miles south of Beersheba, a man comes running into the wilderness and
eventually slows to a stop. He sits down under a lone juniper tree and leans
back against the trunk. Utterly
exhausted he gives voice to feelings that hurt worse than exhaustion. “Take my
life, Lord. I am no better than my fathers.” With these words, Elijah falls
asleep, the sleep masking for a while the pain of intense feelings of failure.
These are the words of a man alone.
Many of us know what this feels like, under the juniper trees of our own experience. Those of us who are committed to God’s glory in these last days are headed down the same road as Elijah. Thus it is my hope that discussing the highs and lows that marked Elijah’s ministry might help to prepare us for what lies ahead, and connect us with hope in a hopeless world.
Our world is under a lot of pressure. From the “raging nations” of Psalms 2 to the “perilous times” of 2 Timothy 3, a tidal wave of turmoil is rising in our world. But don’t worry. God has provided a safe place from the anger and pressure of a world at enmity with God’s Law. That safe place is the Body of Christ (the true church–ultimately the remnant).
The church is to be an oasis in the midst of a raging world. I am not saying that the church should be free from all temptations and trials. Trials will come, but the church has been given special tools to deal with these issues. Some of these tools are peace (John 14:27), courage (John 16:33; Ephesians 3:12), hope (Hebrews 6:18-19), divine power (John 1:12), and truth (John 3:19). The world does not have these tools in their carnal arsenal; they are unique to the church. I repeat– they are absolutely unique to the Body of Christ.
So how does the church function in the midst of a pressurized world? Two things are apparent. 1) The only safe place is in the true church. That means that we should be energetically calling people into the church to preserve their lives. 2) The world surrounds the church with high pressure. It never lets up. Like ground water pressing hydrostatically on your house foundation, the world’s pressure has one goal – equilibrium. This presents a challenge.
The challenge is that some inside the church want to open the windows and throw open the gates. To them, pressure differential is a bad thing, and we need more conformity with the world. They say that resisting the world’s influences makes us odd or peculiar. The buzzword for this white flag of surrender is ‘relevance.’
When the church opens its gates to the world, four things happen.
- The immune system of the church is weakened, making us vulnerable to disease and theological confusion.
- People get discouraged more easily, leading to feeling like a failure.
- Discouragement leads to a loss of community – making people feel lonely.
- Loneliness leads to a loss of hope.
All these happened to Israel under the reign of Ahab. This can happen to individuals today. I want to speak to you right now – wherever you are. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, or what you have done. There is a place for you in the church. You are not alone. You are cared for, and you are loved. There are thousands of committed Adventists who grasp the implications of this message and are marching forward. The Everlasting Gospel is for you.
What can be done? If we have opened up the windows of our soul to the world, God is asking us to close them. “Love not the world” is Gods way of saying “Don’t bring that stuff in here.” Bring people in here and provide safety and truth for them. We have all sinned in this area – including myself. It’s time to turn that around.
If you find yourself sitting under the juniper tree of your own failure, take that to Jesus and have an honest conversation with Him. He will accept you, and provide spiritual food (1 Kings 19:5-6). Exchange regret for repentance and rejoice in the truth.
Do you feel like you are no better than your fathers? You are not alone. Many of us have felt that way. I consider my father to be a better man than I, in so many ways. Don’t end your spiritual life – thinking that will stop a downward genetic spiral. Allow the Lord to change your heart. In God’s Word, we find His permission to make better choices than our parents, and to break negative genetic ties that bind us (Ezekiel 18, 33). That is good news.
Does your vision for the church leave you frustrated when things don’t work out the way you think they should? That could be pride. Admit that God knows some things that you don’t, while refusing to call good, evil, and vice-versa. Has fear and regret driven us to the wilderness? Are you sitting under a lonely juniper tree? You are not alone. God is watching. There are many who know the Lord today, and have made up their minds to glorify Him. There is room for you in this army of “seven thousand.”
The experiences of Elijah are going to follow those who bear his message.
The world is pressing hydrostatically on the church – trying to create equilibrium.
Equilibrium is a state where there is no pressure differential. The church becomes no different from the world.
The church was placed in the world to resist this pressure and by resisting – to provide a structurally sound place for people to enter. “Be not conformed to this world...” (Romans 12:2).
Those who want to capitulate to the world (by throwing open the doors and windows of the church), are fighting against what God intends for the church. They cannot overcome – for there is nothing to overcome.
God is not caught off guard by this spiritual compromise. He predicted it (Acts 20:29; Jude 4), and He gave us an example to learn from in Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel.
Listen to the still, small voice of God.
There is hope. You are loved.
You are not alone.