Summary: In the midst of our distress, God whispers words of comfort in our hearts
Today is All Saints Sunday. It is a time that the Church pauses to remember those who have gone before us and to celebrate their lives, their witness, and their faith. Historically it has been one of the high holy days—there are only five of them: Christmas, Easter, Trinity, All Saints, and Christ the King. Sanctuaries and pastors would be decked out in white in order to remind congregants of the day’s significance.
Our text today focuses on the life of an Old Testament saint, Elijah. Elijah's life reflects the lives of many saints. To be a saint is not to always be filled with God. Rather, it is trust in God's movement. It is the realization that God meets us in our despair and emptiness. It is in this meeting that God sustains the saints and sustains the church.
There is much that we can learn from Elijah in regards to living a life of faith and living as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
In the chapter before today’s text (chapter 18), Elijah experiences one of the high points of his ministry. He had a showdown with the priests of Baal. Elijah showed the emptiness of their religion, and had the priests exterminated. Now, in verse 3, we read that Elijah is running for his life. Queen Jezebel was a supporter of Baal worship, and she is now out to get Elijah.
Elijah is depressed. In verse 4, he asks that he might die. The reason for his depression is an overwhelming sense of failure. Elijah has been zealous for the Lord, but the Israelites have forsaken their relationship with God. Elijah states in verse 14 that he believes he is the only one left who worships the Lord. An angel cares for Elijah and leads him to Mt Horeb (also known as Mt Sinai). It is on that mountain that the Lord teaches Elijah, and us, a great lesson.
Elijah’s experiences are not unique. Each and every one of us has had similar times in our lives; we’ve been really up and we’ve been really down.
For Desert Streams, as a congregation, we were really flying high when we received that anonymous gift for $100,000 and that unsecured loan for another $100,000. Those gifts enabled us to move forward on our building plans. Personally I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the members of this congregation. When we announced that one of our families had fallen on hard times, you responded by giving almost $1,000.00 to help this family. Wow! We can look at these examples and see God moving in a powerful way. But, then we have the down times.
Our construction plans have slowed down because we discovered contaminated soil on our land, and we haven’t been able to secure any financing for this project. We still are struggling to catch up on the General Fund so that we come out in the black at the end of the year. And of course, we are still struggling to grow as a congregation. It’s frustrating and discouraging. Where is God in all of this?
God tells Elijah, in verse 11, when he’s up on Mt, Sinai, to “Go out and stand on the mountain.” There was a great wind that was so strong that it split rocks. There was an earthquake. There was a fire. God had used these elements to reveal himself to people previously, but God wasn’t in any of these events for Elijah. After the fire, there was sheer silence.