Picking Up The Mantle

II Kings 2:1-15
         In today’s age, there’s plenty of followers. We follow many people that we idolize, imitate, and impersonate. We want to look like them, act like them, talk like them, walk like them, etc. Unfortunately, most of the time, we follow people that are not Christians. Sure, they claim to be, but there’s no evidence of such. Elijah was a man who walked with God. He followed God and wanted to be Christ-like. The Lord used Elijah in many various ways by performing a variety of miracles. Someone who we see in the Scripture listed is ELISHA, followed Elijah around. Not because He idolized Elijah, but he wanted to know and serve the God that Elijah was serving. He saw how God had been using him, and he wanted the same for his life. Have you ever seen the Hand of God on someone and thought, “I want what they got!” That was Elisha’s attitude. He wanted what Elijah had!  In verses 1-15, we see several times of how others tried to distract Elisha with the well-known news that Elijah was going to be gone soon. Elisha was well-aware, and because of that, he wanted to get all the knowledge and wisdom from Elijah that he could. The verses repeatedly tell us that Elisha tells Elijah the older prophet more than once, “…as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.” Friend, one main truth I can not bypass in this event in Scripture is the realization that one of these men had been learning longer than the other. Elijah had been around for a while and had learned A LOT of things in his life from God. Elisha was coming upon the scene as a young man but was not hesitant to get rid of the old man. I believe that if Elisha had the choice, he would have kept Elijah around longer. He didn’t want to see Elijah go. Elisha had realized that Elijah was a man of God, full of wisdom and truth, and he didn’t want to lose him. I’m not sure about you, but there have been heroes of the faith in my life that I wish I never had to lose. Age and health had taken them to their limits, and there’s no way they would outlive me. It was from those men that I had learned many things about God Himself, walking with Him, serving Him, etc., and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Let me ask you this question, Elisha…who is your Elijah in life, and what do you think about them? Are you ready for them to hit the road? Are you gleaning from their walk with God? Are you honoring them? Are you willing to leave them? Elijah represents your pastor, youth pastor, Sunday school teacher, mom, dad, or whoever it is that has been a great exemplary Christian. Elisha represents you and me. What’s sad is that today, a lot of people want to get rid of Elijah. We can’t wait to see him go. Not me! I want to learn everything I can from them, as long as I can, while they are still here. Is there time coming? Unfortunately, yes, but it ain’t here yet! Don’t wait till your pastor’s funeral to want to know the man that he was. Don’t wait for your Youth Pastor to be called somewhere else until you begin to appreciate him. You have the GREAT privilege of knowing them now. He is someone who God has had His hand on for a while, and He wants to use them in your life as an influence.

A year and a half ago, I lost a close friend. This gentleman was an Elijah to me. He was saved out of a Presbyterian church nearly 50 years ago and started coming to the church I grew up in just before my pastor started pastoring there. This man’s name was Walter Hartwig. He taught in our high school for over 40 years and was such an influence on me. I was called to preach as a sophomore in high school, and before I knew it, my friends became very few because of the change God had wrought in me. However, Mr. Hartwig had always been there for me. He was a friend when I was just a staff kid always in trouble, and he was a friend after I got right with the Lord. By the end of my sophomore year, the Lord put it upon my heart to start up a time of morning devotions in my Christian school. I went to my principal to ask if that would be alright, and he said it was as long as I had a teacher to support it and make their room available. It also could not be during school hours. I quickly realized that the only teacher who showed up on property early enough to support this was Mr. Hartwig, and without hesitation he said he would. Now at this time, Mr. Hartwig was around 80 years old. School started at 8, but he was there every day by 7. We met 3 days a week at 7:15 AM, and the first few meetings had only a few people in it. One day, we opened the classroom door, and no one came. Mr. Hartwig looked at me and said, “Well, the Lord never said they would walk in on their own. We have to go get them.” I agreed, and we walked around the school property to find out why kids waiting outside their classroom couldn’t come to morning devotions. That devotion time soon grew to 7-8 people coming faithfully 2-3 times a week.

Little did I know, but Mr. Hartwig also served as a bus captain on the Haines City/Oakland bus route. Not long after I was called to preach, Mr. Hartwig asked me to join him in working this bus route. I still remember long and hot Saturday mornings, visiting door after door of bus kids for hours upon hours in the Florida sun. I also recall times where before we would start our bus visits, he would stop and ask me, “How many are you praying for?” I’d say a number, and he’d agree, “That’s the same number I was thinking.” Then we would beat that goal by 20 or 30, just watching the Lord work the bus route for us. Sunday after Sunday, we would follow up our Sunday morning bus routes with a Sunday School class we taught together of 7 th and 8 th grade boys. We would see God call young men to preach and get saved in our Sunday School class.

Last year, I served as one of the pallbearers in his funeral. I didn’t want to lose Mr. Hartwig, but I knew the time would come eventually. I would never give up the hours I spent with that Elijah in the car sweating it out and listening and singing Gospel music together while visiting our bus kids. Nor will I ever forget the devotions we had together by ourselves before school sometimes. And I won’t forget the times we would talk after chapel about how good the preaching was. Whether you’re a teenager, youth pastor, or anything regarding the work of Christ, don’t leave out Elijah. Don’t leave their side. You get close to that man or woman that has known God for some time and you learn everything you can from them. They will teach you a lot, and you can learn a lot. What they say may not always make sense, but if you think about what they said, God can be speaking thru them and He can help you understand it. And if you don’t understand it when they tell you, ask! There were some things that Mr. Hartwig said to me that I didn’t understand till years later, but there were other times he was gracious enough to take the time to explain a lot of things. Notice in verse 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 continues in verse 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…”

The bottom line is this: Never stop learning. There’s always room for improvement in your walk with God, and God will bring about an Elijah for you to learn from. Truth is, anyone older than you is an Elijah. And anyone younger than you is an Elisha. Take in all you can and pass on all you can for His Word.

Nathan Pitts | Youth Pastor

Riverland Baptist Church

Dunnellon, Florida

http://www.riverlandbaptistchurch.com/