Everyone has their moments when the pressures of life seem almost too much to bear. Yet ‘in Christ’ there is always hope. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.” Literally that verse means, ‘I can be strong in every circumstance (good or bad) through the strength Christ supplies me.’ Let’s return again today to our study of Elijah and learn some of the principles God used to help him win his battle against discouragement.
In the story of Elijah I see three directions of focus:
1) THE INWARD FOCUS
“There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:9-10)
Perhaps one reason for Elijah’s discouragement was his focus upon self. “I have been very zealous … I am the only one left…now they are trying to kill me.” “I-I-I; me-me-me!” On the one hand it seems only natural that Elijah would be concerned over his situation; however, it’s not hard to see how such an extreme inward focus had caused him to become discouraged. Elijah was not the only one left. There were at least seven thousand others like him who also had not bowed their knee to Baal. Perhaps if Elijah could have only taken his eyes off of himself for a few moments, he might have been able to see what God was doing in the lives of others.
2) THE UPWARD FOCUS
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)
I am not an expert on discouragement or depression; however, I have noticed something significant over the years. Often the relationship that suffers the most during our times of discouragement is our relationship with God. Many express that they do not feel like praying or studying scripture during difficult times; yet it is during such times that we need to seek God the most.
3) THE OUTWARD FOCUS
“The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. (1 Kings 19:15-16)
Elijah thought his life and ministry was over. “I have given God my very best and look at what it has brought me.” Yet Elijah’s ministry was not over. God still had plans for how He wanted to use him. “Go back the way you came, and get busy again” the Lord told him.