• Tony Birkhead

#thechallenge Week - 5




Rest is Best to bring us back to where God wants us!


INTRODUCTION

When have you had a “mountaintop” experience? Where were you? What took place?

Now think about a “valley” experience you’ve had, one in which your situation seemed hopeless. What were the reasons for your despair? What emotions did you feel? How did your circumstances turn out?

King Ahab, influenced by his evil wife Jezebel, had led Israel into idolatry. Yet just before the events of chapter 19, the power of God had come upon the prophet Elijah in amazing ways. In a contest with the false prophets of Baal, Elijah demonstrated God’s superiority, resulting in the execution of a great number of false prophets. After a long drought, God sent rain in response to Elijah’s prayers. Finally, Elijah was empowered by God’s Spirit to outrun the king’s chariots. Elijah experienced what we could call a “mountaintop” experience, followed suddenly by a “valley” experience in which he felt tired, depressed, and alone. God’s power had been on display for evil people to see, yet they did not bend their knees to God or to His prophet. The temptation to feel alone, afraid, depressed, and that his efforts were in vain must have been overwhelming for Elijah. He may have even wondered if God’s purposes had failed. During this “valley” experience, Elijah chose to run away.

KEY SCRIPTURE

1 Kings 19:1-15a

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came…

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ I KINGS 19:1-2.

How would you describe Jezebel based on these verses? What kind of person was she?

What did Jezebel say that she would do to Elijah? How did Elijah respond to her threat?

Look at 2 Kings 9:30-37 to discover how Jezebel died. How did she continue to defy God and reject Him?

Jezebel—and people like her who reject God—often remain defiant to the end. She was an evil person who lived as she wanted, no matter the consequences. Sin often breeds this kind of self-destructive arrogance and heedlessness.

READ I KINGS 19:3-5A.

When have you worked or played to the point of exhaustion? What do you remember about your physical and mental state at the time? How did you cope?

Put yourself in Elijah’s place and complete this sentence: “I ran because _____ and I was feeling ________.”

How should the people of God deal with loneliness and depression? What are some of the complexities that accompany this issue?

Elijah’s faith may have crumbled due to his physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion. When we push ourselves to the extreme, we often need time to rest and recharge in all three arenas. Jesus, though fully God, was also fully man, and had to spend time resting and retreating. Jesus needed physical and spiritual refreshing in order to have the strength and mental posture to continue ministering to people while training His disciples. We are no different—we need times of rest so we do not fall victim to the temptations that often come our way when we are exhausted. If we are not careful, we will make poor choices when we are in the middle of a “valley” experience, and those experiences often take place when we are tired, feel alone, and are in need of a fresh touch from God.

What are some healthy ways of coping when we find ourselves feeling the way Elijah felt? How should we approach God? How can we get refreshed?

How might God use loneliness and depression to speak into our lives? What can we learn about God and ourselves when we are depressed?

READ I KINGS 19:5B-6.

When you experience a “valley” circumstance, what helps you recover? What do you need the most?

What is significant about the angel’s presence, message, and provision?

Elijah was in a deep depression. He had journeyed out of Judean territory and into deeper desert. The broom tree under which he rested provided shade, and its roots could be used for food if necessary. The Lord had compassion on Elijah and sent an angelic messenger to wake him from his deep sleep. Not only did Elijah’s body need rest, but also it needed fuel. God miraculously provided water and bread for the prophet to eat; afterward, Elijah needed even more rest and recovery.

READ I KINGS 19:7-8.

What is significant about the “40 days and nights”?

What is important about Elijah’s retreating to Mount Horeb? For what might he have been hoping?

Elijah ran into the desert—the same place where his ancestors received the covenant. Mount Horeb (also called Mount Sinai) was an extremely important place to the Hebrew people. It was at Mount Horeb that Moses received the Ten Commandments, and the place where God’s presence was experienced by His people. Elijah went back to this important landmark and would have his personal faith renewed by God’s presence, too.

Do you have a life experience that is specifically tied to a place where God worked? How can it be helpful when we return to the place where we last met God?


MOVING FORWARD

  • Identify an area of your life you have trouble shutting down so you can rest?

  • Have you ever felt like Elijah in this story?

Have you quit believing God can take care of you?

Have you started to shut people out?

Have you been tempted to believe you are worthless?

  • Challenge yourself this week to take one day with no social media and see how it allows you to rest.


PRAY TOGETHER

Thank God for being present even when circumstances may tempt you to believe otherwise. Acknowledge that He knows your situation and is working to make everything for your good and His glory. Pray that you would be alert for times when you are physically, mentally, and emotionally spent.


COMMENTARY

1 KINGS 19:1-9

19:1. Once King Ahab arrived in Jezreel, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done. He recounted Elijah’s proposal, the failure of Baal to respond to the prayers of his prophets, God’s incredible display of power, the people’s response, and the slaughter of all the prophets of Baal. Jezebel could look outside and see Elijah’s prophecy of rain also had come true.

19:2. Hearing Ahab’s account, Jezebel viewed Elijah’s action as a vicious attack on her god Baal, something she refused to tolerate. She sent a messenger to Elijah, vowing he would die as had the prophets of Baal. As Elijah ran to Jezreel (18:46), he must have been overjoyed at God’s great victory over Baal. The people had recognized the Lord as Victor and had acclaimed Him as their God (18:39). Surely Ahab also had been convinced that Baal did not exist and should not be worshiped. Elijah probably expected to return to Jezreel as a victorious prophet. Jezebel’s message crushed his joyful celebration.

19:3. Elijah responded to Jezebel’s threat with fear and ran for his life. Elijah’s flight might have indicated a lack of strength to continue the fight against Baalism and Jezebel or a lack of faith in God’s ability to protect him from Jezebel. His victory had turned into defeat.

Many characters in the Bible experienced fear, including Abraham (Gen. 26:7), Jacob (32:11), Joshua (Jos. 8:1), and Peter (Gal. 2:12). We also face fear and sometimes, as Elijah, we seek to escape from frightening situations. When we allow threats to intimidate our faith, we cannot see how God can help us; fear then can overwhelm us.

Elijah traveled south through Israel and Judah and arrived at Beersheba (bee ehr SHEE buh), the southernmost boundary of Judah. There Elijah left his servant, probably the same young man who had reported to Elijah on the status of the gathering rain clouds (1 Kings 18:43-44). Elijah’s dismissal of his servant indicated his intention to abandon his prophetic ministry. He would no longer need a servant.

19:4. Alone, Elijah traveled another day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, a small shrub, and sought shelter in its meager shade. Elijah prayed that he might die. He had had enough of standing alone for God. He had grown tired of facing one enemy of God after another. He believed his service for God had been in vain. He, as his ancestors, had failed to lead Israel to a permanent commitment to the Lord. In his depressed state, death seemed the best alternative.

Sometimes we may think biblical figures did not experience the same problems we do. James’s statement that Elijah was like us emphasizes Elijah’s humanity (Jas. 5:17). It shows, however, that God can use us ordinary people in wonderful ways as he used Elijah. Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah were not superhuman. They wrestled with temptation, experienced failure, felt fear, and struggled with depression, even as all of us do at times.

19:5. The past three years in Elijah’s life had been trying and exhausting. As a known opponent of Baal, he topped Ahab and Jezebel’s list of troublemakers (1 Kings 18:17). Although God had miraculously provided nourishment for him (17:6,15-16), he had watched his people suffer through the drought and still not repent and trust in the Lord. God’s impressive victory on Mount Carmel had filled Elijah with joy and confidence, but that evaporated with Jezebel’s threat. Within a short time he had journeyed approximately 100 miles, passing beyond the boundary of Judah and into the wilderness.

Physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion finally caught up with Elijah. He lay down under the shrub’s shade and fell asleep. Believers are not immune to exhaustion and depression. Sometimes we exhaust ourselves through Christian service, spending all our time ministering to others without spending enough time with God and at rest. At other times the demands and stresses of life can take their toll. With no physical energy to face or complete tasks, we can despair of ever getting them done. With no mental energy, we cannot think clearly and can become discouraged when we cannot make sound decisions. With no spiritual energy, we lose sight of our divine source of strength.

In Elijah’s time of need, God provided for him. God sent an angel who touched Elijah and told him to get up and eat. As God miraculously had cared for Elijah earlier (17:6,15-16), so He did again.

19:6. Elijah roused from his sleep and saw a freshly baked cake of bread and a jar of water. God provided the basic necessities for His servant. Elijah did not awaken to find a multicourse meal, a freshly drawn bath, and a warm bed. Elijah awoke to find hope. In the last few days, Jezebel’s threat and the apparent ineffectiveness of his ministry had overwhelmed and depressed him. Now he realized God had not given up on him. The food and water brought hope but did not cure his exhaustion or depression. After eating and drinking, he lay down again.

19:9. God, who had spoken to Moses and Israel at Horeb centuries before, spoke to Elijah. He asked Elijah what he was doing at Horeb. While we might think God spoke to Elijah in a stern, accusing manner, He probably did not. God knew what Elijah had been through. Out of His great compassion, God encouraged Elijah to tell Him exactly what he was thinking. Of course, God knew.



DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God..

2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus traded His perfect rightness before God for our utter depravity. His sacrifice was not lacking, it was complete, flawless, and whole. In fact, Jesus said it Himself, “It is finished” (John 19:30). However, often we attempt to add to Christ’s finished work. We justify ourselves in our own minds and hearts by doing good things (i.e. reading our Bibles, going to church, giving our tithe, serving others). When we do these good things we come to believe that we are good people. Yes, we believe Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), but God’s opinion of us is still largely based on the merit we earn by doing the right things. The belief that we can add anything to completed work of Christ on the cross is dripping with pride!

On the opposite side of this pride coin, however, lurks another evil. It is the idea that we can also subtract from His work. The notion that we aren’t doing enough of those good things to earn God’s favor and love is just as heinous, as it completely undermines the truth that all of our righteousness springs from Christ. We will, as Christians, walk as He walked, think as He thought, and do as He did (I John 2:5-6), but not as the means for our justification. We will walk in relationship with our Father through the reconciling work of Jesus alone!

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,

Isaiah 30:15

The context of this verse is so important. The intended audience is Israel during one of their (many) rebellions against God. God offers a warning that they can only be saved by returning to him. With this in mind, let’s look at the lesson here and what it’s application today might look like. We cannot hope to be saved without turning back to God. Since our only hope of salvation is through a Savior this seems like the obvious application of this verse. ‘Turn from your wicked ways and repent.’

But the interesting part of this verse to me is the part about rest. Resting in the Lord—this is not a passive rest where we fall into apathy or sit around waiting for God to do something. No, this is a quiet confidence in Him. When we are truly confident in God’s ability to rescue us we find peace. Our strength comes in knowing that He’s in control and capable of pulling us out of our darkest places. Yet, as the last line suggests, our pride often leads us to reject Him.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Luke 12:22-25

Here I was. I had painstakingly planned for the next day for weeks—no, months. I was prepared. I had prayed about this. I had planned. At times I was even excited. And now I couldn’t sleep. I was scared. I looked at my bedside clock… 11 PM. Then 2 AM… then 4 AM. Could it really be 6 AM?!

Have you ever been struck with fear? My name is Brian, and I am a worrier — and needlessly so! Even those men around Jesus were tempted toward fear, who then reminded them He cares even for the birds – and we, His friends, are worth so much more to Him than birds. Because our Good Shepherd “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart” (Isaiah 40:11), we need only to call to Him in our weakness.

We serve a Master so compassionate, He lifts us into His arms, weakness and all. “What perfect safety!,” as Charles Spurgeon notes, “Who could hurt those in His embrace? To do so, they must hurt the Shepherd first. What perfect rest and the sweetest comfort!”

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 4

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops

James 5:13-18

Our heavenly Father chooses to involve the prayers of His children in the outworking of His plan (2 Kings 20:1-6). But what about a circumstance like a friend’s serious illness? Perhaps you wonder, Why should I pray about it if God already knows how the situation will turn out?

When you pray, God works in your heart so that you are in harmony with His will. Prayer lets us in on what He is doing. In the event that God calls your friend home, He also prepares you with awareness of His presence—that way, when you walk through the valley, you have peace. And in some situations, your prayer may be the very instrument God plans to use in bringing about a result He desires.

No farmer can control the yield of his crops. He can till the soil and plant the seed in the best way he knows, but it is the Lord who causes growth. Of course, God could produce crops without help, but no farmer reaps a fantastic harvest sitting at home. In a similar way, the heavenly Father chooses to work through us because He is a God of relationship. He wants to involve us in His work, and that includes our prayers.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

Show me someone who has lost hope, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t reading the Scriptures. Reading God’s Word bolsters our faith and renews our hope. Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (NLT).

And Romans 15:4 says, “Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled” (NLT).

We as Christians should be very hopeful—overflowing with hope, in fact. But sometimes we lose our hope. The Gospel of Luke records the story of two downhearted disciples on the Emmaus Road. In their minds, Jesus had failed in His mission. He had been crucified, and He was gone.

They had pinned their hopes to Him, thinking He would overthrow the tyranny of Rome. What a disappointment, they thought. As they were walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a stranger joined them. They didn’t know who this guy was, but it turned out to be Jesus.

Jesus effectively said to them, “What’s up? What’s been going on? Why the long faces? You look sad.” So they began telling Jesus about Jesus. And they weren’t doing a very good job, by the way. They said, “We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel” (Luke 24:21 NLT). Then Jesus gave them a guided tour of all the Old Testament passages that pointed to Him. As He talked with them on the road, they had their hope returned. And when they sat down to eat with Jesus, they realized it was Him. Then He suddenly disappeared.

So how did Jesus restore the hope of these disciples? He restored it through the Scriptures. Of all people, we who are followers of Jesus should be filled with hope.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

1 view

LIVING WATER

1284 SUGARLOAF ROAD, 

HENDERSONVILLE, NC 28792 

828.698.4664

SERVICE TIME: 10:30AM