Read at beginning of service:
Hebrews 11:32-39 -12:1-3 (NIV)
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Read 1 Kings 19:1-18
- Have you ever heard the expression, “It’s enough to make a preacher swear?” It reminds me of the story about a little boy trying to sell a lawn mower. The local pastor walked up and he was able to persuade him to buy the worn out lawn mower. The pastor pulled on the rope several times to make sure the mower would start, but nothing happened. Not even a spit or a sputter.The boy told the preacher that he would have to kick the mower and say a few swear words before the mower would crank. The preacher said, “Son, I can’t do that. It’s been years since I said a swear word.” The little boy simply replied, “Just keep pulling and it will all come back to you!”
One thing I’ve noticed in the years that I’ve been alive that there seem to be two chief occupational hazards in living. They are depression and disappointment. It seems that one of the pitfalls of life or the dungeon cells of life at times is when we go through periods of what is often called the blues – but for some people these periods could be called the deep blues or the black and blues!
What is depression?
Depression is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that leads to sadness.
- It shocks us when we realize that great men and women have gone through periods of deep, dark depression.
For instance, Winston Churchill said, “Depression followed me around like a black dog all of my life.”
A young lawyer in the 1800’s suffered such a deep depression that his friends did everything they could to keep all razors and knives away from him. He wrote these words, “I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not.” This lawyer later became one of the most well known presidents of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln.
Even a man by the name of Charles Spurgeon was given to periods of depression. History tells us that there were times when Spurgeon would be so depressed that he would refuse to leave his home to go to church. On more than one occasion, his deacons had to come and physically carry their pastor to the pulpit.
Depression affects all classes, races, ages, groups and genders of people. Depression is to joy, and peace and life like water is to a fire. Depression leads to restlessness, discontentment, stress, and apathy. Depression coils up the heart and kicks in the stomach. Depression numbs the brain and stops the train. Depression is ugly!
What is depressing(!) though, is the fact that so many Christians suffer depression! Why? Especially when there is so much evidence in the Bible, in God’s word that indicates His desire for us to be filled with joy!
There are around 16 feasts that God instituted with His people the Israelites telling them that they were to observe and celebrate in these times.
Psalm 5:11 (NIV)
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Psalm 16:11 (NIV) 11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 19:8 (NIV)
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
Proverbs 10:28 (NIV)
28 The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.
Luke 2:10 (NIV)
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
John 15:10-13 (NIV)
10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Acts 13:49-52 (NIV) [Paul and company in Antioch]
49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17 (NIV)
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
1 Thessalonians 1:6 (NIV)
6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
James 1:2 (NIV)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
1 Peter 1:8 (NIV)
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
Truly it seems that as Christians we should be the harbingers of joy! We should be the ones who set the standard for joy-filled living – and yet?
Now let’s look at the text for today. For in this final message in this series we’re going to uncover the path to depression and how when your emotions take a dive it’s time to thrive!!!
Depression occurs when problem’s become insurmountable.
How do I know that Elijah was depressed? His prayer…
1 Kings 19:3-4 (NIV)
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. 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.“
Elijah’s prayer is remarkably similar to that of two other famous men of God in the Bible?
Numbers 11:14-15 (NIV)
14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now–if I have found favor in your eyes–and do not let me face my own ruin.”
Jonah 4:3 (NIV)
3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
These men were used mightily by God and yet they too plunged into the depths of despair. What led them to that place? Their problems became in their eyes insurmountable. For Moses it was the grumbling, complaining hundreds of thousands of Israelites he was to lead through the wilderness to the promised land. For Jonah, it was the frustration of seeing God forgive and have compassion on and then a revival take place in a wicked nation that he felt didn’t deserve God’s grace. For Elijah it was the death threat from a woman and the stubbornness of Israelite hearts. To these men these problems became insurmountable, why? Well it begins with…
- Depression hits when we’re all worn out physically
- Elijah had done with out food, he was strung out, and had just finished a 30 mile run
- Jonah had a whale-house for a jailhouse and a warm blubber mattress. He had just preached to a city the size of Philadelphia without a PA system.
- Moses was tired and worn out from the incredible trek of leading a nation out of slavery through the desert.
- Friends when you are physically worn out you become a candidate for depression – you become just to tired to “fight” anymore – the juice in the battery has drained out – the old crank just won’t turn like it used too!
Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
- These bodies of ours were not designed to be pushed constantly. The Lord set things up so that man could have a day of rest.
Mark 2:27 (NIV)
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
- Even Jesus took time away from His work to rest His body,
Mark 6:31 (NIV)
31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Friends, it is so, so, vitally important that you give your bodies a rest from time to time. If you find yourself running from activity to activity, from play to play, with a cell phone in one hand and a day planner in the other, staying up late and getting up early it is time for you to take a break! Practice the principle of the Sabbath – make one day out of the week your Sabbath – your time of rest, where you in the truest sense of the word REST… spending time with family, spending time with God, taking a leisurely walk, or having a casual visit with friends. I’m telling you that if you don’t do this you will get physically tired and become a prime candidate for depression.
And is deepened by psychological fatigue…
- When our emotions rule our actions we become ripe for depression.
- Moses had a people problem, everybody was crying and blaming him for their problems. He was emotionally overloaded. He gave and gave and never replenished himself.
- Jonah had a pouty problem. He was angry because God sent revival when Jonah wanted judgment.
- Elijah had a pity party. He had taken his eyes off the Lord. Evidently Elijah once had the idea he was better than other people. Jezebel promised him she was going to make him a foot shorter at the tope before the sun went down. Friends, even though he said it – Elijah didn’t really want to die because if he really did, all he had to do was stay where he was!
- Depression hits when something we value is threatened or taken away from us. We’ll get bitter or angry and then start to complain, and then start to grumble, and then before you know it we start to sing the blues!
Until we’re knocked down spiritually…
- One characteristic I’ve noticed about depression is that it seems to hit right after a spiritual high in a person’s life. It always seems that right after the mountaintop experience comes the valley pits.
- Moses had just come out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. You would think that a man like that would be on the mountaintop forever, wouldn’t you? But he’s in the valley asking to die.
- Jonah had been swallowed by a whale, lived in its belly for three days, became the world’s best preacher in leading a city that is said to have been 60 miles in diameter (three days walking distance from one side to the other) that was full of sin and wickedness into a time of repentance and revival and yet goes outside the city and begins to complain of God’s injustice!
- Elijah had just come from the greatest revival in Israel’s history, when the whole nation was turning from Baal worship to God. From the showdown to the let down, from the mountaintop to the valley, from standing up to 450 false prophets of Baal to running from one woman. All this in the same day!
- Spiritually, these men had tremendous encounters with God and His power and were incredible instruments of His work on earth yet here they are in the valley of depression! I want you to hear something – satan is waiting and cheering for you and I to be physically and emotionally worn out so that when the spiritual mountaintop experience happens he can hit us broadside in our journey through the valley. How does he accomplish this? He accomplishes this by using our physical and emotional weariness to change our approach and perspective of the life we live. We become physically and emotionally exhausted when we get our eyes off of the Lord and put them on ourselves, other people or circumstances. When that happens our perspective of our problems changes and they become insurmountable and this leads to depression
Problem’s become insurmountable when you go at them alone.
One is the loneliest number … what happened to Elijah?
He separated himself from those closest to him (v3 – left servant in Beersheba).
- As a result he felt all alone.
- Notice, however, this irrational thinking. God still had 7,000 who had not bowed to Baal in Israel (v18). Elijah never sought them out. Remember Obadiah? Obadiah had told Elijah that he had personally saved 100 of God’s prophets from the wrath of Jezebel (1 Kings 18:4) and yet Elijah didn’t remember them!
- One of the worst behaviors of a depressed spirit is the desire to separate oneself from anyone else. Many people who become discouraged have a tendency to develop an “I’m all alone” or a “Nobody understands” mentality. If these feelings are allowed to go unhindered the pessimistic person begins to think that they are the only person in the world who is right. It leads to a “me against them” attitude! That is a sad, lonely place to be!
- You see this kind of thinking in the church all the time. A person will become discouraged and will drop out of the church saying, “No one understands me. I just don’t fit in!” What they are doing is projecting their own feelings of hopelessness on to those around them. They are looking for a scapegoat to place blame upon so that they do not have to look too closely at themselves. Yet, the fellowship of the church is so important!
Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- Even if the people at church don’t understand what you are going through, at least they can pray with you and be a friend to you! We need godly people around us!
Elijah took his eyes off the Lord and focused on negative circumstances (v3 – afraid and ran for his life)
- When we leave God and His power out of the picture, we are in trouble!
Matthew 14:28-31 (NIV)
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Elijah stopped interceding for others and started focusing on himself (v4 “I-ve had enough-take my life)
- This was the first time Elijah had prayed for himself. He had forgotten that he was the prophet to Israel. His attention is full of himself. When we become so self-conscious that it dominates our thinking, we are in trouble spiritually. When we get to the place where everything is about “me”, we need to do a check of ourselves!
Friends our problems will always seem insurmountable when you go at them alone! And finally?
You go at them alone when you forget that God is in control.
After everything that happened:
- Elijah faced the dry brook, the empty barrel, the dead boy, the prophets of Baal and the lack of rain
- And all that the Lord did: close the heavens, replenish the barrel, raise the boy, consume the sacrifice, enable the prophet to destroy the false prophets and then to run all the way to Jezreel ahead of a man on a chariot.
It seems that Jezebel was a nothing, a non-problem YET Elijah does that which is irrational and RUNS AWAY! He doesn’t just leave Jezreel either! Elijah runs due south almost 125 miles. He actually left the borders of Israel and ran all the way to the southern border of Judah. He went as far as he could so that he might avoid the reach of one woman!!
Elijah forgot all about God’s provisions (v4)
- Elijah said, in effect, “I’ve had it! I quit!” He sat down and he gave up. Elijah felt that life was no longer worth living. As long as we can remember that there is hope, we can make it through. May we never forget that God is still on the throne, and no matter how bad things become, GOD IS IN CONTROL! He knows where we are and what we are facing. HE will see us through! As long as there is a God in Heaven, there is hope for you!
Romans 8:28 (NIV)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:18 (NIV)
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)
17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
God proved to Elijah that He was still in control
- We tend to thank God for answered prayer, but do we ever thank God for unanswered prayer. We better – wouldn’t we be in trouble if God always answered our prayers with yes? “God, kill me!” was the prayer of three prominent men in the Bible. Praise the Lord God doesn’t always give us what we want – but instead what we need!
- God knew what was best for them and His glory. God didn’t mistake the moment for the man. Have you ever had a moment in your life where you totally “lose it”? For the rest of your life some people will define you by that “moment”. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t do that! He knows you better than you know yourself. When you confess your sin, He is faithful and just to forgive your sin and purify you of all unrighteousness. He doesn’t define you by your mistakes but by the righteousness of Jesus Christ!
- Even though Elijah prayed this prayer of doom – God proved to Elijah that He was still in control
It started with his provision…
- God sent an angel with some bread and a jar of water. Not once but twice!
It continued with a lesson about His presence…
- Elijah journeyed to Mt. Horeb…
- This is the name for the mountain range of which Mount Sinai is a part
- This is the place where Moses received the 10 Commandments from God
- This is the place where God spoke out of fire and thunder to His people of Israel gathered before the mountain when they were on their journey to the promised land.
God asks the question, “What are you doing here Elijah?”
- Isn’t that a surprising question? Was it not God that told Elijah to come and meet him? And the answer to that is, no! God didn’t tell Elijah to come to Mount Horeb. Verse 7 says that when the angel from God touched Elijah the second time he said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you”. This merely indicates that God knew Elijah was going to make the journey to Horeb. Indeed it was Elijah’s decision to journey to the place of God’s presence!
- God’s question is directed to Elijah’s choice of coming to Mount Horeb. And why wouldn’t Elijah come to Mount Horeb? After all this mountain is the scene of one of the greatest displays of God’s presence that is recorded in Israel’s history – it is at this mountain Moses received the Ten Commandments written by the hand of God Himself. It was also here where God warned the Israelites not to come and set foot on the ground of the mountain lest they die!
- God’s question is a rebuke to Elijah for coming to this cave. Elijah is called of God to be His prophet to the people of Israel, Elijah should be in Israel leading God’s great revival, Elijah was called by God to stand before kings, to defy false gods and prophets and to be an example of righteousness for the people of Israel. This question was a call for Elijah to examine his life and his priorities. It was time for Elijah to come face to face with the fact that he had sinned against the Lord. Friends, it is not a sin to have depression – it is a sin to wallow in it!
- Elijah gives his answer, “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.”
- His answer is a complaint. Elijah responds to the Lord with an excuse for his depression for his discouragement.
- Elijah sought out the presence of the Lord to complain to him about his situation!! In Elijah’s deep depression there is no repentance for the past, no gratitude for the present, and no burden for the future – such is the result of a discouraged and depressed spirit.
God passes by
- Elijah was told to go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord for the Lord is about to pass by (but notice from verse 13 that Elijah didn’t go out immediately!)
- Great powerful wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks (not in the wind)
- Earthquake (not in the earthquake)
- Fire (not in the fire)
- Gentle whisper – when Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
- Elijah was used to seeing God in the extraordinary but he needed to know that God was in the seemingly small, seemingly insignificant too. Even in the face of all the powerful winds and rumbling earthquakes and searing fires, God’s gentlest, quietest whispers holds more weight and power. God is in control! God’s presence can be found where you least expect it. It isn’t always in the fire, the earth shattering, or the wind that God is found. He can be found in the moments when He seems most distant!
God again asks the question “What are you doing here?”
- Elijah gives the same reply but now I believe its in the attitude of confession rather than as a complaint.
- God responds to Elijah with one of the most important words in Judaism and Christianity – “Go!!”
- God tells Elijah to get off this mountain and return to the world that you tried to run away from. God back and get busy with the work that I have called you to. Elijah’s life was to be fulfilled not by turning inward but by turning outward.
- God puts Elijah on a mission that will get him involved with helping other people, ministering, encouraging and motivating them in God’s service.
- What has changed? Elijah is still under a death threat by Jezebel but God has proved He is in control and He sends Elijah to anoint the people He has chosen to continue His work in Israel –> God tells Elijah that He has reserved for Himself – 7000 people.
When your emotions take a dive it’s time to thrive because…
God is in control so you don’t need to go it alone…
With God at the helm your problems are endurable
With this change of perspective your sorrow turns to joy and your uneasiness turns to peace.