Useful to God
Lesson 9

Lesson Nine

Elijah: The Man Who Ran

Text: 1 Kings 19

Few things are so disheartening to devout, dedicated Christians as failing after having made an earnest spiritual effort. Many Christians by nature are known as "fixers." They want to eliminate the "unnecessary" by opening eyes, increasing understanding, and attuning hearts to God.

Consider some examples. (1) People close to them have not seen or responded to God's gift in Christ. That is such an unnecessary circumstance! They yearn to fix it. (2) There is so much marital distress all around them--spouses together but no relationship, abuse, affairs, selfish neglect, divorce, etc. All this is so destructive! These Christians yearn to fix it. (3) There is so much economic distress around these Christians. That unnecessary distress is passed from generation to generation! They yearn to fix it. (4) The congregation is out of step with God's purposes. Things would be so improved if the converted better understood God's purposes! They yearn to fix it.

This does not at all suggest that the human desire to address spiritual needs in a godly manner is evil. Problems are created when: (1) Christians decide God's involvement is limited to what they see; or, (2) they decide that the results they desire are the only results that achieve God's purposes; or, (3) they assume responsibility that is beyond them; or, (4) they assume God has failed because they have failed.

Consider a statement attributed to Jesus in John 3:19, 20:This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (John 3:19,20).

Note these things: (1) Some people love darkness. (2) Some people take delight in the fact that their deeds are evil. (3) Some people hate light. (4) Some people do not want the light to expose their deeds. There are people who have no desire to be godly! Nothing any Christian does or says will create that desire! While Christians rarely will know who those people are prior to seeking to encourage them, we should not be surprised when people have no interest in the God we cherish.

Elijah, one of God's greatest non-writing prophets, served God in the northern ten tribes of Israel. These were the people who followed Jeroboam into idolatry.

"Jeroboam said in his heart, 'Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.' So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.' He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan" (1 Kings 12:26-29).

Elijah served in alien territory. He assumed he was the only person faithful to God in the territory of the ten tribes (1 Kings 19:10). He yearned to "fix" Northern Israel so they again worshipped/served the living God of the ancient forefathers instead of idols. In fact, he thought he had "fixed" the situation in his contest with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. God's sacrifice was consumed, the prophets of Baal were killed, the people fell on their faces and confessed that the Lord was God, and it rained.

However, nothing changed! When Queen Jezebel sent him a message saying he would be dead in 24 hours, he was afraid and ran for his life (1 Kings 19:3). Though he faced 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19) in a contest the day before, though he proved God told him to have the contest (1 Kings 18:36), though the people confessed the Lord was God (1 Kings 18:39), things did not turn out as he expected. The result: he was disappointed in himself (1 Kings 19:4).

Basically, God informed Elijah of two things: (1) God had 7000 who served Him that Elijah did not know about. (2) Elijah's responsibility was to do his work, and stop anticipating the Lord.

Christians deeply want God's influence to be the predominant influence in our nation and eventually in our world. Perhaps because we live in a nation that honors justice, champions human rights, loves freedom, and values the "underdog," we want heaven on earth in our nation soon. Increasingly, evidence declares this will not happen. Yet, we want it to happen so much that we want to "fix" those situations that prevent it from happening. Is something wrong in the congregation? Get spiritual and fix it! Is something wrong in society? Get political and fix it! Is something wrong in the world? Economically or scientifically, fix it!

Let Elijah teach us who follow God through Christ two things. (1) Never limit God's works to the desires of our visions. (2) Our responsibility is to do what God grants us the ability to do.

For Thought and Discussion:

  1. Many Christians, by their nature, wish to be what? What is that?

  2. Give at least 4 examples of this desire.

  3. Is it evil for Christians to want things to be better?

  4. When are problems created?

  5. What should Christians understand from John 3:19, 20?

  6. Explain some of Elijah's circumstances.

  7. What did Elijah assume?

  8. What did he yearn to do and think he had done?

  9. Why was Elijah disappointed in himself?

  10. What were the two things of which God informed Elijah?

  11. What do many Christians deeply want God to do?

  12. Give two lessons we Christians should let Elijah teach us.

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 9

Copyright © 2008
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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