Who Is Your Elisha?

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two (2 Kings 2:11-12, NIV).

October 16th, was the 6th anniversary of the Homegoing of my spiritual father and mentor Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. I have never met anyone who was more wise, more fun, or more thankful than him…and I have never met anyone who loved God as well as he. And I mean every word you just read, I am not speaking in hyperbole. He was, without a doubt, the best man (and by “man” I mean person) I have ever met.

We met because I had sent him a copy of a manuscript for what would several years later be published as Finding Freedom in Forgiveness. I hoped to get an endorsement from him that I could include with it as I sent it to prospective publishers. I remember my wife Mandi answering the phone one evening and telling me it was Charlie Jones and that he wanted to talk about my manuscript. I was so nervous! Charlie was a bestselling author, a successful business owner (he built a 100 million dollar insurance business before he was 40), a world famous speaker, and a lover of books.

“Tremendous Dan!” he said, I want to talk to you about your book.”

“Okay…” was all I could manage.

“I have three things to say.”

I prepared for the worst.

“First, this is by far the best book on forgiveness that I have ever read.” That was a high compliment from someone who was as well read as he.

“Thank you.”

“Second, it is very theological. The only people who are going to want to read it are seminary students, professors, and pastors.”

“That’s true.” I admitted.

“And none of them are going to buy it because they don’t know who you are.”

“I was wondering about that myself,” I humbly agreed.

“Well, Dan, I have always wanted to write a book on forgiveness, and you have written one better than I ever could. I would like you to think about taking me on as a co-author. I will help you make it more “popular” and take it to a publisher myself. I think we could even get Ken Blanchard to write a forward for it. With his name on it and my name on it, you will get all our readership.”

I was all ready to say yes, but he continued. “I want you to pray about this Dan, don’t give me an answer now. Take a week to pray about it. If you say yes, we’ll work out a time for you and your wife to come out and spend a weekend with us and we can plan out what we are going to do.”

My friends, there are some things in life that you don’t need to pray about. I was already to say yes, but I agreed to his terms. I could hardly contain myself. I called him back after a week and that began our friendship. Over the next six years he met and held all three of our girls. We often vacationed as guests in his guest house. Several times he flew to Boston to stay with us. He did a seminar for my church in Wakefield once. I still have the recording. It was his normal routine but he personalized it for Mandi and I. I really can’t express how much influence he had on me (and Mandi too) in those six years.

In the spring of 2008 I took some men that I was discipling out to his guest house for the weekend. Half way there he called me and told me that his cancer (he had it for a while, but it had gone into remission) had come back and had spread throughout his body. “Isn’t that great news Dan! I’m almost done here! I’m going home to Jesus! Now that might be terrible news without Him, but all news is good news in Christ!” All news is good news in Christ. But that was not what it felt like. I remember the sick feeling that came over me in the van. I knew that this weekend would be the last time I would see him this side of Heaven.

You can tell who your spiritual fathers are because they leave their mark on you. I wear bow ties like he did (in fact two that I own were his). But it goes much deeper than that. I soaked up his wisdom, adopted much of his humor, mannerisms, and even his speaking style. Those that knew him, see him in me.

For the last two years, the Rev. David Midwood had that role with me. He helped me through a lot, especially this year, and was a model of what it looked like to be full of grace and truth for me. On October 3rd, he too was taken Home after a brief battle with cancer.

Neither of these men were taken to heaven by chariots, nor was I with them when they died. But I know how Elisha felt, for my heart was rent too and I cried “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”

Do you have such a spiritual father or mother? Someone who shows you how to live for God through Christ? Someone who helps you discern how to conduct yourself in the truth and respond in grace as you go through the highways and byways of life?

The church is full of men and women, boys and girls who are for all intents and purposes spiritual orphans who feel like the young Luke Skywalker, struggling to figure life out, hoping for an Obi Wan Kenobi to be a spiritual father to them. There is a great need in the Church for spiritual mothers and fathers.

Are you an Elijah, a spiritual father or a spiritual mother? Do you have one, or two, or three Elishas who see you that way? People to whom you are such a blessing that were God to take you home today would make them cry at the loss of such a blessing?

You can’t be a spiritual father or mother to everyone, in fact at any given time you can really only be to a few. Elijah had Elisha. Paul had Timothy and Titus. Jesus was God, and He only had twelve! But look at their legacy! We are here because of them!

Coming to worship each week is important. Attending Bible studies is a good thing to do. Listening to good preaching is helpful. Reading your Bible and spending time in prayer each day is a discipline all Christians need to cultivate. But none of these replace the need—the need—to have a spiritual father or mother. The last thing Jesus said to His disciples was not

  • “Go to church.”
  • “Join a bible study.”
  • “Listen to good teaching.”
  • or “Make sure you keep your daily devotions.”

The last thing He said was, “As you go, wherever you are in the world, make disciples, be spiritual fathers and mothers.” Let us do what He said.

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