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The Elijah Syndrome (I Kings 19:1-18)

by Ray Naugle

God deals with Elijah, a servant who has run away from his God-appointed duty, even though he has just witnessed a conclusive victory of good over evil.

Is it possible we may be weakest after such a ‘spiritual’ event?

Remember I Cor. 15: 58. ‘Be not weary in well doing’. Who is really in control of your life and death?

Elijah is discouraged, fearful, feeling all alone, praying to die. But who is really in control of his life and death?

After Victory – Defeat! I Kings 19: 1-2

Jezebel, the queen, had threatened to kill Elijah. Elijah had become discouraged, disheartened and sore afraid. His reaction was to run. He was running away from his God-appointed work place. We will all feel and face the heat of Satan’s opposition whether we are preaching, teaching, or practicing the Gospel. If we are living for Christ, we will be opposed by the work of Satan up to and/or including death, depending on our circumstances.

Reaction Time – v. 3-4

Elijah ran for his life. Have you left the field where God put you under somewhat similar circumstances? Not that your life was threatened, just some opposition, a difficult situation you were facing and seemingly could see no way out. You made the decision to just move on.

You reacted. ‘I have had enough. I’m not putting up with this any more. You can’t treat me, talk to me, like that.’ Off we go in an unwarranted huff. So much forgotten…. about Jesus, what He endured for us. In our pettiness we fail to consider and remember…God put me here to face the opposition head on unless there is a clear indication God is leading me to another field / place of work.

Elijah was running scared and discouraged. ‘Take my life, Lord. Just call me home’. It is legitimate to pray, Amen, come Lord Jesus. However, that, I believe is different than wishing to die. Elijah prayed to die. Our ranks might even be thinner if God answered ‘OK’ to all those like-minded prayers.

A Gracious, Compassionate, Loving Counselor – v. 5 – 14

Elijah is terrified of Jezebel’s threats and runs off, prepared to die. He is depressed, fearful, all alone, and longing for death. He falls asleep from exhaustion. An angel touches and instructs him to ‘get up and eat’. Bread and water are divinely provided. Elijah eats, drinks, and lies back down. The angel comes a second time with the following instructions: ‘Eat, drink, for the journey is long.’ Strengthened by the food, he travels forty days and forty nights and reaches Horeb and enters a cave there.

1. What are you doing here, Elijah? (v.9). Note: there is no harsh, judgmental scolding. No angry recriminations by God, but a question – to promote thought. God knew the answer. God knows the heart of His fearful, discouraged prophet.

2. Oh, poor me. (v.10) ‘They have 1) rejected your covenant, 2) broken down your altars, 3) killed your prophets. I am the only one left and they want to kill me.’

The same questions are repeated again in v. 13. Note the time between these verses. God’s power is shown to Elijah. 1) The wind tore the mountain apart, shattering rocks. 2) The earthquake and 3) A fire. BUT, the Lord is in none of the above. Elijah stands on the mountain and observes these things. Then it comes, a gentle whisper. No noise, no threats, no recriminations – just a gentle whisper. Elijah pulled his cloak over his face and stood at the entrance to the cave. Once again the question is asked, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?” And the same answer given by Elijah. Notice the Lord does not address Elijah’s answer. Why? Elijah had not been called to defend God’s dignity. He had been called to do what God instructed him to do. For us that means work and pray.

The unasked question: ‘Why did you leave your job? You have work to do. Do not let the things of this world, politics, religions, etc. distract or sidetrack us. Elijah had two kings to anoint and a prophet, Elisha, to be anointed to replace him. God never addressed Elijah’s answers. He told him to go back to his workplace and do what he had been instructed to do – God’s will and work (v.15 – 18). God can handle the Jezebels – whatever form of opposition that may be. I am to focus on the task of doing God’s will for me. Should not Elijah have responded in earnest prayer to God in His house concerning Jezebel’s threat instead of running.

So, stay where you are. Do God’s work as you know to do it. Do not flee. Do not fear man. He can only take your life. God can take both your life and your soul. Fear the proper Authority. You are not alone. Elijah had 7,000 faithful God-fearing brethren. How many do we have? The 7,000 really give some comfort – but only One really makes the difference. Stay on the Job. Do your Work. Know that God is with you.

Ray Naugle lives in Sellersburg, IN and is the  Minister of the Ralph Avenue Church of Christ in Louisville, KY




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33