Today, if I told you that many of us suffer from a traumatic disease that is eating away at us daily, would you believe me? This disease, however, is gaining traction by infecting many in our world today. Right now, this disease is eating at the hearts and the minds, the brains, and even the limbs of our friends, our families, significant others, and if we are courageous enough to reflect and to admit, it can be found in many of us today. This tragic disease is a mixture of selective amnesia mixed with the worshipping of circumstantial knowledge which ultimately leads to circumstantial faith. The disease, you see, of circumstantial faith is defined as faith in God based on favorable life circumstances. Individually, you decide when your faith takes root, and when your faith can be uprooted. When life is good, God is good. When life is bad all we notice is the circumstance, the challenge, or the chaos. Is it possible for us to admit that our circumstantial faith is placing a lid on our potential, and ultimately our relationship with God? Could it be that for us to thrive professionally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically God is asking for our faith to take root, rather than to uproot and flow in the wind pending the different circumstances life presents? Each day God is holding a graduation for those who desire to graduate from circumstantial faith to a state of intentional faithfulness.
My friends, to be intentional, it literally means to live on purpose. We are intentional about making money, going to work, seeking friendships, and even relationships, but how many of us can actually declare that we are intentional in our relationship with God? The book of 1 Kings is all about the intentional moves of Solomon. Solomon's reign as king and as he begins to gain popularity, he takes his eyes off God, and begins to live a double life. This double life produces two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. God however was concerned about these kingdoms' faithfulness as he is with us, so much that he sent truthtellers to go and proclaim that they needed to stop living any kind of way and to graduate to intentionally becoming faithful to God. Yet, my friends, in 2 Kings Elijah is one of these truthtellers and has yet a mentee by the name of Elisha. And it's in this mentor-mentee relationship that we find a roadmap that, if we decide to intentionally travel, our faith will graduate from circumstantial faith to that of intentional faithfulness.
My friends, the first step towards graduation to intentional faithfulness is found right here in the first through the third verse of 2 Kings, chapter two. And I like to sum it up like this, we must learn to shut out the noise.
You see, right here, soon and very soon the mentor-mentee relationship with Elijah and Elisha, it will end as Elijah will be sent to heaven in a whirlwind with God. Elijah understands this and he urges Elisha to stay put as God has instructed him to go to Bethel. But, as a magnet sticks to a refrigerator, Elisha sticks to the side of his mentor saying, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you."
What is quite interesting here to note is that in the midst of any attempt to thrive, to exhibit faithfulness, or simply to do something uplifting, there will always be someone or something that decides to pose yet an obstacle to come against the attempt.
We find this proven true in this text as well! Right here in verse three, we are told that after the mentor Elijah and the mentee Elisha decide to travel to Bethel a company of supposedly truthtellers target Elisha the mentee who has to be a ball of emotions because he understands his mentor is about to leave him today, only to hear these people communicate his greatest fear and circumstance which he already knows.
This has to be annoying, but rather than to continue in unfruitful conversation with these people, he says, "Yes, I know; keep silent." Elisha understands he can't stop the inevitable, but he can decide what does and does not enter his brain.
Today, we can make Elisha a mentor for all of us and simply learn to shut out the noise. In our lives we must learn to shut out anything that will not help in developing us, and that which is not helping us to become ultimately what God desires that we become. This form of noise can be found today in text messages. Noise can be found in relationships, phone calls, and even some of our friendships. My friends, our society is filled with Noise, but we have to learn to be like Elisha and understand the circumstance, shut out the noise, and simply be faithful.
Not only does 2 Kings 2:1-14 teach us to shut out the noise, but yet, in verses four through six, if we are going to make it to intentional faithfulness, we must also learn to synthesize the tactics of our distractors.
This word synthesize, it literally means to combine a number of things into a coherent whole. Therefore, in our lives we have to begin to pay attention to the pattern of those things that distract us and then start to piece the strategy together. When this happens, your distractor can never surprise you.
Look at verses four through six, it validates this synthesizing of the tactics. You see, in verses four through six, it models this when Elijah tries to separate himself from his mentee Elisha yet another time. This time to go to Jericho, yet Elisha repeats yet a familiar statement saying, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." This model of intentional faithfulness leads to Elisha modeling perseverance in the midst of his distractors as the distractors in Jericho model the same tactic of the distractors in Bethel.
After they tell Elisha the same heartbreaking news that Elijah will leave him today, he is completely aware and he pieces together the strategy of the distractors, as they have followed the same as those before and he shares the same consice response, "Yes, I know; be silent."
In our lives today, wouldn't our relationship with God be incredibly different if we began paying attention to the pattern of the enemy, synthesizing the tactic, but also remembering how God has rescued, how God has provided, how God has loved, and how God continues to care for us daily?
We must start asking the question of how are you tempted? And what do our distractors use in our lives to knock us off track? If we learn to synthesize the tactic of our distractors, we can model intentional faithfulness because the distraction may come, but we will be reminded that God is here with us!
Graduating to intentional faithfulness causes us to learn to shut out the noise, to learn to synthesize the tactics of our distractors, but we must also also learn to persevere in the midst of life's ambiguity.
You see, to say that something is ambiguous means that it is open to more than one interpretation. Think about it, we don't always know why things are the way they are in our lives. We are not aware as to why bad things happen to good people, or why good things happen to people we consider bad people. However, in the ambiguity of life we are still called to intentionally remain faithful to God!
Here in verses 7-10, Elijah and Elisha model how to function in the midst of life's ambiguity very well. These two men at the moment are standing by the Jordan River while fifty other men are standing on the bank of the Jordan River as well. Elijah the prophet rolls up his mantle and prepares to do something incredible, he strikes the water, and the water parts in such a way that Elisha and Elijah are able to walk on dry ground to the other side.
But how? How could Elijah have done such an incredible act? My friends, he didn't do it by himself. It wasn't the mantle that had the power, but it was from the power that came from God. I know this because in Exodus 14:21, if we moonwalk yet a bit, it tells us that Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the power of the Lord swept the sea back by a strong wind and turned the sea into dry land.
My friends, in the midst of life's ambiguity, never forget to pay attention to the pattern of God. If God's pattern is to bless, if his pattern is to provide, if his pattern is to develop, to rescue, and keep, then trust that if God did it back then, God is capable and able to do it again!
My friends, sometimes life can present questions which we find unanswerable, but even in the midst of unanswerable questions, and the fogginess of life, we learn from Elisha and Elijah to remain intentionally faithful to God.
This parting of the Jordan River shows Elijah's dependence on the source of power which is God. But once they get to the other side, Elijah asks, "Before I leave you, my friend, what can I do for you?" And Elisha asks, "Can I have a double portion of your spirit?" This big ask of a question is similar to the big ask of James and John in the Gospels to sit at the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom. But Jesus responds that, "It is for those who it has been prepared by my father."
This answer is quite similar to the one Elijah offers to Elisha as he says, "If you see me as I am being taken in the whirlwind with God, it is yours, but if not, then it's not." I can synthesize these two episodes of scripture by something my grandmother would tell me, "Keep living, and you will understand this better by and by."
Yes, ambiguity was present, and it is present in our lives, but if we stand firm in our faith, and continue in life, what is foggy will eventually become clear.
My friends, this validates our last stop on this journey together which can be summarized in verses 11-14 - that if we are ever going to reach the land of intentional faithfulness, we must realize that faith also precedes the reward.
It was George MacDonald who said, "The principle part of faith is patience." It's in verses 11-14, where Elisha had been intentionally faithful to Elijah and to God. Elisha had been patient, but continued to be faithful. These two men at the time of this text are walking together and suddenly the chariots of fire become present and the whirlwind that will take Elisha's mentor Elijah up to heaven takes place.
Elisha has been faithful beyond death so much so that he tears his clothes in sorrow that his mentor Elijah is gone. He is emotional and cries out "Father, Father." But in the midst of his tears and anguish, Elijah's mantle falls near him. Elisha is standing near the Jordan without his mentor but intentionally asks the question, "Where is the God of Elijah?" Although his mentor was gone, he did what his mentor taught him and that was to depend on God. And when he did, God rewarded him by parting the Jordan River as he did previously, and Elisha walked over to the other side.
My friends, when you realize that faith precedes the reward, you understand that staying connected to God is of the utmost importance. My friends, practically I'd like to compare this faith model to simple this. The goal is to be a blender not a cell phone. Think about it, most people only charge their cell phones when the battery is low. Once the battery is fully charged, one disconnects the phone from the charger, but once the phone is disconnected, the battery automatically begins to die and eventually has to be reconnected to the power source. However, most blenders, they will not even power on, or even function without being connected to the outlet which provides the power. If we strive to have faith and live lives such as the blender, where we are always connected, where we always seek God for wisdom, where we always go where God tells us to go and do what God tells us to do and to become what God desires of us, we will then be intentionally faithful!
Friends, strive to be a blender rather than the cell phone understanding today that if you are ever going reach this land of intentional faithfulness, you must learn to shut out the noise. We must also learn to synthesize the tactic of your distractors. We have to learn to persevere in the midst of life's ambiguity. And we must realize that faith precedes the reward. Amen.