Elijah had a tough battle but he was no super hero. However, he was heroically obedient. The Bible consistently shows us ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things by God’s power. What better way for God to put His power and might on display than by using a broken, flawed individual to accomplish His purpose? He continues to do that today in ordinary people just like you and me.
Elijah challenges the people of Israel with a question that we all need to ask ourselves. Its a question of devotion. Possibly an invitation to leave the double life of trying to please God and ourselves. Its the same indictment that was handed down to the people that James was writing to when he said;
…whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4
The words of Elijah go like this;
21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21
I love that imagery: limping. When you limp, something is very wrong. You are injured, you cannot function properly. We don’t want to limp, but something broken or injured is slowing us down. When we try to serve God and do whatever we want, its as if we are limping through life. It happens to all of us. We desperately want to love Jesus with our whole heart, but we fall into patterns of selfishness and sin and we stumble and fall.
Jesus made it clear centuries later in case we don’t fully comprehend what Elijah is saying. You can’t serve two masters.
Far too often in my life I can look back and see times and places in my life when I was limping and stumbling through my faith. As you look at your life, does it feel like you are spiritually limping? If so, what is the cause? What do you need to take to God? Where are you making compromises? What do you need to leave behind?
Hebrews 12:1 urges us to lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1
Life may be very difficult at times, and we may need to part ways with things that bring us comfort by deny us growth. However, when our heart is set on Christ, he will better equip us to deal with the difficult realities in front of us and to help us persevere. I have known many people who assume that change is not possible and that God is not interested in changing. I have come to believe the reality that most people don’t turn to God for healing because deep down, they see all that needs to be done and just simply are not willing to make the appropriate changes. God will empower and equip us for change, but he expects us to join Him in the process. Most people are more comfortable with the discomfort they are experiencing daily than the discomfort that will accompany true and lasting life change. As tough as life can be, doing nothing has always been the easiest solution and is by far and away the most popular choice for people.
How is your race going? Are you running? Tell us about your victories. Are you stumbling? What do you need to cast off? Have you stopped running? How can we encourage you to get up and finish the race?
Based on the message from Sunday, (excerpts from 1 Kings 18) I would love to get your feedback on which of the characters that you identified with the most.
As Elijah comes back on the scene it hits me that in three and a half years of famine, Ahab has yet to do enough serious personal reflection to realize that the catastrophe and life difficulties that he is facing are a result of his own disobedience. He calls Elijah the troubler of Isreal when in fact, it was he that was the cause of the drought. Ahab’s disregard for God stemmed from an overwhelming need to please people.
Do you want to serve God more openly but you are afraid that it will make you unpopular with friends and family? Even in business?
Would you be more devoted if it didn't cost you so much relationally, financially and even morally?
Or, like Jezebel;
Are you chasing after false god’s in a lifestyle that can be described as the complete pursuit of self-gratification?
Jezebel ruthlessly sought after the things that she thought would truly make her happy. It made her selfish, manipulative, jealous, and just flat out unaccountable to anyone. While we may not be just like her, there are aspects of each of us that can be eerily similar.
The person that I think many of us can identify with is Obadiah. We are doing a lot of really good things, but we are also making a lot of compromises with the world. We desire to please God but we still want to be comfortable. By hiding the prophets of God, he was courageous, but he also had to make compromises with the prevailing culture to do so. I think he walked the fine line of faith and compromise that many of us walk. What is your character worth?
Nothing good we do in one area of life can ever justify disobedience in other areas.
Are you living a double life where you are two different people depending on the people that you are hanging around with?
What changes do you need to make?
Elijah was obedient and brave. Later we will get a greater sense of his fallen nature, but at this point God said, “Go and stand for me in the midst of a group of people who hate you and blame you for everything that is bad in their life.” Sound fun? Obedience is not always easy. But it is rewarding.
Is there an area of your life where you just need to be obedient to God?
It could be facing an addiction. Having a difficult conversation. Making an apology, forgiving someone. Take a step toward solving the problem.
How can you be more bold, focused on God, consistent and obedient?
In my experience, many people fail to pray because they do not perceive it to be effective. We seem to continue to do the things in life that are effective. If we desire to lose weight and we begin to exercise and nothing happens, we tend to stop exercising. This happens a lot because when we exercise we want immediate results and all we get is immediate pain and fatigue. But it is the long-term commitment to exercise that gives lasting results.
We often pray like we exercise. We want something quickly and pray about it once or twice and then move on because we have seen no immediate results. But that is not the point of prayer. Prayer is about a relationship. A relationship is not a one-sided conversation where all we do is express our needs and desires. Relationships take discipline and so does a prayer life. Relationship is the key to prayer.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16b
When we become followers of Christ, we are given the righteousness of Christ. Righteousness simply means that we are in good standing with God. Being in good standing with God is not something that we can do on our own. Grace is a free gift, so the righteousness that goes with it must also be given. We stand blameless before God not for anything that we do, but for what Christ has already done for us.
Is it fair to say that God is more likely to answer the prayers of a Christian than a non-christian? Yes. The reason that our prayers are more effective as followers of Jesus is that through Jesus, God has removed the barrier to healthy communication that has been caused by our sin. Our relationship with God through Jesus Christ has everything to do with the effectiveness of our prayers.
As you pray this week, seriously consider your relationship with God. It will have a direct impact not just on whether you pray, but how you pray. It is why confession is such a large part of prayer. and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12
Confession is just acknowledging the reality of our sins to God. Though we have been given the righteousness of Christ, it doesn’t mean that our sins don’t occasionally hamper our ability to effectively communicate to God.
What kinds of things can you do make your prayers more effective?
Are there things that others have done to you that you need to forgive so that your prayers may be effective?
Give us examples of ways that you have been able to establish a more healthy prayer life.
How do you think God hears the prayers of a person who has not received grace through Jesus Christ?
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:13-16a
In the very first verse, we see the point that James is trying to make. It is his thesis for the rest of his conclusion. In all things. God. He puts suffering against praise for a very good reason. A heart that is truly centered on God will automatically default to God in any situation. Another main theme in James is individual Godly character. Individual Godly character contributes to a Godly community. While suffering can cause us to feel alienated from God, abundant blessing can equally alienate us from Him by allowing us to believe that we don’t need him. James gives us a quick reminder that no matter how life is going, we need to keep God at the center.
I think a great deal of physical and spiritual healing is being missed in our church because we are not perceived and a safe place for people to land. In many cases, the last place people will go for help for their brokenness is to a church and I don’t blame them. Why do bartenders hear more true and honest confession than most church leaders?
We will find more in common through our losses than we will in our victories. Not all of us will be wealthy, but we will suffer the loss of a loved one. We have all had a broken heart, if you haven’t, wait. Ironically, it is in our brokenness that find unity and solidarity. I think it is because brokenness is a place where jealousy does not exist. I have never looked at a person who is suffering and said, “Man, I wish that would happen to me.” But I do need to say, “How can I enter into their brokenness to offer the hope that they desperately need?”
The church is not a collection of individual believers, it is a body of believers unified with one purpose: To pursue Christ. As a community we can lead one another on to greater expressions of obedience than we could ever achieve on our own as individuals. We can also lead one another to greater levels of personal and spiritual healing than we ever thought possible as well.
Do you see the church as a safe place to take both your victories and struggles? If not, why?
Are you the kind of person that others can come to for loving acceptance, healing, and spiritual care? If not, what needs to change?
In what ways do you see other church members as helpers in your spiritual development?
How can we as the church create an environment where people can not be afraid to fail?