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4 Ways God Wants to Renew You according to the Story of Elijah

  • David Sanford Contributing Writer
  • Updated May 19, 2021
4 Ways God Wants to Renew You according to the Story of Elijah

Are you… Physically down? Emotionally exhausted? Spiritually floundering? Socially isolated? Who isn’t these days? I’ve been there many times. So was the Bible’s most courageous Old Testament prophet, Elijah, “a man just like us.” We share the same DNA. And God repeatedly promises to care for us fully too.

I see myself as a fairly courageous person. From time to time, however, I have fought (and still fight) periodic episodes of deep discouragement, even despair. That’s been especially true since a devastating surgical disaster 18 months ago. It killed me temporarily and left me disabled permanently. 

Thankfully, while studying the life of Elijah the prophet in 1 Kings 17-19, I learned how God renews us. The principles I learned then have become second nature to me, lifesavers on many occasions, especially over the past year and a half. My prayer is that God will use these same principles to encourage you in a very specific way at this point in your life.

In my constant reading of Scripture for decades, I know of no other biblical character (besides Jesus) who shows more courage than Elijah. Yes, Moses is a close second. Then again, Elijah was the first man God raised up a few generations after the glory days of King Solomon. God raised him up to confront the immense wickedness, gross idolatry, and rampant paganism that had consumed the northern kingdom of Israel.

We Need Courage in Trying Times

The first lesson we learn from the life of Elijah is that God honors the courage of His children.

Ahab has taken the throne as the seventh king of northern Israel (after the kingdom’s split). Ahab proved viler than anyone before him. What’s more, Ahab’s wife was Jezebel, the wicked witch of the north.

Queen Jezebel was a Sidonian whose chief ambition in life was to rampantly propagate a gross form of paganism in Israel—and to utterly destroy any and all worship of the true God. Jezebel murdered most of God’s prophets, priests, and teachers. If anyone ever was inspired by Satan himself, it was this woman—and her equally wicked husband, King Ahab. 

Onto this scene Elijah steps, pronouncing God’s judgment on Israel and declaring that God is shutting the heavens. “It will never rain again except by my word.”

Imagine having the courage and audacity to say something like that. It’s ludicrous… unless God told you to make that announcement. 

Even if God did tell you, it would take a huge amount of courage to take God at His word, let alone confront Ahab and pronounce such a judgment in the name of the one true Lord God, maker of heaven and earth.

After pronouncing this judgment on the wicked nation of Israel, Elijah heads east across the Jordan River at the command of God, to live in the wilderness along a brook in the Kerith Ravine, near his hometown of Tishbe. 

Later, when the brook dries up, God once again commands Elijah to “go at once” north to a coastal town in Sidon practically next door to wicked queen Jezebel’s hometown. Again, Elijah obeys God. 

The first time, near his own hometown, was much easier than this second time around. Yet divine irony: Ahab searched “everywhere” for Elijah, but couldn’t find him!

Courage Is Strongest with God’s Power

Time passes. God’s judgment on Israel has reduced the once-prosperous nation to poverty. It hasn’t rained in three and a half years. Ahab is absolutely desperate, but he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the reason for the terrible famine that has stricken the entire land. And he utterly refuses to turn away from his previous deeds.

Now that Ahab has clearly demonstrated his rebellion against God, the Lord tells Elijah to go back and confront him once again. This would be equivalent to someone flying to Saudia Arabia and pronouncing the God of Israel’s judgment on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Unthinkable.

But Elijah goes, at the command of God, announcing his arrival to King Ahab’s chief of staff, and then stepping back into Ahab’s life. The king’s immediate response when he saw the prophet was to cry out, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

A short time later, at Mount Carmel, God honors Elijah’s courage by sending forth lightning from heaven to devour the evening sacrifice. Elijah becomes an instant national hero.

Ultimately, human courage is strongest with the power of God. Biblically, it’s difficult to divorce the two. True courage isn’t a temperament trait. It’s God at work within us, and through us, for His purposes.

When Our Courage Fails

Some hours later, we find Ahab arriving back at his palace. As he steps off his chariot, shortly after Elijah finishes a literal marathon and victoriously enters the city of Jezreel, Ahab is dripping wet, covered with mud, and has just a bit of explaining to do to his wife, Jezebel. 

The Sidonian queen’s schemes have failed and her imported prophets of Baal and Asherah have been put to death. Jezebel doesn’t take this lightly and vows to kill the prophet Elijah before another day goes by.

It’s here that Elijah proves he’s “a man just like us” (James 5:17).

In a moment of physical weakness (he’s just run a marathon, remember!), Elijah becomes emotionally distraught over Jezebel’s murderous threats. Then look at what Elijah does.

Instead of crying out to God in prayer, seeking His will…

Elijah panics, goes into spiritual neutral, and then high-tails it south into the desert of Beersheba. He even leaves his servant behind in his utter panic to save his own skin.

Physically, Elijah becomes further exhausted.

Emotionally, he’s completely devastated.

Spiritually, he’s out of touch with God.

Socially, he’s utterly isolated.

It isn’t until Elijah collapses under a desert tree in abject despair that he finally remembers to pray. And what a prayer it is! “Lord, I’ve had enough! Take my life! I feel like dying!” Such a prayer. His courage is completely gone.

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, once remarked, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” 

If ever there was a coward, it was Elijah out there in the desert of Beersheba. What’s a prophet of God doing in a place like that? 

We Share the Same DNA

The truth is, we’re no different than Elijah. We share the same DNA. There are times when even the best of us prove to be cowards. We’re vulnerable whenever we are:

Physically exhausted

Emotionally upset

Spiritually dry

Socially isolated

Think about it. What do you do when the storms of life hit? Immediately pick up the phone and ask someone to pray for you? Open God’s word and ask Him to speak to you? Listen to music to encourage your heart? And get a good night’s sleep?

Or are you like Elijah? “Woe is me. It doesn’t get any worse than this. Just let me die, Lord. I’ve had enough.”

4 Wonderful Ways God Renews Us

What’s critical to see is how God responds to Elijah at his moment of greatest discouragement and despair. How does God respond to his pathetic prayer? Strike him dead? No! Instead… God ministers to Elijah, cares for him fully, and puts Elijah back on his feet.

Physically, God provides much-needed food and rest.

Emotionally, God allows Elijah to sense His presence.

Spiritually, God exhorts Elijah to follow Him again.

Socially, God tells Elijah about 7,000 God-fearing men.

Back on his feet, Elijah heads north out of the desert of Beersheba and onto the pages of Scripture as one of the greatest heroes of the faith.

Because Elijah was “a man just like us,” we can learn a great lesson from his response to a crisis… and God’s response! Instead of running away from crises, we need to turn to God, trusting His promises to respond and meet our every need. 

Just as He cared for Elijah, the Lord repeatedly promises to care for you and me. We need only call on God and ask Him to renew us fully. 

That renewal includes new courage for each day. Ask Him for it today!

Related Resource: Listen to our FREE podcast, How to Study the Bible! All of our episodes are available at Listen to the first episode here:

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash

headshot of David Sanford new 2020The late David Sanford’s book and Bible projects were published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His latest book was Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s book, Life Map Devotional for Women.