Embracing Our Need

hand in hand

2 Kings 2:9-10 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied. ‘You have asked a difficult thing,’ Elijah said, ‘yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours–otherwise not.’”

Elisha was the heir apparent to Elijah’s ministry. God had told Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet. When he asked for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit, he wasn’t asking for twice as much as Elijah had. He was asking for the first born son’s inheritance. In ancient times, since the first born son would take his father’s place in the family, he received twice as much as any of the other heirs. If Elisha was going to inherit Elijah’s position as spiritual leader of Israel, then he wanted the spiritual gifts from God that were necessary to carry it out.

Do you see what Elisha is thinking? He sees that the task in front of him is greater than he is. He is aware of his spiritual poverty, his spiritual neediness, in the face of his responsibility. He was called to lead God’s people back to the Lord. He knows that he is not super-spiritual. He is an ordinary man, a simple sinner. He needs to lean on someone other than himself if he is going to be of any use to God or anyone else.

Is that hard for us to admit? We are no different than Elisha, but that doesn’t sit well with our pride. Even in mundane matters we find it difficult to admit our weakness and dependence on others. That’s why I insist that I can fix the car myself, that I can assemble the gas grill without reading the instructions, that I can lift the heavy box without someone on the other side to help. And what does our pride get us in such cases? Costlier repairs? A dangerous explosion? A wrenched back?

In spiritual matters, the stakes are even higher. We develop a false sense of self-confidence. We believe that we have become spiritually pumped.We think we can do God’s work on our own. We are afraid that if we keep coming to God with empty hands we will develop a welfare mentality. We forget that sin is a permanent disability, at least this side of heaven.

The Apostle Peter was once too proud to receive Jesus’ help when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Remember Jesus’ response? “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Persistent refusal to depend on God and receive his gifts not only guarantees that our service will flop. That kind of pride cuts us off from God himself.

When we come to the same realization that Elisha had, we are confident in Christ’s power to carry us forward, in spite of our neediness, our weakness, and our dependence. God’s grace did everything to save us. He paid the full cost of every sin. We can trust him to fill us and give us every power we need to do his work.

The Apostle Paul once said of his suffering, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” I am always weak. But when we recognize this, then we are ready to depend on God’s strength. We depend on him not only for forgiveness and life. Even the ability to serve is a gift of his grace. The power to accomplish what he gives us to do comes from him.

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