2 Kings 13:14-19 – “When Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him and said, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 And he said, “Open the window toward the east,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot. And he said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you shall defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.” 18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground,” and he struck it three times and stopped. 19 So the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.” NASB
One of the many messages that leaps off the page for me in this story is my title, “Always complete the task, never be half-hearted.” I am convinced that half-heartedness is the cause of many disappointments in life and the Kingdom of God. The writer in Ecclesiastes 9:10 echoes that reality saying, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no activity, planning, knowledge, or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” Now is the day and we must work while it is day.
As Elisha lay on his death bed, he called the King to come to him. The king wept over the condition of the beloved prophet. Elisha instructed him to pick up a bow and arrows. The King complied and at the instruction of the prophet opened the window to shoot an arrow out the window. The act was symbolic of God’s intended victory for Israel over the Arameans. The plan of God was to destroy the enemy until there were no more of them left. This was the symbol and plan.
The tragedy is revealed in the way the King followed the directions of the prophet. After he shot the arrow of God’s victory out the window, he was instructed to take the arrows and strike the ground. He complied but did so half-heartedly and struck the ground three times. Elisha was furious and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then your victory would have been complete, but your actions will result in temporary victory, not a permanent one.” Half-heartedness in anything usually produces far less than the desired result and, in the Kingdom, it can be devastating.
The apostle Paul urged in Colossians 3:23 that whatever we do we are to do with all our heart, as though we were working for the LORD rather than for ourselves or others. One translation of 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 reads, “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it, and then missing out myself.”
My Dad always told me that if something was worth my time and effort to do, I should do it right and do it with my full commitment. I have attempted to approach life in that manner. I do not like mediocrity in anything. I played sports with total abandon. I have pursued the purposes of God with my whole heart. I live and love with a commitment to excellence. Do I fail? Am I human? Yes, but I never give up and never quit.
The words found in Colossians 3:16-17, ESV inspire me, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
We can be the person described in Proverbs 20:4 and be lazy and exhibit the qualities of the sluggard allowing excuses to prevent us from pursuing the task with a whole heart. However, we can be like the ant, mentioned in Proverbs 6:6-8, and do what is needed to prepare and overcome. I prefer the ant to the sluggard and so does God. Laziness and half-heartedness will not receive the blessings or the approval of the Father, but diligence and commitment will. We may not achieve all we set out to do, but if we give it our best shot, we can hold our heads up high and know that God will come to our aid. Always complete the task set before you.
May the rich blessings of the LORD be yours today as you pursue excellence in your assignment.