Elisha  Running His Own Race

Dear Lord,

   You don't have to go out of Your way to remind me of the way beginnings feel. I remember as though it were yesterday. In fact, it's closer than yesterday — it's right now.

   Deal first with my own fears, Lord, that I might offer some answers to the fears of others. I know I carry no other responsibility than availability to You, but my mind keeps wandering off to some unknown reader I so earnestly want to please.

   I confess I am more concerned with the reader's relationship to this book than I am with my relationship to You. If it is at all possible, I would like to hold the attention of you both, but if the choice is either/or, I hereby shift my priorities to Your direction. However, dear Lord, if You are concerned about the same reader who concerns me, please give me the words to keep that reader reading.

   I pray in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Amen.            

   Elisha, a great prophet of Israel, lived about 850 years before Christ. The son of a prosperous farmer, he was called by God into a ministry containing more recorded miracles than that of any other Old Testament prophet.

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   Elisha stood firmly against the pagan culture of his time and was a channel of blessings from God Almighty to a multitude of sufferers. His life shines with a special significance, but once he stood facing an audience of critics, a raw, untried beginner on the wrong side of the Jordan River, in a secondhand coat.

Elisha's Casting

   Casting calls are the most draining experience actors can have. When people tried to dissuade me from going into professional theater, they told me how hard the work was. They should have threatened me with realistic accounts of how hard the waiting would be: waiting backstage, waiting during rehearsals, waiting for call-backs, waiting for agents — endless waiting! Worst of all is the waiting in hundreds of outer offices for initial interviews and readings that might just possibly mean waiting for work.

   Elisha's casting was of an entirely different nature. The casting agent called him! Elisha was hard at work in his father's fields when Elijah gave him the job.

So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen... and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.

1 Kings 19:19            

    There's an interesting principle in that verse. Elisha was not off somewhere, waiting in idleness for a bolt from the blue. I am really impressed by how many of God's heroic servants were called while they were

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busily applying themselves to the task at home.

   My mother tells of spending a long day at the doctor's office, taking those dreary tests that are generally worse than the illness for which they are testing. At the end of the day, as everyone was finishing the day's records, one of the dressing room doors burst open, and a rather large man, draped in a rather small smock, bellowed at the amazed office workers, "When is someone going to get to me?"

   Do you ever feel like that? I do! When is God going to get to me? Has He forgotten me? Noah may have wondered that as he waited for over a year in an ark full of undiapered animals! Have you figured that since God didn't honor your plan and your timing, He had no more use for your person?

   Sometimes ignoring our plan is the best thing God can do for us, and sometimes delaying our plan is the most protective thing He can do for us. Wait for God's plan. He didn't forget Elisha. He won't forget you.

   Be at ease and be productive, wherever you are as you wait. God remembers where He placed you. He knows just where to look when the time comes to call you.

And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee...

   1 Kings 19:20            

   Elisha was also deeply aware of the earnestness of commitments. He came into the Lord's service with full understanding of cause and effect.

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   We Christians have mistreated the spontaneity of our Sovereign God. He has every right to call us with our hand on the plow, or with a roast in the oven, or with cruise tickets in our pocket. He has every right to call us to anything, anytime He chooses. But He is, was, and always will be, a God of order. Being a God of order and discipline, He wants us to learn the meaning of commitment. Sometimes we must learn it by sticking to some tedious job we accepted by mistake. God's call carries the accent of integrity, and there is no integrity in a contract casually broken.

   Elisha had learned the meaning of commitment. He applied himself wholeheartedly to the task assigned, and before he left home for a new task, he carried out his responsibilities to his family. He loved his home, even as he left it!

And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen....

   1 Kings 19:21              

   As Elisha was preparing a banquet for his family and friends, he dispensed with the instruments of his past occupation. The Lord who gives us grace to serve also gives us grace to sever. Elisha claimed God's grace to sever as well as to serve.

   What a lesson that was for me! The old ways are so comfortable, the old ties are tender, the paths that are known rub the feet so gently. Some of us live our whole lives in small alcove attachments to the security of our childhood, afraid to deal with more than the

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shadow of maturity. Elisha moved forward into the area of his assignment. He responded with joy to that which was set before him and fulfilled with devotion the honor of his past.

   He offered a banquet celebration to share in the joy of his new calling. I hope Elisha had the kind of family that celebrated with him. I hope he had parents who were willing to release their child to the maturity they had prepared him to have.

   Elisha's background trained him to plow, but God called him to preach. Sometimes it is hard for us who are ready for the plowing to celebrate the call to preaching. Perhaps Elisha's show of responsibility, his consistency, and his willingness to part with his old occupation made it easier for his family to celebrate. They must have seen in those actions the maturity that meant he was ready to move out on his own under God.

   Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.

   1 Kings 19:21                      

    Elisha's Rehearsal

   God not only equips us to do everything He calls us to do, He also gives us ample time for rehearsal. Opportunities for training always precede His opportunities for performance.

   Apparently Elisha had about ten years of coaching from his master Elijah. Ten years of seeing Elijah's ministry as prophet and teacher. Ten years of learning from his example as well as from his instruction. I am

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sure those years were rich in meaning, although occasionally rough in method. Good teachers are not always gentle teachers.

   A good teacher is a rare gift of God. It is so much easier to win friends than it is to teach students. A true teacher purposes to teach and leaves the popularity contests to others.

   Elisha had the benefits of a great teacher, Elijah: a teacher who committed himself to preparing his student for a significant ministry. Elisha accepted the discipline of that preparing.

    I learned the lesson about the need for preparation the hard way! One night I was on my way to teach a Bible class for which I was not prepared. On the way to the class, I prayed fervently that God would use that class to His glory in spite of my limitations.

   God honored my prayer in a mighty way. It was one of the most-productive classes I had ever taught. I thanked the Lord for His last-minute deliverance and was very grateful that He had had such a good lesson all prepared.

   The next teaching assignment, the same thing happened. It was wonderful. I thought I had discovered a new and definitely liberating principle!

   My next week's booking was in California and included the presentation of a Bible monologue and a twenty-minute address. I flew out with a light heart I did not prepare my talk or concern myself with the assignment. I knew God would take care of all the details.

    I was so at ease! As I walked out to the platform I felt no tension, no concern, no touch of apprehension

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I knew the Lord would bail me out in a spectacular way!

   I was introduced and walked to the microphone, still trusting God to provide words and a text at the last minute. He didn't! Seven times I thanked the audience for having me there, while I waited for revelation! Nothing! Finally, after what seemed like hours, I said, "As David says in the Psalms...." quoted two proverbs, and sat down.

   I couldn't believe it! God had left me up there, unprepared. That's when I learned another principle: God was not going to pull miracles out of the hat just to cover my lack of preparedness. If I valued His assignment, I would commit myself to my homework as a part of my ministry. He gave me time to get ready for His opportunity, and He would hold me accountable for it.

   That's what rehearsals are for. Amateurs cling to the idea that good theater springs from that mystical period between a dreadful rehearsal and a magnificent opening night. Professional actors (and great prophets) are more apt to expect a satisfying progression from rehearsal to rehearsal, as actors and director work together toward a good performance.

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