What To Do With Failure!
1 Kings 19: 1-10
I read an article written by General Douglas B McArthur entitled
"Requisites for Military Success".
First, he wrote that there must be morale which is a will to win.
He wrote that there must be a cause worth dying for.
Secondly, he wrote that there must be strength.
An army must have an adequately trained and well-equipped personnel.
Thirdly, he wrote that there must be an adequate source of supply.
In other words life lines must be kept open.
The bulk of the article was devoted to his fourth requisite.
The fourth was that in order to win, an army must have a knowledge of the enemy.
General McArthur said, " The greater the knowledge of the enemy,
the greater the potential of victory."
McArthur traced this principle through military history, beginning with General Joshua
and ending with the North African campaign in the second World War where
Rommel was finally defeated because of the successful work of counterespionage.
This principle has its parallel in the spiritual realm.
Paul knew that as he told the Corinthians that he did not want Satan to gain an advantage
over them. (See 2 Corinthians 2:11)
And then, Paul adds the reason: " For we are not unaware of his schemes."
We should know how the enemy operates.
" The greater the knowledge of the enemy, the greater the potential of the victory."
In 1 Kings 19, we see something of the strategy of Satan.
We should be reminded as someone has said, " Victory always makes us vulnerable."
Victory has a way of inflating our egos.
When this happens our guard is down, and that leaves us wide open to the devastating power
In chapter 19 we see that it is a short distance from the top of the mountain (Carmel)
to the depths of the valley of despair.
This event would have continued to have been uplifting if the story had ended with chapter 18.
But then, the story would not have listed all the facts.
When God tells of the event, He tells the story as it happened -- the good, the bad and the ugly.
In 1 Corinthians 10:12 Paul reminds us: " So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful
[Stop, look and listen] that you don't fall!"
Satan will attack us at the very place where we we are the strongest.
That is the place at which we are most vulnerable.
Chapters 18 and 19 of 1 Kings are sharply contrasted to each other.
The point of Elijah's greatest strength in chapter 18 is the point of his greatest failure
in chapter 19.
The devil has not changed he still employs the same enticements and many of us
continue to fall for them.
Satan snares us with the peril of looking at circumstances. (Verses 1-3)
Here we see that Ahab came home rather late that night after suffering a terrible defeat.
He probably wished that Jezebel had gone to sleep.
So, he probably tried to be quiet and not wake her up.
But then, he heard that familiar voice speak, " Ahab."
Ahab probably answered that he thought she was asleep and didn't want to bother her.
But Jezebel wanted to know what had happened that day on the mountain.
So, she started asking Ahab all about the event.
Finally, Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done, and how he had killed
all the prophets with the sword.
So, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, " May the gods deal with me,
be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life
like that of one of them."
Elijah was afraid so he ran for his life.
"When he came to Beersheba in Judah (120 miles south of Zezreel),
he left his servant there." (Verses 1-3)
Until now, the only thing that had occupied Elijah's mind was Jehovah God.
Now we find him as someone whose perspective is greatly distorted.
This is always true in the spiritual realm.
Remember, when Peter and the other disciples were out in the boat.
They looked out on the sea and saw a frightening sight.
They said: " It looks as if someone's walking on the water."
They were scared to death.
But then, the Lord spoke, and they recognized Him.
Simon Peter said, " Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you."
The Lord said, " Come!"
So Peter steps over the side of the boat and started walking on the water.
Probably, at first, he walked slowly, and then he begin to enjoy walking on the water.
He probably thought look at me!
And then ,he looks at a big wave, and he begins to sink.
Then Simon Peter prayed a short, urgent prayer, " Lord, save me!"
And the Lord reached down and lifted him out of the water.
Someone has said that they don't believe that Jesus carried him back to the boat.
They believe that Simon Peter walked back on the water, but that he kept his eyes on the Lord.
The moment that you and I began to take our eyes off the source of our courage, we lose it.
Jesus is the source of our courage.
He is our security.
We must not focus our eyes on the circumstances.
When we do this, we are doomed to failure.
" Greater is he that is in you, then he that is in the world."
Then, there is the temptation to pray foolishly.
Elijah " went a day's journey into the desert," and " he came to a broom tree,
sat down under it and prayed that he might die."
" I have had enough, Lord," he said.
" Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."
Single-handedly he killed 850 prophets, but one woman said, " I'll get you," and he ran.
" Lord, I've had it. I'm through being a prophet."
There is something hypocritical in Elijah's prayer.
We should be aware that whenever we have a distorted perspective, we sometimes become
dishonest even when we pray.
I doubt that Elijah really wanted to die.
I can't see him traveling 120 miles south if he wanted to die.
If he really wanted to die, all he had to do was to go to Jezebel.
She would have killed him in an instant.
When we get older and look back, we learn to thank God for not answering, " yes,"
to some of our prayers.
Think of some of the things that you have prayed for, and now you are thankful that God never answered them.
It has been said that prayer is not asking for what we want; it is asking for what He wants.
Psalm 37: 4: " Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."
Our problem is that we are more occupied with the desires of our hearts, and not with the delights of the Lord.
So, when we come to God in prayer, we should remember that it's not what we want, but what He wants.
Then, Satan will try tempt us to neglect our physical and emotional needs.
We are living in a pressure, stressed-filled society, and there is no way to avoid that.
As Christians we are subject to the emotional and physical problems just like
all of the members of the human race.
We know what happens to people who try to burn the candle at both ends.
Elijah was in the valley of despair.
It is in this gloomy scene that we are given a gracious picture of the grace of God.
" Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.'
He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and jar of water.
He ate and drank and then lay down again." (1 Kings 19: 5-6)
Just imagine that!
God sent an angel to prepare a meal for His servant.
The angel awakens him.
Elijah eats and then goes back to sleep.
" 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." (Verse 7)
God reminds Elijah that he is never out of God's concern and care.
" So, he got up and ate and drank.
Strengthened by that food, he traveled 40 days and 40 nights until he reached Horeb,
the mountain of God."
Horeb is more than 200 miles south of Beersheba.
So, when you add it up, it is 120 miles plus 200, and that means it is over 320 miles
from where Jezebel had said that she was going to kill him until Elijah finally stops running.
When I was growing up, I heard pastors say that it is better to burn out than to rust out.
That's not the option.
It's not a question of burning out or rusting out; it's a question of living out.
And that takes the ministry and the power of the Holy Spirit upon our lives.
And then, Satan will attempt to make us think that we are indispensable.
1 Kings 19: 9-10: " There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'
He replied, " I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.
The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars,
and put your prophets to death with the sword.
I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
Elijah is saying that he is the only one left, and if they kill him, what will happen to God's cause?
It is important to our spiritual growth and usefulness that we understand
that no one person is indispensable to God.
We are only instruments.
God wants to use us.
The deception is that when he does use us, that we might think that we are the one doing it.
Sometimes, God might remove us from service for a period of time so that we will learn
that it is not our work -- it is His.
And then we remember that God revealed Himself through many spectacular and dramatic means,
but it is the still small voice from God that Elijah hears.
God was teaching Elijah, and teaching you and me, that He not only speaks in spectacular
and dramatic ways, but he also speaks with a still small voice.
Many of you have experience the glory of the mountaintop.
It is tremendously exciting to have mountaintop experiences, and we must admit
that we would like to stayed on the mountaintop.
But we must live a committed and dedicated life for the Lord in the workplace,
in the business, and in the home.
Living a dedicated, fruit-filled life where people all around us will see Christ in us
and this should be a satisfying experience for every Christian.
There are these and many other temptations and deceitfulness that Satan will use to entrap us.
So remember, the greater the knowledge of the enemy; the greater the potential for victory.
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L White