“WHEN GOD SPEAKS”
I Kings 19:9-18
Elijah had been through a lot in his life. At some point years ago, he had responded to God’s call upon his life and began to serve Almighty God as His prophet. He had faithfully served God and had just come through one of the greatest spiritual battles on record. He was physically tired, emotionally drained, and spiritually exhausted.
Elijah needed to hear a fresh word from God. Elijah needed a fresh vision. He needed to know God’s purpose in his life at this point. Mostly, Elijah just needed to be reassured that God knew the plight he was in and that God still cared.
We all need those same things. And, truth is, just as in the case of Elijah, we need more than just 1 word from God. Of course, all believers have heard from God that 1st time concerning salvation. But it seems to me that many church people all over the world neglect to understand that God will continue to speak to us throughout our life with Him. Too many people fail to realize that God doesn’t just speak to preachers and professional ministers.
You need to realize today that God will and does speak to you.
The questions to ask are “Am I really listening? And, Am I willing to respond to what God speaks?”
I Kings 19:5-8 5 He lay down and slept under a [h]juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” 6 Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.
God gave Elijah what he needed to make it through his journey.
You may be sitting here today very happy, self-sufficient, on top of the world.
You may think you can handle any problem that life can throw your way.
You need to understand, though, that the journey of life is too great for you.
You will need a Helper, a Sustainer, a Savior.
As tough and rugged a man as Elijah was, as large of a spiritual giant that he was, Elijah needed the Lord. The journey was too great to go through it alone. God took him to a place where God could renew.
Whatever your going through today, don’t go through it alone. Allow God to take you to a place of spiritual renewal.
I Kings 19:9-10 Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Elijah is living his life and seeing the world through eyes of flesh. He doesn’t see what God knows. He needs a fresh vision. He needs purpose. He needs a spiritual renewal.
God is about to give Elijah what he needs.
1 Kings 19:11-13a 11 So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.
Elijah probably was looking for and desired a great display of God’s power and might.
First, a Great Wind that tore the mountain apart, splitting giant boulders. Elijah probably loved this. His whole life was in the storm serving God faithfully. But God was not in the storm.
Second, a Great Earthquake shook the ground. Elijah loved it, he was that kind of guy. God was not in it though.
Third, a Great Fire burned before him. Elijah must have enjoyed this also, after all he was the guy who called down the fire from Heaven on Mt. Carmel. But God was not in the fire.
Fourth, The sound of a gentle blowing wind.
When Elijah heard this, He immediately recognized that God was near. He prepared himself to hear from the Lord.
It’s human nature to desire to hear a word from God. It’s also human nature to desire for Him to speak in ways that are awe-inspiring. The truth is, though, when He desires to speak to individuals He rarely speaks in this way. I believe most people never really hear a word from God because they are demanding that God speak to them on their own terms. God speaks to us on His terms, though, or not at all.
A Chinese Christian wrote this simple, yet profound statement to me a few years ago....
“How come it is sometimes so easy to find God in the miracles, but ignore Him in the everyday situations.”
God does speak to us, but it is usually in “the still, small voice.”
Some ways God has spoken to me....
1. Friendship Acres - Long before I was a pastor or even a preacher, God gave me a desire to serve Him and become His witness. My Sunday School class was gathered one Sunday afternoon to pray for our upcoming revival services. During this prayer time we each took turns at the altar while the whole group prayed in a circle around it. When it was my turn to kneel at the altar I began to pray but I had no idea what I was even saying to God. I remember I was speaking but I was so intent to listening and seeing what God was saying that I may have just been mumbling incoherently for all I knew.
In this "moment", I became fully convinced that God was telling me to take my friend and go to this small little subdivision to share Christ. There was a person there that was pleading with God for someone to share hope with her. So, afterwards I shared with the class what I fully believed God told me and the very person that I thought should go with me volunteered. That was a confidence booster.
So, on Tuesday night the 2 of us set out (on my birthday) for this group of houses. We had no idea what to say when we went door to door to find where God wanted us, so our premise would be to invite people to the Revival Services. Surely God would show us the open door.
After many houses it was getting late and I was concerned that the night would pass without us finding the home we were supposed to be. I came up in a yard and an older man was standing outside. I didn't feel this was the house, so we talked a moment and tried to leave but he kept talking. Then, I finally saw my opening to leave and started to do so. (because, remember, I HAD to find the house that God wanted me to be).
Then his wife came out the door and I knew we were trapped and she began talking and found out I was a pharmacist and she desperately wanted to talk to me about her medication. I tried to think of a way to turn her down so I could leave, because, remember, I HAD somewhere God wanted me to be and surely it wasn't this house sitting and talking about medications.
Well, I had no choice but to go in and sit and talk with her. I felt defeated because I knew the night was a total bust and I had failed God. So, I went over her 12 medications with her. All the uses, side effects, etc. I am discouraged, but feeling sorry for her and trying to comfort her.
Then, she stops me and says "I want to thank you for talking with me. I see so much love and joy on your face. Tell me, why are you so happy?"
Then it dawns on me that I am in the right home. Sometimes I am a little slow. I smile, though, and say "Because I know that Jesus Christ loves me and is on the Throne in Heaven and He has promised me that I have eternal life and no matter what happens on this earth, I know that when I die I will go to Heaven."
She bows her head and starts to cry and said "I wish I knew that, too."
I said to her, "Ma'am, You're about to get that chance because God sent me here tonight especially to talk to you."
I went on to share the gospel with her and she prayed to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. Afterwards, she told me that she had been asking God for a week that He would send someone to share with her how to be saved and to have hope.
I went home and celebrated 2 things that night. I ate my birthday cake and joyously shared with my wife about leading someone to Christ for the first time in my life.
2. Fishing in the Russian Rivers
* The Dream- One Friday night not too long after the Chernobyl disaster, I dreamed I went on a fishing trip in the former Soviet Union. It was a beautiful stream filled with fish. As I was fishing I was catching them left and right. I could see the fish swimming upstream, so many you could almost walk across the river by stepping on the fishes' backs. I was excitedly fishing away catching them like crazy. I remember telling my friend that was with me "Isn't this awesome!! No matter which way you cast your lure, the fish are biting!"
Then, I looked upstream and saw dead fish floating down the river, a few at first, but then by the thousands. Dead fish were floating down the river as fast as the other fish were swimming up the river.
Then, I realized that I was no longer fishing for food or fun, but it was a rescue mission. I had my friend go get a giant watertanker truck and I was catching them and putting in the truck to take them to a safer river. But for every fish I save, 10 swam past me to its destruction.
Then, I saw that the fishes had human faces. It was freaky. I worked desperately to save them but it was a losing battle and I pleaded with people to come help me save these fish....... or was it people?
* The Saturday morning fishing show. I woke up that morning very early. I was freaked out by the dream. I told my wife every detail of that dream. She laughed and said that maybe the pizza I ate for supper caused it. I laughed and agreed. So, we lay in bed and I turned on the TV and did something that I never do. A fishing show was coming on and I hate fishing shows, but in the introduction the host said they would be fishing a beautiful river in Russia. I thought, "That's weird, what a coincidence." So I began watching.
Well, the river was certainly beautiful and they showed the salmon moving upstream and there were so thick in that river it looked like the surface was nothing but fishbacks. They were catching them so quickly too.
At the end of the show, one of the host asked the other one, "Well, what was it like to go fishing in Russia?"
He looked at the camera and said "It was awesome. No matter which way I cast my lure the fish were biting. You really must come for yourself."
I was troubled all that day and Sunday by the coincidence.
* Spud’s testimony- On Monday, I went to a luncheon for all the outreach/evangelism leaders in the area. After the speaker finished and we finished eating, we broke into small groups to pray for each other. My little group was still praying away as many had already finished. The group behind me began talking and asking one of the group members about a mission trip to Ukraine that he had just returned from. Spud began telling them about all the opportunities he had to share the gospel and about all the people he led to Christ. I am listening to them so intently that I had no idea what my group was even praying about anymore.
One of them finally asked Spud, "Well, Spud, what was it like to share the gospel in Ukraine?"
Spud answered, "Well, it was like going fishing in a place that had so many hungry fish that no matter which way you cast your lure the fish were biting."
Cold chills went up and down my back. I got excited and happy and scared all at the same time. I realized that God made it very plain to me what He wanted. My dream, the fishing show, and Spud's testimony and each of them bid me to go to share the gospel in a place where no matter which way you cast your lure, the fish were biting. I made that first trip and have since made 20 or 30 more. But, on that first trip, standing on a busy square desperately sharing Jesus with as many as I could, God called me to become a missionary and preacher. I came home and told my wife, my pastor, and my church. I rearranged my job so that I could attend seminary. I went on to start a missions ministry and later became a pastor. Do I believe that God still speaks today? Yes I do!!
Most of the time God gently speaks to us.
Sometimes He uses dreams, a Word of Knowledge, etc. but more often He speaks to us Spirit to spirit and places in our hearts a desire, a longing to do His will. Or a word of warning, etc.
Well, God had comforted Elijah and restored him, now it’s time to speak to him.
1 Kings 19:13-14 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
God is asking a rhetorical question. Elijah may have answered it, but God was actually saying to Elijah “This place is no longer for you. It’s time to move on.”
Maybe there is something in your life that you have been holding on to, that God is telling you this morning, “Let it go. This is not for you. It’s time to move on.”
Maybe you’ve been holding on to something from the past....
** something you’re ashamed of and suffer guilt each day because of it, it’s time to leave it at the altar. Don’t spend another day remembering sins that you have repented over, God doesn’t.
** some failure in your life that is holding you back from trying something new. It’s time to forget that failure and step out and do something bold with your life.
** holding a grudge against someone that hurt you deeply and you can’t seem to get over it. Don’t let resentment make you bitter and destroy your joy in life.
Whatever it is that is holding you in a place that God desires for you not to be, you need to let it go and move on.
1 Kings 19:15-18 15 The Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; 16 and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. 18 Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
God Speaks to Elijah!
God gave Elijah a new mission.
A new purpose in life.
So Elijah departed and did what God had told him to do. Elijah served God faithfully the rest of his life and trained up a new prophet to take his place once he left. Elisha was Elijah’s discipleship project. His legacy to God.
God wants to do the same with you.
He desires for you to have a closer walk with Him.
He desires to commission you to a new work.
He desires to give you purpose in your life.
He desires for you to leave your cave of complacency and boldly live for Him!
God still speaks to us today...
The questions we need to ask ourselves are:
1. Am I really listening.
2. Am I willing to respond when God speaks to me?