Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. We are thrilled to have you with us today as we wrap up our series The Called: Life Lessons from Elijah. This morning we’re going to be looking at first Kings chapter 19 as we see Elijah coming down from one of the greatest victories recorded in the Bible. He had just seen God work in a supernatural way when suddenly he finds himself at a very low point in his life. Elijah, the great man of God, found himself where he was so burnt out that he said, “I have had enough. I just can’t go on.”
Today I want to talk to you about “When you’ve had enough”, because even if you have experienced tremendous success, when the pressure becomes too intense, we all have the potential to snap. It’s a scary thought, but it’s one we should always keep in mind. That’s why the apostle Paul warns in first Corinthians chapter 10,
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
And he says, therefore, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Robert Schuller said that one of the most difficult times of his life was when, at the age of 40, he had reached all of his goals. He didn’t know what he wanted to do next and even though by church standards he was immensely successful, he became very depressed. And so, we need to be aware that burnout can happen to anyone. Let’s pick up the story with Elijah in 1 Kings chapter 19, starting in verse 1. The Bible says,
“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword” (1 Kings 19:1).
Before we go any farther, let me remind you who we’re talking about. Ahab was the evil king whom the Bible says did more evil in the eyes of God than any of those kings before him, and yet honestly it seems as if he had handed the leadership of the kingdom over to his wife, Jezebel. He had just returned from the mountain with Elijah and reported to his wife everything that Elijah had done and so he was like, “I don’t know what to do” and so Jezebel steps in and takes over.
The Bible tells us in verse two, “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 one of them”, referring to dead false prophets (1 Kings 19:2). In other words, “I’m going to kill you. You’re going to be dead by tomorrow.” And then the Bible says in verse 3, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life…” (1 Kings 19:3).
Now as we read this, it’s kind of confusing, because we have seen all that God had done in Elijah’s life. Over and over again Elijah has seen the miraculous, he has seen the faithfulness of God, when suddenly in verse two, Jezebel says, “I am going to kill you”, and he panics and runs for his life. In verse 3 the story continues telling us:
“When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, 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." Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep” (1 Kings 19:3-5).
So, Elijah had this great victory and now he’s praying that his life would end. He’s come so far, so fast, and the first thing I want to share with you today in “Life Lessons from Elijah” is four easy steps to depression. And the first step to depression is to allow yourself to become exhausted.
We have seen Elijah engaged in this massive spiritual battle and for years he’s been trusting God, he’s been seeking God, and he’s been praying. He’s been living this amazing life of faith, until suddenly he finds himself running for his life. He ran to Beersheba where he left his servant and then he runs another day’s journey out into the desert. He had gone as far as he could, he was physically exhausted, and like many of you, he was worn out.
Some of you may wonder why you’re so depressed. And maybe it’s because you think you’ve got to do everything, you’ve got to be the Savior, you’ve got to be the provider, you’ve got to be strong for them. Others of you, you’re working a full-time job, taking care of the house, putting dinner on the table, carting kids all over the world, involved in the church, and you’re wondering, “Why am I so depressed?” Still others of you, you just got done school, you’re working a part-time job, you’re playing a sport, and you wonder, “Why am I depressed?” And it’s because you’re totally exhausted. You’ve worn yourself out. And then the second step to depression, number two is to “withdraw from those you need the most.”
That’s exactly what Elijah did, he abandoned his servant in Beersheba, he said, “You stay here and I’m going on alone. I need some time by myself.” And honestly, isn’t that what a lot of us do when we’ve had enough? We push away the people that care the most, the people we need the most, and we build this wall because we think we can deal with it ourselves. “I can get through it by myself.”
And so, if you want to get depressed, you just do what Elijah did. You allow yourself to become exhausted, withdraw from those you need the most, and number three, become filled with negativity.
Elijah began answering questions that nobody was asking, he became filled with self-pity, filled with negativity, saying, “I’ve had enough. I’m no better than my ancestors.” And in his mind, he began to exaggerate his circumstances, much like we do sometimes. You know, “I’m always going to be stuck here. My life is never going to get any better. I’m never going to get that promotion.” And it’s just negative, negative, negative. It’s all of the bad things and none of the good things.
And so, if you want to be depressed, just allow yourself to become exhausted, withdraw from those you need the most, become focused on the negative, filled with negativity, and then the fourth thing you need to do if you want to get depressed is to forget the goodness of God.
Just imagine, if you were Elijah and you saw the miraculous in your life time after time. You saw God’s supernatural protection, his provision as birds fed you, water bubbling forth from the ground during a drought, you saw God raise the dead and fire fall from Heaven. But suddenly, in this moment, when you’re depressed, when you’re down, you forget the goodness of God.
You could say this is the downward spiral of depression. Number one you allow yourself to become exhausted, number two you withdraw from those people you need the most, number three you allow yourself to be filled with negativity, and number four you forget the goodness of God.
For the rest of our time together I want to encourage you and share with you God’s answer when you’ve had enough, because some of you here today need to hear from God. Some of you are feeling a little down. Maybe you’re in a place of hopelessness. But the good news is that God wants to speak to you today. He wants to encourage you. You see, Elijah didn’t have any hope, he’s hiding, he’s wanting to die, and God sends an angel to speak to him. The very first thing that the angel of the Lord says is “Get up and eat”. And so, number one, God’s prescription when you’ve had enough is: “Take Care of Yourself.”
The very first thing that God says is to take care of yourself. Look at verse five, the Bible says,
“All at once and angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ Elijah looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again” (1 Kings 19:5-6).
I have always loved the way God incorporates food, feasting, and banquets into his fellowship with his people. It’s all through the Bible both Old Testament and New Testament and I think that’s really cool, because I’ve always been a big fan of food. But the reality is that proper nourishment and relaxation is something that we often ignore, because we’ve got so much to do, but sometimes the most spiritual thing that we can do is simply to rest.
In fact, probably the most disobeyed command of God in the world is to rest. Jesus told us in Mark chapter 2, "The Sabbath was made for man…” (2:27). And yet we think, “I’ve got to do this or I’ve got to do that” and so we don’t rest, we don’t honor God with the Sabbath, and we ignore it, shaking it off like it’s nothing. Yet, for some of you, I believe God would say, “It doesn’t really matter if the yard is mowed. It doesn’t matter if a few things go undone, because the most important thing is that you rest.” The angel of the Lord provides food for Elijah and then lets him lay down again. Then in verse seven tells us,
“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." 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” (1 Kings 19:7-8).
God was basically saying to Elijah, “Eat and rest so you can go to the place where I am.” Strengthened by the food and certainly by the rest, Elijah traveled until he reached the mountain of God. He went to the place where he would experience God. He follows God’s advice, he takes care of himself, he gets some nourishment and relaxation, and the second thing we see is that as God speaks truth into our lives we need to exchange our lies for his truth.
You see, it’s so subtle, but if we’re not pressing in and seeking to be led by the Spirit, by default we allow ourselves to slip back into our old nature and we become as those the Bible says who, “Exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator...” (Romans 1:25). And yet we know that “God wants all people to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). And so, God speaks into our lives, wanting to replace the lies that we’re believing with his truth. We can see this in verse nine.
“There Elijah went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:9).
Now, obviously God knew what Elijah was doing there; he’s not in heaven wondering where he is or what he is doing, but what God wanted Elijah to do was to voice whatever lies he was believing so he could speak truth into his life. Elijah replied in verse 10,
"I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.” And that was true. “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword.” Again, that was true, but then he said, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too" (1 Kings 19:10). And that was the lie that Elijah had come to believe. He’d done what God asked him to do, but he’d come to believe that he was the only one, everyone was dependent upon him, no one cared like he did, and that he was all alone. And so, he claimed more responsibility than was actually his.
But if we skip ahead to verse 18, we see that God replaces his lie with the truth saying, “Elijah, there are actually seven thousand other Israelites who have not bowed down to the false gods of Baal and Asherah. There are seven thousand others who are still seeking me, who are still praying, don’t believe the enemies lies; you’re not the only one.”
And I imagine that God would say the same to many of us as we believe the enemies lies. You know, “My life is never going to get any better. I’m stuck in this dead-end job. My spouse is never going to believe in Christ.” And yet Jesus says, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
You see, so many of us have believed the lies, “I’m never going to have a good relationship. I’m always going to feel alone.” And Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
Some of you right now have believed a lie, you’re even speaking it, “It’s always going to be this way, I’m always going to be depressed” And God might say, “That’s not exactly true, there are 7000… there are people who care about you, there’s the Holy Spirit to comfort you, there’s the church to support you… don’t believe the lies.” And so, God takes all those lies and exchanges it with his truth telling us in second Corinthians, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (10:5).
Watch how God responds to Elijah in verse 11, “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” (1 Kings 19:11).
Verse 12, “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).
God’s prescription “when you’ve had enough” is to take care of yourself, secondly, exchange the lies that you’re believing with the truth of God, and then the third thing is to do what God has called you to do.
Now remember, as Elijah goes out to meet God he’s probably expecting something amazing, you know, something really big or powerful, but have you ever noticed that when you’re at your lowest, God often speaks the softest. Sometimes, it’s just a nudge, just a feeling, maybe a word, a gentle whisper, not the powerful signs and wonders that Elijah was expecting, not what God was capable of doing, but it’s always exactly enough.
This is what’s so comforting, even today, right now, if you’ll listen closely, between my words, behind my words, and even in my words, God can and will speak to you. It’s that still small voice saying, “I’m here. I’ll never leave you. You’re not alone. I’m enough.” It’s the still small voice of God and he may speak to you as he does to Elijah; he tells him to get busy, do something, and so he gives him an assignment. Look at verse 15, the Lord says to Elijah,
“Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet” (1 Kings 19:15-16).
In other words, “Go back to doing what you were called to do,” and I’m believing that the Spirit of God will speak to many of you today saying, “There’s something I have for you to do.” Maybe this morning you’re feeling down, you’re afraid, you’re unsure, and you’ve lost your confidence. But God would remind you, “If you’re still here, if you’re still alive, you’re not done!” He tells Elijah, “Go back to doing what prophets do. Do what you were called to do.”
Now I know you’re thinking, “Well, I am not a prophet.” But if you’re a mom, go back and do what moms do. If you’re a business person, go back and do what business people do. If you’re a mechanic, go back and do what mechanics do. If you’re a person of prayer, or you have the gift of serving, or giving; go back and do what God called you to do. Just watch as he brings purpose back into your life. Go back Elijah, do what you were called to do, he said.
So God sent Elijah to anoint Hazael King of Aram, he anointed Jehu King of Israel, and best of all, I love this, he anointed Elisha to succeed him as the prophet of God. God gave Elijah a friend, someone who believed in him, and together they start doing what prophets do.
This morning, I find so much comfort in seeing Elijah, this great man of God, on the top of the world, and then suddenly on the bottom, because in reality that’s often the way you and I live. You know, you just got the promotion, you just got the job, you just had the greatest weekend, and then you go home and it’s like, “I just can’t go on.” And that’s when God comes to you, he lifts you above your greatest fear, whatever was consuming you, and he says, “take care of yourself”. He speaks truth into your life and with that still small voice God tells you, “Go back and do what you’re supposed to do.” And once again you’re encouraged because God is always enough.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
July 23, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.