Summary: This message reveals the sources of discouragement and the ways God restores us in times of discouragement.
We are in a life and death battle against the enemy of the Lord. If you are not on his side he is out to take you down. He can do that a number of ways –
through lies and deceit (cults and other religions),
through self-centered pleasures (worldliness),
through unforgiveness and bitterness,
through persecution that results in you denying the faith,
through involving you in occult practices such as horoscopes, wigi boards, yoga, new age meditation, etc.,
through destroying your self worth through abuse, neglect.
But one of the easiest ways for the enemy to take down a child of God is through discouragement. Discouragement is defined as “being deprived of courage or confidence.” Many Christians burn out over discouragement and simply leave the church, leave God and give up for good.
Elijah had just defeated the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. The Lord God proved his power over the idols by sending fire down from heaven and lighting the sacrifice that Elijah had prepared. The prophets of Baal were revealed as charlatans and Yahweh as the true God.
But Jezebel, the queen and head of the Baal religion wasn’t going to give up. She sent message to Elijah threatening his life. Verse 3 reveals the beginning of what became the downfall for this man of God: “Then he was afraid and he arose and ran for his life.”
How could such a great man of God run? He finally gave in to the fear that had been gripping the rest of the nation. What happened? He abandoned the post – he couldn’t cope – he lost it and ran as far away as he could into the south.
1. Physical carelessness can take us down
Think of the past 3 ½ years. Elijah had been sitting by a stream in the quiet presence of God. Then in Zarephath for the rest of the time in the peaceful presence of the widow. Now in one moment he is on the stage of the country. Confronting the leadership, death of the false prophets, running to Jezreel, and then running away from the queen for his life until he collapsed in the desert. It was just too much.
Part of discouragement comes from simple physical strain and exhaustion. We can physically burn out from over work, from never taking time off to rest, to be with God, to eat right, get exercise.
God rested on the Sabbath and he commanded his people to do the same once a week. He knew that they needed it for strength, for recuperating.
2. HOPELESSNESS can take us down (read 19:4)
A second source of discouragement is hopelessness. After the victory on Mount Carmel and the rains Elijah probably thought the battle would be won and the nation would turn. But when he finds out that Jezebel is seeking his life now more than ever, it’s more than he can bear. I can imagine him thinking - “When will it be over Lord? I’ve been through so much!” He could only see a grinding grueling battle day after day so much like the girl with the never-ending shoe-tying project.
Yes, the battles go on, the enemy is still present. But after each battle you learn more and more to fight in God’s strength and not your own. You know to trust in God’s deliverance and not to stress about the outward appearances. There is always hope because if you read to the end of the book – God wins!
3. LONELINESS can take us down
A third source of discouragement - loneliness. In verse 3 he leaves his servant to be all alone which is not healthy. He says in verse 10 “I alone am left” (10). Whereas he should have sought out the fellowship of other faithful prophets of God. Instead he runs out by himself without support. He convinced himself that no one understood, no one was defending the Lord, no one was really faithful except for him. He would have to run as a renegade from the law for many more years. No future.
This is such a common source of discouragement, we lock ourselves in and don’t let anyone else. Sometimes with me it can be like prying a piece of steel up with a crowbar for my wife to get me to open up and share. For some reason we love to commiserate alone and suffer alone. We begin to then believe the lie that “no one knows” and “no one understands” and “no one is here to help.” But those are lies because there are those willing to help, there are others around us – but we have to open up. And of course God understands. No believer is truly alone unless he or she chooses to be that way.