There is a scene in 1 King that has long challenged me. The prophet Elijah has been standing up and proclaiming the truth about God for quite awhile, but he has reached a breaking point. Seeking refuge in a cave he cries out to God: I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too. 1 Kings 19:14
God responded to his cry by laying out a plan for him. The Lord said to him, Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there… anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 1 Kings 19:15-16
Elijah followed these instructions, finding Elisha as he toiled on his family’s farm. Knowing that he is recruiting for a position with an extremely high probability of painful death, Elijah adopts a brilliant recruiting tactic: he walks up to Elisha, throws his cloak on him (thus declaring him the Prophet), and runs away. A dazed Elisha ran after Elijah, saying he had many things to do before he could consider leaving his farm. Elijah challenges him with the phrase: what have I done to you?, insinuating that he can go and say his goodbyes, but that he must quickly follow the calling God has bestowed on him. Elisha takes this call seriously: he kills his oxen and uses his plow as the firewood on which to cook them. He quite literally burned his career and livelihood to follow God’s calling.
I think most Christ followers find themselves in either the position of Elijah or Elissa at some point.
Elijah: we get overwhelmed by the ministry we are called to. We don’t have enough time, get tired of the conflicts, fail to see the fruit, feel ill-equipped, and more. Quite simply, we want to throw up our hands and give up. When we encounter these feelings we, like Elijah before us, need to express our feelings to God. Ask God for advice, and be ready to follow His leading. In this case God lays out a plan for Elijah, and calls Elisha to assist him. We too need to seek God’s advice and be willing to seek out others who can minister with us.
Elisha: I’m sure all of us have been asked to serve in some sort of ministry, but we’ve been reluctant to do so. We make excuses such as: “when I have more time, there must be someone better then me, etc.” When we feel God’s call however, we need to have an attitude that more resembles Elisha. We need to “burn” the things keeping us from serving God, and trust that God has a plan that is greater then ours. Even more so, we need to trust that God will be with us every step of the way, guiding us to serve in His name.