Let it go
Every parent in the room knows this feeling, that moment when one of your kids hands you all their stuff so they can run off & play. Then another one of your kids asks you to hold something else & you literally can’t. You can’t hold another thing because your hands are so full.
For many of us our hands are so full we can’t take hold of what matters most. Our lives are so full we have no room for Christ.
The problem is, if you hold on to what you can’t keep then you can’t take hold of Christ.
Your hands are to full.
The question is, what is it that you’re holding on to that you are afraid to let go of?
What is it?
What are you holding on to that is separating you from Christ?
What if we were willing to let go? To give up what we can’t keep to take hold of something better?
A Picture of True Discipleship
What I love about this next part of the story of Elijah, is we see what happens when someone is willing to let go of everything to follow God. We get a picture of settled determination. We catch a glimpse of what it looks like to be a true disciple.
Here’s what happened after God told Elijah to go & find Elisha…
I Kings 19.19-21
So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team.
So apparently Elisha is well to do. It appears that Elisha is a person of some means. Some wealth. He’s got 12 teams of oxen. That’s no small thing! Elijah sees Elisha in the field & here’s what he does…
Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away.
Now if you’re like me, this seems like a really strange thing for Elijah to do. To walk up to him, while he’s working, plowing a field, & throw your cloak across his shoulders, then walk away. Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it?
But this was symbolic of the transference of prophetic power. This was Elijah calling Elisha to follow him & become his disciple. This was Elijah saying, “Come follow me.”
Elisha apparently caught on to what Elijah was doing in this moment, because…
Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”
Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”
So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.
Elisha not only kisses his mother & father goodbye, he kisses the world goodbye!
I love the way A.W. Tozer talks about this moment in the life of Elijah. He says,
“In the Old Testament, Elijah went by and flung his mantle on Elisha. Elisha caught the meaning of it and decided he was going to follow the prophet. Sometime, in getting over that fence and joining the prophet, he said to himself, “I’ve given up everything to follow Elijah,” and he did. He turned back and said to himself, “If my cattle were alive I would be tempted to go back to my cattle; and if my plows, wooden plows, are in order I would be tempted to go back to my plows. I know what I’ll do, I’ll kill my cattle and use the plow for fuel and we’ll have a big feast and celebrate the fact that I’ve quit farming and started following a prophet.” Elisha settled it, and if anybody’s wife or somebody said afterward, “Elisha, do you ever think you’d go back?” Elisha said, “Go back to what? The cows are dead. Go back to what? The plows don’t exist anymore; they’ve been burnt to ashes. There’s no place to go back to.” He had a settled determination…”
Tozer goes on to say, “I believe we ought to teach this to young Christians. We must get the idea ourselves, then teach it and show young people that when they become Christians, one aspect of their conversion is that of a settled determination to follow Jesus Christ, regardless of what it may cost or how he or she may feel about it at any given time. A Christian’s feelings are like loose change in his pocket, never the same twice. We must have a settled confidence that we are on God’s side.”
Elisha has abandoned everything, literally let go of everything so that He could take hold of Elijah & take hold of God’s will for his life.
In the same way, we must have a settled determination to follow Jesus.
Burn the Boats
There’s an old story about the Spanish conqueror Hernando Cortez. I don’t know if this story is 100% true,, but it makes a wonderful point.
As the story goes, the Aztecs down in Mexico had vast treasure. And over the course of 600 years different armies had tried to come & take their treasure, but every single army had failed.
That is, until Cortez landed with his 600 men on the beaches of Mexico. Unlike those who had come before him Cortez was determined that he & his men would find & take the treasure that had alluded so many before them.
Cortez knew that at some point, if they faced adversity, if the battle got to hard, if the fighting grew to fierce that his men might retreat. After seeing the vast army they were up against he knew the tempation to turn back would mean their defeat unless he removed that temptation.
So just before they go to battle, Cortez gets his men together. They are all gathered around him & they are ready for the pre-game speech. They’re ready to be inspired, ready to get their instructions for battle, ready to hear the plan of attack. But before Cortez does any of that he leans in & says three words.
Burn the boats.
Burn the boats? At first the men are confused. Why would they burn their boats?
If they burn their boats then they have no way to retreat, no way to escape, no way to turn back.
If they have nothing to turn back to, then they only have two options. Win the battle & take the treasure or die trying!
As the story goes, because they have no way to retreat his army wins the battle.
I don’t know if that story is true.
But I do believe that this story in 1 Kings 19 is true. Elisha burned his ships that day. He burned his plows. He killed his oxen. He literally burned up his past life so his only option was to move forward to a new life in a new direction with Elijah & with God.
There was no going back for Elisha… there was nothing to go back to.
What about you?
Do you have that same kind of settled determination? Is there anything to go back to for you?
Maybe the biggest problem in your walk with Christ is that you’ve never burned the ships, you’ve never burned the plows, you always have the option of going back to life as it was before.
But following Jesus, really following Jesus, means there’s no going back.
Retreat is easy when you have the option. What do you need to burn, let go of, completely turn away from, so that you can freely follow Christ & Christ alone?
Letting go is hard. But taking hold of Christ means letting go of everything else.
Maybe we need to give up what we can’t keep to take hold of Christ.
Jesus once said that if you want to follow him you have to deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow me. That’s what it means to be His disciple.
A few years later, a man by the name of Paul would write a letter to a church in the city of Philippi & say it this way…
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press ontoward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Today, I want to beg you to take hold of Jesus with both hands. I want to ask you to consider becoming His disciple, His follower. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, I have to ask, have you let go of everything to take hold of Christ Jesus?
Is there anything in your hands that you’re holding on to that is keeping you from reaching for Jesus?
Our God has no rival, no equal, He reigns forever & ever over all the earth, over all other gods, in the silence… the only question that remains is will God reign over you?