Where Is Your Faith?

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 13, 2023

Scripture reading:  1st Kings 19: 9-18

Over the course of our 40-year marriage, my wife, Jeanne, and I have celebrated the great times, mourned the terrible times, and exerted our best efforts during all the other times.  Any married couple together longer than a month will tell you the same thing: life together seems to go through cycles of good and bad; how you deal with it can make you a stronger couple.

This brings us to the topic for today.  Let me set the stage for when this phrase comes up in the Plunkett household.

Over the years, there are a few times in which the work that we have done together doesn’t work as well as we hoped and dreamed.  I know that often the frustrations really get me down.  We pray, we plan, we work hard, we try our very best… but things don’t always go the way we hoped.  In those times, it is hard not to become discouraged.  I know that I have.

However, Jeanne will have none of it.  In those days that she catches me feeling low, she will ask me what’s wrong, she will listen carefully, she will often give me some insight or advice that would help.  But if I persist in my discouragement, she will bring out the big guns – which means her own personal pastor’s wife’s theology.  She asks me the question that is the title for today’s sermon:  Where is your faith?

I confess I really hate it when she asks that question.

The reason I hate it is because…she always has a point.

I should have more faith, and I should lean on it every second of every day – NOT just when everything is going great!

Faith doesn’t have a season.  Faith is supposed to be there always…even for fallible human beings like us.

This is why I am so drawn to this week’s reading from the first Book of Kings.  In it, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets – Elijah – is moping, hiding, quitting, and feeling MIGHTY sorry for himself.  He has been threatened by the wicked Queen Jezebel, who vows that another sunset will not occur with Elijah still being alive.

Jezebel hates Elijah with a white, hot hatred. She has the means to make it happen.  This is not some idle threat…this is not just big talk… this is the end for Elijah.  So, he heads out of town.

Scripture tells us that Elijah flees until he finds a lone broom tree, and he lies down under it.  He calls to God and tells the Almighty to go ahead and take his life. 

  • He is done.
  • He is finished.
  • He quits.

What a sad story. 

Good thing it doesn’t end there.

Elijah first gets waited on by an angel who brings him bread and fresh water.  It must have been good stuff because that bread and water revived and sustained Elijah for the next 40 days as he traveled to the Big Boss’ mountain to tell him that he quits.  God and Elijah needed to have a conversation, but God does not baby us or spoon feed us, especially if we are lying on the ground, curled up and moping.  We at least need to stand up and maybe move around a little bit.

Next, Elijah gets called out by God who puts on an excellent display of theophany.  This word describes the usual things that happen when God appears:

  • A storm but God was not in the storm.
  • An earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake.
  • Fire, but God was not in the fire either.

Finally, since theophany didn’t work, God tried something else: He made everything extremely quiet…so quiet that Elijah could hear a whisper: “Elijah, where are you?”

 Now Elijah was ready to talk to God.  He repeated his complaints that he listed previously when he was pouting under the broom tree.  Only now, I think the whining was probably gone from his voice.

I don’t know about you, but listening to ANYONE whining is not something I can do for more than a few seconds.

Not only this, but since God had fed Elijah’s body, it was also necessary to feed Elijah’s mind and spirit.

And what did God do?

  • Did he say, “Poor baby!”?
  • Did he shout at Elijah to “GET UP, PROPHET!”?
  • Did he take Elijah firmly by the arm, give him a swift swat on the butt, and point him back in the direction of Jerusalem?
  • Did he remind Elijah, “I’ll never give you more than you can handle.”?

Of course, God did none of those things.

Instead, God helped Elijah to see that his work must go on, and that maybe a little assistance would help.

So, God lightened the load for Elijah:

  • He told Elijah to anoint two kings for Aram and Israel.  That would strengthen large areas of people, so that Elijah could focus on less work.
  • He told Elijah to choose Elisha as his successor.  There is nothing like having an eager, younger, highly qualified, and focused assistant to make your job easier and more joyful.

God did these things for Elijah, but God also made it clear that Elijah’s work was to continue.

Good thing because Elijah was known in the biblical days as THE prophet who represented the Prophets. 

Remember when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain and Moses and Elijah appeared next to him.  They represented the Law and the Prophets.  Sounds like Elijah’s moping and pouting didn’t affect his status much.

And what happened next?  You could read it for yourself, but I will summarize it this way: Elijah went back to work, and Jezebel never laid a hand on him.

So, we get the Old Testament version of “and they all lived happily ever after.”  But do we get anything else?

What about us regular, non-prophet people of God?

What about us common, every day, trying our best people of God?

What about those of us who whine, fuss, pout, and fall into depression at times?

Anything here for us to glean from this story?

I think so, Christians.  So here is what I think:

  • I think Elijah was not the only prophet who was ever on the verge of giving up.  We may not have it in the biblical record, but I’ll bet every prophet in the entire Bible hit rock bottom at one time or another.
  • I think judging others who are so beaten down by life, so heavy in their hearts, and so utterly sad is a non-loving thing to do.  I think being a good listener is a better option.
  • I think there is a time to talk straight to someone who has given up, and there is a time to just sit with them.
  • God will sit with us and whisper his presence to us if we stand still long enough to listen for it.
  • Most of all, I think that Elijah, the greatest of all the Old Testament prophets, is revealing to each of us that God understands when it all becomes too much.  God talks gently to us in those times. But the work of God goes on.      

God is the God of grand and glorious events throughout human history.

God is the Father of us all and the trusted Abba of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

God needs lil ol’ us, and we need God.

And God calls each of us to do work of some type in His kingdom and in our world.

So, Christians, no matter where your faith may be, God will be there too.