Tony Evans - Living a Life that Lasts
Every responsible parent here has made a will. The will consists of that which you want to pass on to the next generation. It reflects the accumulation of goods and resources that have been attained during your life: houses, cars, accounts. And you have created a material legacy. The question that I wanna raise today through the life of Elijah is what kind of spiritual legacy are you leaving behind? How much of God are you transferring?
God never meant his program to stop because there was no legacy to carry it on. All through the Scripture, his plan and program in the world would be carried on through him being transferred from one generation to another. In fact, it is Psalm 71:18 that says that the power of God is to be transferred from a generation to another generation, if there is little or no God left behind. But this is not only true within your nuclear family; it's true in God's spiritual family, that the reason why God wants you associated in a spiritual environment is so that a spiritual legacy can be transferred to you and through you for others.
And so we find Elijah getting ready to pass off the scene. His time has gone. It is time for him to go into the presence of God. That means it's time for him to make a transfer of a spiritual heritage that the plan and prophetic program of God might continue even after he is gone. It's a great problem when a leader leaves and there's nothing left behind. That's poor leadership because the whole idea is to carry on a spiritual legacy, a legacy that makes a big deal about a great God. So I have the question now today to you and to me and to us, what is your spiritual legacy? How much of the supernatural are you leaving behind?
In verse 9 of 2 Kings chapter 2, "When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, 'Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.' And Elisha said, 'Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.'" Elisha tells Elijah, "I want twice as much God as you have. Let a double portion of your spirit rest on me. I want twice as much God on me as I saw on you", and as we have already seen, there's a whole bunch of God on Elijah. God is just showing off and showing out through this prophet. Elisha says, "Give me two scoops. I want two scoops of God".
When you read the life of Elisha in 2 Kings you will discover he did twice as many miracles as Elijah. He asked for a double portion. So he asks for something big but he asked for something big spiritually. He does something that we have missed. He makes the request for more of God which means he made the spiritual more important than the material. Elisha says, "I want a double portion. I want twice as much God as you have, twice as much of the spiritual, twice as much of the supernatural. I want your God just rolling all over me. That's what I want. You asked me what I want, Elijah, and that's what I want".
Elijah now responds. Elijah says in verse 10, he said, "You have asked a hard thing". You've asked a hard thing. You want twice as much God as was on me. You've asked a hard thing. "Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; for if not, it shall not be so". Hm, he says, in the words of Flip Wilson, "What you see is what you get. When I'm taken out of here by God, if you see me go, you'll get the double portion. But when I'm taken out of here by God, if you don't see me go, you won't get the double portion. You will get what you see".
Now, what was he saying to him? God will only give you twice as much of him that was on me if it's clear you're looking at things spiritually. Now, let's go back for a moment to chapter 19 of 1 Kings because that's when they meet, Elisha meets Elijah. 1 Kings 19, beginning with verse 19: "So he departed from there and found Elisha", Elijah finds Elisha, "the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with 12 pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over him and threw his mantle on him". In other words, Elijah dubbed Elisha as his successor. To put the mantle on was to dub you as the successor. Elisha is with 12 pairs of oxen.
Now, if you own 12 pairs of oxen that meant you had a lot of land which meant you were living large. So Elisha is living large. He's living the good life with his family. Elijah comes to Elisha and says, "You are the one who's been selected to be my successor in the prophetic ministry". When Elisha hears Elijah put the mantle on him of succession, Elisha says to Elijah these words. He says: "He left the oxen", verse 20, "and ran after Elijah and said, 'Please let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you.' And he said to him, 'Go back again, for what have I done for you?' So he returned from following him, took the pair of oxen, sacrificed them, boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him".
You see, if you're gonna get more of God, you've got to kiss something goodbye. If you're gonna get more of God, you can't just be carrying on life as usual. See, the reason why we don't get more of God is we don't wanna kiss stuff goodbye. We've become so attached, we've become so committed, that when God wants to take us to a new spiritual level, we are so embracing where we are, we're not willing to sacrifice that to get more.
Well, what happens? What happens is between the time he put the mantle on him, chapter 19, verse 19, and the time he asked for a double portion, 2 Kings 2, verse 9, there's a gap. In that gap is an experience. It's recorded for us in chapter 2, the beginning of chapter 2, of 2 Kings. "It came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah was with Elisha from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, 'Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.' But Elisha said, 'As the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So they went down to Bethel".
Now, I don't know if you see what's happening there. He goes and he says, Elijah to Elisha, he says, "Don't go any further with me. I'll go the rest of the way by myself". Elisha say, "You ain't leaving me. I'm going with you. Where you go, I go. You ain't leaving me behind". And Elijah didn't make him stay. It says Elisha was allowed by Elijah to keep going with him because it was never Elijah's intention to make him stay. It was a test to see how committed he was. And God will test your commitment 'cause he don't just believe what you say. 'Cause anybody can talk smack, anybody can talk noise. I love the Lord, I heard his cry, you know, he's so wide, you can't get over. He's so high, he's so low, you know, you can talk Rose of Sharon, Balm of Gilead, Bright and Morning Star, that's smack.
I wanna see when you are tested, will you keep going and following me? I wanna know are you committed in your feet, not just in your words, talks, and lips. Says, "Stay behind". He says, "No, I'm not gonna do that". He goes on. "The sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, 'Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from you today?' And he said, 'Yes, I know; be still'". Verse 4: "Elijah said to Elisha, 'Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.' But he said, 'As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So they came to Jericho". Elijah said, "Elisha, stay here. You don't have to go any further". Elisha said, "No, no, you goin', I'm goin', okay? 'Cause I'm not just in it for the fluff. I'm not just in it for the fancy stuff. I'm in it 'cause I'm totally committed". Oh, but it ain't over.
"Then Elijah says to him", in verse 6, "'Please stay here, for the Lord's sent me to the Jordan.' And he said, 'As the Lord lives, and as you yourself's there, I will not leave you.' So the two of them went on". Three times, he said, "Boy, stay home. Don't go any further". It's a test and God will test your commitment whether, when you came forward, whether that was real. When you nodded your head, whether that was right. When you said, "Amen", whether you were just talking. He will test: will you go with him and keep going with him, even over the various terrains of life. What is the level of your commitment?
Notice the trek he took him on. It just named some cities but these aren't just cities. The New Testament would call this process he's going through, it would call it discipleship. Discipleship is that developmental process that moves people along spiritually. So in 19:19, he puts the mantle on him.
In 2:9, 2 Kings 2:9, he asks for a double portion but, in between, he must be developed. And so you have him walking him through these different locations for development because every location means something. First location: Gilgal. The first place Elijah took Elisha was to Gilgal. What happened in Gilgal? The Scripture says in Gilgal, God removed the reproach of Egypt from Israel. In Gilgal, God removed the reproach of Israel from Egypt. You see, when the children of Israel left Egypt, they couldn't forget Egypt. They always kept looking back to Egypt. They still loved Egypt even though God was trying to take 'em to the Promised Land.
So it took 'em 40 years to get over Egypt and, as long as they couldn't get over Egypt, they couldn't enter across the Jordan to the Promised Land. The reason why some of us are delayed in experiencing God is we still have Egypt on our minds. See, we're still so committed to the world, we're so committed to the secular world that leaves God out that God can't give us more of him because he doesn't wanna give us more of him to take it back to the world he just delivered us from. So as long as we walking with God but looking back at Egypt, God is not going to give you more of God so that you can peek over your shoulder to the world he delivered you from.
So Elijah took Elisha to Gilgal so that he would be taught that you gotta leave yesterday behind if you're gonna experience new God today. And he took him to Bethel. Bethel. Genesis 28, Genesis 35, Jacob was in Bethel and Bethel was where he heard the voice of God, it was where he saw the ladder come down from heaven, and the angels going up and down. God spoke to him at Bethel, God changed his name, God gave him a new character. Bethel is where God changes you and reveals himself to you because you're in Bethel which is called the house of God. In other words, he took him to the place where he could hear God for himself.
You see, he took him first to Gilgal because he needed to know you'll never hear God as long as you're listening to the world. But then he took him to Bethel, 'cause now that you've let the world go, now God is free to talk to you. But now that God is free to talk to you, we're gonna take you to Jericho. See, back in Gilgal, we left the world behind, then we moved over to Bethel where we now now hear the voice of God so now I'm a take you to Jericho where God does a miracle.
Now, what miracle did he do in Jericho? The walls of Jericho came tumbling down. But what made the walls of Jericho came tumbling down? Well, God gave a weird strategy. He told him to walk around the wall once a day for six days. On the seventh day, walk around it seven times, then shout. When you shout, the walls are gonna come tumbling down.
Now, tell the truth and shame the devil. That don't make no sense. That don't make no sense to tell me to walk around the wall once a day for six days. On the seventh day, walk around it seven times, and then shout. That's a terrible military strategy. But you see, if you haven't passed Gilgal so you're looking at the world, if you haven't graduated to Bethel so that you've learned to hear the voice of God, you not gonna do what God says in Jericho when he tells you how to get a miracle. But if you've let Gilgal go and you're listening at Bethel, now you're willing to listen in Jericho, even when it doesn't make sense.
And when they walked around once a day for six days, walked around seven times on the seventh day, the walls came tumbling down because he obeyed the ridiculous because the ridiculous came from heaven but he had learned at Bethel to listen to heaven because he turned his back at Gilgal on Egypt. But then after all that, he takes him to Jordan. You know, crossing the Jordan River. That's when it's time for the transfer. That's when it's time to move on.
See, some of us here are stuck at Gilgal. We haven't left the world but we're asking for a double portion. Some of us are stuck in Bethel. We've heard his voice but we haven't moved on to Jericho. Some of us are stuck at Jericho 'cause what God asked us to do doesn't make sense and I ain't gonna do nothing that doesn't make sense 'cause my momma gave me an education and I got a degree and I got all that, and that don't make sense, that doesn't fit with my science class, my biology class. That doesn't fit my English class, doesn't fit, so I ain't walking around no wall seven times, and I ain't gonna shout. I ain't doing all that. Doesn't make sense. So we're stuck and we never get to Jordan where the double portion is handed out.
2 Kings chapter 2, after he'd asked for a double portion, verse 11: "As they were walking along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven". Whoa, I wanna see a recording of that one. "Elisha saw it and cried out, 'My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!' And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces".
Okay, let me stop there for a moment. Stay with me. He left and he said, "My Father, my Father". Now, that wasn't his daddy. He wasn't born, a child of Elijah. He was his spiritual Father. And then he concludes. It says: "He tore his clothes into pieces, sorrow", verse 13, "He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the Jordan, the bank of the Jordan. And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, 'Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?' And when he also had struck the waters, then they divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over".
Oh no, you didn't. No, you didn't. Okay, did you see what happened? Elijah's taken up in a whirlwind. Horses, chariots, those were the warlords of God, the God who fought against idolatry, and his mantle fell. Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah and then hit the Jordan, and asked a question. Oh, the question is, "Where is the God of Elijah"? Oh, c'mon, did you hear the question? He took the mantle of Elijah, he struck the water in Jordan, and then he asked a question: Where is the God of Elijah? What he is asking is this: Is that man's God here with me right now? 'Cause while Elijah is gone, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So what I wanna know is, is that man's God still here with me? Is your Grandmama's God still here with you? Many of us have never seen the God of our grandparents. Many of us have never seen... succession ought to let you see that while the person has gone, the God they left behind is the same. So here is the challenge. How much of God do you want? 'Cause he's only gonna give you as much of him as you can handle 'cause God is not gonna waste God. He's too much self-respect for that.
You remember the story about the man who was taking his new bride, on honeymoon. They were on their honeymoon, going on their honeymoon. It was a foggy day out. He had to pass a truck. He didn't see the oncoming van. The oncoming van hit him. It was a head-on collision. It flipped his car over into the ditch. He was knocked out. A few minutes later, he came to. He saw his bride gushing with blood, bleeding profusely. He knew she would bleed out and die if he didn't get help soon but there was no help around. But as fortune would have it, he looked right out the windshield and there was a sign: "Office of Dr. Bill Jones".
How fortunate could it be that his car was wrecked right there at a doctor's office? He picked up his beloved, he went, he knocked on the door. An old man came to the door. He said, "Mister, save her. She's dying". The old man said, "I'm so sorry, I stopped practicing medicine years ago". The young man said, "Mister, you have two choices. You can either save her or take down your sign. But don't have a sign that says you can perform something that can change her but then when we show up, it's just a lot of noise. Nothing can happen when we show up".
There's a lot of folk carrying our sign, "I'm a Christian". You're carrying a sign, "I love Jesus". You're carrying a sign, "He's able". You're carrying a sign, "He can fix it". But when stuff shows up, you can't do anything 'cause all you are is a sign. God is looking for folk who are not just a sign, but who believe in the real thing, who still practice this thing, talk this thing, walk this thing, act this thing, 'cause we know that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Somebody ought to give him praise because he's worthy and he deserves to share his legacy in this house.
You want your life's value and impact to outlast you. You want generational transfer. You and I are not just to live for ourselves. God is a multi-generational God. Remember, he said, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob". Even in the Ten Commandments he talks about things that occurred to the third and fourth generation. He talks about what it looks like when a generation forgets God. The Psalmist talks about how we are to transfer the faith from one generation to another. So God is a generational God. That's legacy. That's passing a baton on to the future. You are not only to think about now; you're to think about tomorrow. That's what we do with our wills and trust. We pass things on to the future when we're no longer here.
So here's the question I must ask myself, you must ask you. What of eternal value am I passing on that will outlive me? Because if you don't do that, then when you're no longer here, your impact is no longer here. And, believe me, you wanna leave something behind because if you and I don't leave the right things behind, somebody else will leave the wrong things behind to people we say we love.