NOTE: No audio was recorded for this sermon.
I met Cora in 1983, in Kansas City, Missouri. It was my first church. Cora was 85. Her husband had died about ten years before that. Cora was a kind and gracious Christian woman. She shared with me that for most of her marriage, her husband struggled with alcoholism. He was not an angry or abusive alcoholic. But it did interfere with the lives. The alcohol abuse was a huge roadblock to the fullness of his relationship with his wife and child. But Cora prayed regularly for her husband. She prayed for him to quit drinking. She prayed for him to give his life to Christ. And then, after all those years, at the age of 60 Cora's husband quit drinking and gave his life to Christ. After that, they had 15 wonderful years together.
That is what tenacity looks like. What if Cora had given up on prayer? What if she had given up on her husband? Miracles happen all around us.
A man sits quietly in a Bible study class. The subject is miracles. Some in the class are skeptical about the stories of miracles in the Bible. Others doubt miracles still happen. Finally, he tells his story. "When I was a kid growing up, my dad was an alcoholic. A mean one. He didn't physically abuse us, but there was a lot of anger and he bounced from one job to another. He drank away a lot of his paycheck, so we struggled financially. Then, one day, he started going to AA. He finally could hold down a job. He began living a faithful Christian life. You say you're skeptical about miracles? Not me. I saw a miracle. When he healed my dad, Jesus turned wine into furniture for our house and food on the table and happiness for my mom."
These are the miracles.
Here's what we saw last week about the connection between tenacity and miracles.
A miracle isn't going to happen in an instant. There's no magic pill or rainbow wishes that are going to bring a miracle. It takes tenacity to have faith when you don't feel like having faith. It takes tenacity to choose to love when you don't feel very loving. It takes tenacity to choose to believe when you don't feel like believing anymore. However hesitant the steps, the journey of tenacity gets you to a closer picture of a miracle.
I think, for most of us, tenacity is pressing on. Tenacity is the difference between in spite of and because of. The tenacious person says, "I can do this in spite of" rather than "I can't do this because of." Tenacity is not you standing on the mountain top screaming your lungs out in a cry of victory. Tenacity is you hanging on to the last thread of faith, the last thread of hope that you have and not giving up. Tenacity is not being perfect in every step in every way. Tenacity is you coming back to faith again and again and again.
Don't ever think you don't or can't have tenacity. It's a gift from God. God gives all good gifts to His people. You just have to grab hold of it and use it. That's what Elisha did. Remember, Elisha was a student of the prophet Elijah. When Elijah tried to keep Elisha at arms distance, Elisha persisted. Elisha kept coming back to this place where he knew God was calling him to see a miracle. Tenacity.
Here's the second way we look forward to the miracles God wants to work in our lives:
2. Live With Sensitivity.
What I mean is, sensitivity to what God is doing in the world. Sensitivity to the fact that there's more going on around you than you can see or know.
Listen to how this sensitivity worked in Elisha's life. Remember the context. Elijah is going to be taken up into heaven.
And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, "Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from you?" And he said, "Yes, I know it; keep quiet."
- 2 Kings 2:3
You can hear their sensitivity to what God is doing. What strikes me is there is nothing really super spiritual going on here. There are no flashing lights or bells and whistles. It's just a group of guys talking. But they are sensitive to what's happening in the moment. They're with Elijah. They're with each other. They are tuned in to the moment. Nothing fancy. They're just listening to what's happening right now. They're paying attention to how God is working in their lives.
Here's something you might want to write down.
You are sensitive to God's actions.
How do you become more sensitive to how God is acting in the world?
Your primary source of sensitivity to what God is doing is through His Word and His people. Read the Bible. Spend time with other believers. And so, when you get a sense of something God is doing or about to do, you run it through Scripture and you get the insight from other believers. When you start doing that, you gain increased sensitivity to other people. You're not just looking past people or through people. You're looking at people and how God is working in your life and their lives. And before you know it, you hear God telling you to let go of that grudge, and the miracle of
forgiveness pours into your life. That is always a good thing.
Elijah was going to die. He didn't want Elisha around to see it. But Elisha was sensitive to what God wanted him to do. God wanted him to be there. And so Elisha stayed. His sensitivity to God kept him connected to Elijah. How many times do people simply need someone to sit with them? How many times do people simply need someone to be present? We don't have to know the right words or say the right words. All we need to do is forget about our stuff and be sensitive to the needs of others.
Make no mistake. Some of the greatest miracles rise up out of the most difficult, disastrous situations of life when we've allowed ourselves to be still and listen for God. "Be still and know that I am God," the Bible says. And when it looks like things are falling apart, we can see how God is working through us and others to hold everything together. We just have to be sensitive to how God works miracles in the toughest places.
So far, we have seen how the keys to seeing God's miracles are sensitivity to what God's doing in the world and being tenacious through the journey of life. Finally:
3. Live With Purity.
Now, don't get bumfuzzled by a narrow understanding of the word purity. 2 Kings 2:6-10 gives us our context:
Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”
You can see the purity in Elisha's heart. He was unafraid to ask for what he most desired. What did he want? He wanted to serve like Elijah. Understand what that means. Elisha knew this. Elijah had almost been killed. Elijah had been taken to places of deep depression and discouragement. Elisha knew the responsibility that came with what he was asking. That is purity of heart. Elisha knew that doing the right things for God would lead to hardship, and still that is the thing he was hungry for.
Purity isn't solely defined in terms of things you don't do. Here's a broader understanding of purity:
Purity is a single minded ambition to do something great for God.
When you think that way…when you pursue that idea, you're not going to shrink from the challenging or difficult or costly things. Are you with me on that? You've got someplace to go. It's not about you and what you're not doing. It's about what you are doing to make a difference in the world.
Here's the meaning of it. What you are doing right now…you are worshiping the One, True, and Holy God. You are loving each other. You are contributing in so many different ways to loving our community. You are being equipped here to go to where you work or live or play or where you learn - you are doing great things for God there. And none of that could happen without the work of God. You have the miracle of faith. You have the miracle of commitment to a cause beyond yourself. You have made yourself available to God to do great things in His name. Is that a miracle? Yes, it is. That's where the world is going to see who Jesus really is.
Here's how Paul puts it in Philippians 3:12-14:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I don't not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
We're not going to give up. We're going to keep on serving God. We run toward God's claim upon our lives. That's exactly what Elisha did. He stayed with Elijah. He ran toward the danger of following God's plan for his life.
Tenacity…sensitivity…purity. Let's wrap things up with seeing how that all played out in Elisha's life:
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
Did you catch it? The same miracle done by Elijah, Elisha has now done.
The God of Elijah is now the God of Elisha. Elisha now knows God wants to do great things through his life.
Tenacity…sensitivity…purity. Elisha had a unique experience with God. While not of the same portion or in the same proportion, as we embrace how God works in our lives, in our little corner of His world, great things will happen. All of them miracles in the way God changes lives in order that they might be used to His glory.