Posted by: Mike Willoughby | March 23, 2010

How Are You? (Part 4)

How are you?  Over the past few weeks, we have been considering this simple question with a complex answer.  Using the example of God’s ministry to his prophet Elijah in I Kings 19, we have already considered how God helps us maintain our physical and spiritual tanks.  Today, we are focusing on our emotional tank.  For many of us, this may be the tank that is the most unpredictable and difficult to maintain.  We seem to deal with unexpected changes in our emotional state that for many of us defy explanation.  Why do I feel blue today and ecstatic tomorrow?  The answer is complicated and involves physiological, environmental and even spiritual considerations.  I need to take this opportunity to say that I do not believe there are any quick fixes or easy answers to many of the challenges we face maintaining our emotional tank.  I realize many strong and faithful Christians struggle with their emotional state.  I do not want to trivialize their challenge.  However, I do believe God cares about our emotional state and I believe he has answers for many of our emotional challenges.  I think the example of Elijah in this passage is a perfect illustration of the complexity and challenges of our emotional tank and God’s response to those challenges.  Even after God has personally ministered to Elijah and filled his physical and spiritual tank, notice how Elijah feels in I Kings 19:14 when God asks him why he is holed up in a cave:

He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 

If you could ask Elijah at this moment, “How are you?” he would likely respond, “alone and afraid.”  Even though God had enabled Elijah to enjoy a miraculous victory over the 450 prophets of Baal, the experience had emptied his tanks and Elijah turned tail and ran from the Queen’s death sentence.  Even after God personally tended to Elijah, providing him with nourishment and a powerful example of God’s power and presence, Elijah feels alone and afraid.  Elijah believes he is the only faithful servant left in the world and he seems to believe his mission is over.  Notice how God responds to Elijah in I Kings 19:15-18:

And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.  And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.  And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.  Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

First, God gives Elijah specific instructions that continue his mission and alleviate his fear.  He has marching orders from God and now the future is less cloudy than before.  Uncertainty is a common source of fear for many of us.  When we don’t have any idea of what the future may hold and times are tough, we can get apprehensive and fearful.  Although we can never know for sure what even the next moment may hold for us, we can gain comfort from knowing God is in control and we are part of his plan.  God reminds Elijah that he is part of God’s plan and God’s instructions demonstrate that God is in control.

Notice that God’s instructions communicate to Elijah that God will continue his mission through others.  Although God has worked miraculously through Elijah, he will also work in more subtle ways through political leaders.  Kings Hazael and Jehu will have a divine responsibility to continue to eliminate the prophets of Baal.  God also tells Elijah that he knows Elijah is close to retirement.  His instructions include the selection of Elijah’s replacement, Elisha. 

With these instructions, God reminds Elijah the future is secure because God is in control and he lets Elijah know he is not alone.  Elijah is joined in God’s mission by Jehu, Hazael and Elisha.  For good measure, God lets Elijah know there are at least 7,000 faithful servants left in the world that are also part of God’s mission.  God lets Elijah know for certain he is not alone and he has no reason to fear and so Elijah is able to return north in confidence with three full tanks.

I believe God has similar therapy for us when we feel alone and afraid.  First, we should always remember that God is in control and we are part of his divine plan.  He has equipped us for life and given us his power to obtain victory in this life.  Because of this promise, we can live without fear even though we do not know what the future holds in this life.  We are confident of what the future holds beyond this life!

Second, we should always remember that we are never alone.  We have each other in the church and that is a powerful gift from God to combat our loneliness.  However, even when church family fellowship fails us (and it will from time-to-time) and we feel alone in this world, remember God is with us.  We have fellowship with him and through Jesus Christ we are able to participate in his divine nature.  Since he is for us, who can be against us?  Meditate on that and let your emotional tank be filled.

I leave you with this powerful reminder from II Peter 1:3-4:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  

Next week, an offering of thanksgiving!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

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