WASTED YEARS – 2 KINGS 2:1-11

July 6, 2018

 

Chuck Swindoll writes that he was looking at an Editorial cartoon titled, “The problem with pedestals.” Here’s the picture: “In the center stands an enormously high pedestal, several stories tall. A ladder is leaning against it with a man near the top getting ready to step off the ladder and onto the top of the pedestal. I can see that the pedestal has a huge target painted on the top of its flat surface, with an oversize bulls eye right in the center. Off to the side of the target is a sign containing these instructions: ‘Congratulations! Please stand still so everyone can get a clean shot at knocking you off’”.

 

Elijah lived most of his life in the center of the bullseye. His name became a household word in Israel. He was famous, not popular. God intervened and rescued Elijah from who knows how many traps that had been laid for him.

 

What a journey: Elijah was trained at Cherith, refined at Zaraphath, used powerfully at Mount Carmel, and was powerfully anointed to face King Ahab. He was a man with a mission, a man of daring, a man of courage, a man of zeal, a man who just simply believed God, a man of God. God always has a man to meet the need of the hour.

 

God always has someone to face each hour of crisis. Elijah may have thought his life’s work was done after his great victory over the heathen prophets when he called down fire from heaven, the drought ended. Rain fell, and Elijah fled from evil Queen Jezebel, who had vowed to kill him (1 Kings 19). Reaching Mount Horeb, Elijah heard the voice of God tell him to anoint Elisha as a prophet. He did this, and Elisha immediately joined him (1 Kings 19:19–21).

 

Now Elijah is going to experience a final miracle. With Elisha by his side… “Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11). What a fantastic moment! Just like that Elijah is taken up in a whirlwind. Adrenalin pumping, heart pounding, eyes as big as saucers, a lump in his throat, breathing fast, suddenly he was gone.

 

Elisha makes a request: 2 Kings 2:9,10, “And so it was, when they had crossed over (Jordan river), that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?’ Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” Don't be afraid to ask God for big things! Attach yourself to Godly people from whom you can learn. "Elisha said, 'As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives,  I will not leave you'…" (2 Kings 2:2). Let us cling closely to Godly people.

 

Elijah, Prophet of power is gone! He had performed 16 miracles! Elisha, Prophet of double-power is here and ready to be used greatly by God. He will perform 32 miracles! He picks up the mantle (Prophet's robe), claims the power that is now his, he took the mantle, parted the Jordan river, and crossed over to begin his own prophetic ministry.

 

When one of God's servants dies…God doesn't! Every life comes to an end, but God is faithful and will make sure we are always in good hands and leadership. The truth is, God can get along just fine without any of us. He is never caught short-handed. The death of a servant does not bring an end to the ministry! God prepares and raises up others to continue. No one is indispensable. From this day forward, Elisha will wear Elijah's mantle and he will serve with the authority and power it symbolizes. And, much of the time, God can use the successor in an even greater way. Elisha has asked for a double portion of his spirit. God will use Elisha just as He used Elijah. It has been calculated that Elisha performed twice as many miracles as Elijah. Oh, they were not as spectacular, but miracles none the less.

 

The time comes when a person's life work is done. How would you live your life if you knew that today would be your last day in this life? What would you do? With whom would you want to spend those last precious moments? How would you use your time?

 

Elijah was probably not particularly old. He appears to be strong. He walked from Gilgal to Bethel, then on to Jericho and across the Jordan. His mind is still clear, he is still an able communicator, but the time has come for him to leave this world.

 

He was a great man of prayer, “Elijah…prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months” (James 5:17). God answered his prayers in marvelous ways.

 

There Elijah is, a man full of the Holy Spirit, a mighty man of God, a mighty prophet, a miracle worker still performing miracles, and God takes him home. He was just the kind of man that Israel needed at this time, yet God takes him to Heaven. God's time has come, Elijah's life work was finished. Sometimes God takes His servant away at the very height of their usefulness, and it surprises us.

 

Look at the Apostles: Peter was crucified (history says upside-down), Paul was beheaded, Stephen was stoned, James was beheaded, Matthew was martyred, James, the Lord's brother was martyred, John was exiled to Patmos, James, the son of Zebedee, one of he twelve was one of the inner circle with Christ, yet he was beheaded by Herod Agrippa at a very early stage of his ministry. Look at Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. He had a great knowledge of the Scriptures. His reasoning skills were so powerful and he was so full of truth that no one could argue with him. A mighty preacher of the Gospel, yet God allowed him to be stoned to death.

 

The great Apostle Paul certainly was not fading away in his ministry, he probably had many years left, listen to him, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death…for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain…for I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart to be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” [Philippians 1:20-24]. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” [2 Timothy 4:6-8].

Why does God take so many of His chosen vessels at the height of their usefulness? We need men like Stephen, James, Paul, men like Elijah and all those who “earnestly content for the faith” [Jude 1:3]. But we must learn that no one is indispensable to God. The time came when Elijah's ministry was over and God took him home!

 

You and I have a set time in this world, it is very important that we use it efficiently and well. “I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day: the night is coming, when no man can work” [John 9:4].Our Lord says in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break through and steal; lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” God has a unique plan for every life: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [Jeremiah 29:11 NLT].

 

One day, sooner than we think, we every one of us will sit on the edge of our grave and look back over our life, and we will marvel at all the wasted time and missed opportunities. Clarence Darrow, infamous lawyer, an atheist, was asked to evaluate his life. He picked up a Bible, strange for a man who fought the Bible all his life, he turned to Luke 5:5 and read, “Master, I have toiled all the night and have taken nothing.” In other words, he is saying,  “I wasted my life.” Comedian Jack Benny was told, “You can't take it with you.” To which  he replied: “Then I'm not going!” But he went, and he didn't take anything with him. There are no luggage racks on a hearse! It's a cinch we won't take anything with us! We will leave it all behind. “I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 NLT). “See then that you walk very carefully, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15 ). It is so important to make use of this tiny little life we have, just a few short years. “Work while it is day: the night is coming when no man can work” (John9:4). 

 

I have only just a minute, only sixty seconds in it,

Didn't choose it, can't refuse it, but it's up to me to use it.

It is just one tiny minute, but all eternity is in it.

 

Sooner than we realize, we will all be called away, maybe not as spectacular as in a fiery chariot, but sure enough we will be gone from this life. My mom's last words were, “I'm going to a better place than this one.”  Will we hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord?” (Matthew 25:21) Or will you be saying, “Master, I have toiled all the night and have taken nothing?”

 

Life is short!

Only one life, it will soon  be past.

Only what's done for Christ will last.

 

 “Seventy years are given to us! Some may even reach eighty. But even the best of these years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear and we are gone” (Psalm 90:10 NLT).

 

Life is passing quickly, we have only a certain number of years in this world, use them well, use them for the Lord! So many times we look at our lives and grieve over all of the wasted time and opportunities. So many discover late in life they have nothing to show in eternal fruit for the years that have passed. But God tells us, “I will restore to you the years that the…locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). God is not through with me yet!

 

Abraham had some wasted years in his life. When God told him to leave his home in Ur, He told him to leave everything. But Abraham took Terah, his father with him. God allowed Abraham to wander, and wonder “where is God leading me?” Then when he came to Haran his father died. Then God began to lead, and again Abraham, having been given the promise, failed to believe God. Finally, he decided to take the matter into his own hands (always a mistake), enter Hagar, Sarah's maid, and illegitimate Ishmael is born. He wasted so many years until he was ninety-nine years old, when miraculously, Isaac, God's promise was born. That's the eternal continuum, God remains the same, no matter what men do to thwart His purposes. “From everlasting to everlasting You are God” (Psalm 90:2).

 

The children of Israel wasted forty years wandering in the wilderness before they finally reached God's purpose for them, and they finally enter the Promised Land. If they had only believed Caleb and Joshua at Paran, they could have saved themselves forty years of misery.

 

Moses wasted years after Kadesh, where he, in anger sinned against God. He eventually was allowed to view the Promised Land, but was not allowed to go in.

 

Jacob failed to trust God, instead he put his trust in his Uncle Laban, wasted years of his life, before God began to restore him.

 

David, after a devastating fall, lost his song, and his joy, he prays, “Lord, restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12 ). And he lost his kingdom. God told him “The sword will never depart from your house” [2 Samuel 12:10]. He lost his life-long dream, to build a house for the Lord. But he laid up treasures for the building, and God restored him.

 

Solomon, a man who had everything to live with and nothing to live for, tried labor, wisdom, pleasure, wine, houses, lands, vineyards, orchards, gardens, servant, stables, the finest horses, singers, musicians, cattle, sheep, silver, gold, and treasures, plus seven-hundred wives and three-hundred concubines [mistresses]. He says "Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them” [Ecclesiastes 2:10]. Then he tells us about life without God . "I hated life…all was vanity [emptiness] and grasping for the wind” [Ecclesiastes 2:17].

 

Job, in one sweeping moment of time lost everything he owned, sheep, cattle, houses, lands, seven sons and three daughters. He is left with a wife who nags him to curse God and die, friends who were not friends, but critics.  He verbalized his misery through chapter after chapter, then comes to the point where God is so far from him that he can't find Him. “Oh that I might know where to find Him…”[Job 23:3]. After all of this God restores to Job double everything. God always comes through! For Job God restored the years that the locust had eaten.

 

When Elijah was running from Jezebel…God said to him twice, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:9,13). Elijah went on to a great life of victory, and was ultimately transported to Heaven in a fiery chariot. God restored him from a fleeing coward to a national hero.

 

Joseph, left for dead, then sold by his brothers, ending up in prison for a crime he did not commit, found that God can restore the years.

 

Joshua may have seen all those years of following Moses as wasted, but God chose him to lead the nation into the Promised Land.

 

The Prodigal Son made some bad decisions, but his father welcomed him back, put a robe on his back and a ring on his finger, honoring him with a feast, saying "This my son was dead, and is alive again" (Luke 15:24). Back from a life of degradation and sin, back from spending his inheritance in a life of wild living. But God restored the years that the locust had eaten.

 

Jesus said to Peter, “Satan has desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat" (Luke 23:31). Peter denied our LORD three times, but God restored him from denial to Pentecost power.

 

So in the eternal continuum I can say with confidence, “God is not through with me yet!” He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten, my wasted years. “As I was with Moses, I will be with you…” (Joshua 3:7). God always comes through!

 

God looks for special people at difficult times. God didn't find Elijah in a big city, living in a palace, Elijah was  from Tishbeh, in Upper Gilead a small farming community.

 

God looks for people who have the backbone to stand up and say, “Since God is Truth, something is wrong.” Someone who can stand and say, “God is God, the whole world is subject to Him.” Someone who can speak up for Him: Teachers, athletes, homemakers, public servants, laborers, professionals and private citizens…YOU and ME!

 

Here's the story of my Christian experience: In October, 1958, Christ found me through the efforts of Dr. James Combs, Glenn Clark and the faithful witnesses of the Olivet Baptist Church in Lynwood, California. I have had many fruitful years of ministry, interspersed with some wasted years. There have been times in my life that I have cried out like Job, “Oh that I might know where to find God, that I might come to His throne.”

 

After I accepted Christ, I buried myself in Bible College studies, what a blessing! Then I became a Youth Pastor at New Testament Baptist Church, Miami, Florida. What a blessing! I thought “this is it!” So I spend many years speaking in Youth Camps and conferences. “This is it!” Then the pastorate became my next adventure, what a blessing! “This is it!” Then I buried myself in trying to rescue a defunct Television station. I was on Los Angeles Television for four hours every night for months, with Christian celebrities, pastors, famous preachers, literally every Christian personality I could find to interview, and I said, “What a blessing, this is it!”

 

I went through a couple of years working on my success, so I read Napoleon Hill's. Think and Grow Rich, Michael Korda's, Power, How to Get it, How to Keep it," John Malloy's, Dress for Success, and Von Furstenberg's, The Power Look. I even taught a Dress for Success class in Bible College!

 

Then in my quest for more power from God, I was involved in Charles Solomon's Spirituo-therapy. I tried Hudson Taylor's, The Exchanged Life, and Jack Taylor's Much More Life. I tried to experience Charles Finney's Revival Power. And was blessed by Leonard Ravenhill's Why revival Tarries, and E.M Bounds’, Power Through Prayer.  I said, “this is it!”

 

It was never enough, and none satisfied for very long. What have you tried? You find a church that's exciting, and you say, “this is it,” but that doesn't last very long. Then you discover that someone is having a Bible study in their home, you get involved and say, “this is it!” Then you get excited about a new worship experience, “This is it!” But you still feel as if you need a deeper experience, so you give up, die to self, deny yourself, forsake all, and do all the repenting you are capable of, but you're still short of what you think your life should be. (Does this sound like I'm speaking from experience?) Then you have a charismatic experience, where you begin to experience certaingifts, “This is it!” Then someone tells you, “Witnessing is the key, to a rich, full Christian experience, if you will just go out and knock on enough doors, you will discover the deeper life.”

 

This church, that church, this experience, that experience, this Bible study, that Bible study, this preacher, that preacher, this singer, that singer…mind boggling isn't it?

 

The plain truth is, it's not church growth, evangelism, discipling, working for Christ, serving or doing ministry. It is not a feeling, a spiritual secret, or an outward revival, not  quick fix, or a holy zap! And we waste so much time trying to find "it!"

 

Allow me a personal illustration, in the summer of 1978 I was one of the speakers at the Hume Lake (California) Summer Camp. I learned the Son principle for life, “That in all things He might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:8). I finally realized, “I was not my own…” (1 Corinthians 6:19). I learned that the life is not about me, it's about Christ in me! I learned about giving myself back to God. I learned that it is not my family, it is His. I learned that Marlena, my wife, is first and foremost His, before she is mine. I guess I just quit looking for “it” and began to find Him!

 

Paul said, “When Christ, who is my life appears…” (Colossians 3:4.  He is my life! He has “restored the years that the locust have eaten!” One night in a little room at Rolling Hills Youth Camp in Alabama where I was speaking, I gave myself back to God. I gave Him my wife and family, and my ministry, none of this was mine anyway, it was His! God began to bless immediately. The rest of that summer as I spoke in several Youth Camps, God came down in revival power. The prayer is a simple one, “Lord, I want to give you me!”

 

Now to conclude the story of Elijah and Elisha, Elisha comes to Jordan, Elijah is gone, so Elisha takes his mantle, rolls it up and brings it down on the water and the river parts just as it had done for Elijah. God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He can use you! So, the day will come  when our life's work is over, therefore, let us be up and doing while we have time.

 

As the old, seasoned Sergeant said as he watched his recruits pitching their tents for the night, “Don't drive those stakes in so deep boys, we're moving up in the morning.” Do not drive your stakes so deeply into the soil of this life that you are not looking forward to moving up in the morning. Jesus said, “I will come again” (John 14:1-3).

 

Give yourself completely to Him today!

 

If this has been a blessing to you, please let me know by adding s comment on our web site or E-Mail me at pastorbigjohn@sbcglobal.net.

 

  

 

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