There is a story of a man that rode into a western town on a stagecoach. He was hired as the local saloon’s bartender. The owner gave him a word of warning: “Remember, if you ever hear that Big John is on his way to town, drop everything and run for your life.”
Things went fine for several months until one day, a big strong cowhand with a ghost-white face burst through the swinging doors shouting, “Big John’s a comin’, Big John’s a comin’.” The patrons scrambled to get out of the door, knocking the bartender to the floor, running over him as they rushed out doors and windows. The bartender gathered his senses, got up off the floor, and was dusting himself off when a giant of a man suddenly came through the saloon doors. Riding bareback on a buffalo, using a rattlesnake for a whip, he rode through the doors, splintering the doors and doorframe. The man flung the snake into the corner, knocked over the tables as he walked up to the bar, and then with his huge fist split the bar in half. “Give me drink,” he yelled. “Y-y-y-yes sir,” said the frightened bartender. The man bit the top of the bottle off with his teeth, downed the contents in one gulp, and let out a belch that shattered the saloon mirror, and then turned to leave. The bartender said, “W-w-w-would you like to have another d-d-drink?” The man roared as he jumped back on his buffalo, “I ain’t got time. Big John’s a comin’ to town.”
Big things almost always intimidate us. Often big things produce fear and even a paralyzing effect.
Today is the last in a series of four messages that revolve around the calling and early ministry of Elisha the prophet.
Today it may be that God is calling you to do something bigger than you can imagine yourself being able to do
You may have been thinking for the last few weeks about what God wants you to do.
For some of you it may be a bigger thing than what you want to deal with.
Let’s examine today the reality of doing things for God, which we know we can not do by ourselves. If we can understand that with God all things are possible is more than just a cute phrase. It is more than just a nice line. It is fact. It is reality. With God’s help through the power of His Holy Spirit we can do anything. There is nothing that we can’t do.
II Kings 2: 11-14
“So the two of them walked on. 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 took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, 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 a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.” 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! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” 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 God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.”
Elijah asked Elisha a very important question right before he and Elisha knew he was about to be taken from this earth. He offered to help in whatever way Elisha needed. It is these kinds of occasions that can be most revealing about the character of someone. This was a test of Elisha’s character and values.
His primary desire leaps from his mouth before he even has time to think about it: “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,”
Elisha’s desire to succeed Elijah was no glamorous or appealing choice during the Omri dynasty. It basically meant your life could and probably would be in danger if you faithfully delivered God’s messages.
It is no light thing to ask God to allow you to be a part of a ministry.
You may be here this morning and be wondering what in the world does this sermon series have to do with Christmas. It has everything to do with Christmas. Jesus Christ came to this earth and left his followers in charge of spreading the good news. It is up to us to tell the story.
We tell it in many ways.
We tell it through sermons, teaching and songs.
We tell it through living lives that are pleasing to God.
We tell it through reaching out to others and using the gifts that God has given us to use.
I need to remind you again that everything this church does is about is reaching and touching lost and unchurched people. We are trying to answer the call and command of Jesus Christ to go into the world and preach the gospel. We are trying to teach and make disciples and train people to be Christ followers.
There are three things that we learn from Elisha’s story that teach us the secret to answering God’s call. Let’s look at them together.
Before we do let me pray.
1. God will Enable you with Power to Accomplish the Ministry He calls you to do.
Elisha experienced the power of God by going back to the Jordon River and evoking God’s power to enable him to cross over.
Elisha has just lost his friend and mentor. He has had a long day. A day which seemed to be building toward this unbelievable and dramatic moment when Elijah would be taken from him.
Elijah is now gone. He is standing alone. He is on the other side of the Jordan River from where he needs to be. He got there by Elijah using his mantle to part the waters. Now he stands there with Elijah’s mantle in his hand and faces the river. It is at this point that he asks a very important question.
“Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.”
In this series we have concluded that if you are a Christ-follower you have been called to be engaged in a ministry to others.
During this series of messages you have been asked to begin to pray about and identify what you could best do to serve others.
You and I must realize that God is calling us.
We must realize what He is calling us to do.
We must realize that no matter how challenging it is He will be faithful to enable us to do it.
For Elisha to ask the question meant that he was asking where is the God that answers by fire.
Where is the God that stops the rain?
Where is the God that fed Elijah using ravens to bring him food?
Where is the God that caused a widow’s meager supplies to run over in abundance?
Where is the God that caused a dead boy to return to life?
Where is the God that caused angels to feed Elijah when he was worn out and in the middle of the desert?
Where is the God of Elijah that showed up after the rain and the storm and the high winds and the earthquake and the fire? He showed up like a gentle whisper or a still small voice.
If we approach our calling with that attitude there will be no limit to what God can do through us.
The songwriter had it right when she penned the words:
In the harvest field now ripened
There’s a work for all to do;
Hark! the voice of God is calling
To the harvest calling you.
Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown—and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ Name.
Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem too small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own.
2. God will Endue or Fill you with the Presence of His Holy Spirit.
Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit. Today we have been promised to be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. (Purifying, Powerful.) We can only do ministry through the power of His Spirit. This is why the disciples were told to wait until they were endued or filled with power from on high in the book of Acts.
Jesus was very clear in his instruction to the apostles. Don’t try to do ministry without the help of My Spirit.
People make major messes when they attempt to do things for God and yet at the same time are not surrendered to His spirit.
Acts 1:4, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 4:33, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much grace was upon them all.”
Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
Paul in writing to the church at Ephesus expressed it so well,
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him for the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
What is it that God is asking you to do?
Every Christ follower is commanded by God to do something. This church will be incredibly healthy when we have the whole body functioning.
This goes back to what I shared in the first message in this series. We do not want to become just some church with a great worship experience on Sunday morning although we strive to have that.
We must become a church that becomes the body of Christ. A living functioning body. Where no part is paralyzed. Where we become skilled and proficient in the work of God on this earth.
Maybe some of you remember an analogy that I gave you in a sermon many weeks ago. Christ is the head of the church and we are his body. It’s like the deal you find at many tourist attractions where you stick your head through a little hole and someone takes you picture with some kind of funny body painted on a board below you head. Think about it in reverse for a moment. The head is perfect because the Head is Jesus Christ. The body below is what I am concerned about.
In fact let me make it a little more personal. The body below right here in this church. We are His body. Now the questions become are we healthy, are we functioning? Are we fulfilling what is important in God’s eyes? Are we on crutches or in a wheelchair? Are we doing the work of the ministry that God calls His followers to do?
We can do it. We can do it individually and as a church when we submit our lives to the power provided through God’s Holy Spirit.
An old prophet a long time ago quoted God when he wrote, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)
When you find the ministry that God has for you don’t do it on your own but surrender yourself to Him and he will take your weakness and give you unbelievable abilities and strength to carry out his will.
A.W. Tozer wrote many years ago: “Without the Holy Spirit 95% of what the early church did in ministry would have ceased but today 95% of what we do in ministry would continue without the Holy Spirit.” (Paraphrase)
There is no question that God is calling you and there is no question that you can do what he is asking you to do if you yield yourself to His Spirit.
3. God will Give you the Ability to Endure Successes and Failures because you have been Given a Purpose to Accomplish.
Just because we have been called does not mean we will always succeed. Sometimes we will attempt things and fail.
People can cause this i.e. Elisha listening to the other prophets in verses 15-18. There will always be voices from people who are not being led by the spirit who will want you to distract you from your calling. Sometimes these people will try to rock your boat. It reminds me of a couple of quotes I read sometime ago. “The loudest boos always come from the cheap seats. And people who are busy rowing seldom have time to rock the boat.” It will always be the uninvolved that Satan will use to try and distract you from what God wants you to do. These prophets were spectators. All they did in this story was watch. When they did try to get involved it was to control this young prophet. It was an exercise in futility. Don’t let people distract you from what God is calling us to do and be as a church.
God will give us the ability to endure the burdens and the blessings.
There is a story of Elisha feeding 100 people instead of killing 100 found in Chapter 4:42-44. You remember Elijah’s act of killing 100 people. We have mentioned the last two Sundays. In Chapter four of II Kings we find Elisha allowing God to use him to feed 100 people.
The apostle Paul had a self-revealing moment in II Corinthians 12:7-10. He puts it all in perspective. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Let me give you the final wrap-up of this whole series.
1. Acknowledge the call God has placed on our lives.
2. Abandon ourselves to serve Him.
3. Allow God to use us in His own way.
1. We must refuse to be distracted.
2. We can be passionate about our dedication to our calling.
3. We will experience a sense of destiny.
1. We can step out into what God has called us to do because we have a history of God-facts.
2. Stepping out will always require a measure of faith.
3. Doing what God wants us to do will open up an entirely new future in our lives.
In all of these sermons the themes are clear.
1. God calls every one of his followers to be involved in a ministry.
2. God will use you beyond what you can begin to imagine if you surrender your life to Him.
3. Everything will not always be perfect just because you are following God.
4. This is the first day of the rest of your life and you can allow God to completely change your future.
He is a very good friend. I will never forget the evening we spent driving around his hometown for nearly two hours while he showed me the places he had lived and told me his story.
Alcoholic father. Praying mother. His was a life of poverty and insecurity. I don’t remember the whole story but enough to testify on his behalf that the God who called him has been faithful. He described the feeling that comes with always being the family that churches brought gifts and food to during the holidays. He showed me the tiny shack-like house where he had lived. Poverty and humiliation, a life with very little hope for the future.
It was God who called him one day. It was God who came and delivered him from the some of the habits and things that were destroying his body. It was God who called him and cleaned him up and prepared him for ministry. It was God that led him to Bible College then to pastoring. It is God who has opened the doors which now have allowed him to travel around the world and tell the story of Jesus Christ. It is God who allowed him to become a church leader with supervision of nearly 100 churches in several states. It is God who redeemed his life from destruction and has given him grown children who love and serve God. It is God who has filled his life with grandchildren who are being taught to love Jesus. It is God who changed his future and destiny and leads him on a daily basis to be a Christ follower.
What are you going to do?
When are you going to do it?
How much of yourself are you going to give to God?