Good morning Journey church. My name is Phil Human and I am one of the pastors here on staff at Journey and it’s my pleasure to speak with you today about God because you are more than you appear. You have a spirit. You are every bit as spirit as you are physical.
By the way – that’s a good word for you high school graduates today. Congratulations to all of our graduates! As a word of encouragement – I’d simply give you a word of advice for those who are planning to go on to college. Don’t neglect your spiritual life! Go to church! I have a friend I respect tell students – if you go to college – two secrets. Go to class and go to church. Just show up and you will be 80 percent there.
If this is your first time here we are especially thankful that you would take an hour to check this church out. We started Journey ten year ago now with one goal – to honor God by making it easy for people to discover what He is really like. We think that Jesus is brilliant and beautiful and good and we love helping people discover the real Jesus. We often say that when people discover the real Jesus they find him irresistible.
Today we are going to learn about God by looking at events that occurred in a man named Elijah’s life about 875bc. Here’s what we know. By this time in Israel’s history, the once great nation of Israel had been divided by civil war. The Northern Kingdom, called Samaria, retained the name Israel. The southern Kingdom became known as Judah.
We read about Elijah in the book in the Bible we call 1 and 2 Kings is the evaluation of each of the kings of both the northern and the southern kingdom. How did they do? Were they just? Were they Godly? Did they keep the deal they made with God to worship only him?
And the sad truth is that – of the 20 kings in the Southern Kingdom? Only 8 were good. And in the Northern Kingdom? They went 0-20. One King worse than the next.
The story of Elijah and Elisha occur in the northern Kingdom during the reign of the the worst King ever. Ahab. Who married an evil more wicked woman named Jezebel – who systematically tried to lead Israel away from the worship of God and into the worship of Baal. Jezebel imported the worship of Baal into the country really, in an effort to control the people. The prophets of Baal were employed by the King and Jezebel to do their bidding.
It’s interesting to realize that then and now – there was religious pluralism. In other words – people have always had to evaluate and make a decision whether or not there is a God, and if there is a God – which God is the right God.
And so these guys, Elisha and Elijah, were God’s spokespersons – who confronted the King and all of Israel to return to the one true God.
Let me catch you up to what has transpired. Previously on Elijah… The story begins with God announcing through Elijah that there would be no rain until Elijah gives the word. Why? Because Baal was supposedly the God of weather. God says – okay – no rain for you! I’ll show you who’s the God of the weather!
After three years of no rain- Elijah calls for a showdown between himself and the prophets of Baal. One contest to settle once and for all who is the real God. And the contest was – two sacrifices – each side will call on their God to bring fire from heaven – and the prophets of Baal went bust – because they were praying to a piece of metal. And when Elijah prays – lightning from heaven strikes burns up the sacrifices in spectacular fashion.
After this – At Elijah’s instruction – the people seize the false prophets of Baal and put them to death. Elijah then prays for rain – and just as Elijah said would happen – when he prayed for rain, God sent the rain. And there is a massive rainstorm.
Now you might imagine this would be the greatest moment in Elijah’s life. He has to be thinking – at this – the King Ahab would recognize his folly and fall down in repentance and Elijah would have gone down as the man God used to rescue Israel and bring the country back to faith in the one true God.
But this isn’t what happens. In fact, Ahab runs off to his wife Jezebel and tells her what happened to her prophets – and – showing that in fact she is the one really running the show in Israel – she sends a message to Elijah saying, by this time tomorrow you will be dead!
Let’s pick up the story from there.
3Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
What’s going on with Elijah? He is absolutely despondent. He is beyond discouraged. He is feeling absolutely depressed.
Why? Here he thought the showdown on Mt Carmel would fix things. But nothing has changed. Ahab and Jezebel are unmoved. Elijah is still running for his life. The drought produced no change. The rain – when he prayed? Did nothing.
Elijah feels dejected. And he prays – Lord, death would be a sweet relief to this misery.
Can I ask you a personal question? No need to raise hands, but have you ever felt so discouraged that you prayed a similar prayer? Elijah isn’t planning to harm himself, but he is praying, Lord, I’ve had enough and I wish that you’d just end it for me.
If so, then I want you to listen to how God responds – and if you’ve never felt that way I want you to listen as well because the day may come out of the blue, when things will hit you and you may feel that death would be a relief.
It may surprise you to read Elijah’s account. In some ways we see this kind of thing and we think – how can Elijah feels despondent? He just called down fire from heaven! He’s seen miracle after miracle! Why of all people is he depressed?
And here’s the deal. Elijah feels that it has all been for naught. He feels rejected, weary, alone. He feels like a failure…
And feelings are powerful things. Feelings cannot be easily brushed aside. Feelings will have their day. Yes they will. They will have their day. It is not a sign of weakness to have feelings. You were built to feel. And sometimes the feelings we have can swamp our boat.
And they swamp Elijah’s boat. And so what does he do? He fires his assistant and basically announcing that he is quitting the ministry. And he runs – his plan is to run as far south as he can to get away from Ahab and Jezebel.
God didn’t tell him to go south. In chapters 17and 18 we read God told Elijah to go here or go there. This time, Elijah just says – forget this, I’m out of here. I quit. And heads south.
Elijah is despondent. How does God respond? Let’s look at three things God does to help Elijah through his time, and we can see if perhaps there isn’t something we can learn for our own seasons of despair.
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.
7 Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”
Elijah is despondent. He feels hopeless. He is feeling low. How does God respond to Elijah’s despondency?
- He cooks for Him.
God sends an angel. What does the angel do? And the angel doesn’t rebuke him! What’s wrong with you Elijah! Snap out of it!” He doesn’t make him feel dumb for feeling the way he does. He doesn’t even try to throw his arm around him and ask him – “You want to talk about it buddy?”
No – God sends an angel to cook a meal for Elijah. “How you like your eggs, Elijah?
How sweet! You know, there is something special about letting someone cook a meal for you. If you want to be on our meal team – write it on your card – we will add you – because from time to time someone is going through a difficult time and we want to help – and coking someone a meal means – you rest. Take care of your body. We got this.
Elijah is despondent and God sends an angel to tell Elijah – have a good meal and get some sleep.
Why? Because – this is important for you to know – you are more than a spiritual person. You are more than spiritual. You have a body. You are every bit as physical as you are spiritual.
What does this mean? We are more than spiritual beings. And not every issue can be solved with a spiritual solution. Sometimes we Christians, we want to look at everything from a spiritual standpoint. All I need to do is pray more. Read and memorize more scripture. Fast more!
Are those things good? Yes. However – our souls live in a body and they are connected. And sometimes our bodies get goofy. Our chemicals are off. Thank God we live in an age that does have medicine. And it’s not a sign of spiritual weakness to take medicine.
Listen – it could very well be that right now the most spiritual thing you can do for yourself is to sleep. Not this second! Wait til you get home! (Too late for some.)
The most spiritual thing you can do is to take a day off? To schedule a doctor’s appointment?
The problem is – and I get it – it’s not always easy to discern which is which. Sometimes we use medicine to try to fix something inside of us that really is a spiritual issue. And sometimes we try to fix a physical issue with purely spiritual means.
Sometimes you need a pastor . Sometimes you need a doctor. Sometimes you need a counselor. And that brings us to the second thing that God does for Elijah…
8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. 9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.
But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Now this isn’t like God is surprised Elijah is here. He isn’t saying, Elijah? What are you doing here? He is asking a diagnostic question, really. What are you doing? He’s been running south away from Ahab and Jezebel for 40 days…
Now notice where he is heading? Mount Sinai – the place where it all began between God and the nation of Israel. The place where God promised Moses that Israel would be His people – and the people promised that the Lord would always be their God.
It seems Elijah has something he wants to hash out with God. And what we will see here is God letting Elijah let it all out.
So what is God doing? He is counseling him.
It’s interesting that the bible calls the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the Counselor and a comforter. Isaiah, referring to Jesus 750 years before he was born, said a child would be born to a virgin and his name would be called Wonderful counselor. Mighty God. Prince of Peace.
How kind to serve a God who declares himself to be a comforter and a counselor.
Many of you, like me, have been to see a counselor at one of our counseling partners, like Spence Counseling. There is something beautiful about being with someone whom God has gifted with the ability to help us see things as they really are and not just as we feel they are… And here, we will see God the counselor help Elijah in two specific ways.
First- He listens to Elijah. God lets him vent…
10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
So what is God doing? He’s letting Elijah get it all out. To express how he is feeling. “I’m all alone. No one cares. I’ve done all I should do and you’ve let me down. Are you going to do something or not about this situation?!
Have you ever gone through a time when you were disappointed with the way things were going? Have you ever, like Elijah, felt disappointed with God?
One unique thing about Christianity is that it portrays God as a God who can handle us expressing our feelings to Him about the way he is directing the course of our life. He doesn’t pull out the “How dare you! Do you know who you are speaking to!” He lets us express ourselves. He knows how important it is to be heard.
See God cares – not just for our physical body – but our emotional well being too.
Elijah feels alone and is hurting and perhaps betrayed. He wants God to fix this thing, and yet the problem persists. So he lets him talk.
When Elijah is done venting, how does God respond to Elijah?
11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
God has invited Elijah to vent and express his feelings. And how does God respond? He reminds Elijah that he is still there. That God is always at work. He doesn’t always show up as we expect him to, but he is always at work.
It’s not always about lightning falling down from the sky, Elijah. In fact it rarely is… But that doesn’t mean God isn’t there – if we listen we’ll discover he has never left.
To me this is God’s way of in effect putting his arm around Elijah to say – I’m still here bud. I’m still at work. Sometimes its thunder. Sometimes it’s a whisper. But you are not now or ever, alone.
Then God begins his second counseling session with Elijah. He asks him the same question.
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
Same question – same exact answer. What? Well, we’ve learned that venting isn’t enough. You need a counselor who can gently challenge untruths that you’ve come to see as reality. And we will see God begin to challenge some of Elijah’s presuppositions.
See Elijah isn’t seeing things as clearly as he should.
Elijah: I served you zealously! true:
I’m all alone! “Not true”
The people of Israel have broken the covenant! True
Everyone is out to kill me. Untrue. Just Jezebel
I’m all alone! Untrue.
15 Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. 18 Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”
As a good counselor – he is challenging those things that Elijah has digested into his soul as undeniable facts. He is NOT the only one in Israel who loves the Lord – and God begins to name them and send them along as helpers in Elijah’s time of distress.
Listen – sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we see as hopeless… And we need someone who can gently help us see truth.
This is where I’m so thankful for our partnership with gifted, professional counselors. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel you’d like to talk with a counselor – just let us know. Email me – or email@example.com – we will let Spence know that we referred you.
I’ve used them myself. They were very helpful to me. And we believe in it so much that we will subsidize a great deal of it – you can see a counselor for $25 a session with or without insurance.
Don’t let pride keep you asking for help. Sometimes we need some help.
What’s the last thing God does to help Elisha in his time of despair? Briefly, and with this we will close… He commissions him. He tells Elijah – it’s time to keep pressing forward. It’s one foot in front of the other. Here’s your marching orders for the day.
Don’t you dare quit Elijah. It’s one foot in front of the other. But it’s time to press on. Part of your recovery plan requires that you put one foot in front of the other and press on.
God’s not done with you yet. And he isn’t done with you either. Don’t stop. Don’t let discouragement keep you from what God has for you.
You are not alone! God’s not finished with you yet. You might be going through a season of sadness. You might be feeling alone. God has not and will never abandon you. No he will not.