Posts Tagged hopeless
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings. And while I love the story of how God proved His might and power over the false gods of Israel, calling fire down from heaven, I think I like what happened next even more.
After that great victory, I’m sure Elijah was riding a surge of adrenaline, feeling pretty good about how things had gone. The fire came down from heaven, right there in front of him, just as he had prayed. You talk about a spiritual high!
But Elijah came down from the mountain.
Queen Jezebel had gotten word of what had happened, how Elijah had executed the prophets of Baal. This enraged the wicked queen, and she swore to see Elijah executed by that time tomorrow.
Suddenly there is Elijah, fresh off his incredible victory, running for his life. He headed a day’s journey into the wilderness, perplexed and distressed. The Bible says he sat down under a juniper tree and prayed to die, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” You can hear the depression and anxiety in his prayer and feel the hopelessness. Here is a guy who just called fire down from heaven, sitting under a tree, feeling abandoned by God and praying to die.
God led Elijah even deeper into the wilderness. Forty days he traveled to the mountain of God, Mount Sinai. God asked him, as he stood on the mountain, what was wrong. Elijah replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
At the pinnacle of his career, at the height of his victory, we see this man of God baring the hopelessness of his fears before God. He had accomplished the greatest work of his life, and was left thinking “now what?” So God told him to go stand on the mountain. As Elijah stood there, he encountered a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But the Bible tells us that God was not in any of those experiences. Then Elijah heard a still small voice, or translated better, “a delicate whispering voice.” And Elijah covered his face, for he knew God was there.
How often do we look for God in the big things?
We seem to think the mighty victories is where we find God. We expect God to show Himself in the fire from heaven, or the earthquake, wind or fire. Yet, it is often during those experiences, or right after, that we find ourselves let down and hopeless. We have looked for God in the monumental, and missed Him in the mundane.
All too often, we think we must start the international ministry or do some other magnificent act. And while God calls us to do great things for Him, we must never forget that He is far more concerned with the state of our hearts than He is with what we do. God is far more concerned about what He does in you than what you do for Him. God is found, not always in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. He is found in that delicate whispering voice, speaking to us in the midst of our fear and despair, assuring us that He is there.
Am I anti-accomplishment?
No, I’m not telling you God doesn’t want you to win great battles for Him. I’m not implying that none of us are called to confront the prophets of Baal in our own world and culture. What I am saying is this: Do not put your trust in those great things. Do not put your hope in the works, but the God who does them. Do not put your trust in the victory, but in the God who wins it. Do not base your life on what you do for God, but what He does in you.
The wind, the earthquake, the fire, and the victory might forsake you. You might find yourself, in the wake of great victory, running for your life. But that delicate whispering voice of God, assuring you of His presence, is always there.
That’s something worth trusting.
I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago called “What if you feel like quitting?” I wrote it after I saw someone arrive at my blog after typing these words into a search engine: “what to do when you feel like turning away from Christianity?”
Well, the other night I noticed another search that resulted in a visit to this blog. This time the search was this: “I am a failure at Christianity.”
The emotion and hopelessness of those words have haunted me for three days now. Someone, somewhere sat down at their computer in a moment of despair and typed those words, hoping to find some solace or comfort. I have tried to imagine what prompted their resignation. What failure or sin caused this sad admission? I have prayed for that person in the days following, and I feel like I must respond.
There are two emotions that hit me as I think about that sentence, “I am a failure at Christianity.”
The first is compassion on the precious person who wrote it. I pray you will find hope and forgiveness. I hope you will find a way through Christ to get back up and keep going.
The second emotion I feel is anger. I am angry at a church culture that has made it possible for someone to feel like a failure at Christianity. I am angry that we have reduced the incredible grace of God, his undeserved favor, into a set of rules to keep and sins to avoid. I am angry that we have created an atmosphere where those who have trouble keeping our rules feel less than worthy of Christ and less than deserving of His grace.
You see, it’s actually impossible to fail at Christianity. If it were possible to fail, that would mean we have something to do with our own redemption. If it were possible to fail, that would mean there is something more than the cross that is necessary for salvation. If it were possible to fail, that would mean my salvation has more to do with me than it does with God.
None of those things are true. We are saved by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ. We most definitely do not deserve it. God has acted completely out of His own love for us. He has offered us forgiveness completely apart from anything we can do to earn or deserve it. The Bible tells us in Romans 5 that Christ died for us “while we were yet sinners.” That’s the good news, plain and simple. And the love and grace that saved you once is the same love and grace that continues to save you every minute of every day.
The only way we could ever fail at Christianity would be to not accept it. It’s a free gift, and the only way to fail with a gift is if we will not take it.
So to the person who wrote those words, I encourage you to believe. You are actually at the very place God wants you to be. We are all failures, and it’s only when we are finally able to admit that fact that we are able to receive His mercy. When you confess your failure and cry out to God, that’s when forgiveness starts to flow.
And to the rest of us, I encourage us to evaluate what we believe. Do we really believe in grace? Do we really believe salvation is a free gift from God, and that there is nothing we can do to earn it? I think many of us in the church see the sin and degradation around us and feel like we need to take a stand against it. But look at how Jesus treated sinners. It was always with love, mercy and compassion.
Unfortunately those things seem to be in short supply to far too many “sinners” today.
For further reading, check out this post as well: Being disillusioned is a good thing