An illustrated Bible story caught my attention. The artist had taken dramatic license in the rendition of a hatchet that had sprouted hands and feet with little fins—the swimming ax head.
Subsequently, I’ve discovered this story is much more instructive of God’s leadership principles than mere entertainment.
Define your need. “And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, ‘See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us’ ” (2 Kings 6:1).* The need was self-evident—“this place is too small.” They had insufficient room for their expanding group. Analysis of current reality is essential, for you cannot possibly go where you would like until you thoroughly understand where you are. Evaluate your situation until the need becomes self-evident to the majority of your team.
Design your plan. “ ‘Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell’ ” (2 Kings 6:2). The young men brought Elisha a clear, detailed plan. A site had been selected, necessary resources had been identified and located, and a strategy had been developed for everyone’s task. With planning considered essential, the more detail available the better. To develop ownership, the planning process becomes even more important than the final draft.
Defer to God’s will. “So he answered, ‘Go’ ” (2 Kings 6:2). With God’s endorsement, success was guaranteed. When you advance, certain that you are following Heaven’s will, you have the assurance of success. Scripture says, “We should make plans—counting on God to direct us” (Prov. 16:9, TLB). You will discover no better basis for moving forward than assurance of God’s approval. Prayerfully await God’s permission. Then boldly venture where you otherwise would fear to go.
Determine your support. “ ‘Please consent to go with your servants.’ And he answered, ‘I will go’ ” (2 Kings 6:3). When you have carefully designed your plan and prayerfully deferred to God’s will, you are ready to enlist the support of others. Recruit your team. Seek counsel from your leaders and request their active participation. Your efforts, combined with Heaven’s approval and your leaders’ involvement, guarantee success.
Direct your actions. “So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees” (2 Kings 6:4). What a prescription for success: careful preparation immediately followed by diligent work—vision transformed into activity. Israel had previously been to Jordan but hesitated to cross into the Promised Land. They had set up camp and even held a prayer meeting, but nothing happened until the spiritual leaders moved the people forward. Once you have made your plan and sought God’s will, go to work! Seize the initiative. Be about your duty.
Describe your trauma. “But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, ‘Alas, master! For it was borrowed’ ” (2 Kings 6:5). Even a God-endorsed project does not eliminate difficulties. In this life the reality of tragedy will repeatedly focus our attention on the wider view of God’s promised new creation. If we could achieve a trouble-free existence here, we would not long for the blessed hope. However, differentiate between tragedy and trauma. This was not a tragic loss of life or serious injury. The trauma was loss of a borrowed tool by an embarrassed student loath to face the owner. Help your people understand God’s interest in our concerns, large and small.
Delight in your miracles. “So the man of God said, ‘Where did it fall?’ . . . and he made the iron float” (2 Kings 6:6). Imagine the young man’s relief. I’m certain there was rejoicing by the Jordan and I’m certain the story was retold hundreds of times by those who witnessed the event. Miracles generate ongoing testimonies of what wonderful things God has done. Sharing the story multiplies the powerful reassurance that if God is with us, who can be against us!
Designate your responsibility. “ ‘Pick it up for yourself’ ” (2 Kings 6:7). Our response to a miracle means acting upon God’s providence. The ax head floated, it did not swim to shore and jump up on the bank. Elisha’s instructions were clear, “Pick it up for yourself!” Do what you can do. When God does His part, we must do our part. Cooperation with providential opportunities guarantees ultimate victory. When Jesus sent Peter fishing for Caesar’s tax, the coin was already in the mouth of the fish. But the miracle was only accomplished when Peter followed instructions.
Decide to obey. “So he reached out his hand and took it” (2 Kings 6:7). Each of us has a choice. Obedience is a decision. The student could have observed the floating ax head and never retrieved the miracle. He could have heard the instructions but refused to participate. When God opens an opportunity, we must cooperate. When we decide to obey, miracles move from possibility to reality.
This powerfully illustrates the miracle of working God’s way!