Have you ever thought about what a good job Elijah did in training his successor, Elisha? If we want to see our work remain, we must pass on the mantle at the right time and in the right way. It will be the fervent prayers of righteous men and women that accomplish this.
But perhaps the situation is turned around, and the mantle is being passed to us. Let’s learn from Elisha’s example how to receive mentoring.
Elisha was minding his own business when Elijah appeared in the field where he was working. Elisha was plowing with the last team of oxen (1 Kings 19:19). Not too many people saw what Elijah did to Elisha. This was a quiet summons, but a summons Elisha was prepared for. He asked if he could say good-bye to his family, a request that was granted. He then gave a feast for his plowmen, chopping up his plowing equipment to make the fire to cook the meat. He literally “burned his bridges” behind him. He knew that that’s what it was going to take to accept Elijah’s mantle. Just as in marriage, there will need to be a leaving of the old life as we take up the new, so in ministry there needs to be a leaving and a cleaving as well. We must burn our plows in order to give ourselves fully to the next task the Lord has for us.
Once you have reordered your priorities to accommodate whatever it is God is asking of you, then, like Elisha, you will need to begin with a willingness to learn all you can from your mentor. A teachable spirit is of great price in the eyes of the Master. Elisha became Elijah’s assistant (1Kings 19:21), serving in whatever capacity Elijah asked him to. Good followers become good leaders. Do we know how to assist? Do we know how to be humble and to submit to leadership? Then we will make good leaders when our turn comes.
And do we know how to love those who lead us? It appears that there was genuine affection between the two men. Read the account of their last day on earth together, and see how Elisha’s loyalty comes through. He refused to leave his teacher, even though Elijah gave him every opportunity (2 Kings 2:1-12).
Do we know how to be loyal? Loyalty is a great virtue and one that can make a team strong. When conflicts arise, do we refuse to talk about our leaders behind their backs, but rather go to them in person and talk things through? Somehow I cannot imagine these two biblical colleagues backbiting!
And do we know how to pray together as we do the work of the Lord? I can imagine that, being such a man of prayer, Elijah prayed a lot with his young assistant. It is praying together that will bind us together. It is as we seek the face of God and the will of God that we shall see the fire of God in our joint ministries. One person praying is good; two people praying is better. Jesus said, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20). There is power in having a prayer partner. And those of us privileged to experience this can testify not only to the blessing in our own lives but, more important, the blessing in the work of the kingdom.
It was nearly time for the transfer of power to take place. I’m sure Elisha didn’t feel he knew enough, was prepared enough, or could do enough to make a difference in his world. But he knew what to ask for. He knew that without the spirit of the living God he would be totally inadequate to carry on the work. And so he asked Elijah, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9). Elijah replied that this was not his to grant. It was God’s gift. As we know, God gave Elisha all he asked for. God always equips His people to do the things He calls them to do. We, too, can count upon Him for the same enabling when our turn comes.
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