Do you know someone who has a lot of character qualities you admire? Most of us have had people come in and out of our lives that we would classify as “role models.” We see something in them that we desire more of in ourselves. It might be a teacher who inspires you to teach, or a successful business person you want to emulate, a pastor whose biblical knowledge encourages you to know more of God’s Word, or simply an elderly person who exhibits the kind of wisdom and gentleness to which you aspire.
More than physical qualities, business acumen, or positive values and character traits, the Bible invites us to look to our spiritual mentors for a deeper admiration – that of discipleship. Paul often encouraged the believers who received his letters to follow his example, as he followed Christ.
Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us (Philippians 3:17).
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined way among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a role model for you, so that you would follow our example (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).
Paul took note that Timothy followed his teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and perseverance (2 Timothy 3:10) and encouraged him to live in such a way that he, too, would become an example to those watching his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Timothy 4:12). We can only imagine how Timothy might have felt to walk in the footsteps of his spiritual hero as Paul trained him, discipled him, and encouraged him on his pathway to being a pastor-shepherd of God’s people. Was he intimidated? Did he feel up to the task?
Elisha was a man who knew what it was to follow in someone’s footsteps. One day he was minding his own business, plowing a field with a team of twelve oxen, when the well-known (but unpopular) prophet Elijah came alongside him and essentially called him into ministry. Elijah “threw his mantle” over this young man (1 Kings 19:19). The prophet’s mantle was a symbol of his authority. By spreading his garment over Elisha, Elijah was claiming him as a disciple, bringing him under his teaching and mentorship, and confirming the call of God on Elisha’s life.
Elisha knew what this meant. He asked for time to say goodbye to his parents, then sacrificed the oxen he was plowing with, signifying he was finished with his “old” life and had surrendered to what God called him to do. We’re not given any details on the time Elisha spent with Elijah, but just a few short chapters later in 2 Kings 2, Elijah and Elisha take a journey across the Jordan together. Elijah takes his mantle, folds it, and strikes the Jordan with it; the waters divide, and they cross over on the dry ground. Knowing that his time as God’s prophet is ending, Elijah asks Elisha, “What shall I do for you before I am taken from you?” Elisha responds, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” (2 Kings 2:8-9)
What a great compliment to the life Elijah had lived in front of this young disciple! Essentially, Elisha was saying, “I want to have the same kind of faith in God you have, and even more!”
What kind of spirit did Elijah have? What was so attractive about his faith in God? How had God used him that caused Elisha to desire to be used for God’s kingdom purposes with an even greater impact and influence? A quick look through 1 Kings reveals six qualities of Elijah’s faith. While we are not necessarily called to be prophets in the same way as Elijah and Elisha, we can all ask God for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah for our faith walk.
1. Elijah had a spirit of prophecy.
A prophet was someone who delivered God’s message to God’s people. He was a proclaimer of truth. God spoke to Elijah, and Elijah spoke to the people. We, too, have God’s Word, and we also are able to speak truth into people’s lives as we spend time studying and learning God’s Word and sharing what He teaches us with other believers and those who are seeking truth.
2 Timothy 2:1-2 – You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 3:14-17 – You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2. Elijah had a spirit that witnessed miraculous works of God.
A widow’s small oil and flour supply was multiplied to last more than three years, feeding not only the widow and her son but Elijah as well. That same widow’s son was raised from the dead (1 Kings 17). He was fed by ravens and saw the Jordan waters divide. We, too, are witnesses to miracles every day, as we see God bring spiritual life to the unsaved, heal our sick friends and family, and transform lives into His Son’s image as He sanctifies those who believe in Him. As Christ-followers, we all have stories of God’s work in the affairs of our lives to carry out His purposes.
Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Ephesians 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Philippians 2:14 – For it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.
3. Elijah had a spirit of boldness in the face of evil.
Elijah prophesied during the reign of one of Israel’s most wicked kings, Ahab, and his wife, Jezebel. They were worshippers of Baal and thought nothing of murdering innocent people to get what they wanted (1 Kings 21:20). It took boldness and unwavering confidence in God to stand before Ahab and tell him the truth. Elijah faced down 450 servants of Baal on Mount Carmel, trusting in God to come through in answer to his prayers. He not only challenged them to a public confrontation to see who served the God who is alive, but he also stacked the deck against himself by pouring water over his sacrifice three times before publicly praying for God to burn up the sacrifice with fire from heaven. We, too, are called to stand firm in the face of evil. We are warned that we do not war against flesh and blood, but against principalities and spiritual powers of evil and that evil will increase in the last days.
Ephesians 6:10-12 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
2 Timothy 3:1,12-13 – But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. … Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
4. Elijah had a spirit of evangelism.
Evangelism might be a strange word to use when referring to an Old Testament prophet, but isn’t that what Elijah was doing when he called out to the people of Israel on Mount Carmel? How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him (1 Kings 18:21). He was not shy about calling for a decision, challenging the people on what they believed. We, too, are called to go and make disciples of all nations. We are ambassadors of reconciliation, sent out as disciples of Jesus to urge unbelievers to consider their relationship to God, to repent of their sin, and turn to Christ.
Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
2 Corinthians 5:20 – Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
5. Elijah had a spirit of prayer.
Elijah was well aware that he possessed no power of his own. Instead, he relied on God’s power to face his enemies and prophesy as God’s Spirit led. Having organized a “stand-off” with the prophets of Baal, he stood on Mt. Carmel and prayed boldly for God to reveal Himself: O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again (1 Kings 18:36-37). God heard Elijah’s prayer, and answered. The fire of the Lord fell, consuming not only the burnt offering, but also the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench surrounding the altar! We, too, are called to be people of prayer. We are invited to come to God with our worries, our needs, our heartaches, and as intercessors for the lost.
Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. A prayer of a righteous person, when it is brought about, can accomplish much.
6. Elijah had a spirit of obedience.
Elijah accomplished much for God because he knew what it was to live in complete dependence on, and obedience to God. More often than not, the prophetic word which he was given by God was to call men to acknowledge their sin and repent, or a judgment against them because they refused to repent. As you can imagine, these judgments not only affected the wicked kings but the entire land. Elijah suffered as God’s servant, yet he remained faithful to obey, no matter where God sent him or what he was called on to do.
At one point, God sent Elijah to hide away, to live by the brook Cherith during a time of drought. Elijah immediately obeyed, trusting God’s promise to send ravens to feed him. Each morning and evening, the birds arrived, bringing meat and bread to sustain him. When the brook dried up, God sent Elijah to live with a widow, miraculously causing her flour and oil to not run out until the famine was over. Like Elijah, God calls us to obey, and asks for our complete dependence on Him as we grow in faith and are sanctified by the Spirit who indwells us.
1 John 2:3-6 – By this we know we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
Let’s be like Elisha and ask God for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. May God give us the ability to speak truth, to recognize His work in our lives, to stand firm against evil, to share the gospel boldly, to pray with confidence in the One who hears us, and to obey all that He commands us, depending fully on His faithfulness to sustain and protect us. May we, too, become role models to the younger believers who follow us, as we pass down the mantle of serving God in His kingdom purposes.