Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“We are assured and know that (God being a partner in “our” labor) all things work together and are fitting into a plan for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose.”
Romans 8: 28
“Your foolish fears about the future come from the devil. Think only of the present, abandon the future to Providence. It is the good use of the present that assures the future.”
Jean Pierrede Caussade
Today’s Study Texts:
“In the thirty-eighth year of Asa King of Judah, Ahab son of Omri began his reign of twenty-two years over Israel in Samaria. And Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all before him.”
1 Kings 16: 29, 30
“Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.”
James 5: 17
“Ahab and Elijah” – Contrasts In Passion and Power
“All God’s giants have been weak men (or women) who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.”
J. Hudson Taylor
How do I view the word “power”?
What difference has God’s power made in my life?
In what ways has God’s power impacted the way I use the passion in my life?
“There is a pride of power in which the human ego assumes its self-sufficiency and self-mastery and imagines itself secure against all vicissitudes.”
“It is human nature to point to our inadequacies and let them direct us down the path of least resistance.”
As we have traveled through Scripture, one of the elements which stands out in my mind, is the repeated evidence of distinct contrasts which permeate the lives of individuals whose stories are found in the Bible. Beginning in Genesis, the first book in the Bible, we find two brothers, Cain and Abel, displayed as complete opposites. Then there’s Abraham and Lot -- a generous uncle and a greedy nephew. And as we witnessed during the past two weeks, even in the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people were led by two disparate leaders -- the southern kingdom ruled by “good king” Jehoshaphat while the northern kingdom was enfolded in the clutches of King Ahab and his wily wife Jezebel.
It is in lives with opposing characteristics, especially as specific individuals reflect their core beliefs, where we find so much that serves as a roadmap in our own world.
This is the reason that even before the prophet Elijah shows up on the palace doorstep of King Ahab of Israel, I want to take a few moments to reflect on how these two very different characters, Elijah and Ahab, chose to use their passion and thus, their power.
First, I want to expand on the word passion. While this particular word, in the English language, is often tied to a person’s sexual inclinations and drives, the word passion, in broader terms, is truly reflective of the drives which can propel our talents and skills. We find this application in musical and artistic endeavors where the “creative juices” of an individual are frequently encouraged by their passions which motivate certain creative endeavors as well.
Recently, in reading a biography about the young musical genius Frederick Chopin, I would be understating the obvious to observe that his passion for the piano and composing music for this special instrument drove him, in unimaginable ways, to commit his life to writing some of the most incredible piano scores in history. Passion then, should not be deemed as an undesirable emotion.
I’d like to add, neither should power be looked at as a quality which drips only with negative connotations.
Passion and power, when combined and used correctly, have a tremendous ability to infuse our lives with glorious potential, especially when it comes to accomplishing the intended purpose for which you and I were created. Author Henri Nouwen offers a very interesting comparison about the use of power without love -- and I’d like to take the liberty of using the identifying mark of “holy passion” or “God-directed passion,” as a thoughtful way of inspiring divine love within us, which is at the heart of heavenly power. Nouwen wrote, “What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it’s that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.” These differences are so clearly apparent in the lives of the two individuals, Elijah and Ahab, whose same time on earth give us the unique ability to look at how passion can be squandered in an ungodly manner, just as power can be abused for self-serving means as well. Yet at the same time both passion and power can be effective instruments in heaven’s orchestra.
This thought was brought home to me by the great Biblical biographer Alexander Whyte. In describing the power and passion contained in the life of Elijah, Whyte describes the prophet in this way: “Elijah was a man, indeed, of passions all compact.” I’d like to insert that it was the passion which filled Elijah’s life that gave him such a powerful ministry for God. Pastor Whyte continues by delineating some of the specific qualities or passions, as he calls them, which permeated Elijah’s life: “We never see Elijah that he is not subject to some passion or other. A passion of scorn or contempt; a passion of anger and revenge; a passion of sadness and dejection and despair; a passion of preaching; a passion of prayer. Elijah was a great man…He was a Mount Sinai of a man, with a heart like a thunderstorm.”
This complex description of Elijah, I believe, goes straight to the heart of why he was a powerful force for good and for change in a nation dominated by evil.
But I find it enlightening to discover the way Alexander Whyte describes the differences between Elijah and Ahab, for in reality, they were both passionate people placed in positions where they could easily wield their power. Whyte notes this truth when he states, “Yes, we all have passions enough to make us not Elijahs and Ahabs only, but angels in heaven, or devils in hell. And our passions are every day doing that within us. All the differences between Elijah and Ahab were in the subjection of their passions. Elijah was a man of immensely stronger passions than poor Ahab ever was; only Elijah’s powerful passions all swept him up to heaven, whereas all Ahab’s contemptible passions shouldered and shoveled and sucked him down to hell…The whole difference between Elijah and Ahab…was in their hearts’ desires, till their hearts’ desires grew up into all-consuming passions.”
It was either a heaven-driven passion or a hell-driven passion which served as the catalyst for how these two chose to use their power. Elijah as a powerful, passionate prayer warrior and preacher; Ahab as a powerful, passionate proponent of the worship of Baal.
In the coming days, as we become better acquainted with Elijah and Ahab and those individuals who surrounded their lives, it would do us well never to forget that we all contain within us, a great potential for using the gifts bestowed upon our lives in ways which bless or curse. In the words of Horatius Bonar, “Nearness to Christ, intimacy with Him, assimilation to His character -- these are the elements of a ministry of power.” A ministry, I might inject, which is filled with heaven’s passionate power.
“I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”
Philippians 4: 13
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time –
Footprints that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s wintry main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.”
Henry W. Longfellow
“Merciful Father, help me to know that my shadow cannot fall without me, and that my footprints cannot be found where I have never trodden. I pray that thou wilt make me so familiar with the right path that it may be mine to have the privilege of leading others to the right places. Amen.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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