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Friday, June 21, 2013

Pentecost 5:Elijah "I'm tired and I've had enough"

Running on Empty


King Ahab told his wife Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had put all the prophets of Baal to death.

A few weeks ago when we started this series on Elijah, we looked at a very busy day in the life of this great prophet: ...... he summoned 450 prophets of Asherah and 400 prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel.................  Many of these would have been personal friends of Jezebel who had introduced Baal and Asherah worship to her husband Ahab and he, in turn had promoted it throughout Israel.....  On Mount Carmel, they had each prepared their own sacrifices and asked their God to light the fire......  Of course, the prophets of Baal and Asherah were unsuccessful and Elijah’s sacrifice, even after being drenched in water, is consumed by the fire of God.......  Elijah then has the 850 prophets put to death, and then he prays to God to end the drought which has been going on for over three years.......  A huge storm develops from over the Mediterranean and Elijah ends his day, which can probably be described as a very good day in the ministry, by running ahead of Ahab, who is in his horse-drawn chariot and beating him back to Samaria. 

All the above is what King Ahab would have told his wife Jezebel.  She...is not amused!

She sent a message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me dead if by this time tomorrow I don't do the same thing to you that you did to the prophets.”

Even though the awesome power of God has been displayed, she remains unchanged.  This is a sad but recurring truth, namely that awesome displays of God’s power do not always lead people to faith, and as we see, especially in the New Testament, when miracles do lead to faith, it is often a faith which doesn't endure.  The greatest faith is the faith which believes without seeing, which believes even if it can’t stick its fingers into the holes in Jesus’ hands and side.  That is faith, and that is a faith which will endure.  But...Jezebel is unchanged.  “I’m going to get you Elijah.”

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life;

Did you hear that?......Elijah......Afraid!!!!
Elijah......fleeing for his life!!!!!  
Elijah, the great prophet of God, no doubt full of the Spirit of God...how else could he have done what he did on Carmel? ......and here he is having a very serious panic attack; overcome with anxiety, full of fear, and all he can think to do is run for his life.

Many of us...more than we would like to admit it, have often felt the same way.  Do you ever feel afraid? ...do you ever suffer from anxiety,......or panic attacks...you’re in good biblical company if you have...remember that Elijah was a person just like you and me.  

Perhaps a more important question is: Do you allow yourself to be anxious or fearful or do you say to yourself, “I’m a born-again Christian, I shouldn't feel like this” and suppress the way you feel?  
Do you allow other Christians to be fearful and anxious, or do you load them up with guilt for feeling that way?  
What does it mean if Christians are afraid?
Previously, I have preached on the fact that fear is often a sign of a lack of faith, which it often is, but I would struggle to say that Elijah lacks faith, so there must be someting else at play here, just as there often is something else at play in us when we are afraid.

1 John 4:18 can be helpful here:  
There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 

Here a connection is made between fear and love. When the love in us is perfected...then there is no reason for fear because it drives out fear.  

Is the love in you perfected. 

For us as Methodists, Christian perfection, the goal of the Christian life, is nothing more and nothing less than to love perfectly.  Perfect love can be summed up by the great command Jesus gave, “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as you love yourself.”  So the obedient Christian life is not so much one that is full of what I can do and what I can’t do, which always leads to long lists, usually followed by a long list of exceptions...No, the obedient Christian life is a life which lives by this one “rule”...Love.  

There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 

Jezebel says she is going to kill Elijah; he is afraid of this threat and because he can’t go to the chemist and get put onto some pills which would help him overcome his anxiety and deal with the stress in his life at that time...he runs away...tells his servant to stay behind (sometimes we just want to be alone don't we?)...he wants to run away from life...and he does.

Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It's too much, Lord,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”

How many of us have not felt that way at some time in our life?  How many of us...feel that way right now?  All you want to do is just roll up into a ball and...go to sleep...or even wish...... that you were dead?  Years before, the Psalmist had gone through a similar feeling of running on empty and wrote Psalm 42.  Maybe this Psalm helped Elijah, maybe it’ll help you and me this morning – it describes how we so often feel.

As a deer is drawn to a stream of water, so I am drawn to you, Lord my God.
I have a thirst for the living God, O where can you be found?

Day and night I am sustained by tears, people mock: “Where is your God?”
I used to lead people in worship, my enthusiasm overflowing.

Why am I now in such a depression?  What is it that is disturbing me?
I know I should trust in God, someday I will praise again.

God’s pure love reaches out every day, surely my life is still in God’s hands.
Hymns echo in my head all night, songs that I still enjoy to sing.

Why does God feel so very far away?  It seems the world is against me.
They see me dying a slow death, mocking: “Where is your God?”

Why am I now in such a depression?  What is it that is disturbing me?
I know I should trust in God, someday I will praise again.

Be my advocate in these evil times, take my side against the ungodly.
Rescue me from their deceit.  Save me from wickedness.

God, I have always relied on you, why have you rejected me?
Why should I be mourning?  Enemies oppressing me.

Why am I now in such a depression?  What is it that is disturbing me?
I know I should trust in God, someday I will praise again.

Let your truth revealing light come, to guide me into your presence,
Joyful at the alter of my God, I will praise with the harp.


He lay down under the tree and fell asleep.

And what does God do?  How will God react to this fearful prophet, running for his life, curling up in a ball and wanting to die?  How will He react to you and to me when we feel this way?

Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Wake up and eat.”

Notice God didn't feed His exhausted servant bitter herbs in order to punish him.  He didn't beat the already beaten man with a ministry stick and say, “On your feet you stupid coward; go and share the four spiritual laws with Jezebel.”  The Bible simply says that God touched Elijah with the loving words, “Get up and eat, this is too much for you.”  When we lose our perspective in life, we often lose our perspective on God Himself.  At such times we need to try and be still, feel His loving touch and hear Him say: "Go to sleep, rest a while, the journey is too long for you."  Many of us believe we need permission to go to sleep, to rest...to relax.  When we are like this, the journey, life, can be too much for us....in fact, it will become too much for us.

He looked around and saw a loaf of bread and a jar of water near his head. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The Lord's angel returned and woke him up a second time, saying, “Get up and eat, or the trip will be too much for you.”

There is a great truth in this verse, which we ignore at our peril.  Listen again: Get up and eat, or the trip will be too much for you.  Notice that God’s answer to Elijah’s dilemma was a physical one.  My own tendency when I go through times like this one in Elijah’s life is to open my Bible and look for spiritual food.  But sometimes He says: "Put away your Bible and go to sleep.  We’ll talk about this later."

We must be careful not to look for spiritual answers to physical problems.  God is always concerned about both, because He knows that if we neglect either...the trip will be too much for us.  

The trip will be too much for you – perhaps you are already feeling it is too much for you right now...what you still have to do today will be too much for you......what God has planned for you to do in this week, the good works He has already planned for you and me to do, will be too much for you and me...the journey that God wants you to make from now on, your pilgrimage from now on will be too much for you...walking in God’s way will be too much for you,..... living obediently to Him and His Will, will be too much for you,.... growing in holiness, perfecting your love, will be too much for you......... if you don’t rest in God, and if you don’t eat from God and if you don’t drink from God.

Elijah got up, ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to walk forty days to Sinai, the holy mountain.
Friends, I don’t know where you or I have to walk this week...in our homes, our work places, our schools...in our faith walks and in our growth in holiness and our growth in perfect love.  What I do know is that the trip is too much for us, and what I mean by that is that we cannot do it in our own strength...we can actually do nothing in our own strength...not even drive home after this service.
But we can do all things in Him who strengthens us.  If we don’t look to Him in all things for strength, the trip will be too much for us...is too much for us, right now you might think you’ll manage, but you won’t.  You might think you are managing...but you’re not...and deep down...you know it.  

But come to the One who said:

I am the bread of life………..If anyone is thirsty, come to me and drink

Come to the One who said, “I am the Bread of Life” ....and eat...and you will find strength for the trip. 
Come to the One who said, “If anyone is thirsty, come to me and drink”...and you will find strength for the trip.
Wherever you are right now, perhaps at a high point like Elijah was at Mount Carmel, perhaps at a low point like Elijah was at soon afterwards...wherever you are, come to Jesus and find strength for the trip.
Come to Him now... in worship as we sing “As the deer.”
Come to Him now... in prayer.
Come to Him now... through the words of the Scripture as you read your Bible.
Come to Him now... in rest as you perhaps commit yourself to...resting.

Come to Him and eat and drink, otherwise the trip will be too much for you.

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