Summary: We can become discouraged and depressed in the Christian life and lose our confidence. But there is a way back from this that leads to a closer walk with God.
Every New Year some people make New Year's resolutions -- we resolve either to start doing something good or stop doing something harmful.
Favourites are to do with diet and exercise. Some have to do with relationships and behaviour.
Many do not lead to lasting change. Some do.
At the beginning of a New Year as Christians we may aspire to a closer walk with God -- a new depth to our faith.
Last Sunday -- the first Sunday in the year -- we focused on how we might develop our faith and our walk with God in 2011, and not be disappointed.
I spoke about memory -- and how the people of God down the centuries when they forgot their identity as children of the Father, drifted so far from living as the people of God that apart from ritual religion they were indistinct among the other people of the nations.
Micah the prophet revealed to them God's ways:
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
He called on them to remember who they were and to display godly character in their ways of living as a result.
This is the first in a series on ways of developing our relationship with God that works for us. (Sanctification if you like -- means the same thing)
* You want to experience the power and presence of God
* you want to know greater intimacy with the Lord
* you want to have greater power over sin,
* you want to be able to share your faith with greater confidence,
* you want to be free from fear.
* But try as you might it has not been happening for you.
* It's frustrating and discouraging because you feel that it is expected of you but you cannot seem to get there.
* You want a closer walk with God this year.
Well there are ways and it is possible.
* When we forget who we are in Christ we can lose the plot.
* But when we remember who we are in Christ we are restored in our confidence and find the path once more.
POINT There is a great Bible character who illustrates this very well for us:
READING 1 Kings 19:1-18
One of the most comforting things James has to say to us in his New Testament letter is:
'Elijah was a man just like us'
The Bible is refreshingly honest about its characters. We read of:
* Moses' loss of temper
* Jonah's disobedience
* Peter's cowardice,
* King David's philandering
* Elijah's doubt and deep depression (even after all he had accomplished)
Each of these people needed time to be silent and listen to God.
* Moses met with God on the mountain
* Jonah had a time for serious reflection in the belly of the great fish
* Peter took himself off fishing as he ruminated over his denial of Jesus
* David suffered the discipline of the Lord and prayed sincere prayers of repentance
* And Elijah also needed solitude and space in order to be able to hear God as he needed to.
We are not likely to be different. At some stage in our life we too may need God to intervene for us.
1. HOW DO WE END UP LOSING SIGHT OF WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST AS CHILDREN OF THE FATHER
* Why would a person like Elijah who had shown such faith and courage when challenging the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, now run terrified from woman Jezebel?
I Kings 19 gives us clues about the cause and the cure:
CAUSES FOR ELIJAH:
A. PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL EXHAUSTION through overdoing it:
* Elijah had spent a long and exhausting day at Mount Carmel. It is unlikely that he had eaten.
* He had not slept, and his body had been thoroughly "adrenalized" in the contest with the priests of Baal.
* Then he ran beside Ahab's chariot from Carmel to Jezreel, about 8 to 10 miles.
* Then he was off to Beersheba
* And he wondered why he wasn't feeling right?
It pays to look after ourselves physically and emotionally. It's why we have the commandment: Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy -- and Jesus' words: 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath' REST IS ALL IMPORTANT.
B. DISCOURAGEMENT AND DISAPPOINTMENT
* Elijah was disappointed.
After this great sign from God on Mount Carmel, Ahab and Jezebel, instead of repenting sought to destroy him.
There is nothing more discouraging than providing the most convincing evidence of divine truth only to see the people you want to change become more hostile.