It can be hard to admit sometimes that we’re not the man or woman for the job!
Perhaps we’ve done all we can do, reached the limit of our influence, skill set or energy in a particular role or position. Perhaps we just aren’t operating within our natural strengths, or in an environment that is conducive to us thriving so our work is an uphill struggle every day. Perhaps we are, how shall I say, maturing in years and becoming tired.
As we’ve followed Elijah’s journey at Freedom Church over the past 6 weeks we’ve seen the very real highs and lows he experienced in his work and ministry as a prophet. We see him in 1 Kings 19 hitting a wall. He reaches the limit of his ability to function as a prophet, his mental health suffers to the point of despair and he cries out to God that he feels a failure.
Turns out God has a plan! He hears Elijah’s desperation but knows he’s not done yet. Our work and calling is important to God.
What Elijah needed to do was think differently about the next stage of his leadership role. God challenged him to stop running away, to go back and to begin passing on his skills, wisdom, encouragement and authority, investing them into the life of Elisha….the one God had identified would succeed Elijah.
It is easy to feel like succession is failure – that it somehow demonstrates a failure in our ability to do the job, or to lead the team any further. What this story shows us is how fruitful it can be when we are prepared, as leaders, to look out for those to succeed us. Yes, they may well do a better job than us and that’s ok too!
Elijah was in despair before he met Elisha as he really felt he had reached his limit. He was lonely and not using his God-given gifts. Elisha still had gifts to develop fully and needed that mentor figure in order to be encouraged and to grow into that.
Investing in and mentoring others is a great tool and vital part of helping people grow, offering them a recognition of gifts that may be underdeveloped and yet unused, giving them encouragement and space to fail safely, all facilitates growth. The relationship for Elijah and Elisha was mutually beneficial. Elijah came alive again, was renewed and got back on track and Elisha grew into the person God had called him to be.
It was a win-win!
If you’re feeling a bit like you’ve reached your limit, done all you can do or reached the end of your usefulness perhaps it’s time to look around with fresh eyes and ask, ‘Who can I be investing in?’, ‘Who’s next to succeed me?’, ‘Who can take this forward?’ or ‘Who is God directing me towards?’
Elijah wasn’t done at all, but his leadership was to change, becoming less about him and more about releasing, enabling and encouraging Elisha into who he was called to be so that he could take things forward.
Succession isn’t failure… it’s the next chapter of the story.