Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.”
Isaiah 40: 28-31
“Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.”
John Greenleaf Whittier
Today’s Study Text:
“But he (Elijah) himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a lone broom or juniper tree and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers.’”
1 Kings 19: 4
“When You’ve Had Enough!”
“If you burn the candle at both ends, you’ll eventually run out of wax.”
Have I ever felt so stressed-out that I didn’t want to go on anymore?
What areas of my life are so out-of-control that I feel like I have had enough?
What can I learn from Elijah’s experience when he ran out to the wilderness in a time of extreme stress?
“The bow always strung…will not do.”
“The restless, high-pressure hurry in which men (and women) live endangers the very foundation of personal religion.”
Within a twenty-four hour period of time, Elijah found himself confronting the entire brigade of Baal-worshipping prophets in a spiritual battle on the top of Mount Carmel. After what had to be an emotionally draining day, God spoke in a mighty way as fire from heaven consumed Elijah’s offering. However, Elijah’s day wasn’t over yet. Nor were his prayers ended.
After the physical battle which resulted in the death of the devilish prophets of Baal, we are informed that Elijah again made a trek to the top of Carmel where he bowed in prayer until a sign from God alerted him to a forth-coming rain storm.
You and I could assume that at this point in time, had we been Elijah, we would have tried to get some food and rest. But this wasn’t on Elijah’s schedule. Instead, a twenty-mile marathon back to the palace in Jezreel was the next adventure Elijah undertook. And remember, he was running in a vicious storm.
Having delivered King Ahab safely to the palace gates, Elijah dropped somewhere to get some sleep, only to be awakened by a threatening messenger who warned him that within twenty-four hours he would be dead.
So what did Elijah do? He arose and took off in a jaunt that was another eighty miles long, until he was outside the reach of Jezebel.
Finally, you would think he would stop to get a little “shut eye” but if you thought this was what would happen, you would be completely wrong.
Leaving his lone companion, his servant, in Beersheba of Judah, Elijah again headed a day’s journey into the wilderness, sat down under a juniper tree and told God, “I’ve had enough. Just let me die!”
After reading this list of activities accomplished in just a few days, I have to tell you that what amazes me the most is that Elijah didn’t just drop over dead from extreme exertion. Who could tolerate this kind of strain on the body or stress on the nerves? I don’t know anyone who could -- maybe you do -- but let me tell you, it is beyond comprehension to think that this type of physical and emotional trauma would not just affect your body but also your mind.
Here’s what I believe gets lost in the story of Elijah and it is this fact: All of Elijah’s activities were done on behalf of God. Granted, it was not God who instructed Elijah to run when Jezebel threatened his life, but in Elijah’s mind, every thing he was doing was done for God. The Bible gives us proof that what I just said is true for we find that Elijah, himself, told God, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts” (1 Kings 19: 10, Amplified Bible). In the Hebrew, the word “jealous” is defined as “zealous.” When a person is identified as having “zeal” for something, the dictionary states they are, “enthusiastic, diligent, and devoted in their pursuit.” When the word “zeal” is referenced in terms of spiritual endeavors, it is not considered a negative. When you have great devotion to the cause of God, it is believed to be a big positive! One is admired for being a diligent worker for God. In fact, we have to look no further than the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25, where the man with one talent who buried it in the ground, has been used as an example of how laziness and the lack of a “work ethic” is to be condemned while those who “doubled” their talents are held up with great admiration.
I’m not arguing here on the merits of “working diligently” for I believe the parable of the wise use of our abilities speaks for itself. What I am suggesting is that sometimes our “working diligently” for God is carried to the extreme and we unfortunately get the idea that the harder we press ourselves, the better. “After all,” we say, “I’m working for God!”
As I’ve read biographies on some of the most illustrious Christian leaders down through history, one common thread which runs through their lives is that while they were all devoted to the work God gave them to do, many had to learn, the hard way, that over-extending ourselves was not a spiritual plus, by any means. After stress has been placed on any person, even the strongest among us, especially for extended periods of time, something’s going to give. Or as I found out the first-time I used a pressure-cooker, (without taking time to read the informative instructions included with the pot!) when too much pressure is forced on us, either by our own doing or by others, we may end up “popping off.” In my case, with my pressure-cooker, I ended up with potatoes on the ceiling of my kitchen. And yes, it can happen to our human lives as well.
Just ask Martha, who in the New Testament story in Luke 10: 38-42, Amplified Bible, found herself in such a pressure-cooker of service for Jesus that she blew-up. Elijah was no different. He was also filled with zeal for God’s cause. He was a diligent worker. His only problem was that he pushed too hard for too long!
So often, when the story of Elijah is studied in-depth, Biblical scholars and commentators alike note that after the Mount Carmel experience, it appears Elijah’s faith dipped to a very low point, and indeed this may have been the case.
However, I’d like to offer another perspective and it is this. Even when we are “working for God,” we may push ourselves too hard. We can let the pressure of doing good things sink us just as easily as the pressure of doing what the world beckons us to do.
This is why, when Jesus was in the home of Martha, He commented on and clarified the situation that led Martha to explode:
“But the Lord replied to her by saying, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the good portion (that which is to her advantage), which shall not be taken away from her.”
What Jesus explained to Martha was that she was missing something more important when she became so busy working for Jesus, she had no time to spend with Jesus.
The Apostle Paul referred to the same challenge when he told his friends in Corinth that he was crushed by the work he was doing to the point where,”I despaired even of life” (II Corinthians 1: 8, 9, Amplified Bible). It seems the phrase, “they worked themselves to death,” doesn’t just apply to hard physical labor or overworking to meet the world’s demands, it can also apply to our busy work for God when we allow “what is the most important” to be squeezed out. In the words of Francois Fenelon, “Those who have stations of importance to fill, have generally so many indispensable duties to perform, that without the greatest care in the management of their time, none will be left to be alone with God.”
As we look at Elijah, sitting under a broom tree, worn out from the stress of doing too much too fast, we would do well to remember the words of Keri Kent, “When we live life in a hurry, we end up weary…in a hurry.” And like Elijah, we may say, “I’ve had enough.” This is when we should stop and listen for the words of Jesus, “Choose the one thing that will never be taken away from you. Come spend time with Me.”
“The truth is that the feelings we receive from our devotional life are the least of its benefits. The invisible and unfelt grace of God is much greater, and it is beyond our comprehension.”
John of the Cross
“But the Lord replied to (Martha) by saying, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the good portion (that which is to her advantage), which shall not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10: 41, 42
“Jesus, did You ever feel the fierce force the push the pull of days and nights that were far to full of people and programs you thought willed by One whose way must be fulfilled?
When at the end of a difficult day, with barely time to pause and pray before the crowds began to press upon You, did You also bless each God-given opportunity?
If so, Jesus, remember me.”
Miriam Therese Winter
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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