Ever feel like no matter what you do, it doesn’t seem to make a difference?
You may be surprised that Elijah, a Biblical prophet lauded for his power and impact, knew that feeling well. Let’s dip into this powerful prophet’s saga to find out more.
The setting: Mt. Carmel in Israel. Elijah is locked in a face-off with king Ahab and his pagan god prophets (950 of them) who’d been leading the Israelites astray. The entire nation covers the hill sides for this “God vs. god” showdown. (I Kings 18:16-46) Let’s take a look:
Then they [the prophet’s of the pagan god, Baal] called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response. No one answered . . . Midday passed and they continued their frantic prophesying until . . . evening . . . but there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention . . .
[Then] Elijah stepped forward and prayed,”Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD are God, and that you are turning their hearts back [to you] again.” 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.
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD–he is God! The LORD–he is God!”
A epic face-off had taken place. God had revealed Himself to His people and showcased His power over every “god” and affirmed Elijah as his man. Empowered by God’s Spirit, Elijah ran triumphantly ahead of Israel’s king back towards the palace . . .
But then a few verses later we read:
“Elijah . . . sat down . . . and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life . . . ‘ Then he lay down under a tree and fell asleep.”¹
“ . . . Ahab told Jezebel (his wife) everything Elijah had done . . . So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, ‘ . . . By this time tomorrow, [you’re dead].’”²
[So] Elijah was afraid and ran for his life . . .”
Yes, this is the same Elijah who stood against hundreds of false prophets, against a king, a nation; the same Elijah who through God’s scorching power defeated them all. Yes, that Elijah. He ran.
For over 300 miles he ran, until he reached Horeb, “the mountain of God” where God spoke to him.
. . . the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
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.”³
Can you hear it? The discouragement, the defeat? Elijah had had enough. He had thrown every ounce of himself into living out God’s mission, into serving His people. Even after experiencing a spectacular victory, still he faced failure. Well, he was through. Worn out, fed up.
Can you relate?
Elijah had given up hope. He was convinced that despite his efforts, nothing would change. Listen to what the *NIV text note says about it: “Elijah concluded that his work was fruitless and consequently that life was not worth living. He had lost his confidence in the triumph of [God’s kingdom] and was withdrawing from the arena of conflict.” (Emphasis mine.)
Whew! Does that hit a nerve with you as much as it did with me? Years of service, decades of faith-in-action.
Elijah needed hope to finish the race God marked out for him–no matter how dismal things appeared at that moment. And God provided just that. He provided Elisha, an apprentice, a fellow worker, and friend. And Elijah finished his life and ministry strong. (II Kings 2:11)
Through His Holy Spirit, God offers us a living hope too. As our Comforter, Counselor and Friend, His Spirit will empower us to finish the race marked out for us. All the way to the end. I want to be an “Elijah” and finish strong. How about you?
What hope has God provided for you, so you can complete His work and finish strong?
To read more of Elijah’s story click here.Photos courtesy of Crestock.com *NIV study note courtesy of:
Barker, Kenneth, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel, Ronald Youngblood, NIV Study Bible. “I Kings 19.” Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985. 514.
Thank you, Bethany, for reminding me of what this race is all about. I get so easily discouraged and feel like my days slip by too fast and I accomplish too little and go to bed each night feeling like what is the purpose to this life. The purpose is God’s and I just need to be faithful whenever He calls.
How I feel your words about moving too fast and accomplishing too little. Life spins by us and we’re left wondering what happened. But you’re so right when you say we just need to be faithful in the small things. Because they add up and make a difference I’m counting on to maintain perspective. So thankful God has that big picture firmly in hand!
Well, He did it again. I’ve been thinking about this very story with Elijah. Great blog, Bethany. Thanks. The encouragement to never give up is so poignant and appreciated.
Yes, perseverance, when I’d rather be writing about spring! You know fresh growth, green leaves, flowers. Maybe next time. 🙂
Uplifting and inspiring post! A message to carry with us every step of our walk in Christ. Blessings, luke
Yes perseverance gets us from here to there, and then finally across faith’s finish line. Thanks for the encouraging words. 🙂