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Burn the Plows: The Call of Elisha

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 17, 2024 9:00 am

Burn the Plows: The Call of Elisha

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 17, 2024 9:00 am

Most of us would say we want to be used by God. But Pastor J.D. is challenging us to consider whether or not we’re really willing to take up our cross and follow wherever God leads. As we wrap up First Kings, we’re shifting our focus from the prophet Elijah to his protégé, Elisha.

Summit Life
J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Elijah looks at his life and says, is this all there is? I'm going to, you know, hopefully be a little bit richer than I was when I started and then I'm going to leave it to my son.

He's going to take it over for me and then I'm just going to die and be forgotten. Is that it? Isn't there something more? Isn't there something greater? Have you ever come to a point where you entertain that thought and where you ask, is really this, is this really all there is? Welcome back to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and apologist J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Bidevich. I think most of us would say that we want to be used by God, right? But today pastor J.D. is challenging us to consider whether or not we're really willing to take up our cross and follow wherever God leads.

After all, that's a whole different question, right? Today we're beginning the second half of our two-part teaching series called Something Better, Something Greater. And as we wrap up 1 Kings, we're shifting our focus from the prophet Elijah to his protege, Elisha.

If you missed any of the previous teaching, catch up online at Pastor J.D. titled this message Burn the Plows, The Call of Elisha. We're going to pick up right where we left off as Elijah passes the baton to Elisha in 1 Kings chapter 19. The call of Elisha is pretty extreme when you really look at what God asked of him, but if Elisha could have seen what he was being offered, I'm going to say that he would have taken it a thousand times over. Elisha had a good life, but God was calling him to something greater.

And what I want to try to show you is that you are offered the exact same thing. Elisha was given as an example, a prototype of how Jesus calls you. God has a plan for your life, a plan that is beyond anything that you have ever asked or imagined or dreamed was possible for your life.

It's something greater than the plan that you're on right now, but it is going to cost you everything. What you're going to see today is that following God means an abandonment of our entire lives to God. You see, a lot of us got interested in God because it seemed like God could add something that we were missing, some missing peace. And so we came to God because we needed peace in our lives. We needed help when we were in trouble. We needed comfort when we were worried.

We needed a stable foundation for our families. We needed forgiveness for our sins. We needed assurance that when we died, we'd be taken care of when we go to heaven.

And those things are all great. They're all valid reasons to come to God. But see, you don't come to God just to get services from him. Those things, if anything, should make you realize that God needs to be the center of your life. You don't come to God like a vending machine to getting certain things out of him.

You come on a wholly different basis. Think of it like this. In the year 1532, the astronomer Nicholas Copernicus challenged the long-held belief that the earth was the center of the universe. You see, people watched how the sun seemed to travel through the sky and how the stars moved through the sky. And they assumed naturally that it must be that the earth is kind of here sitting by itself and everything just goes around it. And Copernicus said, no, that's an illusion. It's actually, the earth is what's moving and it's moving around this sun. We're not an earth-centric solar system. We're a heliocentric, a sun-centric solar system. Each of us needs to have a Copernican revolution of the soul. You see, most of us view the world me-centrically.

It's just how we're born. We come out thinking about me. And when we decide to follow Jesus, it's mainly because we think that he can add something to our lives. And so I gotta get him in the right orbit in my life because there's certain things that I just can't accomplish without him. And so in our list of priorities, he's gonna come second or third or tenth. You think you're following Jesus, but in actuality, all you've done is invited him to follow you.

There's a huge difference in those two things. Watch how God calls Elisha. 1 Kings 19, you remember God had told Elijah that he would raise up another prophet after him. So verse 19, so he, Elijah, departed from there and he found Elisha, the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen in front of him and he was with the 12. Elijah passed him by and cast his cloak upon him. Now the first thing you should notice here is that Elisha was rich.

Well, how do I know that? Well, he's got at least 24 oxen, 12 pair. Think of oxen like cars.

A middle-class family in that day would have had one. Elisha had 24. And all the latest models of oxen, all the, you know, the sport models of oxen, collector's edition oxen, sport utility oxen, he had all of them, all right? Notice that it says that he was in line behind the 12th set, but they're all his.

What does that mean? It means that he's got servants who are plowing with the other 11 pair. He lives in a place called the Abel Meholah, which in English we would translate as the dancing meadow. The area was known as the breadbasket of Israel. It was a little fertile area right along the Jordan River.

It was the best land in all of the country of Israel. So he lives in the best possible place. He owns a huge tract of land. He's got servants. He's got a collection of oxen.

He's rich. But maybe, maybe he was restless. Maybe he had some nagging sense of unfulfillment.

I realize that the majority of you, or a lot of you at least, that I'm talking to are pretty young. And maybe you haven't had the experience yet that some people have as they get older where they begin to accomplish some things they set out to accomplish, but they look at their lives and they say, is that it? Elijah looks at his life and says, is this all there is? I'm going to, you know, hopefully be a little bit richer than I was when I started. And then I'm going to leave it to my son.

He's going to take it over for me. And then I'm just going to die and be forgotten. Is that it? Isn't there something more? Isn't there something greater?

Have you ever come to a point where you entertain that thought and where you ask, is really this, is this really all there is? Well, Elijah walks up to him and without a word, throws his cloak around him, which admittedly is a little weird. You see, in those days, a cloak was a symbol of your vocation. It was a symbol of your authority. So the calling of Elijah is being offered to Elisha.

Oh, that's pretty exciting, right? Well, sort of, but Elijah, if you recall, was a wanted man. He was not rich. He was on the run for his life. People were trying to kill him. He lived in caves. God fed him by having him live with widows and their children, and they gave him handouts. Sometimes God would feed him through courier ravens beside dried up creek beds. Elisha is being called, watch this, write this down, from a life of luxury to one of poverty and danger.

But watch how he responds. Verse 20, and he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, let me kiss my father and mother, and then I will follow you. Then he said to him, go back again, for what have I done to you? Which is just a Hebrew figure of speech, meaning, why not?

Or who's stopping you? Forget about it. You know, that's kind of what Elijah said there. Verse 21, so Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. So he kills the oxen, and he uses them to feed the poor in his community. One ox, by the way, would have fed a family of five for a year and a half. So 24 oxen, this would have been an epic feast. And, incidentally, this is where the vision for the golden corral was born, right here, all right? Well, then he burns his plow, so there's no turning back.

There's nothing to fall back on. He can't do it again. Look at verse 21. Then he arose and went after Elijah and became his servant. He was the CEO, and now he's an unpaid intern. He's an assistant. He went around following Elijah, making coffee for him.

He went from calling the shots to making coffee and copies. Three things characterize Elisha's response, and believe it or not, this is where the invitation to something greater always begins. Write this down. Number one, the path to something greater goes through the valley of surrender, sacrifice, and service. The path to something greater always goes through the valley of surrender, sacrifice, and service.

Let me go through those things one at a time. Surrender. Surrender. Burning his plow meant irrevocably handing in his resignation as CEO of Elisha Farms.

He literally cooked his old way of life and had it for dinner. Elijah was his master now. There was no plan B. There was nothing to fall back on. He was all in.

There was nowhere to go anymore except after Elijah. Sacrifice. What had been his foundation, his oxen, his delight, his treasure source, his 401k, was now the means by which he blessed others and fed the people in his community. That's significant because it's showing you a different view that he has toward what he possesses and what it's there for. Service.

Third thing. I mean, think about how much his life changed in a day. Pointing out, he was the CEO. He went from being the top guy to being the assistant, the unpaid assistant. He went from calling the shots to making coffee and copies. Imagine what that was like for his parents. What's your son do now? Well, he makes Elijah breakfast.

Make sure his calendar stays straight. By the way, this was the case for 18 years. This wasn't like an afternoon assignment.

You said, how do I know that? Well, in just a minute, we're going to go to 2 Kings 2. You don't need to turn there now, but when you see in 2 Kings 2, you're going to see Elijah die and the baton officially passed to Elijah. For that duration of time, he is the assistant. If you measure the amount of time between him, it's 18 years, which means for 18 years, Elijah went from being a CEO to being an assistant.

Listen to this. Whenever God calls somebody in the Bible, he always puts him through a time of humbling. God calls Moses to lead Israel. So what's the first thing Moses does?

Go on into the palace and get fitted for some royal robes and have cover shop with people magazines. Is that what happens? No, he sends him out in the desert to fail for 40 years. God calls David to be the king of Israel. Samuel anoints David. What's the first thing that David does? Run out and defeat Goliath? Go out and take an internship at the palace?

No. After he is anointed to be king, he goes back to the pasture for five or six years, where he follows around sheep and shovels up dung. What happens whenever God calls you, he always puts you through a time of humbling. And some of you are there now. And sometimes you complain about your career. You're like, how come nobody recognizes the talent I got?

How come I haven't been given the opportunities? Why am I still stuck in this place? The better question is, are you faithful in the place that God has placed you? Because whenever God's going to use somebody greatly, he always humbles them and breaks them down. And I know you don't like being there.

I don't like being there either. But the way up in Christianity is the way down. And this time for you is crucial. And if you will not excel in the areas that God has given you to be a servant, to watch feet, you'll never excel as a prophet. If you can't be a good student, you can't be a good employee, you can't be, you can't be a good son or daughter, then you're never going to make a mighty prophet of God.

You got to learn to serve. You got to learn to wash feet before God makes you into something that he wants you to be. So he always puts you through a time of humbling. So quit complaining about where God's placed you and start focusing on you being faithful in the place that God has put you. Honor God with all your heart and the little things and in due time he will lift you up.

He always does. But see the path to greatness starts with the towel and the washing of feet. When God calls people, these three words begin to characterize their lives, surrender, sacrifice, and service.

Is that what you signed up for? This eight-part study guides your devotional time through some of the highlights of their stories. Along the way, you'll learn how God can do incredible things through you just like he worked through Elijah and Elisha. So take the time to read, study, pray, and apply its truth as you work your way through this eight-day devotional. We'd love to send you a copy as our way to say thank you for your gift of $35 or more to this ministry. We rely on God's people to help us proclaim God's word to a dying world. So thank you for joining with us.

To give now, call us at 866-335-5220 or give online at Now let's get back to today's teaching. Once again, here's Pastor JD. Jesus would actually take this up a level. Mark 8 verse 34, calling the crowd to him with his disciples he said to them, if anyone would come after me let him deny, what's that word church? Everybody all campuses say it.

What is it? Himself. And take up his cross and follow me. Deny yourself means total abandonment of your life to God. Notice that Jesus did not say deny money or deny illicit sex or even deny sin.

You see I could put those things on a list and feel like I was just accomplishing them, check them off one at a time. He said deny yourself. Denying yourself means saying no to all that you want from life so that you can say yes to all that God wants from it. Take up your cross.

Think about that phrase for a moment. Crosses in our day are sentimental pieces of a symbol of faith. It's something we wear around our neck. Some of you have it around your neck right now or little earrings or tattoo on your arm. It's a cross. It's a symbol. And there's nothing wrong with that.

I'm not going to tell you to go rip it off or get detattooed or something like that. But you see in those days crosses were not sentimental symbols of faith. They were instruments of torture. They were symbols of Roman oppression and Roman racism. It evoked horror in the hearts of all who beheld them. Condemned men hung upon them in nakedness and shame having every part of their lives stripped away from them and they hung there to die.

And sometimes in our use of the symbol, nothing wrong with it, but sometimes in our use of the symbol we forget the horror that it evoked in the people who first heard Jesus say pick up your cross and follow me. I told you before the way I proved that to you is imagine you go over to somebody's house that you're just getting to know. You talk to them a few times at work and you go over to their house and right above their kitchen, their dining room table they have a big picture of a grown man being electrocuted. And then you go in their living room and there they've got a life-size replica of a lethal injection table. And then you go into their kids bedroom, their baby's room and above their crib they got a little you know mobile with little hangman's nooses hanging down from it. That's the kind of person you want to be friends with? You want your kids playing with their kids? That's precisely the image that Jesus used when he called followers.

And his disciples told him he was crazy. Like you can't start a movement going around telling people to strap their electric chairs on their back and follow you. No no Jesus that's not what the people want. The people want empowerment. The people want somebody to help them make their dreams come true. The people like upward mobility.

The people want their best life now. Give them that stuff and they'll follow. But Jesus didn't give them that stuff.

He didn't hold back. He said finding me is finding everything you've been searching for but you got to be willing to abandon everything to follow me. And by the way just in case you think this, this is what I used to think, that's not just for an elite few. You're like a seminary graduated group of super Christians. You see verse 34? He called the crowd to him with his disciples. So in other words this little speech was not just for the the 12.

This was for everybody. He made sure everybody heard that because anybody who follows Jesus that's the path they got to go down. Are you ready for that?

Is that what you signed up for? You're a religious person? Are you a follower of Jesus?

Because there's a big difference in those two. I think about when Jesus called the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler was a guy that we would have been delighted to have at any church in America. He was rich right? He was a governor. He was a ruler.

He was young. He comes up to Jesus and says I want to follow you. So what did Jesus say? Go to starting point?

No. He says well keep the commandments. Now I've kept all those from my childhood up because it's a good guy. He says one thing you lie go and sell everything you have and come and follow me. The man couldn't do it because he said he loved his possessions and that was the one area who couldn't give everything to Jesus for. And sometimes I look at that and I'm like why did you start with everything? Why not start like start with a tithe?

That's what I would have said. Hey let's start with ten percent and we'll work our way up to a hundred. But start.

Let's ease you into this. But Jesus jumped all that and went right for the jugular and said it's going to cost you everything. Now the point of this is not that all of you are supposed to resign your jobs like Elisha or even that you're all supposed to give away your money. The point is that if you're going to follow Jesus nothing can be off limits to him. No area in which you say no God I'm not going to obey you there. No God you cannot have that. And it means that your life begins to take on the flavor of sacrifice and service of the cross.

You see I do know that. I can't tell you exactly what God will have you do specifically with your life. Some of you God will call to be missionaries. Some of you God's going to call to live right here in Raleigh Durham and be a banker and make lots of money. Some of you God's going to call you to take care of foster children. Some of you God's going to call you to serve in our prison ministry. Others of you to serve in our student ministry which sometimes might feel like prison ministry. Some of you God's going to tell you to walk across the room to reach your co-worker or to walk across the street to reach your neighbor.

I cannot tell you specifically what it will be but I can assure you that following Jesus means that your life will begin to take on the air of sacrifice and service. You see what I hear most often is people talk about Jesus and how he helps them achieve their potential and their best life now. But think about the apostles.

Think about what it was like for them. Fox's book of martyrs says that every single one of the apostles all of them with one exception died a martyr's death. Doubting Thomas was pierced with a pine spear tortured with red hot plates and burned alive in India. The pro council of Hierapolis had Philip tortured and crucified because his wife converted to Christianity while listening to Philip preach. Matthew was stabbed in the back in Ethiopia.

James was thrown off the southeast pinnacle of the temple a hundred feet fall. Somehow miraculously he survived so they beat him to death with clubs. Simon the Zealot was crucified in Syria. Peter of course was crucified upside down at his own request. The only disciple that didn't die a martyr's death was John and that's just because he survived being boiled in oil.

When Diocletian felt like you couldn't kill him that way he banished him to the isle of Patmos where he lived until he died. Every one of the apostles this is what it meant for them. Now admittedly that's a special class of people. Paul said so. But do you really think do you really think that following Jesus for them meant that? Pain in the cross and for us it simply means flowers and roses and God bless yous and self-fulfillment.

Verse 34 the whole crowd heard this. Listen if you're into power if you're into earthly reward and personal fulfillment become a Muslim. The head of Islam rode a horse and conquered cities. The founder of Christianity washed feet and rode a donkey and then God raised him from the dead and then God gave him the name that is above every name because he made himself the form of a servant.

Who you following? You picking up the towel or you picking up the crown? You see I often think about this because God has blessed me in many ways for the ways that I have followed him. And I believe I'm being faithful to God but it's a question that always lingers in my heart because one day I'm gonna meet the apostles in heaven. I'm gonna meet Jesus. I'm gonna see the scars on Jesus's hands and I'm gonna talk to all these apostles all of which were martyred and at some point the conversation is gonna be like so what did you do?

Well I tithed. Again it's wrong to seek persecution. It's wrong to seek martyrdom. God has his ways of doing things and sometimes he blesses you and sometimes he has you suffer. But see I've always have to be asking myself listen am I really following Jesus or have I simply turned Jesus into something that helps me achieve all the dreams I have for my life. James 1 27 pure religion before God and the father is this to visit the fatherless and the widows and their affliction and keep yourself unspotted from the world. You know what that means?

It means pure religion is when you give your life away to those who cannot pay you back. How much of your life is characterized by that? How much of my life is characterized by that? Are you really following Jesus or have you turned Jesus into someone that meets your needs and makes a life that is focused on yourself really come true because there's a big difference in being a follower of Jesus and using Jesus for a self-centered life. The path to something greater begins in the valley of surrender sacrifice and service. A challenging message from Pastor JD Greer. You're listening to Summit Life to listen again or to download the complete message transcript visit us at While you're at you'll also have access to our archive of previous messages and the Summit Life blog and JD we're really passionate about all these different resources because they're really just another way for our listeners to dive deeper into the gospel message. Yeah one of the most exciting things that we're able to do here at Summit Life because of your generosity is we're able to make an enormous amount of resources available for free to people that just want to be able to access them and pass them on and one of the biggest resources is our Summit Life blog. It's updated weekly there are articles devotionals about a whole range of topics answers to questions you might be struggling with there's some different podcasts that we provide here that we think can really help you in your spiritual life.

So if it's been a while since you visited our website let me just encourage you to to go and check it out. We don't want Summit Life to be a replacement for your local church. I always won't be able to hear that but we do think it can supplement your walk with God and help take you deeper in the gospel and become more alive and more fruitful in your outreach with others. So we're delighted to be a partner with your local church and the ministry of what God is doing in your life. These daily messages and all of the online resources are made possible for free by friends like you who donate to support this ministry and when you give right now we'll say thanks by sending you a brand new study from Pastor JD called Elijah and Elisha an eight-day scripture guide through 1st King 17 to 2nd King 6. Ask for your copy when you donate today to support this ministry call 866-335-5220 that's 866-335-5220 or if you can give and request the book online at I'm Molly Vitovich. Thank you for joining us today and be sure to tune in again next time as Pastor JD continues this message on the call of Elisha. We'll see you next week right here on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-17 10:15:17 / 2024-05-17 10:25:52 / 11

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