The first thing is Elisha's test of faith and perseverance after he had received the knowledge of a call. You notice and it is a familiar story how Elijah, on the one hand, seemed to be trying to shake off Elisha: "Tarry here...." "Tarry here..." ; "Tarry here...." To every such urge of Elijah, Elisha rejoined: "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee."
On the other hand, the sons of the prophets in every place they visited said: "Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day?" seeking to discourage, to deter him. There is no element of encouragement about this repetition. Elisha replies: "Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace." It makes no difference to me: I am going to follow on to the end: I am going to see this thing through. It may be the Lord's will to take him away, but I am going to be there when it happens.
And so, whatever the meaning of Elijah's repeated effort to get him to stay may have been, he could not influence this man one bit, could not shake him off. Elisha was exercising faith, with a persistence and endurance which is the outstanding feature of this chapter.
In what connection is his faith being exercised, and in what connection is his persistence being tested? Well, Elijah has what he needs! It comes within that realm of some being discouraged, being able to be put off, and saying, while others go on, "These are hard sayings, who can hear them?" "From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him." They are discouraged more or less easily, and they go away.
And the Lord turns to the twelve and says: "Will ye also go away?" Simon Peter answers: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." The Master has what is needed, and there is no thought of going away, being put off, discouraged, but the thought is to go on with Him, because He has the essential elements of that life.
Elisha knew that Elijah had what he needed for his life, for his ministry. So that when Elijah said: "Ask what I shall do for thee," Elisha replied: "Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." Elijah's rejoinder was: "Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee..." Elisha knew that Elijah had the essential, and was not to be put off, or easily discouraged. Although it seemed that Elijah was trying to get rid of him, the other man refused to be got rid of; he was clinging to him for life. He was, moreover, being tested as to his faith, and as to his perseverance.
It is a part of Elisha's preparation, and that of all true instruments of the Lord. They will go through experiences in which they are tested to the very last ounce of endurance, along the line of it seeming to be that even the Lord is trying to shake them off. That is a very crude way of putting it; but so often there is every opportunity, if you are ready to accept appearances alone, to be discouraged, to feel the Lord does not want you, that after all, although you may have had the sense of a call, the Lord is not going through with it. Rather it looks as though you are being put back, and put back again.
Can you be discouraged? Can you be shaken off? Can your faith easily give way? If so, you are of little use for this calling. If you are going to be an instrument of the Testimony of the power of His resurrection, you are going to have a very great deal that you will come up against, that will put you out of the fight, if you can be put out. It is very necessary to be established before you start; in some measure that proves that you are not one to be easily put off, easily discouraged.
Elisha went through the test; on the one hand, his own master being the occasion of the testing, and on the other hand, those who were in a spiritual position, sons of the prophets - supposed to be the people who had spiritual knowledge - being anything but encouraging, rather being discouraging factors. Very often those who ought to be helpful by reason of their spiritual position - officially, at any rate - are anything but encouraging; they would put us back.
All that we are left with is: "The Lord has called me; I know that in my heart. The Lord has led me this way. The Lord has caused me to take this step that I have taken. I have burned my bridges; I have cut all my ties; I have stepped out on the Lord. Now, although I have done that, the Lord is testing me, seeming to give me very little confirmation and encouragement, and the Lord's representatives - officially - are by no means helpful:
Nevertheless I stand to it, I am going on with God.'" A man or a woman who can go on like that is going to count for God. Elisha had nothing whatever to fall back upon save his inward knowledge of the Lord. He went through on that.
It is a very nice thing when we get encouragement from every direction in the way of our conceived call; when the Lord comes along and confirms it in all sorts of ways, and then everyone else, and everything else, says: "We are with you; we will stand by you; we are going to support and uphold you." We can get on all right that way.
But if the Lord gives us no special conspicuous providences, sovereign acts; if He hides Himself, so that what we do see is rather discouragement from going on, even from the Lord's side - and one of the most difficult things is the hiding of the Lord, though He is there hiddenly doing things, and marvelously carrying through unto enlargement and enrichment, while allowing nothing that the flesh can take hold of - then it is a matter of faith going on with God, even when the Lord seems to be hiding Himself, and allowing much of discouragement to remain on our horizon.
At such a time no one else can enter into it. Everybody else to whom we might look, and from whom we might expect something, is of no use to us at all. All that they have to say is something that is melancholy: "Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?" Elisha seems to be a little impatient with that. It might have been expressed in this way: You are a morbid crowd, and I would sooner you kept quiet if you have nothing better to say! They are not inspiring at all.
And that is very often how we find the people to whom we look for encouragement. They see the difficulties, they see the dark side of things, they tell us of what we are running our heads into, of the calamities that will overtake us. The question is: Will you go on with God? Elisha went on! The statement is: They two went on. There is something in that which leads to a large place, which means much for the Lord
~T. Austin Sparks~