Sunday next before Lent – Sermon 125

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ



Being a Christian is not always easy – nor is it meant to be –

Jesus Himself taught us that following in His footsteps involves taking up the cross

We will face difficulties and suffering

Sometime they come because of false expectations – or because we feel God is too distant

Sometimes because we think the obstacles ahead are too great – and we are incapable of dealing with them –

So how do we cope?

How do we get back on track?

Lets look at the experiences of Elijah in our OT lesson

First Point       God cares in times of stress – rest

Elijah lived in one of the darkest times in Israel’s history – he preached during the reign of King Ahab and Jezebel – when there was a wholesale departure from the faith –

He had just experienced one of the high spots in His ministry – when the prophets of Baal – were humiliated on Mount Carmel –

But as so often – is the case – a high can quickly give way to a low

Instead of Queen Jezebel admitting defeat – she came after him with even greater ferocity – and Elijah’s faith became severely shaken

Fearing for his life – he fled into the desert

Wanting to run and hide from it all – is a natural reaction

Hide and seek is a game we all learnt as children – and there are many hiding places in life –

a large crowd – where we can still give an appearance of strength – or no crowd at all
A job or family commitment – that keeps us busy – for hours – some hide – in Alcohol – or drugs –

Our wilderness can be a hospital waiting room – an unemployment line – a graveside – a broken relationship

As someone once said – ‘He who fears he will suffer – already suffers what he fears’

After a day’s journey into the wilderness – Elijah finds himself under a broom tree

Here his depression – leads him to despair – even to the point of death – Elijah had fallen a long way –

“It is enough now Lord, take away my life, for I’m no better than my fathers before me ”

But this reading is not about Elijah’s battle with dejection – but about how God handles the deteriorating situation –

Elijah couldn’t hide from God – and neither can we – he wants us back on the battlefield

For Elijah’s Burnout – God gives him the first of three important prescriptions – rest and nourishment

He doesn’t give him a sermon – or shower him with shame – but sends him food and water – not once but twice –

Rest and nourishment are important if we are going to pace ourselves – and stay for the distance –

The food God provides – can come to us – through His Spirit and His Word – and through other Christians – sent to care and help us – regain our strength and direction

The Christian faith is like a long journey – at times exciting and rewarding – and sometimes wearing and discouraging – and its during the low moments – we need to stop at an oasis – and take the rest and food God provides – to take stock and recharge our batteries

When things go according to plan – its easy to trust and live in God’s Kingdom – but when things go wrong – and its a time when our faith is really tested – then that’s when God makes sure our needs are cared for –

God doesn’t promise to keep us from difficult times – but will certainly walk with us – through them –  

Point 2       Silence & time with God – redirection


And – after – regaining his strength – Elijah moves on to a cave – but its not a cave of comfort – but a cave despondency

Running from a problem can put us in the wrong place at the wrong time – So – its time for Elijah’s second prescription – re-direction

‘Why are you here Elijah?’

‘Because of my great zeal for the Lord of Hosts’ – he replied – ‘The people of Israel have forsaken your Covenant, torn down your altars – and put your prophets to the sword – I alone am left – and they seek to take my life’

In response God told Elijah to stand on the mountain – so he could see the Lord pass by –

Elijah experienced a terrific wind – that tore the mountain apart and sent rocks flying – but God wasn’t in the wind – then the ground began to heave and shake – destroying everything around – enough to turn anyone to God – but God wasn’t in the earthquake. Then there was a great fire – full of destruction and danger – and intense heat – but God wasn’t in the fire –

– and finally there came “a gentle whisper” – and this terrified Elijah – he pulled his coat over his face – for fear of seeing – he knew he had met the living God –

Elijah was running away from Jezebel because he doubted God – and now God was saying to him – have you forgotten? – I am the God of wind and earthquake and fire – I rule not Jezebel

Hearing God’s whisper – reminded Elijah – that God was still in control

Elijah had got so used to the action – He forgotten about the waiting and the listening for His word –

Stillness – silence – solitude are important for the Christian – and if we want to rediscover God –
If you were able to attended any of the recent meditative prayer sessions – you’ll know how valuable the discipline of – engineering some quiet times – with God – can be to our daily routine –

Like Elijah – we – expect – God to be in the spectacular – and we love it when He moves that way – but more often than not – it’s the still small voice – that direct and guides us forward –

God asked Him again – ‘Why are you here Elijah?’

And he came back with the same answer –

But this time God – told him to go and play his part

After a rest – and rediscovery – came Elijah’s third prescription – re-assignment –  


Point 3  


Elijah – was now back on track spiritually – and had a proper perspective of Himself – and God assigned him – with a task he could handle – and also provided him with a friend

‘Anoint Hazed king of Aram – anoint Jehu over Israel – anoint Elisha to succeed you as a prophet

The prophets after Moses and Samuel spoke God’s word with little result – and Israel adopted the worship of many Gods – but when Elijah came down from his meeting with God at Mount Sinai it marked the beginning of a new era –

From this point on – God’s emphasis would be on purification and cleansing of His people through His word

Elijah was the beginning of a long line of prophets who charged Israel with breaking the covenant and who promised God’s judgment on them –

And though he carried this message to the king –
Elijah’s ministry extended beyond Ahab to all Israel – he was God’s first covenant prosecutor who stood between the Lord and the people –

As Elijah realized – when we are under pressure we tend to focus on ourselves- and if we rely on – our own vision – we will fail to see God’s vision

Although Elijah – had done great things for God – he felt – he’d achieved nothing –

Identifying God’s voice is not as difficult – as we sometimes make out – the problem is we pretend not to hear it – even to ourselves – because we don’t want to do what He asks –

Elijah needed time – to recover – to rest and be silent – and God encouraged him to treat his time of wandering – as preparation – for the next part of his journey

As Peter reminds us – God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit – through the Scriptures – through prayer – through the way and life taught by and lived by Jesus – the word made flesh for our purification and salvation – revealing God’s wishes to us – for us –

We all need to listen and respond to God in confession – and humility. We have a loving Father who sent His Son -to die on the cross so that we can be cleansed from sin and find a right relationship with Him –

In the end we need to ask ourselves what makes our lives count – is it our position in society – the power we have over others? – the money we have? – the successes we have achieved? – or the faith and hope we have in God? – and sacrifice Jesus made for us?




Struggles – difficulties – persecution and trials – come whether we are a Christian or not – but when we allow our faith in Jesus to surface in them – He will not only help us through – but we will be strengthened by them –

God is here for all of us to see and to meet personally in Jesus Christ – we just have to listen for His call – and allow God to be God in our Lives – so that He can change us – and use us to achieve great things for His Glory –

This year –through the Lent courses we have an opportunity to explore ways of finding God in our own story – whether in happiness – suffering or when we try to make sense of it all –

I do hope we can attend – it could lead to an encounter that will change the rest of our live




In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit