I can't do a thing without it
2 Kings 6:1-7
(1) Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, "See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us.
(2) Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there." And he answered, "Go."
(3) Then one of them said, "Be pleased to go with your servants." And he answered, "I will go."
(4) So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.
(5) But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, "Alas, my master! It was borrowed."
(6) Then the man of God said, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float.
(7) And he said, "Take it up." So he reached out his hand and took it.
There are many people in this little story from 2 Kings 6, but only one is named, Elisha. Elisha had been Elijah’s student, and when Elijah went up to heaven in a fiery chariot, Elisha became God’s prophet in Israel. This was in the 8th century BC. Elisha had a long ministry as a prophet of God, lasting about 60 years. The custom in that day was that if you wanted to learn about spiritual matters, you attached yourself to some person that you recognized as having great spiritual power. You became a follower or disciple of that Rabbi. We read in v1 that there was a company of prophets that followed Elisha. To put it in modern terms, Elisha was running a seminary and these were his students.
But the seminary had a problem. The building where they met was too small, so the students asked permission of Elisha to go down near the Jordan River where they could build a larger place, a larger college, if you want to call it that.
The plan was for each student to cut one beam of wood for the new building. This means each student had to share in the work. Each student had to be personally involved and committed to the work, just as today each member of the church should be personally involved and committed to the church.
As far as I know this was the first college dormitory mentioned in the Bible, and the best part about it was that the students were willing to build it themselves. Elisha thought it was a good idea.
But the students realized that their success depended on divine power. This is a major point. This is the thing that they cannot do without. Too many people try to do it their own way, on their own, and they leave the work of the HS out of their work. That is always a mistake. The Seminary students knew that they needed Elisha, who was God's prophet, so they asked him to come with them and he agreed.
So Elisha and his young students headed down to the Jordan to build a new college campus, and when they arrived, they immediately began cutting down trees, but while one young student was swinging away, the iron ax head flew off the handle and fell into the Jordan, sinking straight down to the bottom of the river.
This young student lost his axe head, and thus he lost his power to work for the Lord. We also have our work that we have been called to do for God. We are called to build the Kingdom of God, one brick at a time, one act of love and kindness at a time. But the question is,have we lost our power to work for this kingdom?
Have you ever lost your effectiveness in doing the Lord’s work? Were you at one time in your life working with great strength and vigor, with the chips flying in all directions, knocking down tree after tree, building up the kingdom of God? And something went wrong, and it just seemed like you no longer cared about the things of God anymore.
This passage teaches us a couple of things that just might help us get back our spiritual power. First, like the young seminary student in our text, we must admit that we have lost it. The ax is gone, our power is gone, and we realize, “ I can’t do a thing without it.” We have too many people in the church today that have lost the power somewhere along the way, but they will not admit it, and they just keep swinging that ax handle, going through the motions, keeping up appearances. Putting on a good show, looking the part, but there is nothing there.
The young student could have reacted in a similar fashion. He could have been happy that he lost his axe head, and he could have used this as an excuse to stop working for God altogether. He could have found him a nice cool shade tree, poured himself a glass of ice tea, and just watched his fellow students do all the work. On the other hand, he could have refused to admit that he lost his axe head. He could have said, “What problem, I don’t have a problem.” He could have just kept swinging the wooden stick, without the iron axe head mounted on the end, just going through the motions of cutting down trees, making a lot of noise, but accomplishing absolutely nothing. But he does not do that. He admits the problem. The ax head was at the bottom of the Jordan. To admit that we have a problem is difficult and embarrassing, but it is the first step in the healing process. For example, the first step in the A.A. program is to admit that you have a problem with alcohol.
And did you catch the part where the young student said, “Oh, my lord, that axe was borrowed!” Iron axes were rare in the 8th century BC, and expensive, and this man was a young seminary student, with no doubt, very little money.
So, if someone had not loaned him the axe, he would not have been able to work in the first place. Have you ever considered the fact that all our abilities, resources and talents are borrowed? They’re on loan to us from God, so we can work for God in this life.
But let us go on. If we have lost our power to serve the lord, like the young seminary student, we need to determine the exact spot where we lost it.
Have you ever had a problem with misplacing things? We have had some folks, here at York ARP Church over the years who have lost their car keys, and have frantically searched our building looking for their keys. When I hear of someone loosing his or her car keys, one of the first things I ask them is, “Do you remember where you were when you last had them?” Elisha asked basically the same question, saying, “Where did it fall?” You know from personal experience, a really good way to find something is to try to remember where you had it last.
This young student didn’t plan to lose his power to serve the lord, it just happened. And isn’t that the way it is with us? Somewhere along the road, we lose our energy and purpose to build up God’s kingdom, and like that young student in our text, we don’t plan for this to happen. Something similar happened to the Apostle Peter in the New Testament. Peter said to Jesus, “Though everyone else at times stops serving you Lord, not me, I will never stop.” Then on the night Jesus was arrested, faithful Peter was not so faithful. He denied even knowing Jesus three times. So, if we ever get to the point where we have lost our power to do God’s work, we need to remember where we had it last.
Maybe we need to ask some other questions too, like why did we lose it. How did we lose our zeal for God, our determination to live and die for his kingdom?
Was it because we dropped out of Sunday School, thinking that Sunday School wasn’t important?
Was it because we stopped attending church worship services on a regular basis?
Was it because we became angry with someone, or even jealous of someone?
Have you lost spiritual power because you stopped praying, or reading God’s Word on a regular basis?
Have you lost spiritual power because you failed to witness to someone in His name?
Have you lost spiritual power because some personal sin entangled your life?
Or, have you lost spiritual power because you have not been giving God a portion of your talents and resources?
If you have the courage to take a deep and serious look at your personal spiritual life, you can discover where and why you lost your spiritual ax, if you want to call it that. When the young seminary student lost his ax, he first had the courage to admit it. He no longer had it. Then, he determined the exact place where he lost it, and the third thing was: He did his part in recovering the ax head.
Elisha was a chosen prophet of Almighty God. The power Elisha had to perform miracles was not his own power, it was power of God. Therefore, the miracle that Elisha did not only shows us that Elisha was concerned about this young student’s problem, but more importantly, this miracle shows us that God was deeply concerned.
That ax head that was laying on the bottom of the river, floated to the top. Wow do you believe that? The bible is a spiritual book and it talks about miracles. Some miracles are harder to believe that others. That may just be our human nature. If we can reason things out a little, we find them easier to believe. For example the Bible says God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Many Bible commentaries will tell you that area is prone to volcanic action and it seems likely that a volcano blew up and destroyed the cities. Thus we can say that God used a volcano to destroy the cities. That seems possible. We say, OK, I can believe that. But an iron ax head does not float--not in the ordinary course of things, so how do we rationalize what happened in 2Kings6. We do not. This is the kind of thing that you either believe or you don't.
You might say, well this is such a trivial thing. Elisha has all this spiritual power, and you would think he would be doing great things with it, like curing cancer, or making peace, and all he can think to do with it is to raise a piece of iron from the water.
But maybe this miracle illustrates some basic truths about God.
First, God is deeply concerned about you. An entire company of young prophet students were cutting down trees that day, yet God took the time to help the one who had a problem. God is deeply concerned with the individual. We see that in Jesus’ teachings about the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son, to mention a few. You and I are very valuable to God.
Another truth here is that with God there are no problems too small to bring to God’s attention. First Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you…” Do you have a problem or concern today? Have you cast that problem or concern upon God? A man losing an axe head may not seem like that big of a deal, but God thought it was. God not only cares about you, God not only is concerned about your problems, but God will help you to solve your problems. God will cause the solution to float to the surface!
Let’s talk about what this young student did to get back his power. His work did not end when he admitted that he had a problem, and it did not end when he sought help from the prophet Elisha. Elisha had the power, a spiritual gift from God, to make that axe head float to the top of the water, and then fly straight up out of the water into the air, and back on that wooden handle, but he did not do that. Why not? Because the student has his part to do and he needs to do it. He needs to reach out his hand and recover the axe head himself, and put it back on the handle and get back to work. He had his work to do. We have our work in God's kingdom.
Be honest with yourself this morning! Take a serious look at your work for God. Have you adopted the motto of the world when it comes to the things of the church? The motto of the world seems to be: “What can the church do for me?” Nearly 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy gave the American public an unforgettable speech. He said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!”
Today, we live in a culture which has swung completely in the opposite direction and says, “What will government do for me.” Far too many Christians look at the local church as a place to be served rather than a place to serve. They say to the church, “What programs do you have for me and my family, and if you don’t have programs or the services that I like, I will just go down the road where there’s a church better equipped to serve me.” Where did that attitude come from. It is certainly not the attitude of a kingdom worker.
We have a reason to be here. We have a purpose for living. The purpose is the kingdom of god. But we cannot achieve this purpose without spiritual power. This is the thing that we cannot do without. But that is not a problem either, because the one thing that we cannot do without is freely available to us for the asking. We need the power of the HS. God is offering us that power through his son Jesus Christ. Accept God's offer. Receive the power you need.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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