This is the follow-on message complimenting “The Dive to Discouragement”
So, where was God when Elijah was spiraling into brokenness? He was trying to help all along. May be you’ve wondered where God is at in your life. He’s in the same place He’s always been. His counsel hasn’t changed (Psalm 89:34); His desire to help hasn’t changed (Jeremiah 29:11; Hebrews 2:18); and His invitation to return and be cleansed hasn’t changed (Isaiah 1:18; I John 1:9). In the experience of Elijah, God was actively working to help Elijah all along.
God’s first attempt to encourage Elijah came in Victory
And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; – I Kings 18:46
Elijah was blessed to see the beginning of revival in Israel after many years of drought, famine, and apostasy. He saw the answer to prayer as he sought the Lord to bring the rain again. This type of victory should have encouraged Elijah to remain faithful. However, Elijah’s faith didn’t last very long even after such a monumental victory as recorded in I Kings 18. Interestingly, this is not uncommon in Christ’s ministry as He often rebuked His disciples for having “little” faith which only endured for a short duration of time (Matthew 8:26, 16:8) even after they witnessed His miracles. When the threats of Jezebel came to his doorstep, Elijah plummeted having forgot the miracle of the fire from heaven that he just witnessed (I Kings 19:2-3).
Have you experienced a day of great blessing only to follow that up with a day of great discouragement? In times of trial, make an effort to remember the powerful work God has done in your life; remember the victories of the past and encourage yourself in the Lord. When David was discouraged and ran from Saul, a priest gave him the “sword of Goliath” to protect himself (I Samuel 21:9). This sword was available only because David killed Goliath in a battle many years previous to his encounters with Saul (I Samuel 17:48-51). This reminder of the victory God previously delivered to David was an immense encouragement. Remembering God’s victories in your life can be a powerful encouragement to you as well.
God’s second attempt to encourage Elijah came in the wilderness
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. – I Kings 19:5-8
Though Elijah journeyed into the wilderness and felt alone, God wanted to reveal His presence to Elijah. God sent an angel, but not just any angel. This was the “angel of the LORD,” which is a reference to the pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the Lord extends the opportunity for fellowship as evidenced through the providence of sustenance (the cake of bread). The Lord knew that the demands of the ministry were beyond Elijah’s power, so as his gracious Master He offered the powerful grace that only He could extend. During the first meal, Elijah ate but lay down again under the “bitter” tree and experienced no real change.
This takes place in the Christian life as well. We must learn that we cannot neglect the two most basic principles for victory in the Christian life: Bible reading and prayer. These two acts are our means of fellowship with our Savior. However, like Elijah, it is possible to read our Bible and pray without receiving any power and just going back to “bitterness.” Of course, the Lord is not satisfied with our mediocre approach to our devotional life. The angel touched Elijah again, aroused him from sleep, and encouraged him to come back to the table. This time, Elijah received the strength of God’s grace and it empowered him for forty days, the symbolic number indicating that he was empowered during the time of his trial.
The Lord is not satisfied with our “check-in-the-box” mentality for our devotional life. The Lord has marvelous, infinite, matchless grace freely bestowed on all who believe. Just like pulling water from a well, we must plunge our bucket into the water and pull it up again if we are to quench our thirst. The Lord is calling us into fellowship with Him so He can heal our hearts and direct our paths. Oh, that we would come unto Him as we labor and are heavy laden, and He will give us rest.
God’s third attempt to encourage Elijah came at the cave
And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. – I Kings 19:9-11a
The word of the Lord came to Elijah while he is in the cave. He continued down the path with bitterness of heart and brokenness of spirit. God asked Elijah why he was there at the Mount in order to reveal the contents of Elijah’s heart. From his bitterness springs his claim that he is the only one living the right way. In response, God gives Elijah a command to go out of the cave and stand on the mount. In a unique way, God was calling Elijah out of the darkness of the cave and into the light of His fellowship (I Kings 19:11a; I John 1:7-10). Once again, Elijah had an opportunity to choose fellowship with God, but he first had to choose to forsake the darkness of his bitterness and brokenness and come into the light. After giving the command, God demonstrated His power and presence through a whirlwind, an earthquake, and a fire. After Elijah saw that his focus could not remain on the circumstances of life (epitomized by the wind, quake, and fire), but on the One who was in control of the circumstances, he could discern the “still, small voice” of God speaking to him.
In humility and obedience, Elijah went to the mouth of the cave where he was again asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah.” Amazingly, he states the exact same words as before (I Kings 19:14). What’s the difference? The statements are identical, but Elijah’s attitude has now been changed. He was humble and empty of pride; he was obedient and willing to serve. His first response was a statement of pride; his second response was a statement of purpose. We know this because at this point God is able to provide Elijah with guidance and direction, something God does not do for He “resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6; I Peter 5:5). Elijah finds his heart for God and, in turn, finds his heart for God’s people. He becomes a shining example of how to fulfill the two great commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).
Not only did God heal the bitter heart and repair the broken spirit, God also gave Elijah something everyone is looking for: PURPOSE IN LIFE. God gave Elisha a new ministry where he would anoint the next kings of the lands and ordain a new servant, Elisha, to serve alongside of and eventually take over for him.
What is the purpose of your life?
The Bible assures that the purpose of your life is not to be mired by the woes of sin. The Lord Jesus Christ has sought to give you peace even in the midst of heartache and tribulation (John 16:33).
Of a surety, God calls all of us to salvation (II Peter 3:9), to fellowship with Him (I John 1:7), to reach the lost (Matthew 28:19-20), to grow in grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18), to a place of service in the local church (Romans 12:3-8), and to find a special place of service and vocation for His glory (Philippians 2:13). To what special purpose and service is God calling you to do? Perhaps God is calling you into full-time Christian ministry, like He did with Elijah. Perhaps God is leading you to vocations in business, medicine, or industry, like He did with Bezaleel the craftsman of the tabernacle.
No matter what vocation you may feel led to fulfill, the Christian must determine that the purpose of life is to find the will of God and to do it. It is to know God, and to make Him known. In the day-to-day perspective of Christian living, we must understand that God desires to work in our lives and to work through our lives to reach others with His message. There are people in the world who are hurting, and the world doesn’t need Christians who are bitter at God, bitter at the preacher, bitter at their family, or bitter at their boss. The lost and dying world around us needs Christians who are victorious, who are excited about the word and work of God, who are willing to suffer like their Lord who died for them, and to endure hardness with a gracious spirit. God knows that you have needs that must be met, and He is actively working to meet those needs (Matthew 6:8). Nevertheless, you can walk with the Lord and work with the lost sheep of this world as you live filled with grace and peace.
What is a verse that guides your life? Don’t dive into discouragement; rise to encouragement! Take time to identify a verse of Scripture that captures a godly sense of purpose in your life and use it as a tool to encourage you to keep going in the right direction.