The Agony of Victory [Part 1]
Are you ready for some good news?
God has a journey for you still to take. Even if you’ve reached a great pinnacle, He has more in the future for you.
Today’s text: “And [Elijah] asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life…. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”” - (1 Kings 19:4, 7, ESV)
Years after North Carolina’s 1982 NCAA national championship victory, I was thumbing through a UNC pictorial history. Although he never had the privilege of meeting me, Michael Jordan and I were classmates! So, when I came to that section of the pictorial, I paused to relive the moments. There was Michael’s game-winning shot over Georgetown. There was the team celebrating, cutting down the net.
Then, a strange photo stopped me. The black and white photo must have been snapped moments after the team exited the floor. Unclear whether a locker room or a hallway, the backdrop was an inglorious cinder block wall. Clearly, the game had been played and won. The basketball net, garland-like, hung around James Worthy’s neck as a testimonial to the victory. The dream had been realized. The battle was finished. But, for that odd moment, the camera had captured James Worthy and Sam Perkins not celebrating – in fact, not even smiling. Instead, the basketball players looked spent, emotionless and drained. Almost sad.
For the first time, I thought, perhaps the old motto of Wide World of Sports had left something out. Maybe it’s not always “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat;” maybe there’s such a thing as the “agony of victory.”
It’s what happened to Elijah.
He had been used by God for one of the grandest miracles in the Old Testament era. Elijah mocked the pagan prophets of Baal for their phony god’s impotence and then called down the fire of Jehovah to consume the water-soaked altar. Elijah proved that the Lord is the one true God that day. Elijah defeated paganism that day. If ever a man of God should be brimming with joy and confidence, it was Elijah after Mt. Carmel.
Instead, when one wicked woman, Jezebel, threatened him, Elijah became hopeless and despondent.
Sometimes the voice of shame creeps in when you least expect it. Sometimes you hear its gnawing whine when you have accomplished a great milestone. The voice says, “Look at you now – you’ve accomplished what you dreamt of, but it’s not enough is it? You’re still not good enough.”
When that voice comes, you can reject it with the same reminder that the angel gave Elijah: “there’s still a journey ahead.” Even when you have excelled, know this, God isn’t finished with you. And that’s the Gospel!
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