When a man or woman of God dies, or departs, nothing of God dies or departs—it carries on. When the work of a great and godly person is finished, we need to realize that the beginning of another great man or woman will start—and hopefully carry on in even greater power and with even greater impact because of how their predecessor set them up. Instead of ending, God desires ministries to transition; to enter new phases of development and effectiveness. That’s God’s way, and Christians would do well to learn that truth. Ministers, moms and dads, and leaders of all kinds would do well to adopt the certainty of baton passing as one of their chief aims in life, and when the time comes, to passing that baton well.
Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 2:9-14
When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.” Elijah replied, “You have asked a difficult thing. If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.” As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress. Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.
As from the beginning of our experience with Elijah in 1 Kings 17, to now at the end of his life, the ministry of this prophet of fire has cast an impressive spiritual shadow over Israel. We have been with him through a variety of dramatic experiences, particularly in 1 Kings 18-19. We have been with him on the heights of Mt. Carmel, both literally and spiritually, to the depths of his despair beneath the broom tree in its aftermath. We have stood with him when he courageously confronted evil King Ahab then fled in fear when the king’s wicked wife, Jezebel, threatened to end his life in the same manner he had ended her false prophets’ lives. We sat with him in the silence of the Cherith Brook and saw the miraculous provision of God as ravens fed him breakfast, lunch and dinner, then felt his despair and disappointment with God when the Almighty dried up the very brook he had given him. We have seen him call down fire from heaven on sacrifices and soldiers, yet we have seen him depend on a widow just to stay alive.
And in every place, under every circumstance, God has proven himself faithful, consistent, and encour-aging to Elijah. Now, appropriately, the end of his life and ministry will be just as dramatic as the rest of it was as God will again prove himself faithful to his prophet. Elijah will be taken up to heaven in a blaze of glory, something most prophets and preachers dream of but never experience. That glorious swan song belongs to one, and one alone. Elijah.
Now as we have come to know Elijah, we have also found him to be a bit temperamental. He is testy, he is fearsome most of the time, and he is radically devoted to speaking the word of the Lord to people, prophets, priests and potentates. But what we have never found him to be is warm and fuzzy. Prophets of his cut of cloth never are—and probably they shouldn’t be, given what they are called to carry out.
Yet at the end of his life, we get a glimpse at Elijah’s softer side, spending his final days on earth, knowing the Lord is bringing his chapter to a dramatic close, caring for the school of protégés he is leaving behind. (2 Kings 2:5-9) But not only is the prophet caring for his young men, he is caring for the work that God gave him to do. He wants to pass it on in the best way possible. He wants it to live on, stronger than before. He knows the work of God is not done, not by far, so he sets up his successors in the best way possible.
You see, when a man or woman of God dies or departs, nothing of God dies or departs—it carries on. When the work of a great and godly person is finished, we need to realize that the beginning of another great man or woman will start—and hopefully carry on in even greater power and with even greater impact because of how their predecessor set them up. Instead of ending, God desires ministries to transition; to enter new phases of development and effectiveness. That’s God’s way, and Christians would do well to embrace that truth. Ministers, moms and dads, and leaders of all kinds would do a God-honoring thing to adopt the certainty of baton passing as one of their chief aims in life, and when the time comes, to pass that baton well.
Now what is true in the realm of spiritual leadership is true in the realm of all leadership—parenting, mentoring, business ownership, etc. The truth is, we will all pass the baton someday, and it will likely come sooner than we were expecting. So think through how you will pass it so that those who follow in your shoes can take a double portion of your leadership.
A double portion—now that is a mysterious request Elisha asks of his mentor, Elijah. What was that all about? In reality, Elisha was asking to be the heir of Elijah’s ministry. Literally, that phrase referred to the designation as rightful heir. It is the same phrase that is used in Deuteronomy 27:17 when Moses instructs that a father must “acknowledge the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has.”
But notice how Elijah responded to the request: “You have asked a difficult thing, yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.” What is Elijah saying? In effect, he is saying, “I cannot grant you that, only God can. But if God permits you to see his power and his presence when I am taken, it will be a sign that he has granted your request.”
Obviously, Elijah thought Elisha was special and would make a great successor, but he knew that only God could choose the heir to his ministry. Likewise, when new leaders are chosen to replace a pastor, a chairman of the board, a teacher, or a boss, we need to be careful to allow God to designate that person. While we need to do the best baton pass we can, remember that it is God’s role to chose who takes the role, and it will then be up to that new leader to run worthy of what you have passed on, and worthy of their new calling before God.
Yes, you will pass the baton. The time for that will get here sooner than you can imagine. So start anticipating it now, then do your best when the time comes for whomever takes it from you, the race will be theirs to win or lose.