Day 27 I Kings 18:16-19:18
I remember hearing a sermon one time about ministering from the overflow. The idea was that, as we remain close to God through our worship, prayer, Bible study and other spiritual disciplines, God will keep us not just full, but overflowing with the needed strength, wisdom, peace, joy and all the other things that we can then share with others. However, as we go through various things in life – unexpected illnesses, family crises, problems at work, relational breakdowns, unexpected bills, as well as consequences of poor choices we personally make – holes begin to be punched into our “cup” and we begin to leak. The more holes, the faster all of the good stuff from God begins to drain from us and you can forget about operating on overflow! In fact, it is not long before we begin to run low on the good resources of God and we can even begin to struggle to maintain the spiritual disciplines that help to fill us up again – especially prayer.
When we are going through the draining times of life, it is easy for us to feel isolated as if we are the only ones going through so much at one time. But, we’re not. In fact, most people can relate to going through such times. In the Bible, we see many heroes of the faith and we tend to focus on their victories. However, God made sure that the Scriptures do not paint an unrealistic picture of these heroes. That is why in addition to their victories and good times, we also read of their defeats, their temptations and sins, their difficulties and depression.
One such hero of the faith is the prophet Elijah. Elijah saw many highpoints during his lifetime. Probably none compared to his monumental battle with the priests of Baal that is recorded in I Kings 18. Calling out to God and asking for a miracle that would refute the reality of the gods of Baal, Elijah saw God answer his prayers in an unmistakable way. It was a victory of immense proportion that should have left Elijah “filled up” for weeks! Instead, we find the prophet one chapter later looking at himself as a failure and praying for God to just take his life.
Rather than dump on Elijah for feeling this way, if we are honest, we would have to admit that there have been times when we have gone through similar emotional roller coaster rides. You feel like you are on a treadmill, like you cannot keep up. It is as if, no matter what you do, life is passing you by and you just don’t have the energy to tap it on the shoulder and ask it to wait for you. Your mind is so full of contrasting thoughts that if feels like it could explode. And on top of all this, you feel lost, alone, defeated, scared… and empty.
Fast forward in Elijah’s story to I Kings 19. When Elijah was at his lowest point, rather than castigate him, God sent an angel to minister to Elijah. The angel brought Elijah some food – not once, but twice – and the food strengthened Elijah for his journey all the way to Mt. Horeb, where the prophet would have a personal encounter with God. Before we consider that encounter, here is some sound spiritual advice. Sometimes we simply need to eat and sleep even more than we need to pray. There is a time to prayerfully cry out to God and there is a time when we need to close our eyes, bury our heads in our pillow and sleep. Our bodies need rest and nutrition. Our minds need to be allowed to “power down” from time to time. If we are constantly “on,” eventually something has to give due to the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion we will experience. As Vance Havner was known to say, “If we do not come apart and rest awhile, we will simply come apart.”
Now, when Elijah reached Mt. Horeb, he went into a cave to spend the night. That is where he heard God’s voice asking him, “What are you doing here Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9). To Elijah it probably seemed like an eternity since he had seen the Lord’s answer to his prayer on Mt. Carmel. But now, as Elijah was still running from Jezebel and her threats, he hears the voice of the Lord again.
Hearing God’s voice – listening for God’s voice – is as much a part of prayer as the words we speak to God. Elijah, while he was caught up in his fear and exhaustion as well as his deep sense of depression, had not been able to really hear from God. Now, God made his voice heard. Then God did something that stands as a reminder for us of where we may often hear the voice of the Lord.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Read the conversation that followed between Elijah and the Lord in I Kings 19:14-18. You will see how God listened to Elijah and Elijah then listened to God, hearing His words of encouragement and obeying his instructions. It is encouraging to see how, when we need Him, God is there. When we listen for His voice, God will make his voice heard. And, as Elijah discovered, God doesn’t always do it in a big, loud, spectacular way. Sometimes, God speaks in a still, small voice – a whisper that only we can hear.
Take heart. During those times when your cup seems empty and God may feel far away, He’s not. In fact, He will find a way to sustain you through such times where you may not even recognize His hand or His voice. Keep an open heart to Him through the “down” times and listen for that still, small voice. It may ask, “What are you doing here?” He will listen to your answer without judging and lift you up and send you on your way in the end. But one thing is certain, he will never ever leave you nor forsake you. That is a promise.