Our assignments from God are not always easy, but it’s through the tougher parts of life that He can shape us and refine us to become who He intends us to be. As the prophet Elijah was preparing Elisha to carry on his legacy, he was tough on him, but that is exactly what Elisha needed. Similarly, sometimes, we need God to be a little tough on us too.
The prophet Elijah was not a soft man, nor was his task on earth easy. Before his mission for the Lord was finished, God gave him a few final things to complete (1 Kings 19:15-18):
- To appoint a king over Israel
- To appoint a king over Syria
- To transfer his mission to Elisha
The impact we leave on this earth is often measured by what we are passing on to the next generation. This is why the role of a father figure is so important. Elijah needed to make sure there was someone to carry on what he was doing, and he needed it to be someone who was up for the challenge.
When he found Elisha, the boy was in his father’s field, plowing (1 Kings 19:18). The Bible tells us his father had a lot of land and many oxen, which meant the family was very wealthy. The family had plenty of hired help to take care of their fields, yet here was this young man—privileged, wealthy, and entitled—getting his hands dirty, plowing in the field.
This speaks highly to the character of Elisha. Despite being blessed, he understood the importance of hard work, even if that meant getting down in the dirt. Ministry can often be messy at times, but we need to remember that the dirty, hard parts of life are often what build our character the most—when you say “ouch,” don’t forget to say “amen,” too!
Elisha was tough, he was strong, and seemed to be the right person to carry on Elijah’s work. Elijah may have recognized the character of this young man, but he still needed to test him, so he passed his role on to Elisha in an odd way:
Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. (1 Kings 19:19, NKJV)
In other words, Elijah literally threw his cloak at the boy. No greeting, no small talk, nothing… just threw his jacket at Elisha.
Tough times call for tough people and Elijah was being purposefully rough with this young man, to see if he could take it. Mothers are known for their nurturing, gentle ways, but fathers and male role models serve a unique purpose: to provide that tough love. This is very valuable, especially to young men, and Elijah was making sure that his new protégé was fit to be the Prophet of Israel. After all, it’s not the smooth seas that make a skillful sailor, but it’s the rough waves and high tides.
In this day and age, our church is in need of a little toughness, but many churches are feeding their flock with feel-good, motivational speeches. There is a place for motherly gentleness and nurturing, but there are times we need firmness. That’s what makes God so awesome…He handles us with loving tenderness and sternness at the same time.
When we are born again, the church becomes our family. We can’t pick our family, just as Elisha did not pick Elijah as his new mentor and father figure. Family members are loving, as well as tough on each other, and we need to remember this aspect of love in the way we care for one another. A good way to become a good father is to be a good son; and Elisha accepted Elijah as his father and committed himself to following him.
We are not products of our environment, but of the choices we make. Elijah and Elisha both made choices to put God’s will above their own. When God takes us through trials or calls us to do great and difficult tasks, it is not because He wants to be cruel, but because He knows what’s in you and a little toughness is what we need to bring it out.
It is always in our best interest to do what He calls us to do, even if it’s hard! So don’t choose the path of least resistance. Instead, embrace difficulty and trials, and you will realize your full purpose in the Lord. And remember, your Heavenly Father is there with you every step of the way!
Dr. Derek Grier
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