Summary: Elijah knew frustration in ministry and wished he would die as a result. God shows him that he is not alone, and reminds him that he has help.
Title: When frustrations come our way, God whispers!
Date: Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost. August 11, 2002
Text: 1 Kings 19:9-18
I was sitting down at Kim’s computer the other day, because my office was just to darn hot and as I searched for a way to begin writing down today’s message, I happened to glance over at her calendar which had these words printed upon it, “The path of Christ produces joy, peace, love and service.” Sadly, there may be times when a Christian might feel like responding negatively to such a positive statement by saying, “Yeah, and you forgot to add the word “FRUSTRATION” to that list.” I know, that sounds cynical, but it can often be true. Ministry can produce a lot of frustration. You can get frustrated when you work so hard for a thing, only to see no appreciation, you can get frustrated when you have a desire to do something only to get knocked down, and you can get frustrated by other peoples frustrations.
In our Old Testament lesson, we find that Elijah was frustrated with the ministry that he was called to do. Despite the victories God has done before Elijah, such as when proving that Baal was no god and had no power, Elijah still felt the desire to flee into a cave. It is true that no matter how much you are loved, or served by God; how many times you have seen him work in our life, when frustration comes our way, we can forget it all, and just remember the burden at hand.
At the source of Elijah’s flight was Jezebel who promised to kill Elijah. That, coupled with the feeling that he was the only prophet left and that no one was willing to hear the Word, moved Elijah to become completely frustrated. In fact he was so frustrated that he wished that God would take his life!
Now we can begin to relate to Elijah’s plight right here and now! Especially when our frustrations revolve around ministry or other life experiences. No, we are not being hunted down to extinction when we witness to others nor is every person we ever talk to completely antagonistic towards Christ, but where our frustrations do manifest themselves is if we feel that we are not appreciated, or needed, or producing anything, as also was the case with Elijah.
What do you normally pray for when you find yourself dealing with these or other frustrations? Do you pray that God will do something really big to change everything? Here is an example that someone gave me years ago: She said that at her office, it seemed as if her boss was never satisfied with the work that she did, and so she prayed that God would remove her frustrations… by removing her boss. When I heard that scenario I begin to remember that Jeannie, from the TV Show, I DREAM OF JEANNIE, would often just blink ANTHONY’S problems right out of existence! Wouldn’t that be nice! In the case of Elijah, he did not want to remove the boss he just wanted to remove himself. And so, he did remove himself by going to the cave at Mt. Horeb. He thought that it would be best to just disappear, and maybe spend quality time with God, without having to deal with all those frustrations out there in the world.
What terrifies us so much in ministry is when we feel as if our faith is being threatened because of too many frustrations or to many letdowns. And if we have no control over them, we can feel helpless or even useless. We so much want our path in Christ to always produce, joy, peace, love and yes, even results, and when that does not happen for us we can become terrified of the frustrations that we feel; so terrified in fact, that we consider fleeing the scene, just as Elijah did.
When Elijah was in the cave, feeling alone, isolated, unwanted, and threatened, He was looking for some answers and some retribution. Although he would have been fine with God just taking him right then and there, I believe he also wanted God to wake His people and do it in a big, big way! His hope: the Israelites would repent as a whole and return joyfully to God, thus ending Elijah’s frustrations. But God had other plans. And part of those plans was to show that the Lord can and will answer frustrations not only with a bang, but also with a whisper!
I can imagine Elijah standing there at the mouth of the cave, waiting to find God in the wind that broke the rocks, or the earthquake or the fire, all of the things that God used before to show forth his power and wrath. But God was not in any of those big things. Instead they were just there to convey to Elijah that God was still all-powerful, and that no amount of frustration can match or overcome the awesome power of Almighty God.