Summary: When we’re tempted to focus on everything that’s wrong in our lives, God directs us back to him and leaves us no room for self-pity.
July 11, 2004 — Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
Never Invite God to a Pity Party
I. He Won’t Agree with You
II. He Won’t Let You Wallow
III. He Won’t Leave You Alone
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Word of God for our study this Sunday is our first lesson, 1 Kings 19:14-21:
He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel — all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."
So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. "Let me kiss my father and mother good-by," he said, "and then I will come with you."
"Go back," Elijah replied. "What have I done to you?"
So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant. (NIV)
This is the Word of our Lord
Dear Sons and Daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus:
If you ever went to high school or college — maybe even just middle school — you have probably had to make some choices about which parties to go to. Now maybe the only parties you were ever invited to were safe ones — the wildest things ever got was someone mixing too much sugar and caffeine or playing their music too loud. Or maybe you really did have the option of attending parties your parents would never approve of. And maybe as adults long out of school some of you still have to make those choices.
But — whether you listened or not — your parents probably tried to give you some advice about how to figure out which parties you should be at and which you should avoid. And rather than give their children a checklist — “If this, this, and this are happening, go home immediately; if that thing or those others things are going on, it’s OK so long as you stay out of it”, etc. — many Christian parents over the years have instead asked their children to make a more subjective judgment. “Ask yourself,” they tell their kids, “if Jesus would be happy at the party with what was going on there. And then ask yourself if God would be happy to see you there.”
Not a bad suggestion, but it’s not very specific. And, not surprisingly, for that reason children have been known to come up with all sorts of reasons why Jesus would be happy to attend all sorts of parties with them.
But you know, there’s one type of party that lots of people — perhaps even more than a few of us here this morning — another type of party that people like to throw that I can tell you, based on this and other Scripture passages, God has absolutely no interest in. Elijah learned that lesson there in the wilderness as he struggled with discouragement and fear — he wanted God to join him in his lonely little get-together, but God would have nothing to do with it. Elijah learned: Never invite God to a pity party.
I. Now, someone holds a pity party for only one reason — to talk about how bad one’s life and circumstances are. One doesn’t want to hear, “Oh, don’t worry, things aren’t so bad,” or “Cheer up — it’s just a temporary setback” at a pity party. No, the most appreciated gifts you can bring to someone’s pity party are things like, “Oh, you poor thing! How could they do this to you?” or “I don’t know how you can do it! No one’s ever suffered like you’re suffering now.” It’s a perverse kind of pride and pleasure — to feel better because you’re feeling worse than everyone else.