Christians pray for Christ’s return. But assuming such a return happens later rather than sooner, what do we seek for our next generation of Christians?
The pre-Christian story of Elijah and his tag-along successor, Elisha, helps us answer such a question.
Both men spent much of their ministries drawing the people of Israel away from false gods and back to the one true God. For awhile, their work overlapped, with Elisha serving as Elijah’s disciple, learning what we might call the way of the prophet.
A time came, however, when Elijah had to go to God and Elisha had to remain behind. Elisha knew what was coming, as did other prophets in the area; in the second chapter of 2 Kings, it is easy to see that Elisha was upset by the coming loss of his master.
Elijah just wanted to be with the Lord, it seems. He tried to leave his disciple behind as he moved toward his rendezvous with God, feebly telling Elisha to stay, sounding like an old man trying to discourage a loyal puppy.
Elisha followed, however, until they finally reached the river Jordan, the place where Elijah knew God would come for him. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up, and smacked the water, causing it to part. Elijah and Elisha reached the other side with dry feet.
It was here that Elijah’s love for his disciple became evident. “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you,” he said to Elisha. It is a precious question, one any generation should ask of the generation coming along.
Elisha responded, “Please let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” referring to the spirit of prophecy that had been on Elijah. In this request, Elisha honored what Elijah had been doing, and made it clear he wanted to continue a life rooted in God’s will. Elijah described fulfilment of the request as a “hard thing,” but said if Elisha saw him taken, his request had been granted.
Elisha received this gift from God, seeing his master ascend to heaven in a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire. Picking up Elijah’s fallen cloak, Elisha rolled it up and parted the Jordan the same way his master had, a sign God had granted that double portion.
And that, I think, is what we want for the next generation: A power greater than our own. We want to do great things for God ourselves, of course, as great as possible. But we also want each generation to grow in grace, to build on what has been done.
We pray that in the process, the next generation receives that double portion, better communicating the truth about God’s nature and God’s love, understood most clearly now through Jesus Christ.
There is the discipling of one generation by another—the importance of faithful teaching cannot be overemphasized. We also prayerfully seek greater portions of other gifts from the Holy Spirit for those who will follow in our footsteps toward the full establishment of the kingdom of God. Greater gifts of discernment and evangelism immediately come to mind.
Generational transitions brought on by old age and death sadden us, of course. All disciples love their godly teachers. Our consolation is that such transitions also bring us closer to the day when Christ appears, his power over all things made complete.