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How Far Will You Go?
2 Kings 2:9
Elijah was a prophet of enormous power.
The Scriptures record 11 remarkable miracles that were attributed to his ministry.
From the first day that he burst upon the scene to prophesy a three-year drought,
his entire life and service were characterized by power.
Elijah could pray down fire or water or whatever was needed at the time.
Elijah had never experienced anything more dramatic than his last prophecy,
in which he announced that God was going to sweep him off the earth in a whirlwind.
None of his miraculous experiences were more significant than this last one
because of the exit of Elijah in a blaze of glory.
This miraculous experience forever answers a question of vital importance:
Can the power of God be passed on from one generation to the next?
Must a generation settle for sitting around and talking about "old-time" power?
Or is there new power available to replace the old?
Can God's power be passed on as a spiritual legacy?
That question was forever settled in our text.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a large whirlwind blew through
and swept Elijah off the earth, with his mantle dropping to the ground!
Elisha, the successor of Elijah, instantly stepped forward,
picked up Elijah's mantle, and called down heaven's power.
(A mantle was the cloak of a prophet, which identified him as a man of godly authority and power.)
What a stupendous discovery -- to know that the power of God is forever available!
The power of God is available for any person who comes to God with Elisha's qualifications.
We will discover that our text reveals at least three things
which qualified Elisha as a recipient of Elijah's power.
We can appropriate power for any new day, if we possess the same three characteristics.
When We Are Weak.
We can appropriate God's power when we are weak.
After witnessing Elijah's mighty deeds, Elisha became quite conscious of his own inadequacy.
It is obvious that Elisha appeared somewhat inferior when compared with Elijah,
for even the young prophets of Bethel and Jericho questioned
his knowledge of Elijah's predicted departure:
"There the young prophets of Bethel Seminary came out to meet them, and asked Elisha,
"Did you know that the Lord was going to take Elijah away from you today?'" (verse 3) TLB
Elisha's sharp response seems to indicate a hypersensitivity on his part,
and indicated that he did harbor feelings of inadequacy:
"Quiet," Elisha snapped, "Of course I knew it." (Verse 3)
Elisha's sense of inadequacy was not misplaced.
He was inadequate.
One thing was clear to Elisha.
He would never be able to carry out Elijah's ministry in his own strength and ability.
After all, when God called him, he was "plowing a field with eleven other teams ahead of him;
he was at the end of the line with the last team." (1 Kings 19:19, TLB)
He ranked 11th in a line of 11 plowmen.
Therefore, when Elisha was asked what he most desired from God,
his instant response to Elijah was: "Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." (2 Kings 2:9)
This request for a "double portion" of Elijah's spirit was not the ambitious desire
of a self-centered egotist wishing to excel his predecessor.
It was an assessment of deep need by a humble man of God.
Elisha considered Elijah twice the man he was, in every respect... so he thought
it would take twice as much of the Spirit's power, if he was to continue Elijah's work.
Mark it down!
An important prerequisite for appropriating the power of God is a deep realization
of how much we need it!
God has a way of using those who seem incapable.
In marked contrast to Elisha's humility, most Christians are just too capable.
Blind to our own inadequacy, we hurry to and fro, doing things for God,
as if everything depends upon us.
Our attempt to lend God a hand is like a flea offering to help an elephant.
The tragedy is that we have millions of American Christians serving in thousands of churches
with little or no effect upon their community or their nation because they have never realized
their need of a power beyond themselves for accomplishing God's work.
One would think we would have learned better by now, for this was one of the first lessons
God tried to teach mankind.
God has always expected service from His children.
One of the reasons God delivered the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt was that
they might more freely serve Him.
God stated this several times: "Let my people go, that they may serve me."
(Exodus 7:16; 8:20; 9:1; 9:13)
Even after their deliverance, the Israelites failed miserably in their service to God.
Typically, they were just too competent.
The Bible says they "rejoiced in the works of their own hands." (Acts 7:41)
They did not feel as though they really needed God.
So, they set about to establish their own righteousness and erected an altar... to and for themselves.
But God was not in it.
In fact, God destroyed it. (Exodus 32: 20)
It is not ability, but availability that qualifies a person for God's service.
God most fully empowers those who realize their own weakness and inadequacy.
This is the sense of what the Lord told Paul,
"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness...
glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may be yours." (2 Corinthians 12: 9)
Several other factors are necessary to qualify for God's empowering of our lives.
Where the action is!
We can appropriate God's power when we stay where the action is.
One can scarcely read our text without being impressed with another very obvious attribute
with regard to Elisha: he desperately wanted to be in on what God was up to.
This seems to be the sense of the entire flow of our text.
On three consecutive occasions Elijah mentioned being sent by God:
Furthermore, on each occasion Elijah encouraged Elisha to stay behind.
- "The Lord hath sent me to Bethel." (2 Kings 2: 2)
- "The Lord hath sent me to Jericho." (Verse 4)
- "The Lord hath sent me to Jordan." (Verse 6)
Why would Elijah suggest that Elisha stay behind?
Perhaps, Elijah wanted to spare Elisha from possible danger.
Perhaps, Elijah, like the young prophets, thought Elisha was not yet ready for such an experience.
In either case, Elisha was put to the test.
His determined, repeated reply to Elijah was,
"As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." (Vs. 2,4,6)
Elisha wanted to be right in the middle of what God was doing.
He did not want to miss out on anything.
This seemed to be a vital ingredient in appropriating God's power.
When Elisha later requested a double portion of the Spirit's power, he was told in verse 10
that his reception of that double portion was dependent upon his remaining with Elijah through everything.
Actually, Elijah is establishing an important principle:
If you want the mantle, you have to be there when it falls.
This is to say that God's fullest power is granted to those most determined
to be a part of what God is doing.
Not everyone wants in on what God is doing -- by any means.
Too often the activity of God's Spirit is life-changing, shaking us up, like a whirlwind.
Things get all turned arounded in a whirlwind.
All of which will require life adjustments on the part of those involved.
- Old traditions are ripped away.
- People's priorities are rearranged.
- Old methods become obsolete.
- Interests change.
- Life-styles are transformed.
- Behavior is altered.
- Life-goals are reversed.
- Attitudes are affected.
- Loyalties are shifted.
- Interpersonal relationships are affected.
The young prophets of Bethel said to Elisha:
"Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?" (Verse 3)
Unlike the prophet, Elisha, they did not want to be anywhere near Elijah when the whirlwind hit.
They wanted no part of it.
Likewise, not everyone longs to experience the power of real renewal,
for it comes on winds of change.
The naked truth is that most of us do not want to be where the action is.
It is too demanding, and we are too comfortable.
The motto of many churches is, "Please don't rock the boat."
Moreover, the young prophets of Jericho also knew Elijah was about to be taken up in a whirlwind.
However, contrary to those of Bethel, the young prophets of Jericho followed Elijah as far as Jordan.
Then, they stood back "to view afar off." (Verse 7)
While the prophets of Bethel did not want any part of what was happening,
the prophets of Jericho wanted to stand by and watch what happened.
There will always be Christians like this.
They care enough to be inconvenienced, but they do not really want to be involved.
Such Christians never appropriate Gods power.
They get in only on what God does through others, while they stand by and watch what happens.
How many Christians do you know that have roamed throughout a city,
like spiritual vagabonds, in a desperate search for a church where something is "happening?"
Then, when they find one -- they join and sit!
They take no responsibility.
They attend because this is the best show in town.
Like the prophets of Jericho, they just like to see what happens.
In stark contrast, Elisha went along with Elijah to the other side of Jordan -- and beyond!
The Scriptures explicitly state "the two went over". (Verse 8)
It was "as they still went on" (verse 11) that God's whirlwind was experienced.
So, the question seems to be -- how far are we willing to go
in order to be a part of all God wants to do in our world?
Just how much do we want God's power?
How obedient are we willing to be?
How sacrificial are we willing to be?
Three questions can test the measure of our desire,
"Will we go with Him to Bethel, to Jericho, and to Jordan... as Elisha did?"
Will we go with Him to Bethel?
Bethel was a holy place at whose altar men really got right with God. (Genesis 35:1-3)
Likewise, in our text, when Elijah's mantle fell, Elisha, first, rent his garments.
(A symbolic act of contrition and purification) Elisha then picked up the mantle
and called down God's power.
We must ask ourselves this question:
Am I really willing to ask forgiveness from God and others for all I have done wrong?
This willingness is necessary in order to appropriate spiritual power.
Will we go with Him to Jericho?
The children of Israel were to march to Jericho each day, encircle it, and return,
repeating this for six days.
They were to march around it seven times on the 7th day. (Joshua. 6)
They obeyed these instructions explicitly, and God's power fell.
We must ask ourselves this question: "Am I really willing to do anything God asks?"
Will we go with Him to Jordan?
Jordan represents the place of exceptional obedience, the most distant point to be reached.
The children of Israel finally experienced the power and full blessing of their promised land
when they crossed over Jordan.
They made it over Jordan because they were fully obedient,
"And they answered Joshua, saying, all that thou commandest us we will do,
and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go." (Joshua. 1: 16)
We must ask ourselves this question: "Am I really willing to do everything God asks?"
The degree of our obedience will always equal the degree of our empowering.
It all depends upon just how much we are willing for God to do through us.
If we want the mantle, we must be there when it falls.
This necessitates obedience: "The Holy Spirit... is given by God to all that obey Him."
(Acts 5:32, TLB)
God's power will flow through those who stay where the action is, and through those who burn
with a desperate desire to do His will.
Paul S. Rees tells of a Keswick conference in which a preacher enumerated the great blessings
which came in his ministry as a consequence of Spirit-filled service.
After the service, a young pastor asked the preacher how he could be Spirit-filled.
The preacher said to the young pastor,
"I can take you to the place where I was filled, and anyone can be filled at that place.
Would you like to come with me?"
"Yes, by all means," the young pastor replied.
So they walked out of the conference grounds and started up a mountain.
As they sauntered along, the preacher kept talking about the glory resulting from a Spirit-filled life.
Once in a while the young man would ask when they came to a clearing in the woods,
"Is this the place?"
"No, but it isn't much farther; it's a little distance, yet."
They kept walking. The preacher kept talking.
The young man's thirst kept increasing.
They reached a plateau, and the young pastor asked again, "Is this the place?"
He asked the same question when they walked out into a valley.
He asked again at the edge of a clearing.
He asked at the top of each hill.
"Is this the place?"
He asked again and again.
Finally, he could stand it no longer.
He fell upon his knees, and all but shouted,
"I can't go any farther. I must pray to be filled right now!"
The preacher turned and said to the young man:
"This is the place! This is the place!"
Do you see?
When we come to the place where we can't go any farther,
and we want to be filled with the Spirit -- that's the place where we will be filled!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
E-mail Dr. White at email@example.com