He stared at rear ends every day.
The same ones.
Day after day…
…till the moment when his eye got a new focus.
1 Kings 19:19 “Elijah went straight out and found Elisha son of Shaphat in a field where there were twelve pairs of yoked oxen at work plowing; Elisha was in charge of the twelfth pair.”
This was the life of Elisha. Plowing every day. Staring at the same plow. Looking at the rear ends of the same oxen. It was the same thing every morning after his stop at Starbucks (probably a well in those days with no caffeine added). Day after day after day….
It almost sounds maddening. For some of you, it sounds safe.
I’ve got one word for that: mundane. You might call it boring. Some might call it routine. Don’t get me wrong; routine can be a good thing. It’s nice to know what to expect. There’s no stress. There’s little to no planning. But my view when it comes to our spiritual life, mundane is not just dull, it makes us dull. Not the “dull” as in a personality that doesn’t mess with ours. I ‘m talking about losing the “sharpness” and “joy” out of life that puts us in the place, like Elisha, where we return day after day doing the same thing, living the same life, never challenging ourselves, and never growing. We get to that “safe” spot in our walk with God and we stop the discipleship process. We stop the passionate pursuit of Christ. We now grumble about serving others when we used to get excited about the opportunity.
It was a number of months ago I received a great book written by a pastor I really look up to. Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, had just finished writing the book “Greater” and I began to thumb through a copy. It was this topic of monotony where Steven began to describe Elisha’s life.
“Regardless of who you are and what you do, succumbing to mediocrity will sabotage your spiritual vitality. You may not notice it at first, or even for years. But sooner or later, complacent Christian living hits the point of diminishing returns. Your life isn’t tiding you over as effectively as it used to. You’re frustrated and irritable. You’re feeling tempted in ways you can’t share with your men’s group. And you see only one solution: get back behind the plow. Mindless plowing is not your future.”
It was as if something burst inside of me. Something about this sparked a fire in my spirit and I had to share. I took it to our board meeting and shared a few pages. I challenged our board not to live out monotonous spiritually. I felt they heard and received it well. Then I went back to my normal schedule. Reminds me of hearing “We Now Return You To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.”
Nothing changed in me. That “spark” from a few paragraphs in a book were not meant for a board. They were meant for me. I was coming out of, perhaps, one of my busiest summers ever. I’m passionate about ministry. I love doing ministry. But I felt as if the Lord was questioning me. It wasn’t my motives our my heart being questioned. It was that the busyness of life was my routine. Quite frankly I was irritable. I was annoying. Time with my family was diminishing. My joy was depleting. The schedule was safe. All I had to do was plug-in and go.
But that isn’t what the Lord intended.
I needed something new. It’s not a new job. It’s not a new wife. It’s not a new location. I needed that joy back…that enthusiasm back. (in my head I hear Al Capone say “enthusiasms” in The Untouchables)
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Nothing great is ever accomplished in life without enthusiasm.” You have to have a passion to see something great happen. That’s why you need to nurture your enthusiasm if you want to get out of the “starting at rears” syndrome that Elisha was in. Speaking from personal experience, especially this summer, it takes more than positive thinking or pep talks from Tony Robbins. It takes Christ in your life.
The word enthusiasm comes from a couple of Greek words. The word “en” which means “in” and the word “theos” which is Greek for “God.” To be enthusiastic means to be “in God.” When you get in God, you have enthusiasm deep in your heart.
For our upcoming series at KFirst, I’ve been diving into Romans 12. In this portion of Romans, Paul tells us how to be enthusiastic in Romans 12:11-12, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
“Rejoice in hope” – even when things don’t go the way you thought…hang on to your hope in Christ and it will give you joy.
“Patient in tribulation” – Remain patient because you know Christ will use whatever you’re going through for good. (Gen. 50:20)
“Be constant in prayer” – When tough times come, you have a choice: you can either pray continually or you can panic. You can either be on your knees giving it to God, or you can give up.
For Elisha, something new sparked new vision and purpose. He went back to the oxen and plow and broke apart everything that was leading to the mundane (1 Kings 19:21). Now, I can’t say that I came back to my office and broke everything. But these past few weeks I have been on a mission. I am determined to “break apart” patterns of my life that are leading to the mundane. Nothing is sacred. Everything is eligible for change. The way I approach the office. My devotional schedule. My time with my family. My dates with my wife. How much I counsel. My sermon prep. EVERYTHING!!! I’m not scrapping it. I’m asking the Lord to re-order my life and my priorities. I’m “breaking up the plow” and asking for new vision for my days, weeks, years, etc. Don’t get me wrong. All of those things are a part of me that I love. I just refuse to do it with a mundane, dull, routine spirit.
What won’t change. I will continue rejoice in hope…I will continue to be patient with affliction…I will be constantly in prayer. This is how my “in God,” my “enthusiasm” will come back. And, quite frankly, it has come back with a vengeance.
Are you sick of the Elisha syndrome? Are ya sick of “staring at rears”? Let go of the plow and pick up Romans 12. Let the Lord be your enthusiasm. Let Him bring back joy into your life. Don’t be content with being mundane.
Thanks for letting me ramble…