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A Man Just Like Us

A Man Just Like Us

| On 17, Jul 2014

by: Pastor Anelene Lujan

KEY TEXT: I KING 19:1-16
Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

JAMES 5:17B
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are.

Introduction:
Few men have had the impact for Christ that Charles Haddon Spurgeon did. Known as “the Prince of Preachers” he was the best known preacher in London by the age of 22. The congregation outgrew its building, and the Metropolitan Tabernacle was built to seat 6000 people. Every Sunday, from 1861 to 1892, it was filled as people gathered to hear Spurgeon’s powerful biblical teaching. He spoke to an estimated ten million people in his lifetime, and millions all around the world read his published sermons. Spurgeon was amazingly productive. His secret was hard work. With the help of two secretaries he answered 500 letters per week. His was a God-blessed-life. Yet he also carried on a lifelong battle with discouragement.

Spurgeon accomplished all of this. He told his students, “I know by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, “being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between.” On another occasion he wrote a friend, “I have never lost my calm faith in God, but at times I have been depressed that the cable has been strained to the limit.”
Many wanted to hear Spurgeon preach but could not get into his church. So, in 0ctober 1856, a month after the birth of his twins, Spurgeon decided to hold a service in Surrey Gardens, London’s largest indoor venue. Even though it held 10,000 people, on the first night people filled the seats, aisles, and every other vacant space. A large number waited outside. In the crowd were also enemies. Shortly after the service began someone cried, “Fire.” A stampede resulted. Seven people died and 28 were severely injured.
Spurgeon was so devastated and plunged into depression. “Perhaps never soul went so near the burning furnace of insanity, and yet came away unharmed,”10 he later wrote. It was the first of many severe depressions that plagued him for the rest of his life.
In 1887, Spurgeon passed through a fiery trial known as the “Downgrade Controversy.” At the end of the 19th century, liberal German theology was beginning to influence the English church. The Baptist Union came under its spell. Spurgeon complained of the growing tendency to downgrade certain fundamental doctrines. He was either ignored or opposed, so he eventually withdrew from the denomination he loved. This painful move caused him great stress and grief in his later years.
God put the Spurgeons through many trials. In her mid-30s, Susannah, his wife contracted an illness from which she never fully recovered. She was sickly for the rest of her life. Often she was so weak she could not attend church with her husband.
About the same time, in 1869, rheumatic gout afflicted Charles for the first time. It continued off and on for the rest of his life, eventually causing his death at age 56.

In January 1892, recurring and increasingly severe attacks of rheumatic gout finally ended his life. “Sixty thousand people came to pay homage during the 3 days his body lay in state at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. … A funeral parade 2 miles long followed his hearse from the Tabernacle to the cemetery at Upper Norwood. One hundred thousand people stood along the way. Flags flew half mast, shops and pubs were closed.”16 Spurgeon was a man deeply loved by both citizens of London and believers throughout the world.

Spurgeon’s depression probably had some medical causes, and part of what he was struggling with was what we know as burnout. Researches have observed that those who are involved in people-helping activities are particularly prone to physical and emotional exhaustion when their idealism hits the stubborn truths of human nature. People disappoint us. They start well and finish badly. They make promises and do not keep them. These things make working with people incredibly draining. Helping people is hard work, especially when our hopes for people collide with their depravity. People do not always respond in the way or at the pace we desire.

Title of my Sermon: A MAN JUST LIKE US

It encourages me when I read James 5:17, “Elijah was as human as we are.” We have a tendency to idealize the men and women in Scripture, we imagine that they were superheroes, exempt from the pressures and frailties felt by ordinary people like us. But the Bible is the “word of truth” and describes the warts (fault) and wrinkles (lines, imperfection) of even the greatest. When James wrote those words, undoubtedly had 1 kings 18 and 19 in mind, for in this chapter we see Elijah at his highest and his lowest. He was a “man just like us” When the Psalmist wrote that “every man at his best state is altogether vanity”, he included all of us except Jesus. And old saying remind us, “The best of men are but men at their best,” Elijah’s history proves how true this is.

That happened followed his great victory on Mount Carmel. How could that be? Elijah was physically exhausted and had lost his appetite. He was so depressed about himself and his work and was being controlled more and more by self-pity. “I only am left!” Instead of turning to others for help, he isolated himself and worst of all he wanted to die. The prophet concluded that he had failed in his mission and decided it was time to quit.
But the Lord didn’t see it that way. He always look beyond our changing moods and impulsive prayers, and He pities us the way parents pity their discouraged children (Psalm 103:13-14 – As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.) He knows the exact pressure we can stand. He knows the utmost load we can lift. He is a faithful Creator, because an abiding Sustainer.
Application: In the face of trouble, our natural tendency is not to ask the right question. Our natural tendency is to complain. Why, Lord?” Why, me?

After many years of hurts and frustration, I finally realized that the question I should ask God isn’t “Why, Lord?” but rather, “What now, Lord?”

When we pour out our hurt to God and find the courage to ask him, “What do you want me to do now, Lord?” we can expect him to answer. He will communicate through another person, our circumstances, instructions from him (very rarely), or through his Word, the Bible.
Asking “What now, Lord?” instead of “Why, Lord?” is a hard lesson to learn. It’s hard to ask the right question when you’re feeling disappointed. It’s hard to ask when your heart is breaking. It’s hard to ask “What now?” when your dreams have been shattered.
But your life will begin to change when you start asking God, “What would you have me do now, Lord
No matter how painful your disappointment may be, God’s answer to your question of “What now, Lord?” always begins with this simple command: “Trust me. Trust me.”
This chapter shows us how tenderly and patiently God deals with us when we’re in the pits of despair and fell like giving up.

This chapter begins with Elijah running away and trying to save himself. Then the prophet argues with the Lord and tries to defend himself. Finally, he obeys the Lord and yields himself and is restored to service.
In all of this Elijah’s weakness can teach us some important truths about the struggles of all faithful servants and how he respond to four different messages:

I.ELIJAH ON THE RUN – The enemy’s message of Danger (19:1-4)
Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel was one of the glorious moments in Israel’s history. The Lord had revealed Himself in dramatic events/fashion, in fire and in rain, and the people responded in a massive confession of faith, apparently returning to their covenant loyalty to God. Only good things could follow from such an event.

However, this is not what happened. Ahab and Elijah had arrived back at Jezreel, where Ahab’s queen Jezebel, would have eagerly awaited his account. Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he killed all the 400 prophets. The fact is Ahab’s report was not about what God had done but about the deeds of Elijah. He had been impressed, but had not been changed. He was a weak man, but to live with Queen Jezebel and without her support, he knew he was nothing. If ever there was a strong –willed ruler with a gift for doing evil, it was Jezebel. Ahab remained blinded.

Jezebel was committed to Baal as Elijah to God. The Carmel events did not lead her to repentance but to fury. She was not ready to admit either that Baal was a fraud/scam or that the Lord alone was God. So she declared war on Jehovah and His faithful servant Elijah, and Ahab allowed her to do it. Her track record of killing the prophets of God made clear that there were not idle words.

Jezebel wasn’t only an evil woman; she was also a shrewd strategist. She knew that Elijah was a candidate for a physical and emotional breakdown after this demanding day on Mount Carmel, and she was right. He was a human as we are, and as the ancient church fathers used to say to their disciples, “Beware of human reactions after holy exertions.” Her letter achieved its purpose and Elijah fled from Jezreel.

In a moment of fear he forgot all that God had done for him the previous 3 years. He thought:
a. Perhaps he was convinced that the battle was over and
b. That Jezebel would give up before the power of God.
c. After all, Baal had been exposed and humiliated.
d. Or perhaps he realized that the people followed the king, and the king had not changed.
Whatever the reason, this man of great faith was suddenly overwhelmed by fear, took his servant, and ran for his life and left Israel. And headed to Beersheba, the southernmost city in Judah (Beersheba had a special meaning to the Jew, because of its association with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob).Then he left his servant there and headed off another day’s journey.

For three years, God answered his prayer and God’s hand had been upon him in the storm, but now he was walking by sight and not by faith.

Now he was running ahead of the Lord in order to save his own life. When God’s servant get out of God’s will, they’re liable to do all sorts of foolish things and fail in their strongest point.

Application:
Fear had replaced Elijah’s faith for now. Fear will drive you like cattle. It will take you to places that you never thought you would ever go. From the mountaintop of Carmel to the deserts of Judah in one day! How far can we fall when fear replaces faith!

Have you ever experienced that before? Have you ever been on the mountaintop with God, like all is well, and then suddenly you crash in flames of doubt and fear at something that comes against you? Well, now you know that even God’s prophets have faced the same thing.

We have asked the question how could this happen to such a man of God? The reason maybe, the problem of his expectation, problem of his lost in focus and problem of turning to his own strategies. It is right to expect the Lord to work, but our expectation must never be the source of our happiness or our confidence in the work of God. We must learn to rest our expectations in God’s Sovereignty (authority), trusting Him for the timing and the means.
-When Abraham fled to Egypt, he failed in his faith, which was his greatest strength (Genesis 12)
-David’s greatest strength was his integrity, and that’s where he failed when he started lying and scheming during the Bathsheba episode (2 Sam. 11-12)
-Moses was the meekest of men (Num. 12:3), yet he lost his temper and forfeited the privilege of entering the Promised Land (Num 20:1-13)
-Peter was a courageous man, yet his courage failed and he denied Christ 3 times(Mk 14:66-72)
-Like Peter, Elijah was a bold man, but his courage failed when he heard Jezebel’s message.

As Elijah sat down in an isolated spot, called “The Juniper Tree,” is actually a flowering shrub or flowering broom tree that flourishes in the wilderness and provide shades for flocks and herds and travelers. The branches are thin and supple like those of the willow and are used to bind bundles. (Show picture – in internet)

The Hebrew word for this shrub means “to bind”. The roots of the plant are used for fuel and make excellent charcoal.

I want you to look with me for a few moments this morning at some of these rest places, some of these juniper trees of life:
1. And first I put sleep, because God put it first. When Elijah was tired and despairing and discouraged, God put him to sleep. But how many busy people think really the time spent in sleep is wasted! They begrudge all the time that is spent asleep. A lot of us have been raised on the work ethic. We think we are closest to God when we work hard and in a sense that is true because the Bible says that whatever we do, we should do it diligently.” But the problem is, we’ve exaggerated this to the extent that many times we don’t know how to relax. Tim Hansel has written a book entitled – “WHEN I RELAX I FEEL GUILTY” Do you ever feel that way? Does life feel so fast-paced that you hardly have time to breathe? Do you ever feel like life needs to be busy to be worthwhile? Do you every say to yourself, “I can’t stop or else everything will fall apart.
But the Lord God so made us that we need to put one-third of our time in sleep. Thanks to God for sleep, that is itself a symbol of death; sleep, that is the promise of a new awakening, and so gives us the suggestion of that great awakening when we shall rise refreshed and invigorated for the eternal day! Do not think of it as wasted time! Do not think of it as something lost out of life! Take it as God means we shall — as God’s great gift.

2. Next to sleep I put amusement as one of God’s juniper trees and as a part of God’s angelic food. You remember the three things which the Book of Proverbs 15 says about merriment/laughter, which is the lightest form of amusement: first, that a merry heart is a continual feast (life is as joyful and satisfying); second, that a merry heart maketh a glad countenance; and, thirdly, that a merry heart doeth good like a medicine. The merry heart cheers the heart and so makes the face radiant, and, because the face is radiant, therefore the merry soul imparts radiance to others. Merriment, amusement, laughter, just having a good time, is one of God’s juniper trees that He plants for us, and when we are discouraged and distressed He means that we shall take advantage of it.

3. The home is one of God’s juniper trees. We’ve all heard the old adage “Home is where the heart is”. But I think if the Apostle Paul was here with us today, he would probably rearrange the words like this “Heart is where the home is” where precious things like positive attitude, mutual respect, a depth of character, faithfulness, trust, intimacy, guidance are found. Homes where clear images of who and what a dad, a mom and a Christian family should be, are developed.

Home is where the stresses are brought and are dealt with. Home is not a museum-like perfection; home is where the issues of life get fought out, but they can be resolved, because home is where somebody loves you. Home is where somebody puts up with you. Home is where Jesus Christ, the word made flesh, has come to dwell, for me, for you. Home is one of the Juniper trees He plants for us.

4. The Church ought to be a juniper tree and a resting-place. Dr. Parkhurst has said, “The Church is not the minister’s field, but the minister’s force.” The Church ought to be not merely a working Church, but a rest-giving Church also; and when men and women come to the Church, they ought to be able to find there some angels’ food, some real rest, some inspiration that will send them back into life with new vigour for their new toils.

5. And then there is the quiet hour. If I were to define what a quiet time is – it is a time during the day that I set aside to be alone with God. It is a time to get to know God through the Bible and prayer. Waiting on the Lord is the key to keep on going when you feel like not starting or quitting. Instead of applying human solutions to human problems we need to learn to wait upon the Lord, to trust in Him as we seek to do His will, according to His Word, by His power

As Elijah sat under its shade, exhausted, he was a portrait of despair. In an outburst he gave voice to his brokenness: The complaints he uttered: (Get notes from Green book)

1. “I have had enough, Lord.” This stated his intention to resign his prophetic office. He was through! And he wanted to resign from life itself.

2. “Take my life” was an appeal for death. He truly wanted to die.
He was in utter despair at his failure that he gave his reason:

3. “I’m no better than my ancestors.”
But God had never asked him to be better than anybody else, but only to hear His Word and obey it.

Three things should be said about Elijah at this point:
First, he was exhausted. Mount Carmel had taken tremendous physical and emotional toll, and he had added to it by his race from Carmel to Jezreel and his hundred-mile flight from Jezebel. He had depleted his resource and was suffering from a kind of “combat exhaustion.” No one is exempt not even the great prophets from physical and emotional laws of life.

Second, Elijah was disillusioned. He had expected things to turn out differently. Disillusionment (disappointment) is always the child of illusion (deception). Elijah was sure that his courageous ministry in Mt Carmel would bring the nation to its knees and hoping that Ahab and Jezebel would repent and turn from Baal to Jehovah. His expectation weren’t fulfilled. Depression now told him the opposite lie- that all his actions had been futile/useless/fruitless. So he considered himself a failure.

Third, Elijah’s perspective was distorted. His despair led him to ignore what had happened on Carmel. Focused on the negative and forgetful of the positive, he sank deeper and deeper into the swamp of despair. Jezebel had become very large and God very small. When people get big and the Lord gets small, we are headed to trouble.

Elijah was a rugged and rough man. But that rugged exterior concealed a sensitive soul. His nature was emotional, and he did things that were emotional. He suffered, as the psychologist say, from manic-depressive psychosis (hyper). Now he is crying for God to take his life. He is in bad shape!

Application:
Maybe for us, things all around you are crumbling (break to pieces), maybe we are saying that you have had enough. Bro and sis, God wants you to know today, to hold a little longer, because there is help on the way.

II. ELIJAH ON THE RESCUE – The angel’s message of Grace (19:5-8)
5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.(Juniper Tree)
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The Lord’s response to Elijah was remarkable/extraordinary. He did not rebuke his despairing servant, no sermons, no lectures, no threats, no reproaches/blames. The Lord simply touches the prophet, meets his need and gently speaks to him.

When the heart is heavy and the mind and body are weary, sometimes the best remedy is sleep – just take a nap, Mark 6:31 – Come away by yourselves to a quiet place, and take a rest for a time.

God allowed him to sleep. But while the prophet was asleep, the Lord sent an Angel/messenger/Angel of the Lord (OT Title for the 2nd person of the Godhead)/Jesus Christ to care for his needs.

God’s Angel are His special ambassadors, sent to minister to His people.
-An Angel rescued Daniel being devoured by the lions (Dan. 6:22)
-An Angel attended Jesus Himself during His temptation in the wilderness (Mk 1:12-13)
-An Angel strengthened Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43)
-An Angel encouraged Paul on board ship in the storm (Acts 27:23).
-The Angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner is converted (Luke 15:7)

After a time he provided refreshment (First Provision): and Angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” If Elijah needed rest, he also needed food. He found before him food intended not only to refresh him but also to remind him: a cake of bread baked over hot coals and a jar of water. Do you know who I think baked that bread? I believe it was the same One who prepared that breakfast on the shore of Galilee one morning after resurrection. It was our Lord who comforted Elijah, fed him and then put him back to sleep.

We aren’t told how long the Lord permitted Elijah to sleep before He awakened him the second time and told him to eat. This time, this second provision was for a coming journey: “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” Elijah was headed for Horeb, the mountain of God/Mt Sinai. One of the most sacred places in all Jewish history, and Sinai was located about 250 miles from Beersheba, and he needed strength for the journey.

This was the destination chosen by Elijah, and he traveled forty days and nights to reach it. Normally you can’t take 1 or 2 meals and expect that two meal to take you through the week, much less 40 days and 40 nights, because after a while you will become hungry again, but in Elijah’s case was an exception. He was told to eat 2nd time only because he has a great journey and the text tells us, he went in the strength of that of 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb.

Application:
It teaches us that the Lord has compassion on the fearful, the fallen and the foolish. After all, Elijah was all of these things and so are we at times! God’s compassion is also seen in the fact that He dealt with the prophet with a hand of great grace. None of us can measure the powers of endurance in the love of God. It never tires. It fainteth not, neither is weary. It does not fail, nor is it discouraged. It bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things.

God remembers that we are frail/weak. He knows our frame, that we are dust. He is mindful that we possess material bodies that must be cared of before the Spiritual part can function. Ps 103:14 – For he knows that we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

III. ELIJAH ON THE REBOUND – The Creator’s message of Power (19:9-14)
9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

When Elijah finally reached Mount Horeb/Sinai, “he went into a cave and spent the night” He made the cave his home and waited upon the Lord. He was “making a retreat” in order to solve some problems and get closer to the Lord.

Application:
How many of us look for that hiding place sometimes and when we find a place where we can feel safe and get away from everything, that’s where we decide to camp out for a while? We don’t care what God wants us to do. We give up for a time on the call of God on our lives, and we fall asleep spiritually in our hiding place.

That hiding place might be a large congregation where we can still have the appearance of being a mighty man or woman of God, but we don’t have to do anything or be accountable to anyone. It might be a job where we can work long hours to have a good excuse not to be where we should be or serve the Lord the way we know we should. It might be family that comes to visit, or cares of life that give us a hiding place. We all have them don’t we?

But Elijah couldn’t hide from God and neither can we. God knows where you are. He knows what you are doing and He isn’t going to let you get too comfortable in your hiding place, overcome with fear and doubt. He wants you back on the battlefield!

When Elijah reached the mountains, he was still a man on the run in fear. His faith was at an all time low point in his life. He needed help badly.

The Lord’s Word came to Elijah for the First time:

What are you doing here Elijah? God is asking (not that He doesn’t already know) so that He can remind Elijah of his calling. God was saying, “Elijah, you have a call on your life and a job to do. Why are you sitting here in fear, having your pity party?”

Maybe God would ask the same question to some of you here who are depressed today. What are you doing here? Why are you in the dumps? Why your spirit is downcast? Are you in the verge of giving up or giving out?
Listen to Elijah’s answer – Look here God! – I’ve been the best prophet I know how to be. I’ve done things that no one else can, or will, ever do for you. I’ve been loyal. I’ve been faithful. I’ve kept my promise, but I can’t do this anymore. It’s me against the whole nation. Everyone has turned their backs on you and on me now. I’ve done all I can do to teach them the truth and now they are out to kill me. What else do you want from-me-God!

Application:
We can really come up with the excuses for not serving the Lord the way we should can’t we. We go hide in our little corner, out of sight, out of mind, and hope that God just forgets about us for a little while, while we have our little pity parties!

When God tries to speak to us to get up and get moving we just say “Speak to the Hand, the ears aren’t listening.” “I’ve done more down at the church than all the other people put together. I’m tired of carrying the load while everyone else has a fun time, sits back and does nothing. I’m sick of people calling me, wanting me to do things for them. I’m burned out, tired, disgusted and worn to a frazzle. Leave me alone. They want me to do too much. I’m killing myself for nothing, because nobody else cares how I feel.”

Application:

In this reply, Elijah reveals both pride and self-pity. And on his last complaint he exposed his despair: I only am left, and now they are trying to kill me.”

“I only am left” Makes it look as though he was indispensable to God’s work, when actually no servant of God is indispensable. In his pride too, he use the pronoun “they”, he exaggerates the size of the opposition. He makes it look as though every last Jew in the Northern kingdom had turned against him and the Lord, when actually it was Jezebel who wanted to kill him.

Application:
Most of us, however, could solve our problems if we crawled on the couch of the Lord Jesus Christ and told him everything. We wouldn’t have to be running around telling everybody else about our troubles and problems if we would just talk them over with Him. We ought to tell him everything.

God did not respond verbally to Elijah or try to argue him. Instead, He summoned him to an encounter with him that had direct parallels to the experience of Moses in that same place: “Stand on the mountain at the entrance of the cave, in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

“The Lord passed by” reminds us of the experience of Moses on the mount. All Elijah needed to get renewed for service was a fresh vision of the power and glory of God.

The first sign was a great and powerful wind, strong enough to tear the mountains and shatter rocks. But the Lord was not in the wind.

Then came an earthquake, that shook the mount, but again the Lord was not in the earthquake.
Finally, there came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

The wind, the earthquake, the fire are all means that the Lord has used to manifest Himself to mankind. These acts of power were suggestive of God’s presence on Mount Sinai. Such display of power could show the presence of an awesome, powerful God. But not on this occasion. The Lord was not limited to such things, and He did not always work in the same way.

After this dramatic signs there came a “Gentle whisper” there was a still small voice, translated as “total silence” a tone of gentle blowing. When the prophet heard that voice he stepped out of the cave and met the Lord by covering his face with a mantle/blanket in holy reverence showed that he knew God was in the voice.

The Lord’s Word came for the second time, he heard the same question,

“What are you doing here Elijah? Once again, Elijah repeated the same self-centered evasive answer.

God was saying Elijah, “You called fire from heaven, you had the prophets of Baal slain, and you prayed down a terrific rainstorm, but now you feel like a failure. But you must realize that I don’t usually work in a manner that’s loud, impressive, and dramatic. My still, small voice brings the Word to the listening ear and heart. Yes, there’s a time and place for the wind, earthquake and the fire, but most of the time, I speak to people in tones of gentle love and quiet persuasion.”

Application:
God is telling us today, “My child, you have been looking for Me to answer you prayers with striking signs and wonders; and because these have not been given in a marked and permanent form, thou hast thought Me heedless and inactive. But I am not always to be found in these great visible movements; I love to work gently, softly, and unperceived; I have been working so; I am working so still;

We often fall into similar mistakes. When we wish to promote a revival, we seek to secure large crowds, much evident impression, powerful preachers; influences comparable to the wind, the earthquake, and the fire. When these are present, we account that we are secure of having the presence and power of God. His Spirit descends as the dove, whose wings make no tremor in the still air. Let us take heart! God may not be working as we expect; but He is working. If not in the strong wind, yet in the gentle breeze. If not in the earthquake, yet in the heartbreak. If not in the fire, yet in the warmth of summer. If not in thunder, yet in the “still small voice.” If not in crowds, yet in lonely hearts; in silent tears; in the broken sobs of penitents. It’s the still small Voice of the HOLY SPIRIT working on our behalf.

IV. ELIJAH’S RETURN TO ACTION – The Lord’s message of Hope (19:15-17)
15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18

Elijah had nothing new to say to the Lord, but the Lord had a new message of hope for His frustrated servant. The Lord has many reasons for rejecting His servant and leaving him to die in the cave, but He didn’t take that approach.

“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. . . . For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust (Ps 103:10, 14)

First, the Lord told Elijah to return to the place of duty. He said, “Go back the way you came.” The Lord did not coddle Elijah’s fear or discouragement; he sent him back into the battle. Elijah was called to serve and there was a tasks to perform.

Application: When we are out of the Lord’s will, we have to retrace our steps and make a new beginning (Gen 13:3). There comes a time when we need to realize that the only way to overcome discouragement is to get back into the work to which the Lord has called us.

Example:
-When Joshua was brokenhearted because of Israel defeat at Ai, he spent a day on his face before God, tore his clothes and fell facedown before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening, but God’s answer was, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Go consecrate the people. (Joshua 7:10).

-When Samuel mourned over the failure of Saul, God rebuked him. “How long will your mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? “Fill your horn with oil, and go! (1 Sam 16:1) and Samuel went and anointed David to be the next king.

Application:
No matter how much or how often His servants fail Him, God is never at a loss to know what to do in every difficult situations we are in.

Our job is to obey His Word and get up and do it!

This time he was sent back by the Lord with a specific commission to enlist others in the work of God. His call was to appoint three men to complete the elimination of Baal worship in Israel.

What was the specific commission the Lord instructed Elijah:
First task was to anoint Hazael to be king of Syria was a Gentile nation, but it was still the Lord who chose the leaders.

Second task was to anoint Jehu to be king of Israel, for even though the nation had divided, Israel was still under the covenant and was responsible to the Lord.

His third task was to anoint Elisha to be his own successor. Elijah had complained because the past generation had failed and the present generation hadn’t done any better. Now God called him to help equip the future generation by anointing 2 Kings and a prophet.

The people the Lord named weren’t especially significant in the social structure of that day. Hazael was a servant, Jehu was a captain of the army and Elisha was a farmer.

Application:
No one generation can do everything, but each generation must see to it that the people in the next generation is trained and that the tools are made available for them to continue the work of the Lord.

God was calling Elijah to stop weeping over the past and running away from the present. It was time for him to start preparing others for the future. When God is in command, there is always hope.

The Lord did more than send His servant out to recruit new workers, He also gave him the assurance that his work and their work would not be in vain. He is not in vain, Why? Because there were still 7,000 out of more than million people in the land who stayed faithful to Jehovah. Indeed, he was not alone, yet God sent him to touch the lives of three individuals.

God didn’t command Elijah to gather the 7,000 people in a mass meeting and preach sermon. There’s certainly a place for sermons and large meetings, but we must never underestimate the importance of working with individuals. Jesus spoke to huge crowds, but He always had time for individuals and their needs. Let this church be that kind of church! Pastors, leaders and members.

Application:
Let’s be among those who look to the future and seek to enlist others to serve the Lord. To glamorize or criticize the past accomplishes little; what’s important is that we do our job in the present and equip others to continue it after we’re gone. God buried His workers, but His work goes right on.

CONCLUSION

Times of shattered dreams and broken spirits comes to the unexpected people in the most unexpected ways at the most unexpected times. The strong are not always the strong; the brave are not always the brave; the trusting are not always free of fear and doubt. The example of Elijah is a vivid illustration of this. Discouragement or burnout with which we battle is not something new or unusual. It is a product of our own frailty and the challenge of being involved with people who do not respond in the way we desire.

Elijah’s problem is simple to diagnose: Jezebel had become bigger to him than God. It had become true on a personal level. At his most vulnerable moment of physical, spiritual and emotional exhaustion, a person had become big, and God had become small. It is a battle we all fight.

God’s ways of grace in the life of Elijah are full of significance for us. First, he gave him a new experience of his loving care and practical provision, ministering to his need for rest and refreshment. He also gave him new insight into his nature, helping Elijah see his God with a new depth. He then called Elijah to a fresh commitment to play the part God called him to fulfill. He also gave him companion who would share in this ministry.

We live in a different time than Elijah did, but God’s escape route from times of discouragement or burnout will follow the same path that put Elijah back into service.

This story calls out to those among God’s people, not only pastors or workers who are worn-out, fearful or in need of renewal. This story suggest a way forward – Eat, drink of God’s life-giving sustenance, return to the bedrock of faith, listen to God’s still small voice that we may find new energy, new vision and new sense of purpose in our life. Embrace the Holy Spirit. Walk in the spirit, The fruit of the Spirit – not an optional extra in the life of a believer but the evidence that the Holy Spirit is in residence and working to make us more like Christ each day.

LOOKING AT THE LIGHT

A pastor told a story of a man in his congregation who had lost literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. He owed everybody. One day the pastor asked him, “How in the world are you even surviving? How can you smile? How can you be enthusiastic about Jesus and about life when you are just going through all kinds of problems?

He said, “Next time you come to my house, I will show you how.”

The pastor said that he was curious, so not long after that he went to his house. He said, “I told you I would show you the thing that gives me strength.” They went into his den and there was a painting. It was a simple painting of a Bible experience we call “Daniel in the Lion’s Den.” It was a beautiful painting. There was Daniel standing there among ferocious looking lions. These were not sleeping, slumbering lions. These were lions whose teeth were bared and whose claws were exposed. You could tell that they were threatening to hurt Daniel! There was a shaft of light that seemed to be falling down from the roof of that cave in which Daniel and those lions were being kept. The man said to his pastor, “Look at Daniel’s eyes!” the pastor looked closely at the eyes of Daniel and Daniel was looking up at the light.

The man said to him, “The thing that gives me strength in the midst of my troubles is this. Daniel is not looking at the lions. He is looking at the light!” So when you get surrounded with a lot of adversity; when you get surrounded by a lot of problems, don’t focus on the lions focus on the light and that’s God’s prescription for depression.

LIFE APPLICATION
What does success look like? Most of us have fairly clear ideas because we have paraded before us people who claim to be successful. In Christian ministry we inevitable measure this with numbers: bodies, buildings, and cash. How many people, what new building projects, what new program and activities, how large the budget? And we are told that if we are faithful to the Lord, he will do great things through us. But what about Pastors who faithfully pastor a small church? What about the godly leaders who challenges the ungodly lives of church members? He sees the size of the congregation shrink, but some of his hearers take the message to heart and experience significant growth in the Lord.

One of Elijah’s greatest problems was a faulty view of success. He saw it in terms of a dramatic event that would end all resistance to the Lord. When that did not happen, he was plunged to despair. He saw success in terms of large numbers. When he could not see the multitudes, he missed the remnant. He saw success in terms of being better than his predecessors rather than being faithful to God. The Lord was not asking Elijah to change his nation. He was asking him to accomplish his God-given mission. His call had not been to be successful, measuring success by numbers. He would be successful by being godly (full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit) and faithful. This is always God’s measure of success.

Let us pray

The God of Elijah is our God today. The God who is there on the Mountain top, is also the God who is in the valley. This same God has given us the promise in Hebrew, says, I will never leave you nor forsake you.

If you are tired of running for your life, family, career, ministry, today Jesus promise to give you rest. Come unto all ye that labor hard and are heavy laden, I will give you rest.”

In your mind you feel that you are finished, you have enough, you can’t take it anymore, then listen to what Peter says, Cast all your cares upon Him for God takes care of you.

If life at home feels unbearable, if you can’t take what’s happening on the job anymore, if it seems nobody cares about you, if the suffering too much for you to bear, if it seems you want to give up and die because you had enough, then take heed to the word of God. My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect for you. When we work for God, sometimes we feel great strain. Our task seems too difficult for anyone to achieve. But if we are really working for God, we do not achieve is purposes by human effort. It is God who uses us in order to achieve His purposes. Elijah felt that his task was too hard. But his duty was simply to do what God ordered. God will sustain us all, by His grace and mercy.

Young people, if you feel in your spirit that God has called you for a special task today, be willing and available to be used by God for the furtherance of His kingdom. God will equip you with His power. You are that man!

This is a time for revival. A time to seek the Holy Spirit and allow Him to revitalize our lives and ministries! A time to remind ourselves that we must seek the Holy Spirit who gives the anointing to God’s people.

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