#3  “The Great Issues Of Faith From Elijah’s Life” Series




TEXT:         1 Kings 19:1-21


INTRO:       Nothing distorts reality and Christian joy more than depression.  Depression can paralyze a Christian with fear, isolation, criticism, tiredness, and fruitlessness.  When it strikes reason disappears, in its place comes distorted perception.


ILLUS:     Like the mental patient who was convinced that he was dead, he was committed to the care of a psychiatrist who tried to reason with him to no avail.  Finally the Doctor read an anatomy book and had the patient watch films to show that dead men do not bleed ... then he took the patient to a room full of cadavers.  The doctor poked several of the cadavers with a pin and showed his patient that none of the dead men bled ... finally the patient caved in and admitted, "ok, I convinced, dead men don't bleed."  Suddenly, the doctor poked him and a tiny drop of blood oozed out of his patients hand; the patient responded when he saw the blood, "Well, what do you know, dead men do bleed after all!"  THE PROBLEM WASN'T THE FACTS ... IT WAS HIS PERCEPTION! – SOURCE UNKNOWN


Or ... here's another Illustration:


ILLUS:     A hunter had a very unusual dog and decided he wanted to show it off to one of his not so up-beat friends.  As they waited, a flock of ducks finally flew over head and the man shot one.  It fell into the water and the man told his friend, "now watch this REMARKABLE dog of mine fetch that duck, he snapped his fingers and the dog took off ... RUNNING ON TOP OF THE WATER ALL THE WAY out to get the duck ... AND ALL THE WAY BACK!  Certain that his negative friend would be amazed he asked him, "What do you think of my dog now?"  His negative friend replied, "Dumb dog ... can't even swim!" – SOURCE UNKNOWN


Nothing grips the heart more than misery ... and depression is a crippling disease for Christians!  Satan's most effective tool against Christians is not outright sin ... it is discouragement ... which will lead to many sins; or at best incapacitate a believer to be unproductive, resentful toward others, and angry at God and man!  Such people are devastating to themselves, the Kingdom of God, and to the witness of the Gospel of Christ!


PROP.SENT:     The Bible teaches that even the best of Christians can become snagged with depression, and that depression's damage can be powerful on those who experience it as well as those who come into contact with those who are depressed.  Compassion and companionship are the way out of oppression and depression!


I.   DYNAMICS OF DEPRESSION    1 Kings 19:1-18


A.   Fear!    1 Kings 19:1-3

1.    Though the death of the prophets of Baal were the results of God's dealings, it is the prophet of God that gets the blame!   Elijah’s strong point – courage, becomes his weakness!  Fear!

a.    Ahab tells Jezebel "everything Elijah had done."

b.    Elijah was still riding high from the great victory brought by God through his ministry and faithfulness to the Lord!

2.    Jezebel dispatches a messenger to Elijah to inform him that he was the target of of her death squad ... he had 24 hours at most to live!

a.    It seems strange that Jezebel would even warn him ... perhaps her intent all along was just to scare him enough to get him out of town!

b.    Making a martyr out of him might have backfired, getting rid of him would discredit him in front of the people, or at least minimize additional influence on the people!

c.    Perhaps she knew only too well what has been only too true throughout time immortal; that even the strongest of men of God can become discouraged and fearful.

3.    A major set-back for Satan had brought on a major confrontation with Satan's disciple!

a.    It is a dangerous thing to corner a poisonous snake ... they often will strike you!

b.    Elijah was discovering once again the down-side to successful ministry ... opposition which can bring on oppression ... which results in depression!

4.    Suddenly, the man Elijah who was high on victory experienced the full flush of fear!

a.    And so, instead of enjoying the fruits of his successful ministry he finds himself consumed with his own sense of well-being!

b.    He runs for his life out of Jezreel to Beersheba in the southern kingdom ... a distance of about 100 miles!

c.    Although Elijah had encouraged Ahab to eat before going to Jezreel, Elijah had not ... he had run under the power of God ahead of Ahab and had still not sat down to a decent meal before this bad news hit!  Now he runs under a different power than that of the Holy Spirit ... it is the spirit of fear!

d.    The spirit of fear energizes him also for a long distant run ... 100 miles, but this run would not leave him refreshed like the energy from the Spirit of God!


B.   Fruitless!    1 Kings 19:4

1.    Leaving his servant in Beersheba in Judah's southern boundary city he goes alone to the desert, another full day journey from Beersheba!

a.    This guy has done some serious traveling!

b.    Like many people driven by fear ... they are quite energetic ... but their goals are dry like the desert!

2.    All this fear had created in Elijah's mind the idea that his ministry was basically fruitless!  Israel had repented, revival was in the air ... but now it wouldn't continue all because one leader in Israel was out to get him!

a.    That fear of one cut short his ministry in Israel.

b.    It stole from him the joy of his ministry on mount Carmel only days earlier!

c.    He must have felt all that victory was now only in vain!

3.    What he was feeling was, "WHAT DIFFERENCE DID IT MAKE!"

4.    He finds a "BROOM" tree and lays down ... trying to get a HANDLE perhaps on events.  Under this broom tree he “sweeps” away all hopes of having any fruitful impact!

a.    Ironically, he now prays that "God would take" his life!  God never does answer his prayer to die … he is translated to heaven directly later!

b.    If this was how he really felt, he wouldn't have had to run away ... Jezebel was more than happy to oblige this request already!

c.    This wasn't what Elijah really wanted; it was simply his way of saying "My life has been fruitless!"

d.    This is supported by the additional, “I am no better than my ancestors” – meaning, "They didn't succeed in bringing Israel back to God ... now, neither have I!"

e.    The idea: "My ministry is just as much a flop as all the other failures before me!"  Note:  Already he is distorting reality ... the past ... the present ... and you can be sure the future will be too!


C.   Fatigue    1 Kings 19:5-8

1.    What factors have led to his extreme fatigue and depression?

a.    Long term activity without proper nutritional needs met.  Mistreat the body it does affect the soul!

(1.    Remember Elijah hasn't eaten anything since the confrontation on Mount Carmel ... several days from this point in time; and almost 370 miles of travel!

(2.    Since this covers several days he must have missed some sleep to have gotten so far on so little time!

(3.    Loneliness, part not his fault, part his fault, contributes to the weariness.  While mostly alone in Israel (he does have a servant, un-named) he chooses to leave that servant in Beersheba while he travels alone into the desert!

(4.    He had acted without God's direction in this trip ... one of the few times he does this in his life!

(5.    He did not pray about the conflict ... he just panicked and ran!

(6.    He sought no council or advice from any friends or supporters!

(7.    He assumed the worst about himself and about God and God's family!

(8.    He forgot all about God's other expressions of help and goodness, he only saw the moment!

(9.    Made no plans for being in the desert ... took no provision for survival!

b.    This was an emotional disaster in the making!

2.    Rebellious, angry, hurt, confused, resentful, unthankful, uncaring; all rear their ugly traits in quick succession as the process of despair unfolds itself!


ILLUS:     During WW II the enemy conducted experiments to find the most effective way to ELICIT information from prisoners of war.  The most effective means of punishment that almost always worked to elicit information from even the most patriotic and the strongest soldier was solitary confinement!  After some time in solitary most men would tell all ... because alone, all the values held dear are abandoned with no hope! – SOURCE UNKNOWN


3.    God in His great compassion comes to Elijah in spite of the fact that Elijah wasn't where he was suppose to be or doing what he was suppose to be doing, God cares about him as a person and his needs!

a.    The issues could wait ... Elijah needed most right now some practical and loving attention!

b.    God as a loving father seeks to meet that need first, and then the issues can be dealt with at mount Horeb (Mount Sinai).


ILLUS:     Benjamin West, the great painter describes how he came to love painting: As a young boy he decided one day to paint a picture of his sister while his mother was away!  He got out bottles of ink and started to paint ... but soon had created a mess all over the room!  His mother returned, and of course saw the mess!  Instead of scolding him, she picked up the portrait from the inking floor and declared, "What a beautiful picture of your sister" and leaned over and kissed him!  Later in life he said, "With that kiss I became a painter!"  ELIJAH HAD MADE A MESS ... BUT GOD WAS GOING TO KISS HIM! – SOURCE UNKNOWN


4.    Elijah fell asleep; God made some bread and put on the coffee!  19:5-6

a.    Elijah eats and drinks, lays down again, he was weary!

b.    A second time God gets him up and feeds him more!

5.    God feeds him in the desert to strengthen him for the 40 days, 40 night trip to Mount Sinai ... the same mountain Moses met God on!

a.    This "SOUL FOOD" gave him the strength for a long journey toward God!

b.    This trip was intended to be a break from ministry to recharge the prophet!


D.   Fiction!    1 Kings 19:9-14

1.    Was Elijah cured? NOPE!  He still hasn't focused properly on reality, though his physical needs have now been met!

a.    He is now rested,

b.    He is fed,

c.    He is in God's presence again ... but,

d.    Still not seeing things right!

2.    God lovingly asks him, "What are you doing here Elijah?"

a.    This was to give him the opportunity to respond from his perspective!

b.    Unfortunately the answer Elijah gives indicates just how distorted he still saw everything:

(1.    "I have been zealous for the Lord (true so far!) ... but Israel has rejected your covenant!" (Not totally true, just seemed this way at the moment!)

(2.    "All the others are dead … I'm totally alone!" (Not true!  He had been told earlier by Obadiah that at least 100 prophets of God still lived!

(3.    Elijah assumed he would die too, even though he had witnessed God's affirming him in front of all Israel!

c.    In ROMANS 11:3 Paul states that this response was almost a prayer against Israel from Elijah!  Elijah is simply bitter and puts himself above his brethren in terms of his devotion to the Lord, assumes the rest are so hypocritical if alive, or that they wouldn't care about him!

3.    God is not put off by his bitter servant; indeed, God decides to try another tactic to refocus Elijah ... something a little more dramatic!

a.    Elijah's anger centered around the seeming unfruitfulness of ministry after the events with Israel and the great fire from heaven scene!

b.    Perhaps Elijah was wondering why God didn't zap Jezebel with fire like the other fire incident ... why didn't God use more power than just his having to speak out!

4.    God sends a powerful wind that tears rocks apart but the Lord was not found in the wind!

5.    God next sends an earthquake but the Lord was not found in the earthquake!

6.    God then sends fire (this sounds familiar!) but God was not found in the fire!

7.    After the fire there is only a gentle whisper ... GOD WAS IN THE WHISPER!

8.    WHAT'S GOD'S POINT?  Simple:  The dramatic flare like fire might get the people's attention but it is the simple spoken Word of God that will bring about real change and revival!

a.    Unfortunately Elijah had run away before this phase could happen!

b.    Yet, he was still angry at God, blaming God for not doing the next part of the revival ... but this was the part Elijah himself was to be responsible for!


ILLUS:      A man recently was reported to be suing a hospital.  A doctor had performed staple surgery on his stomach to heLp him lose weight.  A couple of days after surgery he raided the hospital refrigerator and stuffed himself with everything he could find.  This tore opened the staples and forced another surgery.  He was suing the hospital for having a refrigerator near his room ... he claimed the temptation was too great, thus the complications were not his own fault, but the hospital's! – SOURCE UNKNOWN


9.    Elijah had done the same thing, he was blaming God for the failure of the revival to continue in Israel and his having to run for safety, thus not being able to preach.

a.    God now gently asks again!  "ELIJAH, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?"

b.    Did he get the point?

c.    NOPE!  Elijah simply repeats verbatim the same response to God ... indicating a stubborn refusal to hear what God was trying to say to him!


10.  It was going to take some specific steps to restore Elijah ... one item at a time:


II.  DESIGN FOR DELIVERANCE!    1 Kings 19:15-21


A.   Future!    1 Kings 19:15-17

1.    The first step was to get him to return the way he came, one stop at a time!

a.    Running away won't solve your depression problem, it might temporarily re­lieve some of it, but even if you go somewhere else if the issues that cause the depression aren't dealt with they will return with new faces!

b.    The return trip would be in several stops ... giving time for readjustments!

2.    The trip home was given with the promise of useful ministry ahead; in other words, PURPOSE!  Restoring this promise of fruitfulness in ministry helps bring Elijah some first stages of healing:

a.    The idea was: Back to ministry!

b.    Some specific ministry goals are spelled out for him by God, thus when completed he would know one after the other of their fruitfulness!

c.    Hope of a future usefulness is an important healing function!


ILLUS:       More than 30 years ago an old man in east Tennessee was found to have an unusual morning ritual ... he filled a sack with acorns and taking a wooden stick he would walk through a burned out forest area in THE mountains.  Here and there he stopped and poked a hole; dropping in an acorn ... then covered it with dirt.  When asked why he did this as an old man he replied, "Someone has to think of THE future."  Today there is a great forest where this man once walked!  The promise of a fruitful future drove him on! – SOURCE UNKNOWN


3.    Within the scope of this ministry God clearly tells Elijah that in time the scores will be settled with those who were evil and seemingly getting away with it!  Jezebel will get her reward and all the other evil people, even if NOT in Elijah's lifetime!


B.   "Family"   1 Kings 19:18

1.    Perhaps in a deliberate note, God reminds Elijah too that he is not the only "Zealous" servant of His ... that he is part of a large family of believers ... some who are just as good, and perhaps, just as bad as he is!

2.    This settles this issue of aloneness!  In a sense these 7,000 others were a notch above Elijah at this point; they hadn't fled for personal safety like him!

3.    His brethren were not the supposed hypocrites and weaklings he had assumed!

a.    Their passion for the Lord was just as great ... they hadn't kissed the Baals!

b.    His view of his brethren just wasn't accurate at all!

4.    He could have sought out his brethren and found strength, perhaps together they would have easily beaten Jezebel and sparked the greatest revival in Israel's history!

a.    It was time to return to the family of God!

b.    It was time to recognize his brothers’ commitment to the Lord!

5.    Slowly, but precisely, God was refocusing his perspective of everything!


C.   Friend!    1 Kings 19:19-21

1.    This final stage was critical to full recovery!  No where does it indicate that he went back to Beersheba and recovered his former servant!

2.    God was assigning him a new friend ... someone whose faith was upbeat, strong, and whose commitment was like Elijah's!

a.    Elijah not only needed a HEAVENLY FATHER, he also needed an EARTHLY FRIEND.

b.    This would help prevent the same crisis from happening again!

c.    The choice of companionship can make the difference in the future!

3.    Elijah finds a man named ELISHA ... found him plowing with 12 yoke of oxen!

a.    Elisha was rich, from a wealthy family ... yet he was plowing himself, a very hard working man!  GOD ALWAYS CALLS THOSE WHO ARE PRESENTLY WORKING!  (Remember, Peter was fishing when the call came, etc.)

b.    Elijah goes up to him and throws his mantle around Elisha!  This was sign of adopting Elisha as his successor in ministry!  (GERMAN PHRASE, MANTEL-KIND means "Adopted Child" still!)

4.    Elisha requests just a moment to return to kiss his father and mother good-bye!

a.    This was not meant as a delay tactic like in LUKE 9:61 where the man wanted to wait until he buried his father ... meaning when they passed away and were gone ... possibly a great delay!)

b.    This was a sign of respect and obedience to the 10 commandments, to honor his father and mother, to show thankfulness for their ministry to him as a son all those years!

c.    Elijah had found the right kind of friend ... someone who is positive, obedient, loving to his own family, etc.  A good choice of a friend!

d.    Elisha demonstrated also how much worldly goods affected him ... he burns his plow and slaughters his oxen ... no turning back, no holding on to riches!

e.    boy was this guy a great choice for a friendship!

f.     Even the term "attendant" indicates that he was no smart alert upstart ... telling Elijah what to do, he becomes first a servant, learning and appreciating Elijah's experience in ministry before him.

g.    This looks like the beginning of a great friendship and a real healing balm for Elijah's life!

5.    Elijah was back in the saddle of ministry, this time with some depression proof help!


CONCLUSION:   Even the most faithful servants of God can have times of failure and depression!  At such times God is faithful to love us and nurture us back to spiritual health.  Elijah's recovery included promises of fruitful ministry, he's not alone, and a close friend who is upbeat and full of faith and an encourager comes alongside to help him!  If you're depressed find the right friends, if you know someone depressed, be that right friend!