Friday, August 15, 2014

Very Sobering Verse: Elisha

            I’ve been thinking lately about what are some of the most powerful (yet often unnoticed) verses in the whole Bible.  The kind of verses that open your eyes and raise your eyebrows.  That humble, challenge, and convict you.  There are many that I think could make the list.  But in the next several posts, I will share what I think are some of the most sobering, sad, challenging, convicting, etc. verses in the Bible (in no particular order) and other lessons that I have learned from Scripture.

Very Sobering Verse:
            “Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died . . .”  (2 Kings 13:14)
            Elisha was a prophet.  He followed directly in the footsteps of the great Elijah.  He was given a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings  2:9-11), whatever that means.  He performed miracles like healing bad water, blessing a widow with abundant oil out of a little bit of it, causing a barren women to have a son and then bringing him back to life after he died, healing leprosy, etc.  And yet the Lord saw fit to give him an illness that he couldn’t heal.  He saw fit to allow Elisha to die from an incurable illness, even after Elisha gave life and health back to others and did so much for the Lord throughout his life.  Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
            But that’s what strikes me most about it: the fact that even a great, fully committed, miracle-working prophet of God couldn’t cure his own illness.  It’s humbling to me.  Because how often do we mere normal Christians feel like we should get some sort of preferential treatment from the Lord?  How many times do we evaluate and judge the Lord by His response to our prayers and the things He does for us and gives us?  How many times does our faith get crushed or shattered when we find ourselves facing insurmountable, unwanted, or difficult problems?  All because we feel like the Lord isn’t being fair somehow or answering our prayers “the right way”?  And yet even a “healing man” couldn’t heal himself.  The great Elisha died from an illness.
            And on top of that, Paul didn’t get his thorn removed after praying about it.  Moses was burdened with leading the people to the Promised Land, and yet he was banned from it because of one outburst of anger.  Many of the disciples were martyred.  And Jesus Himself didn’t get the “cup of death by crucifixion” removed from Him, even after praying for hours about it. 
            And yet when we have to face a chronic struggle of some kind – medical, financial, relational, etc. – we feel like God isn’t treating us fairly, after all we’ve done for Him and after all of our heart-felt prayers.  And we wonder if something is wrong with us or our faith that God has allowed this trial. 
            I don’t know how Elisha dealt with the fact that he was dying from an illness.  But if it was me, I know that there would have been a lot of crying, doubts, self-pity, questioning if I was “praying right and living godly enough,” and feeling like God was punishing me for some reason or like He wasn’t listening.  And yet, Elisha (who had much more reason to feel like he was getting the raw end of the deal) continued in faith and in doing the things that God asked of him. 
            The truth of the matter is, if we are struggling with a huge, difficult trial, we are in good company.  Because God often allows monumental trials and struggles in the lives of His children.  He often allows us to face something that is far beyond our ability to deal with.  And it’s not that He doesn’t care, it’s that He’s after our spiritual growth and He wants us to learn to allow Him to be God over all.  And He’s after a far greater reward for us than what this life has to offer.  Struggles and trials and pain are momentary, but the spiritual refinement and growth that those trials produce (if we allow God to grow us through them) are eternally rewarding.