#2 “The Great Issues Of Faith From Elijah’s Life” Series
"AGAINST THE ODDS!"
TEXT: 1 Kings 18:16-46
INTRO: Why do people send in their Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes tickets? Do you know what the odds are for winning that contest? They are 1 in millions! Yet, though the odds are against it, many people still them in don't they? (Or, should I say “you.”)
While pastoring in Vermont I bought halftime tickets at the High School basketball game on a deal where the winner gets 50% of that night’s tickets sales ... and the other 50% goes for school education helps, thus the winning amount was $39.50 (Small Town) – I won, I beat the odds! Ironically, I bought tickets for the next two basketball games and won those two times also, 3 times in a row, and netted a nice sum, probably over a hundred dollars altogether … I really beat the odds! (I also quit while I’ll was ahead!)
Sometimes it feels like we are fighting against the odds in this world ... Christians are a minority ... real Christians that is! Why do we keep living as Christ told us, why do we keep preaching when the results seem so low many times? The odds are against us winning everyone to Christ ... sometimes even winning some to Christ seems like a long shot!
The reason we do it is because IN REALITY the odds are in our favor ... Christ IS THE SUPREME POWER OF ALL, thus we can't lose; this is why gambling casinos don't fold ... they have the odds in their favor, yet people are willing to try even if any possibility exists for them to win! WE WILL WIN!
We may look crazy sometimes to the world, perhaps even to other Christians at times! We refuse to adopt the world's standards; to lie a little, cheat a little, etc., because we know that even if we don't win much down here ... though the odds are against us in the world they are stacked in our favor in heaven ... and it WILL PAY one day!
PROP. SENT: We are called to stand up for God against all odds ... no matter how bad the pressures become, we are not to fold; we've got the winning hand!
I. THE REAL PROBLEM! 1 Kings -21
A. Condemn the Saints! 1 Kings -17
1. Ever notice how the world loves to blame Christians for everything? To them we are always a big stink!
a. When things go well ... they take the credit.
b. When things go poorly ... it is us Christians making a fuss and being too old fashion!
2. Until a man or woman submits to Christ Christians will always be a stink to them, even though in reality it is the unrepentant sin that brings all stink into this world!
ILLUS: Some fraternity members decided to play a trick on one of the brothers one night, they took some limburger cheese and carefully applied a tiny amount to his moustache while he slept. Sure enough, in the morning he got up and walked around the room and complained, "This room stinks!" Then he walked into the hall, "This hall stinks too!" Next he went into the living room and again proclaimed angrily, "This living room smells just as bad!" Greatly perplexed at the whole house smelling he walked outside and exclaimed after sniffing, "The whole world stinks!" … all along the stink was right under his own nose ... just like sin that is not cleansed! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. To Ahab and the other disobedient Israelites Elijah was the "troubler of Israel."
a. Sometimes this happens with disobedient saints ... they think obedient brothers or sisters in Christ are the reason for their misery ... but it may be just their own unrepentant sin causing the "stink!"
b. Ahab had only 2 choices: Accept the drought as God's dealing with them for their disobedience ... or find someone else to blame for their misery ... Elijah was a convenient source!
4. The world loves to do this with Christians still!
B. Clarify the Situation! 1 Kings -19
1. Elijah calls the situation as it REALLY existed, tried to point out to Ahab the real reason for their problem, their own sins!
a. This of course did not endear him to them, much the way the world reacts when Christians try and point out the consequences in our society based on all the rebellion against God's Word.
b. Yet, we must continue to speak the truth ... yes, in love ... but we must continue to speak the truth!
ILLUS: Often the world complains that we Christians are brainwashed ... and that we are trying to brainwash others! To an extent everyone is brainwashed ... however, we Christians choose what we want to wash our brains with ... God's Word, and it does a great job ... what are they washing their brains with? – SOURCE UNKNOWN
2. Elijah was more than happy help settle the issue, a risky situation indeed!
a. God calls us to be risky for Him, how do we know if people won't respond to a salvation call if we never try to tell them?
b. The worse thing that can happen already has, they will think you are weird!
c. The best thing could also happen; they could finally see the real Christ and find deliverance from sin's dominion! Take a chance sometimes!
C. Compromising Syncretism 1 Kings -21
1. Elijah went before the people and asked them, "HOW LONG WILL YOU WAVER BETWEEN 2 OPINIONS? IF THE LORD IS GOD, FOLLOW HIM; BUT IF BAAL IS GOD, FOLLOW HIM."
a. The interesting word in this statement is the word translated, "WAVER" ()
b. It is the same word used in 18:26b translated: "DANCE."
c. The idea was that they were trying to dance together both God and Baal, taking both religious ideas and wed them together into one new system!
d. This way they wouldn't totally reject the God of their fathers but they wouldn't be looked down upon by the other nations either!
2. What they didn't know was they were really DANCING WITH WOLVES!
a. You can't update God ... or blend Him with any other belief system.
b. God stands alone as supreme in the universe.
c. You can only have one dance partner!
3. They were trying to be attractive to the other nations by incorporating Baal with their own historical God ... this syncretism however plunged them into a 3+ year drought and the loss of their uniqueness as God's people!
ILLUS: A business man in Utah owned a business that was FAILING; he couldn't attract enough customers to make a profit. He went out and bought a bunch of old cars and parked them in front of his store ... his business boomed! People saw all the cars and assumed something great must be in his store ... how many Christians follow the crowd only to find later that the reality of what was on the inside was still the same! Just because it looks like everyone else is doing it doesn't mean it's true or right! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. It is interesting that the people gave no response to Elijah's call to stop "wavering" or "dancing" around between commitments.
a. Their curiosity was peaked.
b. But they wanted some incentive as to which one to follow now!
c. Elijah with God's approval was about to offer them that incentive!
II. THE RADICAL PROPOSAL! 1 Kings -24
A. Contest Set! 1 Kings -24a
1. Elijah's statement that he was the only one of the Lord's prophets left did not mean no other existed, Obadiah had earlier told him about the 100 true prophets hidden in caves. (17:13-14)
a. What Elijah meant was that he was the only one left who had the guts to come out publicly and challenge Baal’s prophets and speak the truth!
b. The other hidden prophets loved the Lord but were too frightened to speak up about it ... how many Christians do they represent today?
2. How many prophets does it take to make a difference (or Christians!)?
a. Just 1!
b. Elijah proposes a contest designed to clearly reveal the true God without tricks or fancy arguments.
c. This contest would greatly favor the odds for the Baal worshippers ... they could use all 450 prophets, they would go first, they would have all day, the sacrifices would be equals, the expectation the same ... the first one that has fire that falls from heaven wins!
d. Can we offer the world the same choice, would you pit your own sacrifice against the world's sacrifices, and would fire fall from heaven and reveal which sacrifice is more pleasing ... thus revealing through your life God's real existence to a world that needs to know?
3. Ironically, Baal's symbol was that of the sun (the fertility side of his image) ... the intense fire that lights the day and makes possible life on earth ... and as the image of a man he was often shown holding a lightening bolt in his hand, surely if he is god he could send a little of that fire to earth to reveal his power and consume a sacrifice!
4. The real God would have visible results!
ILLUS: An article in Christianity Today, (June 21, 1974) was about Christians in the former Soviet Union. One man who survived and became a Christian later wrote about his experience in a Soviet prison: "While prisoners like myself were cursing ourselves, the camp, and the authorities; while we opened up our veins or stomachs in suicide attempts, or hanged ourselves; the Christians (often with sentences of 20-25 years) did not despair. One could see Christ reflected in their faces. Their pure, upright life, deep faith and devotion to God, their gentleness and their wonderful manliness became a shining example of real life for thousands." – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. The contest is still happening today ... is your sacrifice on FIRE!?
B. Citizen's Satisfied 1 Kings 18:24b
1. This contest seemed more than fair to the people.
a. The world is watching ... the odds against Elijah would only make God's reality very clear ... no guesswork later!
b. Yes, as a Christian much of this life won't seem fair ... but sinners are watching and though the odds are stacked against us, if we stay faithful, God's reality will only be made more real by the contest!
2. Hang in there saint ... someone is watching!
III. THE REAL PROOF! 1 Kings -39
A. Catastrophic Situation! 1 Kings -29
1. The Baal prophets went first, everything looked great, nice altar, great sacrifice, intense worship dynamic, impressive commitment, a captivated audience ... everything on the outside looked perfect!
a. They shouted!
b. They danced!
c. They prayed!
2. No one questioned their sincerity ... but they were sincerely wrong!!
September 1985 a terrible earthquake hit
3. The prophets of Baal were heading for catastrophic results ... Baal was not responding and half the day was gone already!
4. It was time to really get intense ... everyone after all was watching, including Elijah!
a. Elijah takes a few moments to tease them a bit ... “perhaps Baal was sleeping” and thus didn't hear them!
b. “Perhaps,” Elijah suggests, “Baal is deep in thought” ... thus he didn't notice them!
c. Or, perhaps Baal “is busy” or "traveling" (this word may mean "relieving himself" as in going to the bathroom!)
d. Elijah encourages them to “shout a little louder!”
5. This failure of Baal only drove them on toward even more bizarre efforts ... it is just like this world to act this way when all the wisdom of man continues to fail to solve man's sinful results!
a. They now slash themselves until they began bleeding heavily!
b. It was not uncommon in this kind of practice for some of the prophets to actually die from loss of blood or from too severe wounds!
c. And the world calls Christians crazy! ... how many of them have nearly driven themselves into the grave worshipping the gods of this world ... selling their souls to make huge salaries, destroying their marriages while they climb the ladders of success and lose their kids trying to get more and more of this world! WHO'S MORE CRAZY?
d. They continued to prophesy (preach their philosophies of man and false religion!) right up until near dark ... but still no fire from heaven!
B. Classy Strategy! 1 Kings -38
1. To leave no room for doubt, Elijah allows the people create the worst possible odds against his own success ... it is his turn now!
a. He first rebuilds the altar of God ... it was in ruins! THIS IS THE SECRET BY THE WAY OF RESTORING OUR LAND TO CHRISTIANITY … it starts with an altar of prayer!
b. Next he takes 12 stones ... the witness of God's family being one in God's mind ... though Israel at this time was divided into 10 tribes and 2 tribes! God doesn't work in division...
you visited a mental institution you would be surprised to find very few guards,
in one place only 3 guards for 100 dangerous inmates! When asked at
c. The altar was built in God's name …
not Elijah's … or even
d. Next Elijah dug a trench around the altar and asked the people to pour water over the sacrifice 3 times, with so much water that the trench around it was full of water after they had done so! Elijah wanted to leave no doubt about God's power & reality! Nothing would be left to chance!
e. Now, Elijah steps forward and does not deliver a sermon … he makes his request: "Answer of Lord, so these people will know that you are God, and that I am your servant obeying your commands, and so these people will know that you are turning their hearts back again!"
2. Elijah risked it all ... the greatest risks reap the greatest rewards!
budget cuts curtailed athletic programs at an inner city high school in Chicago,
LaSalle Street Church stepped in and offered help. A Church member drove the high school
team around to their games in the Church VAN; the team's athletic banquet was
prepared and served at the Church. After the season ended, the players
attended a Christian ranch in
C. Clear & Simple! 1 Kings
1. The fire fell … and I MEAN FELL AND CONSUMED EVERYTHING, INCLUDING THE WATER AND THE STONES! The message couldn't be missed!
2. The people's response was simple: “THE LORD, HE IS LORD” (In Hebrew it is "ELI JAH HU" ... an interesting play on Elijah's own name which means "The Lord is my God.")
a. Now it wasn't just "ELIJAH" (The Lord was his God) ... now it was also "ELIJAHU" (The Lord is our God!)
b. No sermon was delivered in words, didn't need them when Elijah's witness proved fiery!
c. God was now a "HOT" item!
3. Elijah's example of light now allowed them to shine too!
ILLUS: A man bought his wife a special present, a beautiful box that was SUPPOSED to glow in the dark! That night his wife opened the gift and set it on their dresser as they went to bed. To her disappointment they saw nothing. She assumed it was a joke and planned to return the gift to the store where it was purchased. However, the next day a friend dropped by and told the woman to first expose the box to the sunlight in the widow during the day ... then at night take a look! Sure enough that night the box glowed brightly ... it just needed to be first exposeD to light in order to radiate it! HOW TRUE THIS IS WITH EVANGELISM ... DO OTHERS SEE CHRIST’S LIGHT SHINING IN YOUR EVERYDAY EXAMPLE OR DO YOU COVER IT AND THEN CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHY OTHERS DON'T FIND CHRIST FROM YOUR LIFE? – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. Contest over ... a little cleaning up was in order!
IV. THE "RAINING" PROPHET! 1 Kings -46
A. Cleansing the Source! 1 Kings
1. It is always a good idea when making a commitment to God to start to clean up the stuff that caused your sinful habits ... lest they take over again!
a. Elijah asks the new converts to get rid of the cause of their idolatry – the prophets of Baal!
b. Since they were all bleeding to death anyway, this might have actually been merciful – remember they had slashed themselves in a frenzy!
c. To leave them around would only
2. The best way to get rid of sin is to take care of the source of the problem!
3. These false prophets had no business anymore among God's people!
B. Claiming the Shower 1 Kings -45
1. Now that the people were in right relationship with God again it was time to have showers of blessings!
2. Elijah is so confident about the rain that he instructs King Ahab to eat quickly and get on the road before it is washed out!
a. Yet there is still not a cloud in the sky!
b. If you were King Ahab and had witnessed everything up to this point would you have questioned the instructions even though no cloud was seen?
3. Elijah sends his servant up 7 times to the top of mount Carmel to look toward the Mediterranean Sea to see if clouds were on their way yet!
a. Finally on try #7 a small cloud the size of a man's fist was seen and reported!
b. A job well done ... it is time for Elijah to leave too ... for further adventures of "ONE LIFE TO LIVE!"
4. God's covenantal blessings were again free to flow!
C. Confident & Strong! 1 Kings
1. Elijah is so lifted by this experience, so full of God's power that he actually outruns King Ahab's chariot in the trip of about 20 miles from Mount Carmel to Jezreel, though King Ahab left first!
2. Boy, when someone gets saved ... “you can run through a troop and jump over a wall!”
a. Ministry gives you energy ... it doesn't wipe you out!
b. However, you do come back to normal balances of energy later as we shall see in the next sermon in this series!
3. What a great day in the life of Elijah and God's people! A risk worth taking!
CONCLUSION: Sometimes life seems so overwhelming ... the odds seem so against us! But, it is in these times God's power shines forth the brightest, it is not a time for despair, it is a time of challenge, a time for victory, a time for courage! Hang in there saints, we will beat the odds!