A businessman was in a great deal of trouble. His business was failing, he had put everything he had into the business, he owed everybody—it was so bad he was even contemplating suicide. As a last resort he went to a pastor and poured out his story of tears and woe.
When he had finished, the pastor said, "Here’s what I want you to do: Put a beach chair and your Bible in your car and drive down to the beach. Take the beach chair and the Bible to the water’s edge, sit down in the beach chair, and put the Bible in your lap. Open the Bible; the wind will rifle the pages, but finally the open Bible will come to rest on a page. Look down at the page and read the first thing you see. That will be your answer, that will tell you what to do."
A year later the businessman went back to the pastor and brought his wife and children with him. The man was in a new custom-tailored suit, his wife in a mink coat, the children shining. The businessman pulled an envelope stuffed with money out of his pocket, gave it to the pastor as a donation in thanks for his advice.
The priest recognized the benefactor, and was curious. "You did as I suggested?" he asked.
"Absolutely," replied the businessman.
"You went to the beach?"
"You sat in a beach chair with the Bible in your lap?"
"You let the pages rifle until they stopped?"
"And what were the first words you saw?"
Transition: People deal with despair in different ways
· Students – in despair that school has started again.
· Uncertain future – job, marriage, enough money saved for college and retirement
· Find ourselves in a state of despair when we come to grips with a bleak reality
Elijah – arguably the greatest prophet
Contest with the prophets of Baal – bounty placed on his life
Read 1 Kings 19:9-10.
At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away."
In order to understand what Elijah is saying, you need to understand Ex. 19.
40 days and 40 nights waited at Horeb (Mt. Sinai), the mount of God
18Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. 19As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder.
Thunder/Lightening, Thick Cloud, Loud blast that got louder and louder
Smoke, fire, earthquake, God descended onto the mountain, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt out of the land of slavery.” When God spoke to Moses, it was in thunder, and he said, “#1 You shall have no other gods before me…”
Elijah is saying – from where I stand it looks like everyone has broken the covenant. They’ve broken the commandments – especially the big one (first commandment). Not only are they worshipping other gods, but they’ve destroyed all of your altars. They’ve murdered all Your prophets except me – and I’m next. So here I am God, on the top of Your mountain – where are You? SEND ME A SIGN. Elijah comes to grips with a bleak reality, and he’s in despair.
11He [the word of the Lord] said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
When you are in despair, you are desperate for a sign, a glimpse of hope. Elijah, a prophet, knew the signs of God that Moses experienced when he was here, but God wasn’t in those signs. God was in present in the silence.
I’ve heard it called the blue funk. I’ve heard it called clinical or situational depression. I’ve heard it called the pit of despair. It often doesn’t even have a name, but you can see the hopelessness in their eyes. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. You look back at your life and you wonder, “how did I get here?” and you feel like you are in a living hell. Maybe it’s you today and you dragged yourself here to this mount of God pleading for a sign. Direction. A way to go. A glimmer of hope.
I’m going to tell you what most people won’t tell you. I’m not going to smile and think positive. I’m not going to give you 4 points that all start with the letter R – Rest, Rediscover God, Refocus, Repent. Because if you try to do those things, you’ll find yourself failing at it and be in a worse funk than before.
Instead, join me on top of the mountain of God. The earth has shook. Thunder has roared. Darkness covers the land. And in the silence, God’s Word still echoes, “Father, Forgive them”
Sin – Gone. Despair – Chapter 11’s been filed. Brokenness – healed.
And there’s a glimmer of hope. There’s a sign. Empty cross! Empty tomb!
A heavenly future for you!