2 Kings 2:1-18 (Part 1) – Keep Pressing Ahead In Your Calling

Posted: April 4, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

2 Kings 2:1-18 (Part 1 of 3)

Elijah Taken into Heaven

My father, who passed on to be with the back in late October, once told me, “If you can be anything else other than a pastor, do it. But, having said that, if you have a burden for it and a calling to it, by all means, be a pastor.” I guess what he was telling me was that many people suppose that being a pastor is easy stuff. Ya know, sit around and write sermons and then preach on Sunday, right? However, being a pastor is so much more than that. Yes, when you are a preaching pastor, you do have to write sermons and you do have to preach, but it’s more than that. It is meetings, meetings, meetings. It is counseling. It is discipling. It is comforting the sick and their families. It is leading teams of volunteers. It is nights and weekends. It is a lot. It is so much more than what people think and expect when they think of their pastor.

In a recent survey of solo or senior pastors, one half of all pastors in the survey reported working as much as 60 hours per week. One quarter reported working more than 60 and one quarter reported working less than 35. The middle fifty percent of full-time (those working for the church 40 hours or more per week) Protestant pastors reported working between 42 and 63 hours per week. The remainder of the work week not accounted for by these core tasks of ministry is taken up by other tasks specified by the pastors, such as: fund raising, writing articles, correspondence, volunteer chaplaincy, and helping to oversee other ministries as board members or advisers.

But it is also more than about the numbers of hours. It is about loving the flock. That the hard part. It is about caring so much about the people of your church that it hurts when they hurt. It is also wondering why God chose you for this task of pastoring when you often feel inadequate to what He has called you to do. It is about trying to find time to develop relationships with the people of your church when there is just so finite of an amount of time each week. It is struggling with sermons in your soul as God lays the burden of a good word on you. It is writing 50-52 sermons each year without repeating yourself. It is about caring for the people to whom you have been assigned by the Lord. God gives us that talent to truly care about people. It’s more than just sitting around thinking and writing. So, that’s what I think my dad said if you can do anything else, do it.

I have learned in the past 15 months in my first full-time ministry position that I cannot do anything else anymore. Even though this first year has been quite the learning experience and has been extremely soul-rocking at times, it has quickened my burden for pastoring. The work of administrative pastor is the assignment but the burden for pastoring is the lives of people in our church that we have been able to be a part of over the last year and three months. That’s the part that means the most is helping people and learning from the wise in our church. Discipling a young couple. Helping another couple. Assisting a friend with a pastoral licensing exam. Helping a couple figure out how to better communicate. And then just deep conversations about God with others. And then there just the laughter and the fun times with friends that we have made in a jiffy thanks to the common bond of our church and of Jesus Christ. These are just things that you cannot experience when are not in ministry full-time. The key thing that I have learned since coming to this church is that being a pastor is about relationships – with each person you get to know in the church (the horizontal) and helping them have a better, deeper relationship with Jesus Christ (the vertical). That’s ministry. That’s the burden that makes you incapable of doing anything else but being a pastor. That’s the calling that God lays on you that you cannot shake.

If you asked me now to go back to the corporate world, I would tell you that there is no turning back now. This is what God called me to do. It is a burden and a passion to minister to people in the church to which God has us assigned. If I could do anything else, I would do it, but being a pastor is what God has called me to do and it is the passion to see lives changed by deeper relationships with Jesus Christ that burns in my soul such that I cannot do anything else now.

That idea of pressing forward in ministry no matter what is what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 2 Kings 2:1-18, for the first time this morning. It was striking to me that Elisha kept going on with Elijah even after three times being told to stay behind. He had that passion, that burden, that calling to press forward in ministry. Let’s read the passage now:

2 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Bethel.”

But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you!” So they went down together to Bethel.

3 The group of prophets from Bethel came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”

“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.”

4 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Jericho.”

But Elisha replied again, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together to Jericho.

5 Then the group of prophets from Jericho came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”

“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.”

6 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to the Jordan River.”

But again Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together.

7 Fifty men from the group of prophets also went and watched from a distance as Elijah and Elisha stopped beside the Jordan River. 8 Then Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it. The river divided, and the two of them went across on dry ground!

9 When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.”

And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.”

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.”

11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress.

13 Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. 14 He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.

15 When the group of prophets from Jericho saw from a distance what happened, they exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 “Sir,” they said, “just say the word and fifty of our strongest men will search the wilderness for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has left him on some mountain or in some valley.”

“No,” Elisha said, “don’t send them.” 17 But they kept urging him until they shamed him into agreeing, and he finally said, “All right, send them.” So fifty men searched for three days but did not find Elijah. 18 Elisha was still at Jericho when they returned. “Didn’t I tell you not to go?” he asked.

For today, in this passage, we see that Elisha is told to stay behind by Elijah on three different occasions but yet he persisted. The account of Elijah’s preparations to depart and Elisha’s determination to follow presupposes previous revelation, not in Scripture, that this day was to be Elijah’s last on earth (v.3). By repeatedly granting Elisha permission to remain behind (v.2, et al.), Elijah was testing Elisha’s commitment to himself and to his calling as Elijah’s successor. In a sense, Elijah was giving Elisha the opportunity to decline the difficult life and calling of a prophet.

So have there been tough times in this first year and three months. You betcha! Satan wants to attack us and make us doubt our calling to ministry. When we step out for the kingdom, we will be a target of Satan and doubt is his favorite weapon. However, it is in those low moments filled with self-doubt as to why you went into full time ministry at this place at this time, that’s when you have to cling to God all the more. That’s the big thing that the past 15 months has taught me. Trusting the Lord. Trusting the calling. Trusting that it all has a purpose. A pastor once told me that “God is preparing us for what He has prepared for us!” Sometimes, the preparation is hard. But it is these times that we learn trust in the Lord. Keep plugging ahead with the calling even when you want to quit and go back to your old life. God has called you to ministry and he never said it would be easy. It will be hard. But it is in the hard times that we learn to press ahead with trust in the Lord for the calling and the passion He has placed on our lives.

Amen and Amen.

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