Serve even when discouraged
1 Kings 19:1–5a, 11–18
One Christmas my dad received a call from a friend from seminary. This friend had lost his job, the bills were piling up, and his family was in turmoil. He loved and served Christ faithfully, but his world had come crashing in, and he thought he couldn’t take anymore. His discouragement led him to give up.
The great prophet Elijah also reached a point of discouragement; he too wanted to give up.
Do not let discouragement keep you from serving; God never leaves you; He will strengthen and empower you to fulfill every assignment. Remember, when we are weak, He is strong.
Never give up in the face of opposition (1–5a).
“Mountaintop” experiences often are followed by dark valleys. When God uses us mightily, the tempter frequently is around the corner hoping to discourage us. Such was the case with Elijah. Fire fell on Mt. Carmel, and the prophets of Baal were slaughtered. However, Jezebel wasn’t intimidated by Elijah. She killed many of Yahweh’s servants, and she swore by her “gods” that Elijah would be next.
Perhaps fatigue and weariness led to Elijah’s faltering faith; and here we see another side of Elijah — he is a frail human just like we are! He takes Jezebel’s threats seriously and flees to the southernmost point in Judah. Elijah travels a day’s journey (about 15 miles) into the Negev desert, lies down under a tree and gives up. He asks to die. In fact, without intervention, he would die!
As an armchair quarterback, it is easy for me to be appalled at Elijah’s lack of faith. Didn’t he know the Sunday School answer that God always protects His children? Was his memory so short that he forgot all the miracles he had seen? This lapse of faith should serve as a reminder that if a great prophet can become discouraged, so can we. Don’t throw stones at friends and family struggling with doubts. And don’t think, “This can never happen to me.” Instead, seek the face of God in prayer (for them and yourself). To never give up in the face of opposition requires a continually growing faith.
God is with you; take your concerns to Him (11–14).
Strengthened by the food of an angel, Elijah travels 40 days and nights to Horeb, the mountain of God where Moses was called and the covenant was given (Ex. 3–4, 20–24). Instead of chastising Elijah, the LORD questions him about what he is doing there. On that mountain, Elijah witnessed what Moses had seen centuries before (Ex. 19:16–18) — a spectacular demonstration of the power of God in wind, earthquake and fire.
However, God was not in these signs. Instead, a gentle whisper was His instrument of revelation. Instead of lecturing Elijah, God allows him to voice his concerns.
I don’t know about you, but I am thankful to serve a God who understands my frailty and weakness. In wooing me back to Him, He often responds not with a tongue-lashing, but with a gentle whisper. This loving God is always with us and never tires of us. Have you been carrying something around? Take it to the Lord and leave it with Him!
Press on with what God has called you to (15–18).
God responds to Elijah, “Go back the way you came.” Simply put, God listened to Elijah’s concerns and told him to press on with his calling. God’s calling hasn’t changed. God’s power is not diminished. Get back into active service of the Lord!
God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. Elijah can press on because God will protect and empower him and the remnant. Like Elijah of old, you and I must press on to what God has called us to! He is faithful!
By Rob Jackson, Ph.D.
Jackson has served in a variety of ministry roles, including pastor and state missionary