Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dealing with Discouragement

Even the greatest servants of God have sometimes been discouraged. An example was the prophet Elijah. After being used by God to gain a great victory over King Ahab and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah became very discouraged. Elijah sounded suicidal when he said the following in 1 Kings 19:4: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” Christians can learn about some of the causes and cures for discouragement by examining 1 Kings 18-19.

The first cause of Elijah’s discouragement was fatigue. He was psychologically and physically exhausted. Elijah had run from Mount Carmel to Jezreel when “the hand of the LORD was on Elijah” (1 Kings 18:46). Elijah, however, also ran from Jezreel to Beersheba when “he was afraid” (1 Kings 19:3). Later he left Beersheba and went a day’s journey into the wilderness (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah had likely been under a lot of stress during his encounter with King Ahab and the 450 prophets of Baal, especially when he killed the prophets (1 Kings 19:40).

The second cause of his discouragement was isolation. Elijah had been running for his life, but after leaving his servant in Beersheba and going alone into the wilderness, he wanted to die. Twice God asked Elijah what he was doing (1 Kings 19:9, 13), and twice Elijah said, “I alone am left” (1 Kings 19:10, 14).

The third cause of his discouragement was the realization that there was a continuing, perhaps unexpected threat from his enemies after a great victory. Elijah probably hoped that everyone, including Ahab and Jezebel, would repent after God displayed His power at Mount Carmel, but that did not happen. Instead, Jezebel sent a message to Elijah in which she promised to kill him (1 Kings 19:2). He became afraid after hearing her words from a messenger.

Like Elijah, Christians can become discouraged due to fatigue, isolation, and continuing, unexpected threats from a committed enemy. Let’s look at the cures for discouragement.

The first cure for Elijah’s discouragement was proper nutrition and rest. When he was at his lowest point and ready to die, an angel touched him and spoke to him (1 Kings 19:5). Did the angel tell Elijah to pray or sing? No. Did the angel tell him to study his Bible or attend a worship service? No. The angel twice told Elijah to eat (1 Kings 19:5, 7). Amen! Christians must realize that even though they have the supernatural Holy Spirit living inside them, their bodies are not yet supernatural, and they must be good stewards of them. Christians must balance work and exercise with proper nutrition and rest.

The second cure for his discouragement was the reception of clear instructions from God. Elijah had fought some major battles, but God indicated that He was not finished with Elijah by giving him some new assignments during a time of personal revival (1 Kings 19:15-17). Christians are happy when they are doing the work that they know God wants them to do.

The third cure for his discouragement was the realization that he was not alone in God’s service. God told Elijah the following in 1 Kings 19:18: “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Christians must realize that they should work as part of a team—a local church. God did not design them to be spiritual “lone rangers.”