Elijah & Elisha: Called to Be; Called to Do

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  We are glad you are here today.  I’d like to especially welcome anyone who is here for the first time today – we are very happy to see you here.  We started Journey ten years ago with the intention of helping people – especially people who are just starting their faith Journey, or perhaps re-starting their faith journey – to discover the real Jesus.  We truly believe that when you discover the real Jesus you will find him irresistible.  Because he is the most loving, the most intelligent, most kind and gentle man who ever lived.  And two thousand years after his life and death and resurrection from the dead, we are still profoundly shaped by his life and teaching.

Today we are going to be talking about “purpose” – and I want to start this morning by taking a look at some everyday objects you have around the house that you think you know all about – but my guess is that the person who invented the item had more in mind than you ever imagined.

I came across a number of websites this week that helped to explain – everyday objects that you really don’t know about…

For instance – perhaps you have this spoon in your kitchen drawer?  A spaghetti spoon, right?

Well, ever wonder what the purpose of the hole in the middle if the spoon is for?

Well – viola – it’s enough spaghetti to feed one person.  One tiny person looking for a spaghetti snack of some kind.

That’s not going to do it for me.  So I bought this one online – it’s more my size.

Yeah that’s about it.    (Full box)

Next – in some of these newer model cars they have this compartment above the dashboard – here’s a picture of one – earlier someone said they see a face – that’s the face your car is making at how you drive –  it’s aghast  – it’s horrified – but that’s not the purpose.

The purpose, I was surprised to find out…  is…  (taco holder)

In some of these newer model cars they have these holes – that I have to confess all along I thought were to hold drinks…  But it turns out that I was wrong.  Look for yourself.  (Burrito Holders)

This shtick has been sponsored by El Vallarta Mexican Cuisine – Hmm Hmm deliscioso.

Lastly – here’s something else that has a purpose that you might not know about.  See this tiny triangle next to the gas pump?  Do you know what that’s for?  That’s right – it’s to indicate which side of the car the fuel tank is on –  so you know what side of the pump to pull on.

Now – is my wife in here?  Babe – there’s another symbol here I want to point out that I don’t think you knew the purpose of…  See this red line?  It actually tells you when your car is nearing empty.  The E stands for Empty.  The F stands for full.

How many of you got elbowed by your spouse.  It’s okay.  The more you know!

Okay – today we are going to look at the idea of calling and purpose.  And it’s a biggie.  It’s one of the most important topics possible.  What is my calling?  What is my purpose?

Have you been just thrown into this world?  Or were you called?  Were you created, and purposed to be here at this time and place in the history of the world?  Or did it just happen by random accident and chance.

If there is no creator, then the answer is yes.  Sadly, you are nothing more than particles and space debris.  And you will struggle with purpose – and you will have to own that as an implication of your worldview – should you believe that we are all a product of random chance.

But the good news – and I’m very glad you are here today to hear this good news – there IS a God and the bible is overwhelmingly clear that you are created and formed by Him and for good reason.

No one else in the history of the world is exactly like you are – God made you unique and has placed you for a reason in 2019 in Gretna Nebraska.  You are significant.  You were built to count.  But, it is my premise today that you will not find your true purpose until you find it in Jesus, with Jesus, for Jesus.

So let’s take a look at a story that we will read from the book of Kings today about a man named Elisha.  We’ve been studying Elijah the past few weeks, and today we will be introduced to his successor as role of a prophet in Israel.

Elijah and Elisha come on the scene about 875BC during the reign of one of the most wicked and degenerate kings in the history of Israel – a man named Ahab.  Elijah – and soon Elisha – are God’s spokespeople – doing their best to get the nation of Israel to turn back to worshipping the God of Israel instead of false gods like Baal and Asherah – who are gods made of sticks and metal – fashioned by human hands – no gods at all.

Last week we read about Elijah’s time of discouragement – he’s done everything God asked him to do and still – nothing changed for the good and it threw Elijah into a dark night of the soul.  He wanted to quit ministry, and prayed that God would allow him to die.  That’s pretty low.

And in response to this God tells Elijah – one of the things God says is, you need a buddy – you need a new assistant – one who will take over for you eventually and so God tells Elijah to go get Elisha.  And here’s where we pick up the story.

19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. 20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”

Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”

21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.

Now you aren’t Elisha.  You didn’t live 3000 years ago.  Elijah didn’t throw his cloak around you.  So what can we learn from this story that applies to us today?  And I’d say plenty.

Because – Just as God called Elisha – God has called you. 

Let me mentioned three groups of people God has called today – and I’m confident you will find yourself in one of these three groups.

Ready – first group.  There are some of you in this room who have been called by God into a specific ministry. Is God calling you to ministry? Now I’m going to spend the rest of the sermon talking about the fact that all of us have a calling to walk with and follow Jesus – but although I don’t want to elevate a call to ministry above any other call – to be a doctor or a plumber or a stay at home mom or anything.  However neither do I want to ignore the fact that some in this room have been called to full time ministry.

There might be some future pastors, future missionaries, future church starters in this room – Future medical professionals who work as missionaries – like our friends Brett and Sheri MacClean?  Is there anyone in here who feels that God is calling them to serve him as a career?

I remember meeting a number of years ago with a friend who attended church here named Ryan Albano – who called me up one day and said, I believe God has called me to become a chaplain in the Navy.  And today he is serving in Italy after being deployed on a aircraft carrier last year.

Elisha is interesting because there seems to be no warning.  Elisha has not met, to our knowledge, Elijah.  Elisha has no idea that he is the subject of a conversation between God and Elijah.  He is just working.  Doing his thing – plowing a field.  And one day he hears the call of God to full time ministry and he responds.

I was a junior in High School when I felt I heard God call me into ministry.  Perhaps there is a Junior in this room who even as I speak is realizing that God is tapping him or her on the shoulder and saying – I have plans for full time ministry for you.

That’s the first group.  There is a second group I want to talk to.

There are some of you in this room who have yet to make a decision to follow Jesus.  You have been wearing your investigative reporters hat and you have been listening and learning and today might be the day it dawns on you that Jesus has you in mind when he says to people come, follow me.

Is Jesus calling you to follow Him?  Can you hear his invitation?

You are created with a purpose.  You’ve been created to do great things for and with God but it cannot begin until you respond to Jesus’ invitation – he is saying to you right now – “Come, follow me.”

What is the invitation?  It’s far more than you imagine.  It’s far more than, “Come, pray this prayer and you get to go to heaven when you die.  Rather, the invitation is to surrender everything to Jesus.  To put it all on the altar and to trust that he will lead and direct our lives accordingly.  It’s an invitation to come and die to yourself. Will today be the day you respond to His calling?  It’s your call.

Listen – you know what part of the story I found really interesting?  Elijah went over to Elisha throws his cloak around him and walks away.  Why?  Elijah is simply saying – I’m not the one calling you.  God is.  I’m just the spokesperson.  Whether you respond to the invitation form Jesus to follow him, is your decision.  After I preach I’m going to go to lunch.  It’s not on me.  I am speaking to you and announcing the invitation stands – and perhaps now is the time.  You are burning daylight.  Now’s the time you get to understand life with real genuine everlasting purpose.

How does one do that?  With an internal prayer – between you and God – announce your intentions.  Jesus – I have heard enough – I believe that you paid the price for me on the cross and I think highly enough of you to trust you with every aspect of  my life.  I will follow you – lead me accordingly.  Teach me what it means to follow you.  And then let me know.

These are the first two groups of people.  Lastly – what about those of us who have already responded to Jesus calling to follow him?  What does this story teach those of us who have already answered the call to follow Jesus?

So let’s talk about what Elisha teaches us about what it means to follow Jesus.  Three ways.

  1. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves daily.

Here’s how Jesus puts it, according to Luke chapter 9:23  23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.

What did it look like for Elisha for die to himself?  For Elisha it meant giving up his former way of life.  Giving up his security.  Giving up his status.

Because here’s the deal.  Elisha had a lot going for him.  First of all – he was rich.  He was very wealthy.  He had twelve teams of oxen.  And since we later learn that he burned all the equipment and ate all the animals – he owned them all – and that meant Elisha was the CEO of a large farming operation.  If he needed twelve teams of oxen, it meant that he had a ton of land.  He had many employees – he was paying eleven others to operate the first eleven plows and he was in the back so he could supervise.

Money, power, prestige.  He had it all.  And what happens?  Elijah throws a cloak on him and calls him to die to himself and leave it all behind.  And let’s be real – that cloak?  Three years in the desert.  That had to of been a ratty dirty cloak.

What was Elijah calling him to, exactly?  Elisha – I’m running for my life form Ahab and Jezebel.  I want you to leave all this to join me on the run for our lives in the desert.

Now – to be fair. What else did Elisha leave behind?  Twelve teams of Oxen butts – and Oxen manure – if you are the last through then you are getting a first hand knowledge of what your oxen are eating.

Now it’s speculation, but could it be that Elisha had come to the place where he realized the emptiness of all the world tells us we need to have to be happy?

I heard an interesting Graduation speech by Kyle Korver that he gave at Creighton a couple of weeks ago when he says that at age 23 he had made the NBA – had all the money he could spend, all the success.  And one day he got in the shower and slumped on the floor – and an hour later was still there crying.

Why? “I was a mess. I couldn’t get myself to move. I was so incredibly … sad.  And then I got mad at myself. What was wrong with me? I’d made the NBA. I was living the dream I’d had as a kid. I had all the comforts that success can get you. And I was only 23 years old. But I felt empty.  I was anxious.  I was miserable.

You know why?  Purpose.  He couldn’t define the purpose of his life.

I wonder if Elisha would have understood that emptiness.  I wonder if you can?

Elisha has it all – and the call comes, and Elisha surrenders it all.  He gives it all up.  What does Elisha do?  He burns the plows.  He is making a pretty dramatic declaration.  He ain’t ever, ever, ever going back.  He will not even allow himself the temptation.  He slaughters the animals and throws a party for the town that the town will never forget.  He is all in.  And that call means a call to denying self.

Is God asking you to give something up?  Is he?

The reality is that following Jesus means we surrender to Him all of our rights.  He gets to tell us what to give up.  Nothing is off limits to God. Not our money, not our future, not our families, not our sexuality, not a single thing lies outside of his grasp.

And this might be what is keeping some of you from saying yes to the invitation to follow Jesus.  You might be thinking – I don’t want to give up my freedoms!  I don’t want to deny myself.

And here’s the deal.  You can choose to turn down Jesus offer to follow Him. And you will retain ultimate “freedom” to do what you will.   You will have freedom but – you will struggle to find real and genuine and lasting purpose.

If there is a God – good news – you will find purpose.  But you will require that you surrender your “freedoms”.   In other words you don’t get to do whatever you want – you freely give him permission to challenge all aspects of our life and the way we live it – He gets to call the shots in your life.  That’s the deal.

We voluntarily, happily surrender our freedoms and in return we get significance beyond belief.  Purpose for each and every day of our lives.  You were built to count.  But until you find your purpose in and with Jesus, you will be the burrito in the cupholder of life.  I don’t know what that means, but you get the idea.

  1. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves daily.
  2. We learn from Elisha that Jesus calls us to live a life of humble servanthood.

Matthew 20:26 Jesus teaches his disciples that the key to leadership is serving.  If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be a servant to all.

Elisha goes from a CEO to an intern.  Here’s an interesting thing.  He works as Elijah’s apprentice for 18 years.

The day will come when Elisha will be the prophet.  But he is an intern for 18 years.  I wonder how Elisha’s parents handled that.  “How’s Elisha?  Well, he was the CEO of the farm – but now he’s an intern.  He has been living out the desert somewhere now – but only for the last 18 years.

Listen – until you learn that importance and the value of humble servanthood, you are not going to get very far in your Christian walk.  And you will really struggle to discover God’s purpose for you.

See the message of the bible is both humbling and honoring.  When we see just how sinful we are and prideful we are – we are far worse off than we ever imagined – far more evil than we want to admit – and when we see ourselves in light of God and what Jesus was willing to do for people like us?  It humbles us.

And when we see how loved we are by God – how he treats us with such dignity in spite of all of our rebellion – well it gives us such strength and purpose and gratitude that we see there’s nothing that we wouldn’t do for God in return.

And we surrender ourselves to God and he begins to use us – immediately, to bring healing to this broken world.  And suddenly our lives are so much more than we ever dreamed they could be.

Jesus beckons us to deny ourselves and follow Him.  And don’t you see what you get in return?  Far more than heaven.  You’ll get significance.

Jesus calls us to a life of breathtaking, life changing, significance. 

You were built to live a significant life – and the bible promises to deliver a life of significance.  Each and every day of your life counts.  Each and every day of your life becomes an adventure.

How?  Here’s how.  You live in a world filled with people.  And some of those people have no idea that God has plans for their life.  But God has called you to become the kind of people who care for people and treat them with respect and dignity.  And the day might come when your friend looks at you and the life you are living and the person you are becoming and says – what is different about them?

This world is filled with people who are asking the question – is there a God – perhaps they prayed that prayer last night – God do you really exist?  And God always hears that prayer and says – let’s put you into their life somewhere along the way.

See, everywhere you go, there you are.  But you are not alone.  The God of the universe lives inside of you and together – yes, together, you are bringing healing to your corner of the universe.

Once you answer the call to follow Jesus, you become a receptacle of the divine.  God works with you, through you, to make this broken world better, more loving, more gracious, more compassionate.

We were built to count, as water is made to run downhill.  And you have been placed in your unique context to count in ways no one else can or does.  It is your destiny to live for God and with God in your world.

Your friends and family and neighbors and Co-workers – that lay in bed at night wondering if there’s anything more to life – if there is a God – if there is a purpose to all of this –  You are God’s response.

So live your life with intentionality and love.  Listen and respond to the Spirit of God that lives inside of you.  You are the Salt and Light of the world.  You are Gods workmanship created to do good in this broken and wayward world.

In a moment we will take communion together – and what is communion?  A remembrance of our humble servant leader, Jesus, who willingly died on a cross to rescue us from a mundane and meaningless life  – and gives us a life of significance and purpose by helping others discover the same.