Have you ever been really discouraged, even as a Christian? Have you ever sunk to the depths of despair and could see no way out? Has it ever seemed as though you were the only person in your sphere of influence who was actually standing up for Jesus Christ?
If so, then you're in good company. The Old Testament prophet, Elijah, reached a point in his ministry in which he felt that way too. Ironically, the discouragement he experienced came after the greatest victory of his life and ministry.
God had chosen Elijah as a prophet to the nation of Israel. One day, he stormed into the court of wicked King Ahab and said, "As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word" (1 Kings 17:1). God noticed that the nation of Israel had turned to outright idolatry. To get their attention, He was going to send a three-year drought.
The Lord then told Elijah to go and hide himself. During this time, God would prepare him for what was ahead. When he came out of hiding in the final year of the drought, Elijah challenged King Ahab to a showdown on Mt. Carmel. Now, this was more than a face-off between mortal men. This was a battle of the gods to determine who indeed was the true ruler of the universe: the Lord God of Israel or the idols of Baal.
The king accepted Elijah's challenge and assembled his prophets on Mt. Carmel. Elijah and the prophets of Baal and Asherah were to offer sacrifices to their respective gods, and the one who answered by fire would be known as the true God.
The prophets of Baal and Asherah went first. For hours, they frantically tried to evoke a response from their god, but to no avail. Elijah's turn came. He built an altar, prepared his sacrifice, and soaked it with water. Then he prayed. In an awesome display of power, God answered Elijah. Not only did fire fall from heaven, but it also consumed the sacrifice and everything around it. The stunned people of Israel finally acknowledged who the true God was.
Elijah called for the execution of the false prophets, then turned and prayed to the Lord once again. This time he asked for an end to the drought, and again, the Lord answered his prayer and sent a rainstorm.
Meanwhile, King Ahab made his way back to the palace and gave a full report to his wife. Infuriated with Elijah, Queen Jezebel sent a message to him, saying he was a dead man. On the heels of great victory, Elijah turned and ran for his life.
Here was a mighty prophet, giving in to fear and discouragement. What brought Elijah to this point?
First of all, Elijah was not thinking clearly. His emotions had gotten the best of him. He allowed his difficulties to be magnified while God was temporarily forgotten.
Second, Elijah isolated himself. When we are depressed, it is not the time to isolate ourselves from God's people. Just a few statements from another believer can get us back on course. That is why the Bible says, "Two are better than one...for if they fall, one will lift up his companion" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Third, after a great victory often comes a great attack. The battle of the gods had taken place, and the Lord had won. A rainstorm ended the drought, confirming God's word through His prophet. Elijah had been running on adrenaline, and he needed food and rest. So, the Lord sent an angel to provide for his needs (1 Kings 19:5).
Elijah made his way to Mt. Horeb, where he found a cave to sleep in. There, the Lord appeared to him and said, " 'What are you doing here Elijah?' " (1 Kings 19:9).
Maybe God would say that to some of us today. What are you doing here? Why have you isolated yourself from your Christian friends, allowed your problems to be magnified, and forgotten your God? What are you doing here?
Elijah came to his senses, left his cave, and got back to serving the Lord. If you are feeling a little down or depressed, then like Elijah, you need to get things back into perspective. God is still on the throne. He is sovereign. He will accomplish His will. He is going to finish what He has begun.
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