Our business experienced the best year ever but I was feeling despair. Elijah witnessed the awe-inspiring power of God at Mount Carmel but never received the opportunity to savor it. Instead, he ran for his life, escaped to the desert and begged God to take his life. At times, even after significant accomplishments we can feel unappreciated, vulnerable misunderstood, abandoned and even threatened.
- During this time of despair, I received an opportunity dramatically impacting my life.
- While in the desert Elijah’s journey of faith reached a dramatic turning point.
“He went on alone into the desert, traveling all day, then he lay down and slept. As he was sleeping an angel touched him and told him, ‘Get up and eat!’ He looked around and saw some bread. Then the angel of the Lord came again and said, ‘Get up and eat some more, for there is a long journey ahead of you.”’ (1 Kings parts of 19:2-9)
Notice how God was caring for Elijah even while he was in despair: He was protected while traveling. He was prodded to get up and eat and food was provided for the journey. God patiently offers spiritual nourishment in victory or despair. We must be willing to take a long journey and trust God’s guidance.
“’Go out and stand before me on the mountain,’ the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” (19:11-13)
Do you see the turning point yet?
Occasionally, God will surprise us with an awesome miracle like the mighty windstorm or the earthquake but they are seldom understood or appreciated. It is not our victories that gratify God as much as our day-by-day obedience and attentiveness to God’s quiet and gentle whisper. It’s our willingness to put our priorities in order. Later Elijah receives new instructions from God and assurance that he is not alone. “Yet I will preserve seven thousand others…” (19:18) This was the assurance Elijah needed.
- Victories are nice but Elijah was putting too much stock in the wrong thing.
- Success at work was great but I was putting too much energy in the wrong area.
- Elijah had faith but he wasn’t hearing or trusting God.
- I had faith and energy in one area but my priorities were way off.
Shortly after our record year, I was asked to give a short weekly message for children during the worship service. Normally, I declined such requests because of a hectic work schedule but this time I heard a quiet and gentle whisper encouraging me to say yes. Saying yes turned out to be my turning point. I discovered a fresh talent and an exciting new way to communicate my faith.
My despair at work was quickly replaced by a fresh vitality. The business didn’t change. I changed. We had another record-breaking year but it would not be followed by despair again. For the first time, I felt at peace with my career and my faith. The next year, I would hear God’s quiet whisper again and leave my business career behind to become a full-time church pastor.
So, what did I learn from Elijah?
- God patiently offers spiritual nourishment in victory or despair.
- We must be willing to take a long journey and trust God’s guidance.
- Victories aren’t as important as day-by-day obedience and a willingness to heed God’s priorities.
- God’s gentle whisper promises guidance and reassurance that we are not alone.
How do we get our priorities straight? We consider carefully how we are looking for God’s spiritual nourishment. Are we willing to take that journey to look for God’s guidance? Can we learn to listen for God’s priorities? Are we listening to God’s gentle whisper steering us in the right direction?
My life dramatically changed when I listened more closely to God’s whisper and changed my priorities. When I accepted the challenge of a children’s message every week, I didn’t add to my already busy schedule, I adjusted and changed my priorities. So here is my challenge to you. I know your schedule is already too busy but is your schedule busy in the right areas? Do you need to change your priorities?
It’s comforting to know that God is not counting your victories, your defeats or your occasional periods of despair. What matters is the consistency of your journey: humble when on top and determined when on the bottom but always recognizing that God is still in control. You are never alone and God will actively nourish and guide you to reset your priorities every step of the way. Thank you, God!