Summary: Part 3 in Elijah series - standing alone for God and the risks involved - a challenge!
1 Kings 18:16-40 – When Standing Up Means Standing Alone
Chuck Colson tells the story of Telemachus, a 4th-century Christian monk. This man lived in a remote village, tending his garden and spending much of his time in prayer. One day he thought he heard the voice of God telling him to go to Rome, so he obeyed, heading out on foot. Weary weeks later, he arrived in the city at the time of a great festival. The little monk followed the crowd surging down the streets into the Colosseum. He saw the gladiators stand before the emperor and say, “We who are about to die salute you.” Then he realized these men were going to fight to the death for the entertainment of the crowd Telemachus cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop!”
As the games began, he pushed his way through the crowd, climbed his way over the wall, and dropped to the floor of the arena. When the crowd saw this tiny figure rushing to the gladiators and saying, “In the name of Christ, stop!” they thought it was part of the show and began laughing.
When they realized it wasn’t, the laughter turned to anger. As Telemachus was pleading with the gladiators to stop, one of them plunged a sword into his body. He fell to the sand. As he was dying, his last words were, “In the name of Christ, stop!”
Then a strange thing happened. The gladiators stood looking at the tiny figure lying there. A hush fell over the Colosseum. Way up in the upper rows, a man stood and made his way to the exit. Others began to follow. In dead silence, everyone left the Colosseum.
The year was 391AD, and that was the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. Never again in the great stadium did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd, all prompted by one tiny voice that could hardly be heard above the roar, one voice that spoke the truth in God’s name.
You know, it takes something to be the only voice. It takes guts to be the lone man or woman, sticking out in a crowd. It takes heart to speak out when it’s easier to keep still. It takes courage to stand up when you’re standing alone.
Today we begin a several-week series on Elijah’s mountaintop experience on 1 Kings 18. Elijah stood alone on Mt.Carmel, defending his faith and the honor of his God against skeptics and scoffers. One look around will show that our culture is not too friendly to people courageously standing up and standing alone for God, yet God longs for each of us to stand anyway. Perhaps through Elijah’s example, we can gain some strength and encouragement today. Read v16-40.
Now, after reading that, you may be thinking, “Well, I’m glad I’ll never have to do that, because I don’t know if I could.” While it’s true that you’ll probably never have to get into a do-or-die match with murderous priests of another religion, as a Christian, you still represent God wherever you go, whatever you do. There are times when you are required to stand up for what’s right and what’s true. And don’t let Elijah’s appearance of super-human courage fool you. I will remind you that James in the NT said Elijah was as human as we are. So, let’s glean some thoughts about standing up for God when you’re standing alone.
First, let’s picture what Elijah was up against. He felt as if he was a lone voice in a crowd of pagan worshippers. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel had successfully integrated (as if it were possible) worship of God with worship of Baal. Then people were not limited to one all-powerful being. They could choose the path that seemed right for them. So God sent Elijah to bring a drought upon the land for 3-1/2 years in an effort to show that the false gods of nature were really no gods at all. And it came time for a showdown. Elijah reappeared on the scene, requesting to meet the king and challenge the false prophets of the false gods to a duel of sorts. Elijah and the 850 false prophets would meet on Mt.Carmel, a mountain range at the north-western part of Israel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Here, there would be a challenge: whosever god would set a sacrificial bull on fire would be proclaimed as the true god. It seemed like a good deal, so the false prophets took Elijah up on the offer.
We will look at many of the details of this story over the next few weeks, but for this week I just want to look at Elijah’s stand. I can only imagine what was going through his head. “What will they do to me?” “What if I’m wrong?” “What if God doesn’t see fit to answer me the way I’m looking for?” “What if I am ridiculed?” “What if the people turn on me?” It’s neat to see that even if he had these questions, he still was willing to stand up and stand alone. And by standing alone, he was running many risks. We run the same risks when we stand alone. When we stand up for God at school, or work, or in our families, or in our social groups, even in our church, we risk standing alone. What risks did Elijah run? What risks do we run?