Pastor G spends four weeks covering a few of the highlights of the prophet Elisha. He pulls out examples of how we can live our faith lives based on the experiences of Elisha.
This is week 4 of 4: “Find Your Edge”
Today, we’re looking at another week in the life of the prophet, Elisha. I’ve called this message, “Getting Your Spiritual Edge Back.” If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to share with you tonight, please say or type HIT ME WIT IT G! I’M READY!
Before we dive in, I wonder how many of you, you’re like me, you’re often looking for things that you misplaced? How many of you would say you’re often looking for things you misplaced? When I think about all the lost time, the lost productivity I have spent looking for things I’ve lost… some of it is crazy. I’ve looked for my sunglasses when they were on my head; I’ve looked for my car keys when they were in my mouth. I have even been on the phone before and told someone “I can’t find my phone anywhere!” Anyone else ever experience anything like that? Good to know I’m not the only crazy person here. I have a great, positive thinking friend who, whenever I say “I lost something” will respond: It’s not really LOST, it is just MISPLACED.
Well, what I want to do today is talk about misplacing something else. And there’s a good chance for many of you who are followers of Christ, that you’ve actually misplaced something spiritual in nature. Some of you may feel like you have lost your passion for God or the things of God that you used to have but don’t today. Some of you feel like you have lost some joy. There used to be just this deep settled spiritual contentment and joy that somehow along the way you feel like you have lost, and you’re not quite sure how you lost it.
You are not quite sure where you lost it, when you lost it. Some of you, at one time, had great faith and you prayed and prayed and believed God for big things and you had hope in a God who was good, that plans to bless you and prosper you. And today, you’re not praying for much of anything and you’re not even sure what you believe about all of this God stuff anymore. You had something very important spiritually but you just feel like you lost it along the way. God sent me here today to tell you: Your spiritual EDGE is not really LOST, it is just MISPLACED! As we look again this week at the prophet, Elisha, today, we are going to look at what honestly is one of the oddest miracles in all of the bible. In fact, if you look through and survey the different miracles that Elisha performed, there were some really big and important miracles.
He healed a poisoned body of water which saved a community. He raised a boy from the dead. He supernaturally provided financially for a widow who would have lost her two sons after losing her husband. He healed a commander named Naaman of Leprosy, after dipping him in the river. He blinded an entire army who was coming to kill him, took them captive, led them to the king of Israel, had a great feast prepared for them and then released them which stopped a war between the King of Aram and the King of Israel. He did all these significant things. And then there is this miracle we are going to look at today. There was a young student of Elisha’s, a future prophet, kind of a seminary student, who borrowed an axe and was chopping on a tree when the axehead flew off of the stick and landed in the water and it sank.
And then Elisha, the great prophet, this great man of God, took a stick, threw it in the water and the axehead floated back up where the young man who lost it could retrieve it. So it wasn’t really lost, it was just misplaced for a time. We read that story and we go, ”Wow! That’s pretty cool! Iron isn’t supposed to float. How did he do that?” He made an axehead float but we’re kind of like, “That’s impressive and everything but I don’t really see any spiritual significance. Why is this miracle even recorded in the Bible?” Well, let me give a couple of things that are significant to me and then we’ll dive into the story.
One thing you need to know is that iron was very valuable at this time; it was hard to come by. And this prophet who was studying, this younger guy, who lost the axehead, was likely very poor. Like I said, he was kind of like a college student, living on student loans, eating Ramen noodles. Some of you know what I’m talking about right now. You know what living on ramen cooked in a hot plate is all about. And this student had borrowed an expensive axehead and he couldn’t pay it back it it was lost. He was going to be buried in debt.
He was what we call a “non-profit prophet.” Turn to your neighbor and ask them “Are all your pastor’s jokes this corny?” When someone asks you that say, “Unfortunately.” So, don’t miss this. This poor guy doesn’t have much and he loses this expensive axehead, and then we see Elisha bring the axehead back, which shows you very clearly that our big God actually cares about all the little details in our lives, which is very comforting to me.
No matter what you’re going through, if you have a headache, God cares. If you’ve got a chemistry test coming up, God cares. If your car won’t start again in the morning, God cares. If you’re on the phone when you can’t find your phone, God’s laughing at you, but He still cares. Our God cares about even the little things of our life. The Deists have it wrong. The Deists say God created the universe and you and me and then just took a hands-off approach and said “Good luck! It’s all on you now! PEACE! I’m out!” No. They are wrong. Our God is a personal God who wants a personal relationship with you and He cares deeply about all the little things of your life.
Now, let’s dive into this story from the life of Elisha and see some other valuable principles that we can pull out of this story of the crazy axehead miracle. And again, let me just help you understand the context. If you remember, Elisha was mentored by Elijah. And now, we see Elisha mentoring the next generation of young prophets who wanted to learn from him. Elisha built a school for prophets and there were so many of them that they actually outgrew the school. That’s where we pick up the story, beginning in 2 Kings 6:1 which reads:
The company of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.” And he said, “Go.” – 2 Kings 6:1-2
They’ve got their first church-building campaign! We’ve outgrown our facilities. We’ve got to expand. Look at verses 3-4:
Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?” – “I will,” Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. – 2 Kings 6:3-4
Now here comes the action, don’t miss it. Look at verse 5:
As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water…. – 2 Kings 6:5a
So we’ve got: “Chop, chop, chop, chop” – “Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop” – “SKA-BOOOOSH. – GLUB GLUB GLUB GLUB.” I can do it again but I don’t want to blow you away with my awesome sound effects. Hollywood might see the video later and try to steal me away from Waikoloa. What’s the young prophet’s reaction?
“Oh no, my lord!” he cried out. “It was borrowed!” – 2 Kings 6:5b
In other words, “I am in big trouble. That thing costs a lot of money I don’t have and now I am going to have to find a way to replace it! What does Elisha do? Look at the next two verses.
The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. “Lift it out,” he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. – 2 Kings 6:6-7
Now, besides God caring about the little details, there is another major point I want you to embrace internally that we’re going to come back to again and again in this message.
God knows how to help you FIND what you didn’t mean to LOSE.
Let me say that again, God knows how to help you FIND what you didn’t mean to LOSE. Those of you who feel like you have lost something spiritual in nature, your fire, your passion, your connection to God, be reminded that we serve a God who is totally into restoration. Our good and great God knows how to help you find what you didn’t mean to lose. It’s not really lost, it’s just misplaced.
Now, as we talk about losing the axehead, losing the cutting edge, what I want to do is I want to show you metaphorically how this could apply to your spiritual life, and teach it symbolically. The big question I want to ask you is this: How have you misplaced your spiritual edge? For those of you that are Christians, be real honest and ask yourself, “How have I misplaced my spiritual edge?” And some of you may say, “Well, really, I haven’t.” And if that’s you, I celebrate with you and thank God for you. And continue to do what you’re doing that keeps that spiritual passion high and share with others in your Aloha Groups how you manage to keep your spiritual edge so sharp all the time. They need your wisdom and example too.
But it is my guess that for many of you who are followers of Christ, you might honestly say there was another time in your life when you were more into the things of God than you are today and so I would ask you to acknowledge specifically and honestly “How have you misplaced your spiritual edge?” For some of you, you might recognize there was a time when you had other committed Christians around you that helped build you up and prayed for you, and encouraged you in the things that mattered most. But when you look around now, maybe you have some Christian friends but they’re not really building you up in the things of God and you’ve misplaced your edge because of that. Some of you, there was a time when you served in the church gladly and with joy and energy and you had the thrill of being used by God, you loved knowing that you were making a difference for the kingdom of God with your gifts. And sometimes, it was hard, but all the time it was fulfilling.
And then you got busy and you stopped serving in the church, and you were going to get back to it but you never did. And now you are missing something in your life spiritually because once upon a time you knew what it was like to be used in significant ways by God as you served and cared for other people in the church but now life is pretty much just about you or at least just about you and a couple other close family members and church is now a place where you come to BE served rather that to serve OTHERS. Some of you, there was a time when you had a passion for prayer. I mean, you would even get up early and you would pray long for lots of people. And now, quite honestly, you only pray over a meal every now and then when someone is watching (kind of a rubba dub dub, thanks for the grub Yay God prayer).
Or you may still pray rarely about the big things that hit in life, when you just feel completely overwhelmed but the truth is, you haven’t really prayed on a regular basis, in a significant way, in a very long time. Some of you, at one point in your life, you really loved to share your faith with other people, and you had a deep love for those who were outside the family of God. It broke your heart to think about your family and friends not spending eternity with you in heaven someday, but something happened along the way, and even though you used to be really trying to help others without Christ, now you can’t even remember the last time you had a spiritual conversation with someone that is not a follower of Jesus. Some of you, you might, when you’re really honest, notice your standards, your morals, your ethics have eroded.
Years ago, you had very strong Christian values and you thought, “Hey, I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to say that, I’m not going to participate in that because I know that’s not pleasing to God, and it’s not helpful to me.” And then, I don’t know, something happened. You’ve got one set of friends, and they said, “Come on, come on, come on.” and you were like, ”Oh, okay, just this once.”
And then before long, you started cutting some moral or ethical corners and taking some short cuts and doing some things that you probably shouldn’t have been doing. And now, you wake up and you wonder, “How did I get way over here in my spiritual, moral, ethical life?” Maybe you are thinking, “I have no idea what happened to me. I used to be this way, more like Jesus, and now look where I ended up. How did this happen? How did I lose my spiritual edge?” It’s not really lost, it’s just misplaced. The reality is that it can happen to any one of us because we have a spiritual enemy whose mission is to steal kill and destroy everything that matters to the heart of God. Sometimes life just wears us down and the devil just beats us up and we don’t even realize it is happening until it’s too late. One morning we just wake up and things are different. Our passion for God is gone.
One of my all-time favorite books that I ever read, I read in Seminary. It is called “The Orphean Passages: The Drama of Faith” Walter Wangerin writes a novel that is a modern retelling of the Greek tragedy Orpheus and Eurydice where this Orpheus is a pastor. There is a section in the story where Orpheus is serving communion to the little congregation he serves and it touched me profoundly. It made me long to be a pastor like this as well. Let me read this section to you:
“So grateful was he to his Jesus, that his heart would pound and he would hum and chuckle in his nose while six returned to their pews and six more came to kneel. Orpheus loved Jesus with all his heart. To serve Jesus, then, to have been entrusted with these people of Jesus, was purely a gift from the dear Lord Jesus which kept perpetually the face of his Jesus before him and for which he could not find words enough to cry his thanks. Orpheus was a pastor. He could not think of a better, more honorable thing to be.” – Walter Wangerin (Excerpt from The Orphan Passages)
Orpheus ends up going through a burnout phase as a pastor. He is misjudged and mistreated by those he loves and cares for and eventually he loses his edge, he has a crisis of faith and I remember reading that book as a warning and saying, “I’m not going to let that happen to me. I am going to be a pastor. I can not think of a better, more honorable thing to be.”
As I grew closer to God at seminary and as I spent all my time with others who also loved Jesus and could think of no better, more honorable thing to do with their life than to serve Jesus as pastors I loved God so much and I couldn’t wait to become a full-time, vocational pastor, to stop practicing it in school and actually start doing it. I couldn’t wait for my whole job to be all about loving on people for Jesus and being loved by the people of Jesus in return. It was going to be glorious! After seminary, God sent our young family to North Carolina and I got to be a pastor at two small United Methodist Churches and I just knew, now, being a pastor, that my bible would probably start to hover above my desk as I studied, maybe I would even hover myself because I was so close to God now as a pastor.
I just knew that when you turned out the lights, I would probably glow in the dark now because the anointing of God, the unction of God probably glows in the dark. And I just knew that everyone would love me and our family because they would see the love of God in us and we would all love each other at those churches just like we all did at seminary and all of life would be one giant KUMBAYA circle of love. But what I didn’t realize is I had actually been called into a very difficult vocation that, over the next several years, just literally beat the life out of me. Pastoral work eventually made my kids not want anything to do with the church and they aren’t sure what they even think about God now. It was really hard being a pastor, especially in some of those early years, but it was even harder being a pastor’s kid.
I heard a story about a pastor who had a conversation with a general in the army. The general was talking about how difficult his job was when deciding whether or not to send troops into a battle situation. He then commented to the pastor that he wished he had an easy job, like the job of a pastor, where at least he wouldn’t have to make decisions about life and death. The pastor smiled at the general and said: “As a pastor, I wish the most serious thing I had to deal with was just issues of life and death. In church work the stakes are even higher than life and death. It’s eternal life and eternal death.” There have been times when I experienced pastoral burnout and misplaced my passion for the things of God. ”The way I was doing the work of God destroyed the work of God in me.”
Another way I have heard it said is “You can get so busy in the work of the Lord that you forget the Lord of the work.” And that’s exactly what happened to me as well. Years after I started as a pastor, one Sunday morning, I went up to pray before the church, and in the middle of my prayer, I realized I hadn’t prayed personally in weeks. I was praying publicly all the time but I was never praying privately. I would study the bible in-depth as I prepared my sermon each week but there was no personal devotion, no personal time of just reading God’s Word for the sake of reading God’s Word. And in the middle of this season, God showed me very, very clearly what had happened. I had become a full-time pastor and a part-time follower of Christ. And the reason it’s so quiet in here right now is because many of you can relate. You’ve become a full-time parent but a part-time follower of Christ, or a full-time business person but a part-time follower of Christ, or a full-time student but a part-time follower of Christ. You didn’t mean to lose your spiritual edge, you didn’t mean to lose your passion for Christ but you did.
You didn’t mean to stop praying with your spouse each night before bed but you did. You didn’t mean to fall back into the old patterns and become addicted again, but you did. You didn’t mean to drift from the love and intimacy you once had with God and wake up depressed and empty and hollow on the inside, but you did. You didn’t mean to end up pursuing the emptiness of material possessions, but if you were honest, you’d realize that’s exactly what you did. You didn’t mean to become a part-time follower of Christ, but that’s what happened. You misplaced your spiritual edge.
If we’re honest, we’ve all been there. Maybe some of you are there right now. So, what do you do when you’re swinging away and the edge flies off, lands in the deep water and sinks? How do you get your edge back? I want to look at this story with Elisha and the young prophet and this very real physical event of how they got their axehead, their cutting edge, back, and I want to apply symbolically two lessons about how we get our spiritual edge back. The first one, if you’re taking notes, is this: We need to be HONEST about where we LOST our EDGE! You need to be honest with yourself and honest with God about where you lost your spiritual edge. In verse 6, Elisha asks the young prophet, ”Where did it fall?” In other words, the axehead is still wherever you saw it last. It isn’t really gone; it’s not really lost. It’s just misplaced. Where did it fall? That’s the first place to look for it. Have you found that, unless someone else got involved and moved it, that thing you lost is always right where you left it?
And I would ask you today about your spiritual edge: Where did YOU leave it? Where did it fall? Where did you start to lose track of your spiritual edge? You’re all smart people and if you look back, you can probably say, “Oh, yeah, I remember when I took a wrong turn. I made some friends that were probably the wrong friends, or I started dating the wrong guy, and he took me down.” Maybe for you, you just got sloppy on the spiritual discipline. You used to pray several times a day, maybe all through the day but then, one day, you just stopped. Maybe you still pray once in a while but it’s not a daily discipline. Maybe you used to be devoted to actually searching for God in his Word every day and then you stopped reading the Bible as often and then you stopped altogether.
Maybe you used to be a tither and then you kind of got behind a few weeks, then a few months, and then you just stopped altogether and now you tip God less each week than you tend to tip the servers at your favorite restaurant. Maybe you used to be involved in a great community, a small group, what we call Aloha Groups here, where others would speak into your life, and then you stopped going every week and then you just stopped going altogether. Some of you, maybe you got hurt by somebody, someone in the church, maybe a pastor, maybe some other Christian, and you’re like, “Hey, if they’re going to act that way, heck with them! I am done!” And you’ve allowed your heart to grow hard. Maybe you’ve blamed God over what someone else did or you are angry at God because some tragedy happened in your life that you don’t understand and you feel like God let you down.
Maybe you have some secret, some secret sin or secret pain that is just eating away at you in your core and the fear that someone else is going to find out about it paralyzes you with fear, so you decided to just hide from everyone, including God. Be honest about where you lost, where you misplaced, your spiritual edge. First, be honest about why you lost it. The second thing that I believe this event from Elisha’s life would teach us is this:
With God’s help, you ALWAYS can RETRIEVE what you LOST!
Let me say that again. With God’s help, you ALWAYS can RETRIEVE what you LOST! Because our God specializes in helping you find what you didn’t mean to lose. Verse 6 and 7, here we see it. Elisha cut a stick and threw it in the water, right where the young prophet lost the axehead and this made the iron float. Then Elisha said, “Lift it out.” Everybody turn to your neighbor and say, “Lift it out.” Now, touch the person who was your second choice on the other side and say, “Lift it out.” —— “Lift it out,” the prophet said. Retrieve what you have lost! Lift it out.
Then the young prophet reached out his hand and he took it. Right? He got his cutting edge back. With God’s help, you need to lift it out too. With God’s help you need to take it back. With God’s help, you ALWAYS can RETRIEVE what you LOST Remember, a couple of weeks ago, we studied the ditches. Only God can send the water but sometimes he wants you to dig the ditch. Remember that lesson? Last week, remember, only God can multiply the oil but he wants you to gather the jars. Remember that? This week, only God can make the axehead float, but he wants you to lift it out. He wants you to retrieve what you lost as he brings it back within your reach. Now, let me give you a warning, a heads up.
The moment you start to think, “Maybe I can get my spiritual edge back,” I can promise you there will be a voice in the back of your head that says, “Oh, no, you can’t get it back again. It’s been too long and you’ve gone too far. You’ve done too much and you can never have it back. After all you’ve done, you’ve lost the best of what you could have ever had.” Do you know who that voice belongs to? The devil. That voice belongs to your enemy and mine, Satan, the accuser of God’s people. He hates your guts and he will stop at nothing to tear you down and pull you away from God. So, God sent me here today to tell somebody, I don’t know who, it might be you, this might be for you today. God sent me here to tell somebody that with God, it’s not too late to be the person that you could have been. Don’t listen to that other voice inside your head.
Listen to my voice right now. It’s not too late to get back what you thought you could never have again. It’s not too late to have what you used to have and have even more of it with the power of our good and great God. You haven’t gone too far and you haven’t done too much because our God specializes in helping you find what you didn’t mean to lose. How is God going to help you get your spiritual passion, your spiritual edge back? He’s going to make it float up in front of you, right where you lost it, within reach, and then you’ve got to stretch out your hand and lift it out; you’ve got to grab it back. You’ve got to go after it and get it. No one else is going to be able to do that for you. So here’s what you do. You DO what you can DO and you trust God to DO what you cannot DO!
That’s so good I’m going to say it again because somebody missed an opportunity to get into this message with me. You DO what you can DO and you trust God to DO what you cannot DO. AMEN? YAY GOD?
Can you make an axehead float? No. You probably can’t do that. But can you lift it out when God brings it within reach? Yes, you can. Can you create, in your own spirit, spiritual passion and faith? No. You can’t do that. But we do know that faith comes by hearing and hearing from the word of God, so you can put yourself in a place where you hear God’s word and so God can build your faith. You know that God hears and answers prayers so you can choose to pray even when you don’t feel like it. And you can choose to worship even when you don’t feel like it. And you can choose to share your faith with other people even when you don’t know all the answers to the questions you’re asking right now. And you can search for God again and when you seek Him, you will find Him.
With God’s help, you can take back what is available to you, you can retrieve what you lost. It isn’t really lost. It is just misplaced. Jesus was speaking to a church of people one time who are where many of us are today. He said this to them in I love what Revelation 2:4-5 says:
… You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…. – Revelation 2:4-5a
In other words, say you’re sorry, turn back, come home, turn from your sin, turn from your apathy, turn from your complacency. Repent, and DO THE THINGS YOU DID AT FIRST.” In other words, if you want what you once had, you’ve got to do what you once did. Go back to the place where you lost it. Where did it fall in the water? Where did you lose it? Go back there and I will cause it to float to the surface of your heart, soul, mind and strength again. When I cause it to float, you reach out and lift it out. You do what you can do and you trust Jesus to do what you cannot do.
God wants to help you get back what you didn’t mean to lose. You do what you can do. Trust God to do what you cannot do. Our God is a God of restoration. Our God specializes in bringing back what we didn’t mean to lose. And I don’t know where you are or how you’re hurting or how you’ve drifted or how far you’ve gone, but our God wants you to know you haven’t gone too far. He still sees you. He still loves you. He still has a plan and a purpose for your life. You can be the person that you were meant to be because our God specializes in helping people find what they didn’t mean to lose. So You DO what you can DO and you trust God to DO what you cannot DO.
When he makes the axehead float, you just lift it out. With God’s help, you ALWAYS can RETRIEVE what you LOST! Find your Edge today!
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~