the Bible where fire comes down from heaven, or the Red Sea is parted, or a blind man receives his sight, or a lame man is made to walk, or a sick woman is healed, or a dead person is brought back to life or the sun is stopped in the sky. The Bible is full of miracles like that, supernatural occurrences. You remember them for a long time because they’re pretty impressive.
The other kind of miracle is when a person’s heart is changed, when a person’s life is turned around—it’s a life changing miracle. It’s when a person realizes that Christ is there for them, drawing them into a relationship with Him, where their sins are forgiven and they are set right with God. That awareness, that realization is every bit of a miracle as turning water into wine, or feeding five thousand people, or raising someone from the dead. In fact, when you think about it, that kind of miracle is far better than the other kind. It’s a miracle that lasts for eternity. Those people on the hillside that Jesus fed, they got hungry again the next day. But when God performs a miracle in your heart, it lasts for all eternity. When God restores someone who was lost, and now they are found, that lasts for eternity. When God brings someone to faith in Christ, that lasts for all eternity. And God can use that person with a changed heart to lead others to Christ.
I’ll be honest with you; I have a lot of questions about miracles. I don’t understand why God does one miracle and doesn’t do another. I don’t know why he changes one heart and doesn’t change another? But I do know that God is still in the business of doing miracles. The Bible says, “For you are great and do great miracles. You alone are God.” (Psalm 86:10) That was true back then and it is true today. God is still doing miracles and he wants you to see the miracles he’s doing. So what can we learn from Elisha?
The FIRST lesson we learn from Elisha is to LIVE WITH TENACITY. We are to serve God with tenacity as we wait for the next miracle God is going to do. Tenacity is the quality or fact of being able to grip something firmly. Tenacity is living with persistence, determination, perseverance. Elisha lived with tenacity. He served Elijah for years, learning all that he could from him. That’s when we see God’s miracles, as we serve. We see God’s miracles as we are serving God. In the process of serving, our eyes are open and we see what God is doing. He hung on to the promise of being Elijah’s successor. He gripped it firmly. He was not going to miss out on the next miracle God was about to do.
The Bible says, “When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel. The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, ‘Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?’ ‘Yes, I know,’ Elisha replied, ‘now be quiet about it.” Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ And he replied, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So they went to Jericho. The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked, ‘Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?’ ‘Yes, I know,’ Elisha replied, ‘now be quiet about it.’ Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ And he replied, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them walked on.” (2nd Kings 2:1-6)
Do you see the tenacity in Elisha? Three times he’s told to stay back, but he says, ”No way!” The miracle didn’t happen at Bethel. It didn’t happen at Jericho. It didn’t happen until the Jordan. He had to go the distance. To see the miracles in your life, you have to go the distance. You have to keep serving and go the distance. So in your life, where is God challenging you to go farther? Where is he stretching you to go the distance and not give up? Who is he wanting you to pray for and not give up on? What miracle do you need to keep chasing after? Do it with tenacity.
The SECOND lesson we learn from Elisha is to LIVE WITH SENSITIVITY. If we want to see miracles, we need to live with sensitivity to what God is doing in the world. We have to live with sensitivity to the fact that there is more going on around us than what we can see at the moment. God is about to do a miracle in our midst. Listen to how this played out in Elisha’s life. The Bible says, “The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, ‘Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?’ ‘Yes, I know,’ Elisha replied….” (2nd Kings 2:3) They were all sensitive to what God was up to. God was going to do a miracle by taking Elijah up to heaven. They were all sensitive to what God was about to do because they were focused on God. That’s the key to experiencing more miracles in your life. Focus on God. Focus on what God wants done. The key to experiencing more miracles is not convincing God to do what you want done. It’s about being more sensitive to what he wants done. God is going to get done what he wants done. Elisha teaches us to be sensitive to what God wants to accomplish in the world.
First, you need to be sensitive to God’s actions. What has he said he’s going to do? What has he promised he’s going to do? How do you become more sensitive to what God is doing in the world? You’re not going to find that out by watching TV. You’re not going to find that out by watching the main stream media or even Fox News. You’re not going to read it in the newspaper. You’re only going to get sensitivity to what God wants to do in the world through two ways: through God’s Word and through God’s people. You’ve got to spend time in God’s Word and with God’s people.
Second, you need to be sensitive to people’s needs. You can’t be so caught up in your own needs that you miss the needs of the people around you. Elisha had poured his life out in service to the Lord as Elijah’s apprentice. But now was the time for him to focus on Elijah and what he needed. The Bible says, “The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, ‘Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?’ ‘Yes, I know,’ Elisha replied, ‘but do not speak of it.’” (2nd Kings 2:3) I mean; how many times does a person want to hear that today you’re going to be taken from those they love? “Don’t speak of it,” Elisha says. Why? Because Elijah didn’t want to hear it again. On the day God calls you home it will be bitter sweet. You will have to leave people behind. That will be difficult. Elisha was sensitive to the needs of Elijah who didn’t want to hear it again and again.
How do you become more sensitive to the needs of others? With your eyes and with your ears. You watch with your eyes and you listen with your ears. When you do that, you’re going to pick up on the needs of others. You’re going to see the needs of others and that’s when God is going to act. Some of the greatest miracles have been done in the midst of some of the most difficult, disastrous situations. If you find yourself in the midst of a difficult situation, a disastrous situation, that is when God is about to work a miracle. That’s when he loves to work miracles. Whenever you see things starting to fall apart around you, that’s when you need to watch for God to do a miracle. That’s when God gets all the credit for bringing about a miracle, in a humanly speaking impossible situation.
The THIRD lesson we learn from Elisha is to LIVE WITH PURITY. You can see Elisha’s purity in what he asks of Elijah just before Elijah is taken up. The Bible says, “Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied. ‘You have asked for a difficult thing,’ Elijah said, ‘yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.’” (2nd Kings 2:7-10) Elisha wanted to be just like Elijah and then some. He wanted to have twice the spirit that Elijah had. Even though he knew that Elijah had suffered greatly for standing faithful to God, he had suffered great depression for remaining steadfast and pure in his faith, still that is what he asked for. Elisha asked to be pure; to have a pure spirit, like Elijah.
So often we define purity as the ability to remain separate from what is impure. But purity is far more. Purity is a single minded ambition to do something great for God. It’s not just avoiding what is evil, but its striving for what God would have you do. It can’t be only about what you’re not doing. It has to be about what you are doing to make a difference in the world. Purity is about doing great things for God right where you are. For most of you, that great things God wants you to do won’t be done here, in this place. They will be done out there, beyond these walls. That’s where the world will see who Jesus really is, through you and the good things you do as you are sensitive to what God is doing and the needs of others.
The apostle Paul understood this. He writes, “…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me… I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:12b-14) He’s saying, “I’m not going to give up! I’m going to keep on keeping on.”
Some of you are thinking, “What is Pastor talking about. I’ve never done anything great in my life. I’m not the do great things for God kind of person. I’m the trying not to fall flat on my face this next week kind of person.” You think, “I’m here and the great things for God are up here.” But I’m here to tell you that God wants to do great things through you! He wants to do great things through your life. Even when you feel weak, that’s when God really wants to do great things through you because that’s when he can demonstrate his strength—through our weakness.
Here’s how PURITY happens in your life. FIRST, YOU RUN AWAY. There are some things in your life that you should run away from. Some old habits, some old ways of living, some old friends that pull you back into those old habits and old ways of living. You need to run from them. SECOND, YOU RUN TO. There has to be something you run to or you will circle back to the old familiar way of living. You have to run towards the kind of character that God wants you to have. Run toward righteousness, faith, love and peace. Run toward the great thing God wants to do in your life. Be a great example of who Jesus is. Be a light to those who need light. THIRD, YOU RUN WITH. Run with those who have a pure heart and call upon God out of a pure heart. Hang with people who seek God with a pure heart. The apostle Paul summed up the process of cultivating purity in your life when he said, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2nd Timothy 2:22) Here’s the promise that will be yours. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) They will see the miracles of God.
Elisha lived with tenacity, sensitivity and purity. Now listen to what he got to see. “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father!’ And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart. He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. ‘Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.” (2nd Kings 2:11-14)
Elisha, the prophet sent on to see God use him to accomplish twice as many miracles as did the prophet Elijah. He lived out his days with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. He lived with tenacity, sensitivity and purity, and if we want to see God’s miracles that is how we must live.