#4  “The Great Issues Of Faith From Elijah’s Life” Series




TEXT:         2 Kings 2:1-18


INTRO:       We have an unlimited number of books on the best seller's list on how to be success­ful today ... how to achieve success seems to be an obsession with Americans!  Elijah and Elisha were two of the most successful leaders in the Old Testament, yet a study of their successful lives go against the obvious definition of success as defined by this world!


The world defines success by:  level of income, control or power, how many work for you, how many departments are under you, how big a project you manage, how large your home or farm is, how much profit you earn, or how much inventory you stock and sell!


In God's kingdom however, success is not as much WHAT YOU DO AS IT IS WHAT YOU ARE!  The attributes of success in the Kingdom of God are not so obvious to the world, yet they are critical to the church!  This is the secret to Elijah's and Elisha's success ... they went against the obvious concepts of success and instead lived out the principles of God's kingdom for success.  They never measured up to the standards of this world but they sure measured up to the standards of God!


ILLUS:      In 1923 six of America's most successful men met in Chicago to celebrate their success in life, together these six men controlled vast sums of money, enormous power, great enterprises that touched the lives of millions of Americans.  They were the constant source of news stories all over America.  Not too many years later these same men were found as follows:

1.      Charles Schwab ... the president of the largest independent steel company lived the last five years of his life on borrowed money and died penniless!

2.      Richard Whitney ... president of the New York Stock Exchange, served time in Sing Sing prison!

3.      Albert Fall ... a former member of the President's Cabinet was pardoned from prison so he could die at home!

4.      Jesse Livermore ... the greatest bear on Wall Street committed suicide.

5.      Leon Fraser ... the president of the Bank of International Settlement committed suicide!

6.      Ivar Krueger ... head of the world's greatest monopoly committed suicide!

Where was the success they had gathered to celebrate in 1923 together?  They had sought success by what they did, instead of what they were! – Source Unknown


PROP. SENT:   In God's kingdom, success is not so much WHAT YOU DO as much as it is WHO YOU ARE!  The qualities for real success are not so obvious to the world, but are made obvious in the Word!  God help us to be real successes in His Kingdom!


I.  LESSONS ON LOVE    2 Kings 2:1-6


A.    Commitment    2 Kings 2:1-6

1.    Since the key to success is WHO we are and not WHAT we do success comes to those who know how to love properly!

a.    This involves commitment!

b.    Love without commitment is just lust!  It does not seek its own way! (1 Cor. 13:5)

c.    Our country today is suffering from this neglected quality in all our institutions, from marriage, to work, to friendships, and even to church life!

2.    We are suffering from a lack of commitment to ideals and values ... we do what benefits us the most, or helps us gain the most, even if that means compromise on the values and ideals we hold dear, this is called pragmatism!

3.    Elijah offers Elisha three opportunities to leave him while he makes a final round of ministry to some tough areas ...

a.    Gilgal to Bethel ... from the mountains to the valley!

b.    Bethel to Jericho ... to a city that God had cursed!

c.    Jericho to the Jordan ... the boundary of the Promise Land to the wilderness!

4.    Each time Elijah offers Elisha a way out ... to stay behind while he makes one last call on these cities and the schools of the prophets that existed in each one!

a.    Normally, a servant would have obeyed his master when asked to stay behind...

b.    But Elisha knew this was a final trip ... he was committed to Elijah even until the end ... he would have nothing to do with leaving him!

c.    This act of commitment was an act of love ... perhaps it reflected the same kind of commitment Elisha had showed his own parents and the love he would have for God's people ... it was an unconditional commitment!

5.    Elisha's response to the prophets that pointed out Elijah's soon disappearance indicates the heart of Elisha ... he asks them "not to speak of it!"

a.    He didn't want to think of losing Elijah ... he would not take his leave just be­cause Elijah was leaving soon!

b.    Committed to the very end!

c.    Love demands this kind of commitment!


ILLUS:     In 1947 a professor at the University of Chicago (Dr. Chandrasekhar) was scheduled to teach an advanced seminar in astrophysics.  At the time he was living in Wisconsin, doing research at the Yerkes astronomical observatory.  He planned to commute twice a week for the class, even though it was to be held during the harsh winter months.  Registration for the class however fell far below expectations.  Only 2 students signed up.  People expected Dr. Chandrasekhar to cancel, but for the sake of 2 students he taught the class, commuting 100 miles round trip through back country roads in the dead of winter!  His students; Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee did their homework.  10 years later, in 1957 his 2 students won the Nobel Prize for physics ... so did their teacher Dr. Chandra­sekhar in 1983!  What a success ... what an example of commitment! – Source Unknown


B.    Communication    2 Kings 2:1-6

1.    The up-coming translation to heaven was to be no surprise for Elisha ... they both had good communications with one another!

a.    This is an attribute of Kingdom success!

b.    They kept no secrets from one another!

c.    Elijah had obviously told Elisha about his planned departure.

2.    Success can sometimes be dependant upon good communications ... certainly love is!  It is so important that we learn to communicate properly.


ILLUS:      A stranger was walking down a street and noticed a man struggling with a washing machine at the doorway of his house.  The stranger went over and volunteered to help the man move the washing machine.  As they worked together they were both struck with how difficult the job was turning out to be!  After several minutes of no success the two men stopped their efforts and just stared at each other in frustration!  They both were on the verge of total exhaustion.  Finally, when they had caught their breath the stranger said to the homeowner, "We'll never get this washing machine in there!"  To this the homeowner responded, "IN! ... I'M TRYING TO MOVE IT OUT OF HERE!"  Good communications would have helped them to succeed! – Source Unknown


3.    Any successful saint ... especially those who lead must learn to communicate to be a success!  This is a quality of love as well as leadership!


C.    Companionship    2 Kings 2:1-6

1.    Elisha was in this relationship for the long haul, even when the trip was to be a difficult one, or a final one!

a.    His companionship was not based on what he alone would get out of the re­lationship!

b.    Whatever came they would face it together, right until the bitter end, the moment of departure!


ILLUS:       In Dec. 1989 a story ran in the Chicago tribune about a tragic fire.  The fire had occurred in 1984, a home that had gone up in fire.  The firefighters discovered the bodies of a mother and 5 children huddled in the kitchen of the apartment.  The firefighters determined that the mother could have escaped in time with 2 or 3 of the children but evidently couldn't decide which ones to save ... so she chose to wait with all of them ... they all died waiting from smoke inhalation!  There are times when you just don't leave the ones you love! – Source Unknown


2.    Elisha was this committed to Elijah ... he wouldn't part from him until forced to!

3.    Only events beyond Elisha's control would break up the companionship they had forged!

a.    Fifty prophets from the “JORDAN BIBLE COLLEGE” stood at a distance to watch the end of their companionship ... to see Elijah taken and Elisha left!

b.    While they stood as spectators Elisha stood by Elijah's side as a faithful companion!


II.  LEARNING TO LEAD    2 Kings 2:7-10


A.    Challenge    2 Kings 2:7

1.    Elijah was about to cross over the Jordan, to leave the Promise Land, for the greater PROMISE LAND!

2.    Elisha would make the trip with him as far as possible ... right until the end!

3.    This was a quality he learned from Elijah as a teacher, now he was learning to lead himself!

4.    His love for God's people would challenge him to be committed to them even in their rebellious ways, to offer an example of leadership even to the bitter end if necessary!

5.    This would determine his success before God, not how many would be saved under his ministry, his faithfulness to BE what God called him to be!

6.    This is always a great challenge to us ... to not think of our success based on statistics and values the world uses to gauge success!  Faithfulness to God and His people is what determines success ... leadership in the kingdom is based on WHAT YOU ARE ... not on WHAT YOU DO!


B.    Character    2 Kings 2:8

1.    Elisha follows without hesitation, his character is about to be revealed by an offer of any thing he wished for would be granted!

a.    If God offered you any wish, what would you ask for?

b.    The understanding of success you hold would likely be revealed by that request ... certainly the real character of your life would be revealed!

2.    Character determines everything in life ... what you do will flow from what you are.

3.    If we are the right people before God, we will make the right choices!

4.    This is the essence of God's will ... being the right person will ensure the right choices, thus being in the Will of God!


ILLUS:      A middle-aged business man approached the front entrance of an office building in which he worked.  A young feminist came up to the door at the same moment so he stepped back and held the door open for her to pass through.  She looked at him with annoyance, "Don't hold the door for me just because I'm a woman."  To her surprise, he looked right back and replied, "I'm not, I'm holding the door open for you because I'm a gentleman!"  It wasn't because of who she was; it was because of who he was! – Source Unknown


C.    Choices    2 Kings 2:9-10

1.    Elijah's request for a wish from Elisha finds a unique response, one that reveals the good choice for a successor for his ministry!

2.    Elisha is offered anything he wishes for ... so he requests "A DOUBLE PORTION OF ELIJAH'S SPIRIT."

a.    This was not a request for twice as much power!

b.    This was not a request for twice as many miracles!

c.    It was the language of a first born son desiring his father's blessings!

3.    The idea behind the request was simple; Elijah had never married, no children ... who would carry on his ministry?

a.    Elisha desires to be pronounced his "SON" and inherit his ministry!

b.    He desires the Spirit of God that rested on Elijah!

4.    He could have asked for anything ... he asks for God's Spirit instead!

a.    Elijah's response indicates the clarity of this request, "YOU HAVE ASKED FOR A DIFFICULT THING..."

b.    Why was it such a difficult thing?  Because this was one of the few things Elijah was not free to give ... only God can give His Spirit to men and women!  It was not in Elijah's power to offer this; yet, the very request shows Elijah that God would likely answer this kind of prayer!

5.    Have you ever stopped to look at the choices you make in life ... what is it that you desire most?

a.    Those choices are likely to determine what kind of success you find in life!

b.    Why?  Because those things we really desire we are likely to strive and sacrifice for!


ILLUS:     In the 1976 Summer Olympics, Shun Fujimoto competed in the team gymnastics for Japan.  In a quest for the gold medal, Fujimoto suffered a broken right knee in the floor exercise.  But his injury didn't stop him!  During the next week he competed in his strongest event, the rings!  His routine was excellent, but he astonished every­one by squarely dismounting with a triple somersault twist on a broken right knee!  When asked concerning the feat he said, "Yes, the pain shot through me like a knife.  It brought tears to my eyes, but now I have a gold medal and the pain is gone!"  He had made his choice for success ... and the cost of pain could not stop him! – Source Unknown


6.    The price you are paying in life indicates the type of success you are striving for!

a.    Some pay the price of ignoring family to make that extra buck or to get a better promotion!

b.    Some are willing to sacrifice their own health, their values, etc. to just gain worldly success ... is it worth it?

c.    Others choose to sacrifice the extra's to have a strong family ... full of love, and they also realize their success!

7.    The freedom to choose is a sacred gift from God ... how we use it is a sacred responsibility that can bring us life or death; blessing or curses, choose wisely!


III.  LIVING A LEGACY     2 Kings 2:11-18


A.    Convictions     2 Kings 2:11-12

1.    Elisha had learned well how to lead from Elijah!  Now he was about to continue Elijah's legacy of godly leadership!

2.    To get what he wanted, he would have to be present when Elijah's ministry ended, and to receive the mantle that had first been used to wrap him in at his call!

3.    The mantle was the symbol of God's Spirit!

4.    Like Jesus did hundred's of years later ... He told his disciples that when He ascended they should wait and the Spirit would fall on them too!

5.    It was Elisha's conviction to believe Elijah's word on this!

a.    He could have asked, "Why do I have to get the mantle?"

b.    Perhaps it seemed a strange request ... but he believed it!

c.    It perhaps seems strange to us ... but sometimes we have to wait for God's Spirit to fall on us, to be obedient to the process believing it will happen!

6.    The moment arrives ... they are separated by God and Elisha's heart reveals the love for Elijah he holds as he cries out, "My father, my father..."

7.    Elijah is gone ... Elisha tears his own garments in remorse of separation!

a.    Why so sad?  Elisha knew Elijah was going to heaven, a much better place!

b.    It was the human response of seeing a loved one depart, something we still feel when a loved one dies and goes to heaven ... the anguish of separation, because of love!

8.    Besides, these garments of his were but rags now ... a more important garment was floating down for him to recover and wear!  THE MANTLE, THE SPIRIT!

a.    It was his conviction that his own garments were but filthy rags now...

b.    Only the covering of God's Spirit would matter now!


B.    Continuation    2 Kings 2:13-15

1.    Ironically, Elisha's first miracle was Elijah's last miracle ... Elisha begins where Elijah leaves off!

a.    Elijah's final miracle had been parting the Jordan, Elisha's first is parting the Jordan to return to the ministry within the Promise Land to God's people!

b.    Elijah's ministry would not end because the Spirit of God was still present!

c.    We may not accomplish everything in this life we would like but our work will go on after us if it has been done by God's Spirit through our lives!

d.    God can and will raise others who will go in His Spirit to serve and minister, continuing His Work!

2.    The fifty seminary students who were watching all this noticed this dynamic also, as soon as they saw the Spirit's work through Elisha just like Elijah they re­sponded, "The Spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha" ... they were witnesses of God's presence on God's chosen leader!

a.    They rush down and honor Elisha as they had honored Elijah!

b.    Their recognition helped establish Elisha's ministry right at the beginning!


C.    Clarification    2 Kings 2:16-18

1.    These students from “Jordan Bible College” were not so sure of what happened to Elijah ... their doubts reflect their lack of spiritual maturity!

a.    They want to go looking for Elijah!

b.    Perhaps Elijah hadn't made the full trip to heaven ... only a "get away" to the nearest mountain!  Before they follow Elisha, they want to know that their old teacher was really gone!

c.    Besides, maybe God took Elijah's spirit to heaven and dropped the body ... at least they could bury it!

2.    Elisha is sure and protests their desire ... until he feels ashamed by his constant refusal to look!

a.    Perhaps Elisha felt a little strange refusing these immature saints, they might think he was anxious to be the new leader and didn't care what happened to Elijah, even though he was convinced of God's action!

b.    As a demonstration of his love for them, he finally agrees, he meets them as a leader at the stage they are in spiritually!

3.    For three days they searched and found nothing ... like Jesus' three days in the grave!

a.    Elisha clarifies his conviction three days later that God had taken him and it was time to move on!

b.    As a new leader he clarifies the issues even when it makes him unpopular, but he is also willing to nurture the need for growing faith in those he leads.

4.    And now ... his ministry takes off, he too becomes a great success for the Lord, going against the obvious standards of success by the world he becomes a great success for the Lord!


CONCLUSION:   What made Elijah such an effective leader?  It wasn't his obvious natural abilities; he was flawed like the rest of us!  IT was his determined efforts at seeking God's power, not worldly power.  Elisha proves himself a cut from the same mold and thus continues Elijah’s legacy.  The other sons of the prophets fail to achieve Elijah's success in ministry because they operated from the obvious and therefore missed the realm of the Spirit.  What is the source of your ministry for God?