We look at people in the bible as superheroes. While they appear superhero like in our minds; in reality they were just like us. They had struggles, they weren't incredibly extraordinary right off from birth, yet there was something wildly different about them.
Our series is focused on one such person. A man that came from a small town that no one knew about. An ordinary man that God chose to use for extraordinary purposes. His name was Elijah.
In 1 Kings 16: 29-34 (NIV) we see what is current in Elijah's time. The New King of Israel is Ahab. This guy was not a cool dude and a horrible ruler of Israel. Ahab had done incredible evil in the eyes of God. He married Jezebel, a woman who brought with her the shift of spiritual worship in Israel. Her "god" was Baal, the god of fertility and the Lord of Rain and Dew. Two key moisture needs for fertile soil in the land. Ahab had created an altar for Baal, and it did not please the true God.
Elijah being a faithful servant of God, went to Ahab and Jezebel to give them news from God. It wasn't what they wanted to hear at all. instead of tidings and good vibes, we see that Elijah expresses the challenge by God. The gauntlet had been thrown, and God was aiming to prove a point to Ahab. We read in i Kings 17 (NIV):
"Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain int he next few years except at my word."
So what can we glean from Elijah's testimony? Firstly, that just because he was an ordinary man, his faith is what made him do great things. His faith compelled him to listen to God's call and challenge Ahab and Jezebel. Faith plays a vital impact in our lives.
1. Faith in God is our Identity.
Even though Elijah cam from a small place, he was still used for a greater purpose. Why? Because Elijah's faith was strong for the Lord. His identity was his faith to God, not to who he was or where he came from. For us we tend to tie our identity to things that defined us in the past and where we came from. However, ours should be untied loosely from those things and tied tightly to God. Elijah wasn't an influential person in his past, and God still chose him. Like us, we are not all influential or extraordinary from the get go, but that doesn't mean we are not meant to be Extraordinary in God's mission.
2. Proclaim your Faith.
Elijah did when he went to Ahab and Jezebel to proclaim God's proclamation. Faith isn't something we bottle up and keep to ourselves. It doesn't bear greater fruit if we harbor it inside. Faith is meant to be shared among others. Currently in this age, we have the platform to share it. We have generated audiences on our social media presence. It's often built on perfect curated photos and cute little messages. What if we were to create our platform on God and share him? We have power behind our words. Power to speak life and death, negative and positive. A simple opportunity to communicate can build and tear someone down. It comes down to what voice you chose to represent.
3. Faith determines the Steps.
When Elijah was connected to his faith it determined his actions. He trusted God with the messaged he shared. He trusted God after the words had lifted from his mouth. He trusted God after the fall out. There was active steps in proclaiming his faith, even if it meant his life. We are great at talking a big game with no follow through. We talk about our faith but don't walk it our in our daily lives. Sure we have that Sunday best attitude and persona at church, but faith shouldn't be reserved for those days only. It should be an integral authentic part of our lives every minute of everyday.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV) is the perfect example: "We walk by faith, not by sight."
We respond in faith, we do in faith, we love by faith. We don't use our faith just to impress upon others that we have God in our lives while secretly making a mess of who we are. No, Paul was talking about without the eyes watching you must be persistent in your faith with God.
Some key notes to consider:
Our faith should be progressive.
It's easy to live life because we have so many blessings in where we live. This can tend to cloud our hearts and not hold tightly to our faith and invest in it. That is why it is important to be alone with God everyday. It's like sitting at the table to eat. It's vital for the soul. Elijah's faith didn't just happen upon chance. It took persistence and investment to make him follow through.
Faith provokes action.
There is an example about the rudder on planes and boats. It's a small piece of equipment on these large vessels that is instrumental to the process of these machines. Without it being properly used it could have unwanted outcomes. Faith is much like a rudder in our life. We have to be conscious with how and when we use it. Are we using faith to guide us? Or, are we using faith in ourselves to navigate it instead?
With every series we like to leave each week with perspective. With a moment to ponder and get quiet within ourselves.
Examine your faith. Is your faith built on the emotions, your own strengths, in what you know and what you control? Or is your faith left in God's hands?
Listen to how you speak. Does your faith show in how you communicate? Does it reflect a foundation in God or yourself?
Tune into next week for our next part of the series of Elijah
Our guest speaker Troy James spoke on this sermon. A sermon about what Elijah did after he stood up to King Ahab.
From last week we learned that Elijah was overcome by the need to stand up against the King, and tell him there will be no rain or dew until he says. It was a challenge to prove God was the true god, not Baal.
1 Kings 17: 1-7 "Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, "As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives-the God I serve-there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the Word!" 2 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 3 "Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. 4 Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food."
5 So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land. 7
Usually when we stand up for justice, we tend to pride ourselves with our successes. For Elijah, God required him to retreat deep into the wilderness. We could imagine that Elijah may have been perhaps a bit surprised by this request as he is a prophet of God, but God had a plan that hinged on Elijah's seclusion.
God did this because:
1. Protection- Elijah stood up against Ahab proclaiming God was the powerful king. We can gather Ahab had military, warriors and followers out looking for Elijah.
2. There is power in seclusion- Elijah needed to be secluded to learn how to trust and depend on God.
3. God uses the less of these to prove his power. Ravens are known to be the least nurturing creatures of Earth. God, however, uses them to bring food for which Elijah eats.
4. Seclusion is training- As the drought continued to ensue, the water that Elijah depended upon from the brook dried up. It was an incredibly intense time for Elijah, however due to his faithfulness to God he remained strong. He accepted the training.
We can gather that even though God was protecting Elijah, it didn't mean he was going to live in comfort. There was no resort that he was sent to. God sent him to a place that made Elijah completely dependent on God.
Kerith means "to cut off". God was cutting everything off to Elijah. The seclusion was the refining, the training that God knew was required to prepare Elijah for what lied ahead. It is similar to basic training in the military. Young adults do not go into the military already prepped for battle. Basic training helps them be prepared for what is to come. To give them the tools, to put them through the rigor of the hardships they would face later.
These are some examples of people in scripture that God isolated
Noah- Go Build a large boat. Genesis 6:14
Abraham- Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family. Go to the land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1
Moses- You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt. Exodus 3:10
Daniel- Face lions. Daniel 6
Elijah- Challenge the Prophets of Baal. 1 Kings 18
Disciples- "Follow me" called out Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Paul- "Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to the kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name's sake. Acts 9:15-16
Greater things have to happen in us before great things can happen through us.
What can we learn here?
Even though Elijah was a faithful servant, God wanted Elijah to have a stronger faith. That we are all on this journey in some form or another. That if we remain faithful servants we can be used for God's purpose.
John 3:30 says it best "He must increase, I must decrease."
Elijah needed to let go of depending on himself to allow God to rise within him.
Jeremiah 18: 2-5 "Jeremiah, go down to the potter's house. I will give you my message there." So I went down to the potter's house and saw him working with clay at the wheel. He was making a pot from clay. But there was something wrong with the pot. So the potter used that clay to make another pot. With his hands he shaped the pot the way he wanted it to be. Then this message from the Lord came to me: "Family of Israel, you know what I can do the same thing with you. You are like the clay in the potter's hands, and I am the potter."
When you increase God, he will shape you, mold you-He will transform you and prepare you!
How comfortable does life look for you?
Is God pressing upon you to get uncomfortable. Are aspects of your life looking dreary, whether it would be finances, marriage, relationships, personal? Just as God led Elijah to an uncomfortable place, perhaps God has led you to your own as well. A place were you are isolated and secluded. A chance to allow yourself to let go of your own control and trust God.
Our God is alive, and he wants the best for you, but his plan is not always the easiest. Deuteronomy 20:4 speaks best: "For the LORD your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!"
He is taking you out of the your comfort zone, so that he can increase, and we can decrease.
*Guest speaker Jeff Walklin
Recap from the past two sections of the series:
-Elijah went to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and proclaimed there would be a drought on the land for the next few years until he gives the word. The gauntlet had been thrown to claim God as the true God, not Baal.
-Elijah escaped away into the wilderness to endure his training in seclusion with God.
Take away from last week's message: "Greater things must happen in us before great things happen through us."
1 Kings 17: 8-24
Section 1- 1 Kings 17: 8-11
8 "Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 " Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sideon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food. So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there fathering sticks. He called to her and asked, " Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?" 11 As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, a piece of bread."
God doesn't bring Elijah to a wealthy merchant or a thriving farmer. Instead he takes Elijah to a widow collecting sticks. Widows of that time were considered the poorest people in town. They were normally taken advantage of, had little for income and they were dependent on the good graces of relatives. For God to have Elijah to request what little she had in supply would seem a bit jarring.
However it reads: 12" As surely as the Lord your God lives, she replied, "I don't have any bread-only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am fathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it-and die."
We see in this passage a key piece that ignites an awareness. The widows response "As surely as the Lord your God lives". It gives key to the realization that even before Elijah was given orders to go to the town and find the widow, God was already at work.
1. God provides for us ahead of time, even before we know where we are going.
Scripture continues: 13 "Elijah said to her. "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.'" She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word the Lord spoken by Elijah.
Not only did God provide for Elijah, he created a miracle for the widow as well. Everyday they had just enough to sustain. God works incredibly like that. Take for example, when the Israelities traveled towards the Promise Land. God sent doves and mana-bread for them. In fact, if people tried to save it, their portions would sour immediately. If we trust the Lord, he always provides. Not always in the ways we expect to, but nonetheless his provision is always what we need.
However, not always do we understand God's provision during the times of impossible hardship, as scripture continues in this passage:
17 " Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?"
2. God's plans do not meet our expectations.
When the son had passed away the widow became bitter. How often do we get bitter towards God, looking for a scapegoat for the problems we face? Like the widow, we do not always connect the miracles that we have seen, with the truth of God. God knows what he is doing, even in the midst of tragedy. We can be like the widow, having expectations, and losing sight of God by placing his power in a box.
19 "Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord. "Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, "Lord my God, let this boy's life return to him!"
22The lord heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, " Look, you son is alive."
24Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth it truth."
3. God's refinement is crucial to our fulfillment.
That time spent in the seclusion of the wilderness at the mercy and trust of God, prepared Elijah for what was to come. When faced with the death of a child, his trust and faith in God had to be solid in order to have God give life back. For us we do not understand God's provision, because it doesn't always come in the pretty packages. Sometimes they come with the tragedy like the widow experienced. However, those that have faith with God, trust Him to provide, and grasp hold of the hardship to see the provision. For Elijah, the provision was not only the sustaining of flour and oil, but the cries of a servant to see life brought back to the dead.
As the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20 "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."
Because Elijah allowed the work that God had placed in him, he was able to allow it to work through him.
God provides for us so that:
- We can be used by Him to provide for others
-He can be glorified
-Draw others to Him
Like Elijah in the wilderness, God is preparing you for something He's already working on in you.
Perhaps that is stepping out in trust for the first time, maybe its speaking out or reaching into the community you live in. Whatever the case we can do this because : Where God leads. He always provides.
1. God will provide whatever you need to do whatever He's asking you to do,
2. God is ALREADY at work before you even know about the need.
3. God will be glorified.
4. We will be blessed.
In this next part of the series we study the issue that the nation was experiencing. The entire nation had turned from God, to believe in a false god named Baal.
It's a reverberating board for what we struggle with spiritually. Baal was placed above God, but was truly a distraction by the enemy.
It was a diversion. To set the nation's eyes on something false masquerading as the truth.
Take for instance Operation Fortitude- 1944
-It was a deception for the Nazis to believe the US was progressing to one particular location. US installed inflatable tanks, rubber dummies, etc. It was creating a diversion from the real attack of D Day.
The enemy knows how to use diversions. He had been doing that since the fall of Adam and Eve. So what we see here in the scriptures is evidence of the diversion. We also see Elijah's strength in God and what happens when the diversion is exposed for the lie that it is.
1 Kings 18: 16-40
16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?"
"I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."
But the people said nothing.
22 Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the Lord's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal's prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire-he is God."
Then all the people said, "What you say is good."
25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire." So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response, no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar for the Lord, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, " Your name shall be Israel." With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. he arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."
34 "Do it again," he said, and they did it again.
"Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord-he is God! The Lord-he is God!"
40 Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
What we see here is that Idols are created in our hearts. A diversion of the enemy to steer away our lives from God. We see evidence of this by the lack of response of the nation to Elijah's prodding question on which side they will choose. They said nothing. So often we see people wavering; trying to find contentment in the mediocre. Being convinced of the diversion. Elijah wanted them to stop riding the fence, To take action.
How often do we justify our idols? Those diversions in our lives. We have to realize, just like the nation did that there cannot be two masters.
Matthew 6: 24 "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Four areas we struggle
1. We worship at the altar of materialism.
-acquiring items that connect to us emotionally
2. We worship at the altar of our own pride and ego.
-when your accomplishments become your identity and power
3. We worship at the altar of knowledge and authority.
-when our own will and thinking start to overthrow God's truth
4. We worship at the altar of self indulgence and self fulfillment
-when we are consumed with getting what's ours.
1 John 2:16-17 "For everything in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever."
How can we step away from the diversions?
How can we actively step away from the fence and choose the side?
Our guest speaker Jeff Walklin brings the victory that Elijah experienced after showing the nation who the true God was.
Our past segment brought down the idol of Baal through the test of burnt offerings. God showed his power to the people, reawakening their eyes to his true presence through the prophet Elijah.
The next part of the scripture for this installment is Elijah giving praise to God and the provision God had promised.
1 Kings 41-45
41 And Elijah said to Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain." So Ahab went off to eat and rink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
43 "Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked.
"There is nothing there," he said.
Seven times Elijah said, "Go back."
44 The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea."
So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, " Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you."
45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the Lord came on Elijah and tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
1. Elijah claims Victory. Baal had been destroyed, the power of God rocked through Elijah. In celebration Elijah does something odd. He gets in the fetal position (rebirth) praying.
2. The magic number 7. Elijah was patient and continued to send a servant to overlook the mountain range because God promised rain. Suddenly a hand size rain cloud showed over the ocean.
3. Trust in God is vital. Elijah had to have been exhausted, but it was his trust in God that kept him sustained. He persistently prayed to God.
4. Ahab gets trumped by God. Before Ahab could even get to the meeting place that Elijah requested, the rain was already overcoming the land. When God does something, sometimes it seems far away, but it can show up anytime God wills it.
What do we see?
We see that Elijah, being overcome by God dashes ahead of Ahab, who is in chariot and meets him in Jezreel. When God provides, he provides in impossible ways.
Spend time this week in prayer. Spend it physically on your knees, showing you are a servant of God.
God is in charge. Put yourself under God.
Be persistent. Pray like God is not going to listen. Keep praying. Keep waiting. God is active. He will still bring the rain.
The last installment of Elijah is a good reminder. The next step in our preparations and trust is to help lead God's people.
Just like Elijah did. He led the people of the nation to the truth that God is the true King. Now the gauntlet was to be passed to a young man named Elisha.
1 Kings 19:19-21
19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth left his oxen and ran after Elijah. "Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye," he said. "and then I will come with you."
"Go back," Elijah replied. "What have I done to you?"
21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.
What do we see:
God's call is a complete abandonment to follow Him.
1. Elisha is doing the work of his family. He had to come from a prominent family to have that many oxen.
2. Elisha sacrifices his oxen, a symbolic act of claiming "my life is not my own". He burns his equipment to let the old ways die and to prepare for the new.
Elisha leaves the comforts of his home, stepping into the uncertainty that God has before him. Following God can appear radical and a bit unrealistic, but Elisha was prepared for it.
-Our life, our job, our success, our family are Priorities. To follow God, being a part of the church, tends to be wedged between those other priorities if its possible.
-We base our faith on this "how can we be entertained" theology
-1 hour a week Jesus system
-That this is our priority for only an hour each week
What we can learn
Church is not just an event. It is:
-Church is Christ's Bride
-Restoration of Life
Luke 9:57-62 : 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied. "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He said to another man, "Follow me." But he replied, "Lord, first let me go bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go proclaim the Kingdom of God." Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family." 62Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back it fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Mark 8: 34-38: 34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes into his Father's glory with the holy angels."
What do we hold onto tightly that prevents us from following?
Take time this week to ponder on that question and reflect.