“But [Elijah] went a day’s journey in to the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, it is enough now, O Lord, take away my life. . .” I Kings 19:4
Did you know that your biggest battle will not be confronting false prophets on the top of Mount Carmel? It won’t even be facing the hot breath of the devil himself. Your biggest enemy, dear friend, is you. Elijah’s tired and discouraged voice rose up from the desert sands. “Can I just quit? May I kick the bucket, Lord? Please, go ahead and take me out! I mean it, Lord – I’m through!” Overwhelmed by the odds against him, Elijah’s spirit was exhausted. Are you there today? Counting your sorrows and not your blessings? Tired of the scarce harvest that living for God seems to bring? We all have them. Elijah moments.
Prophet Elijah’s desperation took him to the point where he said, “O Lord, take away my life.” Can’t you see him under the sparse shade of a desert tree? Elijah’s head is in his hands. His eyes are full of disappointed tears. Tired from failed aspirations, he feels alone – fearful. He’s suffocating from life’s troubles. He’s had enough of ministry life. Enough of the unfair odds. “I am just one man standing against the culture of Jezebel,” he thought. “It’s just too much.” Ministry is demanding and draining, and because sin never rests, Elijah mistakenly thought he couldn’t either. Discouragement can come from ministry exhaustion. The Lord’s angel baked a cake for Elijah after a much-needed rest. Preachers need that recipe. Rest and nutrition must be intentional and regular. But discouragement also comes from unrealized expectations. Elijah had so strongly hoped that the “Mt. Carmel Revival” would have spread to the palace, but such was not the case. Jezebel was unmoved. Instead of a hero’s welcome, the horse race to the palace with the good news of rain only brought another death warrant. Elijah was confused. “For crying out loud, if lightning bolts and miracles don’t get people’s attention, what does it take to turn people’s hearts to the Lord?” Perhaps the Lord needed a bit of a reminder of how passionate he had been for the cause. So, he cried out loud. “And he said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord of Hosts’’(I Kings 19:10). Elijah felt like he needed to remind the Lord just how much he was doing for Him. He had been scarred and bruised for His sake. We can be sure the Lord remembers these things and will one day open the record. Not only will He make all things new, He will make all things right. Discouragement can sometimes come from a spirit of misunderstanding at the seeming lack of Divine appreciation for our well-intended causes. “It would be good, Lord,” Elijah thought, “if the enemy constantly slaps me in the face that you would occasionally slap me on the back.” The longstanding vitriol of King Ahab made Elijah long for a pat on the back from the King of Kings. Does God even care? Often in ministry, we sense we are separated from God’s affirmation. Discouragement comes for many reasons. It can sneak up on us when we feel unsupported in ministry. Elijah was at that point. “I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away” (I Kings 19:14).  No one else seemed to be “on board” like he was. Recently, one of those Elijah moments came sneaking up on me. A long-standing relationship soured to the breaking point. It wasn’t a knock-down, drag-out; just a civil parting of the ways. It still hurt all the way down to the core of my heart to struggle with a trusted friend. Then it seemed the tide of attendance went out in our church and came in on the other side of town. “Amen! Bless their hearts!” I tried to grunt out with a pleasing smile, all the while thinking, “I sure wish our little hearts would be blessed, too.” Such a focus can lead to taking matters into our own hands. We all have a way of sending our little messages of distrust to God. “Must we bring water from the rock?” Numbers 20:10 Do you remember the very statement that got Moses in trouble? In anger, Moses took credit for what only God could do. Preachers often try to produce in frustration what only God (in His own time) can bring to fruition. I’ve tried to do that. It only leads to greater frustration. Not long ago I told myself, “Maybe I just need to work harder! Push souls to Christ! Bulldog the Devil!” It was with these selfish coaching tips playing in my head I called the church troops together. Another outreach opportunity brought out the faithful few. As I reached for the tracks and brochures, my pessimistic spirit matched the darkening clouds in the skies. Just as we were praying for God to bless our meager efforts in evangelism, the sky let loose in torrents. You would think the God who controls all things would not send rain on the soul-winner’s parade! At that moment, somebody said what everybody in the room was thinking, “Pastor, we just can’t go out in this downpour!” My thoughts were, “Ok, if I have to save the world alone and build the church alone, I will. Hand me my Elijah Cape, will you? Not only will I get the soul-winning badge, I will get the soul-winning-in-the-rain badge! It will look nice on my tombstone.” As I was adjusting my water proof “Super Pastor” cape, I got a text from a trusted assistant, “Can’t be there for visitation today, Pastor – trees down all over the yard – we went through a small tornado last night.”  I just about texted back, “Man up, Pal! Don’t let a little tornado blow you out of the will of God!”  I thought that might look even better on my grave marker – “The Soul Winner the Tornado Couldn’t Stop!” Driving out of the parking lot, I noticed one patch of sunlight in the cloudy horizon, so I drove in that direction looking for some dry streets that might accept my not-so-humble witness. After knocking on about three doors, I came across a man who barked at me. “You are not welcome here! You are in a no-soliciting neighborhood; you will find that your kind is not appreciated here.” I felt like yelling back, “Oh yeah? Well, I don’t like your kind much either, but please, take our nice church brochure and come visit us at our nice church soon!” Just once, I’d like to have a nice lost person open the door with a nice smile and say, “So you’re a Baptist preacher? We just love Baptist preachers around here, been waiting for years for a Baptist preacher to come by and share the Gospel with us! Come on in, Baptist preacher, I’ll call my nice family together, can we get you a Dr. Pepper? With the man’s stinging threats in my ear, I turned and walked away in a slumped over, nearly Neanderthal pose – much like Elijah’s in the wilderness. Then the rain started again. And that’s when I noticed my knuckles were dragging the ground. Driving back to the church in the rain with wet hair and a rather bitter taste in my mouth about ministry, I got the news that someone had vandalized our parking lot by “doing donuts” and leaving black tire marks all over the pavement. Then, two more calls came in that the church buses we had in the shop weren’t fixed as promised. *I am quite convinced that whenever the disobedient angels fell from heaven with Lucifer, they were all instructed to buy buses which they later sold to Separated Independent Fundamental Baptist churches. It was then, like Elijah, that I started looking for juniper trees. Pity me! Ah, but then I recalled – the account of Elijah doesn’t end under a juniper tree. It ends in a fiery heaven-bound chariot. It took a forty-day trip to the Mount of Moses for the Lord to refocus His prophet. The Lord told Elijah four critical things on his southern getaway to Mt. Horeb (I Kings 19:7-18).
  • Get your eyes on God’s promises, not the results (v. 12)
  • Get help from godly friends (v. 16)
  • Get back to work (vv. 15-17)
  • Get honest – you are not alone! 7,000 have not bowed to Baal (v. 18)

There is great merit in getting away for a while. When we rest, we realize that the work, the workers, and the results are in God’s hands – not ours. They are hands we can trust. As Elijah burst upwards in thundering glory, a humble cape floated down for all to grasp. It read, “Cast your anchor upward.”