As some of you know, I am in my fourth year of seminary at Northern Theological Seminary. I recently returned after dealing with severe emotional and psychological distress. I hit a very low point in my life triggered by a number of things: relational problems, my newborn’s diagnosis of chronic eczema, severe diet changes, adjusting to being a new mom, and traumatic thoughts resurfacing from my childhood. All of these things seemed to surface at once and it left me in a very low place for well over a year.
I am now much healthier with counseling and support from family and friends. I have decided to devote my life to the ministry of giving people hope! I have known for several years that I am called to preach and teach “Good News”! I am at a place where I am fully embracing my call. God has been faithful to equip me and nurture my call as I embrace it.
At the beginning of the quarter, my advisor came to me and asked if I would be willing to speak in chapel. He doesn’t know this, but I dodged him for a week or so with high hopes that he would forget. He didn’t. He followed up again and when he did, everything in me wanted to say “No, I have too much going on”, which was valid. But…I also know that God is nurturing my call and presenting me with opportunities to develop and to grow as a teacher/preacher.
I believe that God is in the beginning stages of raising up a courageous leader in me. No longer can I hide behind fear, doubt or even insecurities. I agreed to speak in chapel and so here I am. Warning: This sermon is lengthy. Come back to it as many times as you need to, as long as you promise to finish reading it at some point. I hope this message encourages you if you have found yourself in a place of hiding.
“The day after the presidential election, it took everything in me to get out of bed and to go to work. To be honest with you, I wanted to run and hide. I did not want to be the voice of hope for the youth I work with. I did not desire to pray, to speak words of wisdom, or to encourage others.
I was angry and confused. I wanted nothing more than to hide from everyone and everything. For the first time in my life, I was truly shaken up and afraid of what may happen to me as an African American woman in America. For the first time, I wept uncontrollably and lamented for our country, our nation. A feeling of hopelessness and defeat swept over me like nothing I had ever experienced before and I couldn’t shake it. This time I could not convince myself that everything was going to be okay.
As Christians, and especially spiritual leaders, we sometimes become weary in well doing. And it is not unlikely to have moments in life when we feel defeated. There are times that we will be bold and unshakable, but there are also circumstances and events in life that shake us to our core and deplete us of our hope. And when we feel defeated, it is very easy to run and hide. To shut down. To shut people out. To stop offering hope. To become angry. To forget that our God is undefeated.
I believe that God understands that. He is gracious even in our hiding. Even in moments when we are done…. He finds us, He pursues us, He comforts us, He empowers us, and He sends us back out with more strength, more power, and more authority. Today, I simply want to encourage you to let God lead you out of hiding. Come out of your hiding place (your place of defeat).
If you have your Bibles with you, we will examine the life of the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19 and his experience of hiding. There is not much mention of Elijah in the Bible. All we know is that he is a Tishbite from Tishbe in Gilead. He was a prophet during the reign of King Ahab.
We know that King Ahab was one of the worst kings in the history of Israel. The Bible tells us that he did more to arouse the anger of the Lord than all the kings of Israel before him. Ahab married Jezebel, a woman who worshiped Baal. He allowed her to set up sanctuaries and altars when the God of Israel was supposed to be the one and only true God of the land.
As a result, God sent the prophet Elijah to Ahab to announce that there would be a drought for 3 years as a sign of His judgement. God sent the prophet Elijah into the wilderness during the drought. He fed and cared for Elijah there. It was also during this time that Elijah witnessed so much of God’s supernatural power. During this time, Elijah performs miracles through the power of God. He multiplied oil and increased grain daily. He raised a widow’s son from the dead. He also slaughters 450 prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. He was confident and unstoppable.
But behind the scenes, Jezebel was furious that Elijah was standing up against her and false gods. She was vengeful and wanted Elijah dead. In 1 Kings 19, we see the power of one evil woman discourage the most confident and courageous prophet in all of Israel. One woman. After he had witnessed so many victories- after he had witnessed the true divine power of our God- Elijah becomes defeated and weary after receiving the news that Jezebel planned to kill him. Elijah had heard of how Jezebel had killed many of God’s prophets and he was afraid for his life. He ran into the wilderness and he hid.
Guess what? God does not leave him there. God meets Elijah in his hiding place and intervenes and I believe that God can do the same for us! I would like to bring to your attention 5 ways that God offers hope and support to Elijah in his hiding place (his place of defeat).
1. God provides nourishment for Elijah’s physical body:
Take a look at 1 Kings 19:5-9, which says that “All at once an angel touched him [Elijah] and said ‘Get up and eat.’ 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. 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.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by the food, he traveled 40 days and 40 nights to Horeb.”
Let’s be reminded that in our hiding, in our moments of hopelessness, God feeds us. He gives us the Bread of Life that sustains us. No one can do this but God. He gives us the nourishment we need to get back up again. And not only that, the text tells us that Elijah goes to Mount Horeb. This is the place where the ten commandments were given to Moses. This is the place where God’s glory was revealed. He gives us the nourishment we need to move from defeat to a place where we are reminded of His glory.
2.God speaks to Elijah:
God is not silent or absent. He makes his presence known to Elijah by simply speaking to him. Verse 9 says, “And the word of the Lord came to him: What are you doing here Elijah?” In other words, why are you defeated? Why are you downcast? Why have you isolated yourself from others? Why have you become so angry? Don’t you realize that I am a present help in times of trouble? Do you not realize that I can sustain you and equip you for the journey ahead? Do you not know that I can make you enemies your footstool? God is bringing Elijah to his consciousness and saying, You know who I am and what I am capable of; why are you hiding here?
We see that after this Elijah throws a full grown up tantrum. God I am tired. I am done. I have been faithful and zealous for you Lord. He takes his focus off of God and becomes consumed by all of the negativity and believes that he is the only prophet left that has not been killed by Jezebel. We do this very same thing sometimes. But God does not buy into it. He’s not going to let Elijah stop here. This is not the end of Elijah’s story and this is not the end our story. God is in control. Yes, there is a great divide in our country and in our churches. Yes, racism and injustice, as well as evil and hate, are at a peak in our country, but we are not defeated. This is not the end of the story. God is with us. He has not forsaken us.
3. God directs Elijah:
In verse 15, God tells Elijah to go back the way he came and go to the desert of Damascus. He directs him to anoint King Hazael over Aram and to anoint Jehu as king over Israel- which would dethrone King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. God also tells Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet. God directs Elijah and gives him concrete strategies on how to combat his greatest enemy.
God’s direction and leading can help us fight. But we have to be still enough to listen and obedient enough to follow His directions, not our own. We sometimes don’t know what to do because it can seem impossible to make a difference, but lean into God for spiritual direction. Open your ears to hear the still, small voice of God during times of fear, defeat, and national chaos. He stands ready to give us direction on how to stand up against the evil of this world. Are you listening?
4. God encourages Elijah and reminds him that he is not alone:
God encourages Elijah in verse 18. He tells him that he’s not alone. It’s as if God says, I heard when you were crying out. I heard you when you voiced that you were alone, that you were the only prophet that had not been killed by Jezebel. I heard you and I want you to know that you are not alone. All the prophets have not been killed. God says, “I have reserved seven thousand prophets in Israel all whose knees have not bowed to Baal and whose mouths has not kissed him.”
God reminds Elijah that he is not alone. We must know that we are not alone and that we have community. We have people of faith who have not been moved by the chaos in our country. We have people who are not driven by hate, racism, and anger. There are people who still love the Lord and love people. There are men and women of faith who are still standing for the things of God. We are not alone and we need to stay united and rely on each other for support.
5. God sends help to Elijah:
We see in verse 21, God brings the prophet Elisha on board to help Elijah. Elisha becomes Elijah’s servant and eventually his successor. They both are known as great prophets of Israel. Together they led revivals, performed miracles, and were very influential spiritual leaders during a dark age in Israel’s history. We are not alone. Who is God calling us to join forces with to spark a revival of hope, truth, and spiritual fervor?
This week or this month, or at any point of this year, if you find yourself discouraged, done, defeated, or in hiding..I just want to remind you that God is with us.
1. He will nourish us
2. He will speak to us
3. He will direct us
4. He will encourage us
5. He will send help to us
I charge you dear brothers and sisters: rely on the Lord during this time of chaos. Let him bring you out of hiding. Let him restore you so that you can impact this world and so that you can be the hope that our nation needs, the hope that the people need. Please do not stay in hiding. Please do not let the evil of this world shut you up and shut you down. Come out of hiding and let the Lord complete His perfect will for you life. Reclaim your confidence. Reclaim your zeal. Come out of your hiding place. Amen.”
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