Read “The Gigachurch Pastor – Part 1″ before you read this.Â Then come back here.
Welcome to the desert!Â When I was younger we used to go to the desert.Â It’s hot. It’s sandy.Â There isn’t much to look at.Â What you can see, you cannot eat or drink, unless you have your own show on Discovery Channel.Â We had fun in the desert – mostly because there were lots of people, motorcycles,Â dune buggies, three wheelers (anyone remember those – adult tricycles) and beer.Â Lots of beer.Â I had an accident on a three wheeler in the Mohave in 1978 and got at least 14 stitches.Â I still have two scars from it.Â Beer was involved.Â I have changed since then (except for the accident part.) There are no deserts like the Mohave in the 70′s in the bible.Â But there are lots of desert experiences.Â The desert is the place where God tests prophets.Â Moses was in the desert for 40 years.
Elijah was another prophet and got to experience the desert in a unique way.Â His story beings in 1 Kings 17. He prayed for no rain to get King Ahab’s attention.Â By the way, does anyone else automatically thing of the Ray Stevens Song, Ahab, the Arab, when they see King Ahab’s name written?Â Here’s a link to a youtube video if you are too young to know what I am talking about.Â Remember, if you have ADD you have to come back here and read the rest of this though.
Anyway, soon after telling Ahab there would be no rain things got dicey in the region.Â There were fewer vegetables to dice though because a drought occurred.Â Go figure.Â Ahab was on the warpath and wanted Elijah dead.Â Prophet’s aren’t good for business.Â So God sent Elijah to hide in the Kerith Ravine, East of the Jordan river (like I know where that is).Â This was not only a hiding spot but it had every pastor’s dream – a Chil-Fil-A delivery service!
The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. – I Kings 17:6
Where I live in Alabama we see a lot of ravens, or crows, or vultures (big black birds) on the road serving up what Elijah got to eat – road kill.Â People outside Alabama probably think we fry it up for breakfast and serve gravy over it.Â We put gravy on everything and we think you should too.Â We only eat road kill if we hit a deer in our truck.Â You have to get them home really fast and know how to butcher a deer or field strip one.Â I don’t have this skill so I’ve never eaten road kill.Â I like deer meat though.
Elijah gets to eat road kill every day.Â He is in the desert and God is preparing him for something big.Â Deserts are hot too and it gets hotter for Elijah.Â God turns the water off.Â Thankfully he sends Elijah to a woman’s house who has food.Â He asks her to make him a cake but she only has enough oil and flour for herself and her son to share a single piece of bread.Â Her plan is to eat her last supper and die with her withering son.Â An image of starvation commercials on late night TV just popped into my head.Â This was that bad or worse.
Elijah’s brook situation looked good compared to this.Â Now what?Â Fortunately Elijah faith in God and had this prayer thing down and a miracle happened.Â There was enough food for the widow, her son, and Elijah to last through the rest of the famine.Â Plus the lady’s son died and Elijah got to do another miracle and bring him back to life.Â It would have been fun to hang out with Elijah except for the whole food/water shortage thing and the bounty on his head.
Then the famine ended.Â I seem to recall it lasted three years.Â Oh yeah, chapter 18 says
After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: â€œGo and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.â€Â So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.Â 1 Kings 18:1-2
Now God is sending him on what amounts to a suicide mission.Â Ahab is the guy who wants him dead.Â There is something worse than a King named Ahab who wants you dead though.Â Her name is Jezebel.Â By the way, have you ever noticed this is not a popular baby name from the bible like Hope, Joy, or Ruth?Â Anyway Ahab is pissed.Â You need to read 1 Kings 18 yourself if you don’t know this story but Elijah challenges Ahab to a showdown on Mount Carmel.Â This is one of the funniest passages in scripture to me but I’ll save that for later.Â Spoiler alert for those who did not read – Elijah wins the showdown.Â In a big way.Â 450 devil worshiping prophets, who Jezebel just happens to like, are dead all at the hand of Elijah.Â (And we think Jack Bauer is a bad dude!)
Well Elijah knows he is in trouble now and has to go on the run again.Â The image in my mind of this old balding fat prophet (was he fat?Â There was a famine.Â He could probably rock skinny jeans) outrunning a chariot,Â wearing some sort of robe with a cord for a belt is very comical.Â I wish this blog had pictures or that I could draw something besides stick men.Â He ends up outrunning Ahab to Jezreel and goes into hiding.Â This is a good thing because Jezebel found out about the dead guys.Â This may be where the phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” comes from.Â Jezebel vows to kill Elijah.Â The desert just got hotter.Â Watch as Elijah hits his breaking point.
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a dayâ€™s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. â€œI have had enough, LORD,â€ he said. â€œTake my life; I am no better than my ancestors.â€Â Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. 1 Kings 19:3-5
Elijah wants to die.Â And all he has been doing is following God.Â Ever feel like that?Â Maybe you have been doing ministry for 20 months or 20 years and you have done everything you know to do and nothing has happened the way you expected.Â You followed God on this big huge dream and your call was a clear as Elijah’s.Â But The big crowd doesn’t show up.Â You can’t break through 100 people and just when you think you are close, something happens.Â Someone close to you turns against you.Â (Jezebel) An important family leaves (Jezebel).Â Your kids go off the deep end spiritually – a belly flop into a pool with no water. (Insert your kid’s name here)
A staff member tried to split your church.Â Another person you helped is back in rehab or asking for assistance again.Â The family you worry about is getting a divorce.Â Â The offerings have been going down and you had to lay someone off.Â Maybe you had to go home again and tell your wife: “Honey, we aren’t getting paid again this week from the church.”Â Or you got the 5:00 am phone call that is every pastor’s worst nightmare and the shaky voice on the other end said something so horrible you cannot even comprehend what you just heard – and you have no idea what to do.Â Not everything is bad.Â Good things are happening but you just don’t feel good about them.
Maybe you are in the desert.Â God is about to teach you something.Â Here is the question.Â Will you stay there and learn it Elijah?Â Or will you run again?
All at once an angel touched him and said, â€œGet up and eat.â€Â 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.Â The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, â€œGet up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.â€Â So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. 1 Kings 19:5b-9
A little rest, a little food.Â Then Elijah ran some more.Â We’ve all done it.Â We went to another conference and got refreshed.Â We took some time off and read another book and it filled us up for a while.Â We joined another coaching network.Â We went to a seminar.Â We upgraded the Children’s ministry space to see if that would kick start something. We started another ministry (that God didn’t tell us to start) because it would grow our church or fix our problems or it seemed like a good idea, or it was a drug that numbed the pain of whatever is going on in your life that you can’t figure out.Â It’s hot in the desert isn’t it?Â Right now you know the exact location of the desert you are in and there is no beer (or there might be and you aren’t telling anyone)
Welcome to the lonely place…