Summary: This sermon deals with ministry burn-out in the life of Elijah. God healed him with four steps. 1. REST and REFRESHMENT 2. REDISCOVER God 3. REDIRECTION From God 4. Prepare For REPLACEMENT
Dealing With Ministry Burn-Out
A little girl had been trying for months to learn how to tie her shoes. Finally she grasped the knack of shoe tying and was able to do it by herself. Her parents expected the daughter to be delighted – but that is not what happened. After she had displayed her new skill in front of her parents – her father found her crying in her room. The father asked, “Why are you crying?” She sobbed, "I just learned how to tie my shoes – and now I can do it all by myself." The Father said, "That’s wonderful, Honey. That’s great. It shows you are growing up – it shows you can take care of yourself." She replied, "Yes but now that I can tie my own shoes – I’ll have to do it all by myself – for the rest of my life."
Isn’t it interesting that one of the unwritten laws of life seems to be that when you experience a high in life – a low is soon to follow. At one moment you are standing on the mountaintop – and a short time later – you are walking through the valley. That seems to be what happens in our scripture reading for today. Today we are going to look at a prophet by the name of Elijah. He was a great prophet of the Old Testament.
If you recall Elijah was the Prophet who came on the scene when there was great corruption in the Nation of Israel. King Ahab had come into power. The Message Bible tells us:
“Ahab son of Omri did even more open evil before God than anyone yet—a new champion in evil!” 1 Kings 16:30 (MSG)
We find that Ahab – promoted false worship openly. He set up an altar to the false god Baal and also made a wooden image for people to worship. Needless to say – Ahab made God angrier than all the previous kings of Israel before him. (1 Kings 16:33)
So God sent Elijah to confront Ahab. Here is what Elijah did – he prayed that no rain would fall on the land Israel until he prayed to God again – and asked for it to rain. God granted that request. For three years it did not rain – not a drop. In fact the Bible even says that it was so dry that there was not even dew on the ground. (1 Kings 17:1)
As soon as Elijah confronted Ahab about the wickedness in the land – God told Elijah to head for the hills. While Elijah was in the wilderness – the ravens would bring him bread and meat two times a day so that he had food to eat. Where he went there was a small brook there by the name of Cherith whose water flowed into the Jordan River. But over a period of time – the brook dried up. So God told Elijah to go to the city of Zarephath and there he would find a widow who would care for him during the drought. Elijah found the woman – and she – with just enough flour to prepare a small meal for her-self and her son – agreed to make a biscuit for him. Elijah promised her though – that if she made him a meal – the flour bin and the oil jar would not go empty. It didn’t. The Bible says:
“The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry.” 1 Kings 17:16 (NKJV)
A great thing happened – but a bad thing happened too. Even though food was provided – the widow’s son got sick and died. But Elijah took the boy in his arms – carried him up the stairs – laid him in his own bed and prayed: "O Lord my God let this child’s soul come back to him." The Bible says that God heard Elijah’s prayer and life returned to the boy. God preformed many miracles through Elijah – but perhaps the greatest miracle that occurred was when Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. Do you recall that story?
Elijah returned to Ahab and told him to gather all the prophets of Baal and meet him on Mount Carmel. Ahab gathered 450 prophets of Baal and Elijah – in front of all the people – issued this challenge: “If God is God follow Him – but if Baal is god follow him. Don’t be wishy-washy about this. Follow one or the other.” Everyone stood there speechless – they didn’t say a word. So Elijah said, “Here is what I want you to do – get two bulls for sacrifices. Let the prophets of Baal choose a bull first – I’ll take the other one. We will cut the bulls in pieces and place both on the wood. Do not set the wood on fire – let’s see who will provide fire for the sacrifice. Will it be Baal or will it be God – all we need to do is pray and see who answers.”