God With Us : In The Wilderness
Have you ever found yourself wandering through a spiritual wilderness? These spiritual “dry spells” happen to every Christian, but that doesn’t make them any less discouraging. There are days when circumstances are out of your control and God is silent. Things grow worse rather than get better. The silence between you and God can be deafening. You try to worship but the words fail. Prayers seem empty, and even Scripture becomes a blur. But as we talked about this week, God is with us in the wilderness.
Something To Talk About:
Are you in the wilderness? If so, consider the bottom line: Your deepest need becomes a gift when it drives you to depend on God:
- I have had enough: The story of Elijah’s ministry stress and burnout in 1 Kings 19 gives us some great insights into the causes and cures of our own stress and burnout. No doubt you’re familiar with the story. Elijah had challenged the 400 prophets of Baal to prove who was real: Baal or God. And, of course, God won the contest! Everyone in the nation turned back to God. You’d think Elijah would be in a great frame of mind after that. But he wasn’t. Rather than being encouraged by this great ministry success and the revival of the nation, Elijah became overly stressed, then burned out, finally impaired. After being threatened by Jezebel, he ran to the other side of the desert, hid in a cave and told God that he had enough and that he wanted to die. Just from those Bible verses alone, it is quite easy to see that even a great prophet can have moments of despair, when he threw up his hands and said, “God, I have had enough.” I think it is a natural human response that when life is overwhelming, our first inclination is to press the exit button and shut down. It is in these times when we find ourselves in the wilderness that we need to have faith that there is a purpose for our wilderness visits, and all things will eventually unfold according to God’s sovereign plan.
- We need replenishment: In the space of one chapter, Elijah takes care of idolatry, sparks a revival and ends a three-and-a-half year drought. By any standards that is a pretty good day. But right on the heels of that incredible day, he runs in fear after Jezebel threatens him. While this is a story about the prophet Elijah, it is also a story about God. He was there all along, beside Elijah. God knew Elijah needed to be refreshed, rejuvenated, and raised up. So do we from time to time. You can get completely exhausted thinking you cannot go on. When you are at that point, recognize you need to draw closer to God as Elijah did in the wilderness. “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:26) God is absolutely present and will not forsake us and will replenish us just as He did for Elijah.
- Speak in a whisper: Elijah looked for God in the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, but he heard Him in the whisper (see 1 Kings 19:12). When Elijah heard that still, small voice, he stepped out of his cave and listened to what God told him. I love the words of David in Psalm 81:5 (MSG): “I hear this most gentle whisper from One I never guessed would speak to me” God can speak in a whisper because He is so close to us. He doesn’t need to shout. That is why we need to be still to hear:“ Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10) If we listen closely, we can still hear the soft whisper of God today. We can hear that still small voice that says, “Do not be afraid. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you.” God is close enough to each of us to whisper, even in the wilderness.
- Do you enjoy camping and being out in the wilderness? If so, share your funniest camping story. If not, why?
- If you were stranded in the wilderness, what would you want in your survival kit?
- Elijah had performed many miracles and had seen God’s power in seemingly impossible situations, yet when he is threatened by Jezebel he is afraid, depressed, and even wants to die. Why do you think Elijah responded to this threat in this way?
- How do you answer this question: What real fears do you face?
- In what ways can you relate to Elijah when he says, “I have had enough?”
- In the wilderness, I need the presence of God with me, and the purpose of God for me. Agree or disagree and why?
- Your deepest need becomes a gift when it drives you to depend on God. Have you experienced this gift? If so, how?
- What are some ways you’ve encountered God’s presence in the past? What can you do to discover God’s provision and rest during this time in your life?
- When was the last time you experienced God’s presence in your life? Describe that time and how you felt closer to God.
- How would your life change if your needs turned into a gift? How do you think it would change our church?
Take one thing home with you:
The story of 1 Kings 19 is not what you’d expect from the life of a prophet. At this point, Elijah has spent years serving as God’s appointed messenger. He’s been fed by ravens during a famine (1 Kings 17:2-6), witnessed the Lord raise a boy from the dead (1 Kings 17:22-24), and is just coming off a fresh victory over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). You would think his confidence in God would be unshakable. Instead, Elijah turns tail and runs the moment he hears the queen is after him.
Elijah’s time in the wilderness reminds us that these moments of despair happen to every Christian. Even in the empty places, God is still present.