||The power of
the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak
into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way
(1 Kings 18:46)
reached the high point of his ministry. He had
stood before the nation and prayed down the fire
of God on the sacrifice.
All who were present had witnessed a startling demonstration that Yahweh
was more powerful than Baal, and the news soon
travelled throughout the nation. Neither the
people, nor the king would ever be quite the
same again after the dramatic events of that
Unfortunately, neither would the prophet himself. Elijah
had reckoned without the effect of this victory on his
own character. Success is a great deal harder to handle
than most of us have realised. So many strive for it,
never pausing to ponder the character, as well as the
effort, that will be required to sustain it. As Philip
Keller points out, there are few, very few, who can live
with such anointing and yet remain completely humble and
dependent on the Lord.(1)
I can do no more than repeat, for my own benefit if for
no one else's, that pride is a most subtle foe. It is
the hallmark of our enemy, the true reflection of his
heart. It may take the form of a desire to be rich and
famous – or perhaps to feel superior to others, but in
whatever guise it assails us we must be careful. Lucifer
is prepared to trade success for a foothold in our soul.
In the excitement of the moment, it was as though Elijah
suddenly longed to throw off all the constraints and
hardships he had been subjected to during his hidden
years as an outcast. After all, now that the prophets of
Baal had been defeated, why should the king not
recognise his part in the proceedings? Surely even so
hard-hearted a man as Ahab must have been impressed by
what the Lord had done on Mount Carmel!
At such an exalted moment, Elijah found it hard to
believe that God had chosen to keep him hidden from the
public eye, not only because the situation called for
it, but also for the good of his own soul. But as we
shall be seeing, it is precisely because he did not take
time to rest and recover after the huge outlay of mental
and spiritual energy in the battle on Mount Carmel, that
he was so vulnerable in the immediate aftermath.
For the first time in the Scriptural account, we find
Elijah acting without a specific command of the Lord.
What was there really to be gained by rushing off to
visit the stronghold of his enemy? Was he not simply
eager to see how the queen would react when she heard
the news that her beloved prophets had been overthrown?
Not everyone will agree with me on this point, but I am
tempted to wonder whether Elijah did not misuse the
power of the Lord, by running ahead of His anointing.
Most of us have experienced moments when an almost
supernatural strength seems to flow through us while we
are engaged on some special project. But we should not
confuse adrenalin with anointing.
Moreover, Elijah had spent a whole day without food.
Might he not have responded differently in the crisis he
was about to experience had he had something to eat
first? Scripture has much to say about the value of
fasting, but it also reveals that there is such a thing
as inappropriate fasting.(2)
Fasting shows the Lord that we are willing to make
sacrifices in order to reach some God-given goal. It
frees the soul to enter more deeply into the spiritual
conflict, and it sharpens our ability to identify with
people in need. It is something most of us need to learn
more about. Yet, for all the many benefits we derive
from fasting, it is as well to be aware that it may also
serve to open us to a higher degree of temptation,
precisely because it weakens our normal defence
|Much though we are called to wrestle for the kingdom,
there is also a time to rest from our labours and to
enjoy complete freedom from our usual burdens.
If we are
the sort of people who pick up everybody's concerns
whenever we attend a meeting, then life risks becoming
altogether too serious.
It is not unspiritual to take
time off; indeed, we will often find that our best ideas
come when we are at our most relaxed.
Non Burden-Bearing Times
|Years ago, as an eager young Christian worker, I
used to feel mildly guilty at taking a day off a week.
Partly this was due to not wanting to miss out on all
the Lord was doing, but also because I felt embarrassed
at being able to relax at times when others were
working. Today, after experiencing the blessings of
countless days off, I have come to realise that these
non burden-bearing times are less a luxury God indulges
me with than an integral part of His purposes for my
Relaxation is important for the soul, especially if it
be a rest towards God, rather than a rest from Him.
Escapist retreats into a fantasy world hinder our
spiritual development, because they create a
highly-coloured expectation of what life ought to be
like. Against such impossibly high and misleading
standards, ordinary everyday life is bound to appear
almost unbearably drab.
We have spoken earlier about our need to pay attention
to the pace at which we lead our lives. So many today
are experiencing at least some of the symptoms of
burn-out: shallow breathing, restless nights, poor
digestion and wayward thoughts. More contact time with
the Lord, and consequently less with the source of our
tension, may well be a key to recovery.
Piercing the Darkness
Sooner or later almost everyone who ministers for
the Lord reaches a point where they feel so far down
that they wonder if they will ever come up again.
Elijah, there is a danger of turning in on ourselves at
such times, pitying our plight rather than considering
the power of the Lord. Our need at such times is exactly
the same as Elijah's – a deeper repentance and a fresh
touch from the Living Lord.
I am grateful that Scripture is so faithful in recording
the 'downside' experiences of its heroes. It would be
unthinkable in the Koran, for example, to depict the
prophets of their God falling into error or deception.
In the Bible, by contrast, great men sometimes fail
spectacularly – and become still more real and
accessible to us through doing so.
What, for example, could be more disreputable than
Abraham, who lied to his host, Moses who killed a man in
a brawl, or David who murdered the husband of a woman he
had decided on an impulse to take to bed? As for Peter,
the less said the better – denying his Lord only hours
after swearing that he would never do such a thing!
It is wonderful how God fashioned leaders after His own
heart out of such abysmal failures. People who have been
deeply humbled walk a great deal more circumspectly in
the fear of the Lord. Indeed, I sometimes think that
most true success is built out of 'failure' of one kind
What a comfort it is to realise that God can always pick
us up one more time than we can fall. It would be hard
to imagine anything further from today's propensity to
discard the failures than the delightful way in which
the Lord restores His servant.
Because we may find Elijah's dark days mirrored in our
own experience, I believe it will be helpful for us to
follow Elijah through this low point in his pilgrimage.
We will stand alongside him as he wrestles with the
shock of Jezebel's threat against his life, empathize as
waves of condemnation and despondency assail him, and
finally rejoice as he is re-commissioned for further
What steps are you taking to ensure sufficient
non burden-bearing times in your own life? Is there
anything you can do to adjust the pace of your life? Ask
the Lord to show you if there are areas where you are
going beyond what He has asked you to do.
||Let the beloved
of the Lord rest secure in Him,
for He shields
him all day long,
and the one the Lord loves
rests between His shoulders.
||Lord, as we realise how badly Elijah needed rest at
this time in his life, we know You do not want us to
overstretch ourselves. Help us to live within our
emotional means, and to take advantage of quieter times
to recharge our batteries.
Help us to know that we are acceptable to You, whether
or not we have accomplished all we long to do. Take from
our hearts all roots of rejection, and all seeds of
striving. Save us, and all Your precious servants, from
the perils of perfectionism, and the turmoil of
burn-out. In Jesus' name, Amen.