Summary: Part 12 in Elijah series - how Elijah did so well finishing, and what Elisha needed to do to finish well also.
2 Kings 2:1-14 – Running the Race, Finishing the Course
Today we are wrapping up our series on the life of Elijah. Since January, taking a few months off in between, we have seen this man at his best, and at his worst. We’ve seen him victorious, riding high in God’s triumph. And we’ve seen him defeated, walking low and slow in despair. Today we look at how he left this earth, successfully leaving in a literal blaze of glory. But, even as we see one prophet of God leave, we find another just beginning his ministry. I want to take a few moments, thinking about Elijah’s departure and how Elisha must have felt about it all. Let’s read 2 Kings 2:1-14.
The Bible only tells of 2 people who did not die on their way to heaven. Enoch in Genesis 6 and Elijah in 2 Kings 2. Well, I suppose Jesus ascended to heaven, but He certainly did taste death before He got there. Skipping death was certainly a rare thing. Yet, Elijah was of a unique breed to do it. He was faithful to do what God wanted from start to finish. He was willing to serve God even when he thought he was all alone in it. He was willing to stand up to the forces of evil and put his life on the line. His prayers were powerful, his life was exemplary. He was far from perfect, though. He was prone to mood swings and self-induced loneliness. Yet he never let his foibles get in the way of faithfulness. Elijah was a good man.
And he ran the race well. Thinking of the Olympics this time of year, we can see he was a runner for God. Thinking of Paul’s words in 2 Timothy, Elijah fought the fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Folks, perseverance is how Elijah won. He was not a sprinter – he was a marathon runner. He kept going when it would have been easier to quit or back away.
I think of Allyson Felix, who has won a silver medal this year for the women’s 200m run. She’s been called the world’s fastest teenager, and she’s also a Christian. She said this: “My faith means everything to me, and in every way, my goal is to bring God the glory.” She has also said this: “God gave me this ability. My speed is definitely a gift from Him, and I run for His glory. Whatever I do, He allows me to do it."
And when Allyson suffered a leg injury in high school, hindering her running, her faith was really put to the test. This is what she said about that time in her life: "I try to keep my priorities straight. When I got injured, it was frustrating, not being able to run like I knew I could. I really had to sit back and keep going to the Lord and depending on Him." That, friends, is the spirit of Elijah. Running the race, despite difficulties, and continuing to press on. That is perseverance. That is how Elijah ended so well. That is what we are called to as well.
But there was one problem about Elijah leaving. Elisha was left behind. Elisha was now left to fend for himself, to manage his own faith, to press on despite losing a loved one. Maybe you have felt these same ways. Maybe you have felt left behind. Maybe you have wondered how you will be able to make it.
We have all seen losses to varying extents. The loss of parents or grandparents, the loss of a spouse, either by death or by separation, the loss of a dream, the loss of a job... these weigh on people’s hearts. The sense of loneliness and the sense of emptiness that come with loss sometimes seem unbearable. And often our hearts grow callused, to prevent future pain. One woman, perhaps the wife of a military man, a police officer, perhaps even a pastor, explained her loneliness and said, “I got so tired of saying good-bye, that I stopped saying hello.”
But unfortunately, loss is part of life. Hardships are part of life. Death is part of life. Sin is part of life. And no-one, not even a Christian, is immune to it all. I think of the story I read of a group of British tourists, vacationing in Arizona, who spot a cowboy by the side of the road with his ear to the ground. "What’s going on?" they asked him.
"Two horses, one grey and one chestnut, are pulling a wagon carrying 2 men," the cowboy says. "One man is wearing a red shirt and the other a black shirt. And they’re heading east."
"Wow, you can tell all that just by listening to the ground?" says one of the tourists.