Summary: I want to take a look at an individual who was maxed-out emotionally. He was running on empty and had no margin left in his life. After he took it to the limit, God intervened, and in the process, taught him a few things.
Running on Empty
Some of you know that I like to work out. I enjoy running, bike riding and the stair stepper. When we lived in Rockford, I went to the Fitness Center one day and decided to try out the treadmill. It didn’t look all that difficult so I jumped on and started walking. After a few seconds, I got bored with the slow speed and so I cranked it up a little faster. After jogging for a while I decided to take it to its limit and set it as fast as it could go. As I was sprinting at gazelle speed I proudly looked around to make sure people could see how fast I was going. It didn’t take long, however, before I got tired.
So what did I do? I slowed down. Bad move. As soon as I broke my stride, the belt threw my feet into the wall behind me while the rest of my body landed on the treadmill with a thud, with my head bouncing up and down on the spinning track. When I was finally able to roll off, I looked up and saw about 5 people staring at me with big smirks on their faces! The person on the treadmill next to me then showed me what I should have done. All I needed to do was reach out and touch the console right in front of me -- this would have turned the treadmill off and I could have safely adjusted my speed.
It strikes me that many of us feel like we’re on emotional treadmills. Our lives are going faster and faster and we don’t know how to slow them down. Some of you wonder how much longer you can keep up the pace. Others of you have been thrown off, and you’re not sure how to get back up.
Just recently someone told me that she felt overwhelmed with the Prayer of Jabez because her life already feels too full. Can you relate this morning? I want to take a look at an individual who was maxed-out emotionally. He was running on empty and had no margin left in his life. After he took it to the limit, God intervened, and in the process, taught him a few things.
A Man Just Like Us
The man’s name is Elijah. Even though his story is found in the Bible, it doesn’t mean he had it all together. In fact, he experienced a wide range of emotions, from ecstatic exhilaration to the depths of despair. James 5:17 describes him as a person just like us. Events in his life read like a modern-day case study in burnout.
Before we look at the events of chapter 19, allow me to introduce Ahab and his wife Jezebel to you. Ahab was on the throne of Israel for twenty-two years. 1 Kings 18:30 says that he, “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” Verse 31 mentions that he married Jezebel. She was known as an evil woman, who brought Baal worship to Israel. She was the real power behind the throne. They teamed up in their wicked terror. Verse 33 tells us that Ahab “did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.”
J. Oswald Sanders writes, “Elijah appeared at zero hour in Israel’s history…like a meteor, he flashed across the inky blackness of Israel’s spiritual night.” (“Robust in Faith,” pages 125-126). Chuck Swindoll describes Elijah as “plunging full-force into the midst of this era of gross evil and wickedness.” (“Elijah,” page 11).
We don’t have time this morning to summarize Elijah’s life, but suffice it to say that he saw God do one miracle after another. I encourage you to read 1 Kings 17-19 for yourself. Chapter 17 describes how God sent ravens to feed him and how God miraculously provided food for him and a widow during a drought. Elijah even raised this widow’s son from the dead.
In chapter 18, Elijah has a showdown with 850 pagan prophets and calls down the fire of God from heaven. Elijah’s passion was to draw people’s attention back to God. But, during this time of success, he expended a great deal of physical, spiritual, and emotional energy.
Please turn to 1 Kings 19 and follow along as I read.
We see at least four sources of despair in Elijah’s life that are often found in our lives today:
1. He was depleted by victory (1). Elijah was really pumped up after the amazing victory on Mount Carmel. In his jubilation, 1 Kings 18:40 describes Elijah pulling a Forrest Gump by running ahead of Ahab and his chariot, arriving back at the palace before Ahab did. This run was not on a treadmill! He ran about 20 miles, up and down some pretty rough terrain. He couldn’t wait to receive the public recognition he deserved. He was on a spiritual high and maybe thought that since all the false prophets were put to death that Jezebel would be next.