Summary: Part 8 in Elijah series - how God deals with us when we get discouraged.
1 Kings 19:1-9a – Dealing with Discouragement
A man had a checkup and then went in to see his doctor to get the results. The doctor said he had bad news and worse news for him. Which did he want to hear first. The man was a pick shocked and said, “Well, give me the bad news first. The doctor said, “The bad news is that you only have 24 hours to live.” At this the man jumped up, totally distraught and said, “24 hours to live? What could possibly be worse than this?” The doctor replied, “The worse news is that I was supposed to tell you yesterday but I forgot.”
You know, discouraging times happen to the best of us. We all have days when we are faced with less-than-pleasant circumstances, when we are hit by difficult choices, when you wish you could stay in bed all day until the problems vanish. There are days when we feel like Linus, when he told him friend Charlie Brown, "I don’t like to face problems head on. I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them. In fact, this is a distinct philosophy of mine. No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from!"
Today we begin looking at the life of Elijah again, picking up where we left off in February. Elijah was a man of great passion and emotion. When he was up, he was up. But when he was down, he was way down. And 1 Kings 19 finds him, like Linus, running from his problems. But before we read the scripture, let’s recap his life so far.
Elijah was a man of God, a prophet who was not pleased with the wicked King Ahab and his wife Queen Jezebel. He declared that there would be no rain for a long time, which turned out to be 3½ years. Well, someone who says that God is not happy with something tends to get persecuted, so Elijah hid out, being fed by ravens and a widow, who was starving herself.
By and by it came time to confront Ahab and Jezebel, so Elijah summoned all the false prophets, most of whom were paid well by Jezebel to say what she wanted to hear. Elijah and the prophets met on Mt. Carmel, where there was a duel, a battle of the gods. Whosever god burned up a sacrifice would be declared the true god. The false prophets tried all day to get their gods to answer. Of course, because there is only one god, they were simply taking to the sky.
But Elijah prayed, fire came down from heaven in a dramatic moment, and burned up the bull, the stone altar, and licked up all the water in the trench around the altar. The God of Elijah, the same God we serve, proved Himself to be real and true. The prophets were put to death, the rains came, and Israel all turned to follow Elijah’s God. Ahab and Jezebel ran to the altar, confessed their sins, and were saved. Right?
Well, you’d think so, but not quite. Even though Elijah’s God showed Himself, the response was not quite what Elijah had in mind. Let’s read 19:1-2. Now, it’s interesting how this came about. Jezebel vows to kill Elijah, even though he was the winner. Perhaps her husband, who saw the whole thing happen, gave a misleading account and said that Elijah used magic or sleight of hand, some sort of trickery. It’s funny how she dared the gods to strike her dead, the same gods who didn’t bother showing up for the battle. Her challenge for the gods to act was as useless as the requests of her priests and prophets. Their gods were helpless and useless, deaf, dumb and blind.
But yet, Elijah reacted fairly strongly to this threat: v3. He came, he saw, he ran. The boxer Evander Holyfield once said: “It’s easier to become a champ than to stay a champ.” And Elijah found that out. Even though he had just been on the mountain of success, he found himself running through the shame of loss. Folks, you are never quite so close to defeat as after a victory. When you feel powerful and strong, when you feel up, you are still one step away from falling, and feeling down. And it hurts more, because you fell farther.
Now, you could probably say that Elijah fell into a depression because of it. A slump. A time of discouragement. And not just a moment or 2 of it. It lasted a good month and a half. Watch this: Elijah was in Jezreel and he fled 1st to Beesheba. That’s about 28 miles, several days of walking. Let’s say 4 or 5 days. V4 says he went another day by himself, and then returning puts him up to 6 or 7 days. V8 says he traveled 40 days. Altogether, that’s 46 or 47 days, maybe even longer. That’s no simple Monday morning blahs. That’s a long bout of discouragement.