Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: The Faith God Blesses and Uses!

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Faith God Blesses and Uses!

The Faith God Blesses and Uses!

Faith building is a process that is often difficult and trying.  Even when people choose to trust in Christ for the gift of salvation, believing in God and trusting Him with their lives is often described as a roller-coaster existence.  Humanity is by nature Empiricists.  That simply means that they believe in what they can see, taste, touch, smell, and feel.  Before Adam’s fall into sin, humanity could experience God through their senses to some degree.  We do not know to what degree that was, but we know that Adam conversed with God.  God’s first recorded communication with Adam and Eve is recorded in Genesis 1:28-30. 

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so” (Genesis 1:27-30).

          Adam and Eve knew God by experience and through conversation with Him, but we can be sure that their comprehension of Who and What God is was far beyond their empirical senses.  Initially, knowledge of God would come from understanding the infinite depth and complexity of His creation as Adam named all the various species of animals, plants, and insects.  It would immediately become apparent that the Being that created all the earth, animals, and all that sustains their existence, must be a very powerful Being.  Adam and Eve did not exist while God was creating the universe, so the only way they knew about the God of creation was the testimony of the existence of the creation.  They knew the creation belonged to God because God said, “I have given you” (Genesis 1:29).  They knew God was in authority because He commanded them, “16b Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).  The point in all of this is that humanity’s knowledge of God has always been primarily by faith.  There has been historical encounters and interaction with God recorded in the Scriptures by the inspiration of God to give us added knowledge of God and His will, but faith is still predominant.  Faith grows through knowing the Word of God and the historical actions and conversations with God from His Word (Romans 10:17).

          Faith cannot be transferred from one person to another.  A child does not acquire faith from his parents.  A child can begin to grow faith by seeing the example of his parents’ faith, but he will need to apply his own faith before that faith can be said to be his faith.  There is no such thing as surrogate faith or proxy faith.  Just as parents cannot eat food for a child to sustain him, so it is with faith.  Everyone must build and develop his own faith. 

          In II Kings 2:1-15, in the account of Elisha acquiring Elijah’s mantle, people are often confused into thinking that Elijah transferred his power with God to Elisha in the transfer of Elijah’s mantle to Elisha.  This is certainly not the case.  Power from God was not in the mantle, but in the faith in God of the person owning the mantle.  This is the substance of the narrative of II Kings 2:1-15. 

          Notice in II Kings 2:5 that all the “sons of the prophets,” including Elisha, knew that it was the very day that God was going to take Elijah home to glory.  They all were waiting to see this miracle of God.  Fifty of the “sons of the prophets” (II Kings 2:7) “stood to view afar off.”  Only Elisha was near Elijah having the kind of faith that wanted the power with God in prayer that Elijah had. 

1 And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. 3 And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. 4 And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. 5 And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. 6 And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. 7 And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. 8 And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground” (II Kings 2:1-8).

Three different times Elisha says to Elijah, “As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.”  The prophets all knew that this was Elijah’s appointed day to die.  They probably knew some catastrophe was going to happen and Elijah’s life would be taken.  They may have even known it was going to be by a “whirlwind.”  This is why they watch from a great distance.  They did not want to be killed by the “whirlwind” too.  Elijah’s consistent admonition to Elisha to stay away was the testing of Elisha’s faith.  Could God take Elijah with Elisha in close proximity without taking Elisha also?

9 And it came to pass {the proximity of the death of Elijah}, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. 10 And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. 11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces {an act of faith in anticipation of getting Elijah’s mantle}. 13 He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; 14 And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. 15 And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him” (II Kings 2:9-15).

According to II Kings 2:16-17, the fifty “sons of the prophets” thought God might take Elijah up in the whirlwind only to cast his body upon some mountain top or into some valley nearby.  They would spend three days searching for the body of Elijah.  They most probably did not see everything Elisha saw in Elijah’s death and home going.  Although we do not know for sure, they probably saw the “whirlwind,” but not the “chariot of fire, and horses of fire.”  Elisha did not need to go searching for Elijah’s body with them.  Elisha knew to where Elijah was taken.  There are some things we know by sight and other things we know only by faith.  Which of the two do you think God honors and blesses the most? 

          In every generation of believers there have been men and women with such high levels of faith and commitment to God, He has been able to mold them to be wondrous vehicles of His power and grace.  These people have become living testimonies to the reality of God’s existence and His ability to transform lives.  God has moved in the lives of previously insignificant people to shape their character in such a way as to be able to use them to do great things.  Faith is the key to all of this!

          God’s use of people is not always based upon what they are, but rather upon what they could be (potentially).  God sees within them a moldable spirit (we can change our spirit) and a quality of character that could be developed because of a level of commitment to know Him and serve Him.  As their level of commitment increases, these believers’ quest to know God personally and intimately increases (expressed in the O.T. by the words “seek His face”).
          In this process of growing in faith, God transforms the believer as the believer sets aside worldly, selfish, and carnal desires to incorporate the truths of God’s Word into his everyday life.  Worldly, selfish, and carnal desires are not compatible with the growth of faith and spiritual growth.  Their supreme quest of life was the search for a personal and intimate knowledge of God that resulted in transformed lives.
The transformed life that God uses to accomplish great things is the product of the quest for growing faith, not its goal.  It is a great thing to attend each of the weekly services of your local church, but it is a vain and empty use of time if your primary goal is not focused on meeting with God, worshiping Him in spirit and truth, and cultivating a personal and intimate relationship with Him.
          It is certainly a good thing to read and study the Word of God and discover God’s wondrous truths, but it is a vain thing if those truths do not bring us into a closer, more intimate relationship with God.  It is good to pray and witness, but they are empty exercises without the touch of God upon them.

          What differentiated Elisha from all the many other prophets (II Kings 2:3 & 5) prompting God to choose him as Elijah’s replacement?  Why was only Elisha chosen to receive the same blessings that God had given Elijah and not all the other prophets trained by Elijah?  It would appear the reason why was because Elisha’s central desire in life was to be used of God in such a magnificent way as to enable him to daily glorify the God of heaven on earth.  Elisha sought to personally and intimately know the incomprehensible God.  Only God could make Himself comprehendible to anyone.  The Apostle Paul communicated this kind of knowledge of God and the means through which any believer might attain it.

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him {these things are incomprehensible and unimaginable} . 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit {the inspired Scriptures}: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (I Corinthians 2:9-13).

          You may not realize it, but every time you open your Bible, every time you listen to a sermon, or participate in a Sunday School lesson, you involve yourself in a supernatural event called faith building.  The spiritual dynamic involves three elements.

1. A sanctified believer (separated from worldliness unto God) desiring to know God’s will for his life and to be used to bring God glory.
2. The Holy Spirit as the Illuminator and Convictor of right and wrong
3. Knowledge of the Word of God

          Elisha wanted to be used of God in the same way and to the same degree that Elijah had been used.  His life was consumed with that desire.  He did not want this for personal fame or glory.  He was a man who knew that the greatest blessing of heaven would be to daily live in the presence of God.  The desire of his heart was to know God personally and intimately.  That is a desire God delights in giving.

1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God” (Psalm 42:1-2)?

          When a true believer dies and goes to Heaven, do we cry because he is gone or do we cry because we did not get to go with him?  Answering this question truthfully is a test of the reality of our faith.  When the Church’s desire is directed toward the world, rather than God, it will always fail of the faith necessary to live for Him.  Such people will never be used of Him to fulfill the Great Commission.  Elisha believed his life would continue after Elijah’s departure.  He was willing to remain by Elijah’s side when God took his life.  He was willing to risk his own life to insure he had power with God as did Elijah.  There was no guarantee that God would give that same power to Elisha, even Elijah knew that.  Elisha was willing to risk his very life for the possibility.  This defines full surrender!

          The people who have historically been used of God to accomplish great things are those people who have maintained a proper perspective of their relationship with God.  We must maintain the perspective that we exist within a much larger and spiritual dimension of God’s presence and existence.  The person of living faith understands that his being used of God is totally dependent on God’s presence before he can accomplish anything for God.  Although we live and minister within a physical dimension of existence within the spiritual dimension of existence, only that which is spiritually accomplished in the spiritual dimension will have eternal benefits.  Jesus spoke of this reality in John 15:1-8.  Being connected to the “Vine” is being connected to the spiritual power of the eternal Creator Jesus. 

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
          Secondly, we must maintain the spiritual perspective that God is seeking men and women that He can use in great ways.  We must be spiritually aware that each of us possesses the potential to be the kind of person that God can use to magnify Himself to this world.  The reason there are so few of these people in history is because there are so few who are willing to make the personal sacrifices in walking away from their desires for the things of this world - FULL SURRENDER!

          When considering the spiritual potential of people, we should wonder if they will be one of those people God will use in some great way to magnify Himself to this world.  The potential to be one of those people lies within every one of us.  What might be the single thing that is keeping God from using a person the way He wants to use him.  What thing of this world has a hold on your life that might be keeping you from realizing the potential you have in Christ?  Every one of us has something.  It is called a besetting sin.  Sometimes the failure is as simple as putting your life goals for yourself before God’s life goal for you. 

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

          Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that history has recorded and surrounded us with many faithful, but imperfect, people who were greatly used by God.  In most instances, they were their own hinderers to being used of God to even a greater degree than they were.  However, we should never lose the context of the reality that it was their own journey through their failures that brought them to the place where they were totally surrendered to God and dedicated to bringing Him glory.
          The one thing that differentiated Elisha from all the other prophets was his zeal and desire to be used of God as Elijah had been used.  He would not allow any desire in his life to hinder that from happening.  How can we be sure Elisha was that kind of person?  We can know Elisha wanted God’s will more than anything by with who he kept company and the priorities of his life.  There are four things apparent about Elisha that are critical to understanding why God blessed him in the way He did. 

1. He knew Elijah was the man God was using.  Therefore, he spent every waking hour with Elijah.
2. He wanted the power with God that Elijah had.
3. It does not appear he was greedy for power or position.  It seems his motives were pure.
4. In the last hours of Elijah’s time on earth, God was testing Elisha, not Elijah.

          What did Elisha see in Elijah that filled him with the desire to be used of God in the same way?  Elijah was a man with a vision of life that transcended this world.  When Elijah understood he was going to die soon, he planned a journey to visit the three schools of the prophets at Jericho, Gilgal, and Bethel.  Elijah had started these schools to train another generation of faithful men to continue doing the work of God.  Another generation of doctrinally sound, applicationally driven, faithful Christians should be the goal of every believer.  Who (not what) will be the generation of people you have trained to replace you?
          Never follow a leader who has no vision for the next generation or who is not concerned that our children (and children’s children) are prepared to live in the world that confronts their Christianity and tempts their lives.  Such a person has no vision of reality or of the warfare in which we are all engaged.  There are three abilities necessary to a blessed ministry.

1. Availability – a person must be available whenever, wherever, and to everyone
2. Dependability – God and others must be able to depend upon us to do what we have committed ourselves to do
3. Viability – a person must be proven, trained, and capable of doing what we are committing ourselves to do

          Elijah was a man of faith, of vision, of hope, and of unhesitant obedience to God.  He was a man who intimately knew God.  This defines the “spirit” of Elijah (II Kings 2:9) that Elisha wanted.  Elijah’s mantle was merely representative of this “spirit.”  Elijah was anointed with the Spirit of God in a very special, unique way.  This was because Elijah’s faith was special and unique. 

          The “spirit” of a man is what motivates him and what compels him to act in certain ways or to do certain things (II Kings 2:9).  Elijah’s “spirit” had little or no inclination toward the things of this world.  He desired what God desired.  Elisha could have asked for anything in the world, but he asked for a “double portion” of Elijah’s “spirit.”  God reads our hearts.  He knows our desires and what we treasure in life.

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

          Elisha wanted to think like Elijah.  He wanted to have faith like Elijah.  He wanted a vision of life that transcended this temporal world and he wanted a double portion of it.  All those Godly desires made up the character of the man that God had used.  This is what Elisha wanted from God upon Elijah’s death. 

          Elijah’s power was not some magical thing in his mantle.  The spirit of Elijah was whatever made him a person God could use.  For years Elisha had traveled with Elijah and in those years Elisha had learned the lesson few men learn.  He had learned the lesson of what made great men of God great men of God.  Here are three summary points for you to consider about what made great men of faith great men of faith.

1. It is not who they are.  It is what they are.  Elisha did not want to be who Elijah was.  He wanted to be what Elijah was and double that.  The greatest failures I have known in Christian service are those trying to be a carbon copy of someone they hold in high regard.
2. Elisha wanted the spirit of Elijah, which he would use in his own individuality.
3. The spirit of Elijah was the spirit of a man of God, which enabled him to hear the voice of God through all the distracting calls from the temptations of this world.  Being so familiar with God, he knew it to be God’s voice and listened to that voice alone.

          Knowing what you know about the spirit of Elijah, what if you (like Elisha) were assured of having a double portion of that spirit if you wanted it?  Would you ask for it?  What if you knew that you could have the spirit that Christ possessed while He walked on this earth?  Would you ask for it?

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.  20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:15-20).

          All the resources of the Spirit of Christ are already available to you in His indwelling Spirit.  It is just a matter of what you want in life.  You can be filled and controlled by the Spirit of Christ with a vision of eternity or you can live your life chasing after fleeting promises of happiness in selfish pursuits.  It is just a matter of faith and full surrender. 

          The problem of not accomplishing great things to the glory of God is not because you have failed in the past or even the sin in which you have lived.  What determines future successes for Christ is the decisions we make today.  The mantle of Christ is always available to the Christian who will make Christ’s desires his.

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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