1984 was our best business year ever but I was feeling despair. Why? Elijah stood alone against 850 prophets of Baal and witnessed the awe-inspiring power of God at Mount Carmel but never received the opportunity to savor it. Instead, an enraged Queen Jezebel wanted him dead, so Elijah escaped to the desert, alone and begged God to take his life. Why?
At times, even after a significant accomplishment we can feel unappreciated, vulnerable misunderstood, abandoned and even threatened.
But it was during this time of despair in the desert that Elijah’s extraordinary journey of faith would reach 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 19:2-9)
Elijah assumed God’s miracle on Mount Carmel would be the turning point of his ministry. Wrong! Now, he must make a journey to discover the truth. Meanwhile, God quietly feeds Elijah and prepares him for the trip ahead? I assumed that a good business year would be the turning point of my ministry fulfilling my goals to be an astute businessman as well as a solid Christian witness. Wrong! Like Elijah, I needed to make a spiritual journey to seek the truth.
For forty long days and nights, Elijah traveled to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. “’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.” (11-13) Now Elijah was ready to listen.
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 even 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. Elijah receives instructions and assurance that he is not alone… “Yet I will preserve seven thousand others…” (18) This was just the assurance Elijah needed.
Early in 1985, 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 a major 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. 1985 was 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. In 1986 I would hear God’s quiet whisper again and leave my business career behind to become a full-time church pastor.
What can we learn from Elijah?
- God is always patiently offering spiritual nourishment in victory or despair.
- We must all occasionally be willing to take a long journey and trust God’s guidance.
- Victories are not as important as our day-by-day obedience and our willingness to listen.
- God’s gentle whisper promises guidance and reassurance that we are not alone.
It’s comforting to know that God is not counting your victories, your defeats or your occasional periods of despair. What really 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 every step of the way. Thank you, God!