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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. David Jeremiah » David Jeremiah - The Life of Elijah

David Jeremiah - The Life of Elijah


David Jeremiah - The Life of Elijah
David Jeremiah - The Life of Elijah
TOPICS: Someone Like You, Elijah

The Bible is filled with stories. Oh, I know, it's just one story, but it's one story made up of many stories. And a large portion of the Word of God is communicated to us wrapped in the human flesh of Bible characters. It's almost to the point where if you started in Genesis and went all the way to the Revelations, you could tell the whole story of the Bible by just going from one person to the next. People dominate the landscape of the Word of God. And isn't it interesting that when God wanted to communicate his love to us, he did it through a person? He chose a person, his only begotten Son, to come into this world to say to us, in the way we could grasp it, "I love you". It was through a person that we learned of God's love.

So, over the years, I have preached many series on the people of the Bible, but one of the people whose life seems to have been neglected, perhaps by me and by others as well, is really one of the most important people in the whole scripture, and his name is Elijah. The story of Elijah is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 17 and it goes through 2 Kings chapter 2. To understand Elijah as a person, you have to understand the time in which he lived. So, I want to set the stage and put up the backdrop for his life today and tell you what it was like when Elijah was a prophet upon this earth. The nation of Israel was in its heyday, both spiritually and politically. Her beloved King was David, a military genius who had extended the borders of his land all the way to the south and all the way to the north.

For a period of time under David's leadership, Israel was the most powerful and influential nation in all of the world. After David came Solomon, David's son. He took over the leadership of Israel after his father. He built his magnificent temple. He established a strong navy on behalf of his nation and controlled all the trade routes to India and Africa, devoting himself throughout his life to worldwide projects. But after Solomon, things fell apart. Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel seceded from the union. Their leader was a man by the name of Jeroboam. He served as king over the northern kingdom for 22 years, from 931 BC to 910. And he was a wicked man, and he did wickedness, great wickedness, in the land of Israel. He installed idolatrous calf worship as the official religion of the northern kingdom. He wasn't mad at Jehovah, but he knew that Jehovah was represented in the southern kingdom and that all of the Jewish people would want to go there to celebrate their many feast days. So, he put his politics ahead of his religion and the dark days of Israel's decline began.

During the half century that followed the death of Solomon, seven kings served on the throne of the northern kingdom of Israel. To say that they were all evil is an understatement. They led Israel into a free fall of spiritual rebellion against God. And as a nation, she backslid so far, you could hardly recognize that she'd ever been a part of God's plan. I've told you about the evil of the first king who established idol worship. He was followed to the throne by a man named Nadab, who was his own son. The short record of his reign simply states that he did evil in the sight of the Lord. Nadab was followed by Baasha. Baasha came to power by murdering Nadab, and not only that, all of his relatives and all of his friends' relatives. Baasha was a wicked, murderous man, and he ruled Israel for 24 years. Then came Elah, Elah, who was Baasha's son.

One day Elah was getting drunk at a friend's house when one of his commanders, a man named Zimri, walked in and struck him dead and killed him. Guess what? Zimri is now the king. But Zimri reigned only seven days before he killed himself. His enemies came after him. When he knew he would not be able to prevail, he went into the palace of the king's house, set it on fire, and stayed in the midst of the fire and died. Then came Omri, the next king. It is simply said that he did what was evil in the Lord's sight, even more than any of the kings before him. And finally we come to the record of the king who was in power when Elijah came on the scene. His name, best known of all, his name was Ahab. Each of the six kings that I have briefly told you about multiplied the things that were wicked in the lives of the kings who went before them.

But if you think the first six kings were wicked, I want to tell you that the king who was in power when Elijah walked on the scene was the most wicked of all the kings. Here is what the scripture says about him. "Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and he served Baal and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. And Ahab," now, watch this, "did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him".

His greatest sin was his marriage to Jezebel. In that marriage, he violated every principle that God had given him. For you see, Jezebel was a pagan woman, and she brought all of her wicked religion with her when she came to Israel to be a Ahab's wife. She personally supported 850 prophets of her moral cult, and she systematically went through Israel as the queen, trying to kill all of the prophets of Jehovah that she could find. Ahab didn't have the moral courage or fortitude to do anything about his wife and her dereliction, so he simply joined her and followed her. And together, they committed great evil. And that's the way it was when Elijah came on the scene. And we read in the verse that starts 1 Kings chapter 17, these words: "And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, 'As the Lord God of hosts lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew or rain these years, except at my word.'"

Get this picture: here is the most ruthless, wicked man who has ever served in leadership in Israel. And this man named Elijah walks into his presence and pronounces the judgment of a drought upon his land for three years. And part of us, in our minds, are asking, "Who is Elijah? Where did he come from"? We have no record of his parents, though we know he had some. We have no record of his adolescence, those obviously he grew up like everybody else. Out of nowhere, out of obscurity, off of the page that we have not read, comes Elijah, and he walks into the presence of Ahab with his message of judgment upon the nation. Elijah is an incredible character in the Bible, and I want to tell you, first of all, a little bit about his legacy, give you some sense of who he was and what he was like.

I began with talking to you about his peculiar appearance. Elijah was known for his peculiar style and his appearance. He was an eccentric person, a strange-looking man. On one occasion, he was met by a group who came back to report to their king, and they described him this way in 2 Kings 1:8, "He is a hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist". And the king heard it and immediately said, "It's Elijah, the Tishbite". In other words, there's nobody else it could be. It's gotta be Elijah. In the New Testament, we discovered that John the Baptist was like Elijah. In fact, John the Baptist was so like Elijah that when people saw John the Baptist, they often thought he was Elijah. So, what did John the Baptist look like? Here's Matthew's description. "John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey".

It's interesting that some people you and I probably know have used passages like this to justify the way they present themselves. I heard a story of a young man whose father told him that if he went to college and got straight A's, when he got home, he would give him a car. So, this young man went away to a secular college; he came home with a report card. He had straight A's, a 4.2 average. But unfortunately, when he returned home, he returned home with his hair down below his waist and a full-grown beard. And his father said to him, "I'm proud of your grades, but I will never give a car to anyone who looks like you do". And the young man said, "Dad, this is the way Jesus looked, this is the way Elijah looked, this is the way John the Baptist looked". And they had a big argument about it and went to bed. The next morning, the young man woke up and looked out in his driveway. There was a donkey tied out there in the driveway. And he heard his father say, "You want to look like Jesus, you can ride like Jesus," right?

Over my lifetime as a pastor, I've seen more than a few people who look like the Bible describes John the Baptist and Elijah: eccentric, quaint, not like anybody you've ever seen. I'd also like to tell you a little bit about Elijah's place among the prophets. He's called a prophet, but interestingly enough, when you open the Old Testament, there's no book called the book of Elijah. There is no prophecy of Elijah in the Old Testament. In fact, there isn't anything on paper that Elijah ever wrote, and yet the Bible speaks of him as a prophet because he wasn't a written prophet, he was an oral prophet. And there is more information about this oral prophet in the Bible about his life than anybody else, except for Moses and, of course, the Lord Jesus.

Elijah is unique among all the prophets. He was the first one to raise somebody back from the dead. He left this world without dying. He left an immediate successor behind him in a man whose name sounds similar to his: Elisha. And he had a moral successor in John the Baptist. He was sent back to earth a thousand years after his life to join the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. And his voice will be heard again in the land of Israel, according to Malachi chapter 4, verse 5. He was a mighty man among the prophets. The Bible also tells us that he performed many miracles. I cannot wait to take you through this series and tell you the stories of what Elijah did, the things that are told about this man and his power over nature and how God used him to make the point that needed to be made.

Oftentimes people, when they hear that somebody in the Old Testament did a miracle, will say, "Well, why don't we have miracles like that now"? Except for a few incidental things that we know about, why do all the major miracles like bringing somebody back from the dead, which has never happened outside of the ones that we've talked about, why doesn't God do those miracles now? Well, the first reason that miracles are not normal experiences is if they were normal experiences, they wouldn't be called miracles. They'd be called normal experiences. Miracles are miracles because they are rare. And if you want to get a picture of how miracles fit into the plan of God and the plan of the scripture, I want to ask you to imagine that you're outside on a beautiful night here in Southern California. And you look up at the skies, and as you look at the skies, you see three distinct clusters of stars across the heavens.

That is kind of a picture of the miracles of the Bible because, you see, the miracles of the Bible were performed, first of all, by Moses and Joshua. During that time, as you know, Moses performed the plagues upon Israel. This cluster of miracles that took place under Moses and Joshua, like the dividing of the Red Sea and the water from the rock, when those were all done, the law had been given, the season for the introduction of the law into the world; all the miracles stopped. After Moses and Joshua, there's a period of about 1700, 1800 years where no miracles are performed at all, and then Elijah and Elisha show up. The first cluster of miracles under Joshua and Moses and now the second cluster of miracles under Elijah and Elisha. Moses was the giver of the law, but Elijah was the reformer of the law. And Elijah and Elisha needed the miracles of God to validate their standing before God because as you have heard today, this was an enormously wicked time.

Sin was rampant and rebellion was so deeply sated in the hearts of these people that if God didn't bring his miracle power to play, there would have been no change at all. Great miracles happened under Elijah. He did some amazing things. He multiplied a bowl of flour. He multiplied a jar of oil. He breathed new life into the widow's dead son. He called down fire and rain from heaven. And when Elisha came along after him, he prayed for a double portion of what Elijah got. Do you know what? God did, through Elisha, exactly twice as many miracles as he did through Elijah. Between the two of them was a great miracle-working period in the world.

After Elijah and Elisha comes another long period of silence just as in the heavens, there's a great space between the clusters. There was no prophet, there was no writing, there was nothing. We call the years before the New Testament "the 400 silent years" because there's no book of the canonical Bible that was written then. There's no evidence of any word from God. It's almost as if the heavens went silent. Some have said that God allowed that to happen to protect the absolute uniqueness of the next chapter that would happen in redemption. And then one night, the stars shone over a stable in the village of Bethlehem, and the fullness of time had come.

Pay close attention to this amazing fact. For the first 30 years that Jesus walked on this earth, he didn't perform any miracles at all. His first miracle recorded in John chapter 2 was the changing of the water into wine, a miracle which he performed as an adult. He was the sinless Son of God, and his life wasn't miraculous in the early days of his walk upon this earth. But during the three years of his ministry, he performed many miracles, proving that he was indeed Jesus the Christ. And then when he went back to heaven in his ascension, the apostles continued, for a short period of time, replicating some of the miracles of Jesus in the afterglow of Jesus's presence on this earth. And then once again, those kinds of miracles went away.

I know you hear about people getting a miracle, and I hear about miracles all the time. But most of the miracles I hear about today would not qualify under the definition of a New Testament or Old Testament miracle. God does some miraculous things for which we are grateful, and it is not my intention to discourage you from believing in any of that. But biblical miracles, as we study the scripture, happened in three different periods of time. There is yet another time in the future when they will return during the tribulation, but looking at the world historically, there's Moses and Joshua, there's Elijah and Elisha, and there's Jesus Christ and the apostles. And did you know that one day those miracle workers had a conference together on the Mount of Transfiguration? Moses was there as the lawgiver. Elijah was there as the great reformer. And Jesus was there as the ultimate miracle worker. They all came back.

Wouldn't you like to have heard that discussion on that day between the three miracle workers of all the major miracles in biblical history? Then let me tell you a little bit about Elijah's physical rapture to heaven. It says in 2 Kings chapter 2 and verse 11, "Then it happened, as Elijah and Elisha continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven". I'm signing up for that trip. Man, oh, man, isn't that something to think about? All of a sudden, the fiery chariot comes by, gets picked up, then he's gone and he goes to heaven. He's one of two people in the Bible who went to heaven without dying. The other one was a man by the name of Enoch. And you know what the Bible says about Enoch? "Enoch walked with God and he was not". What do you mean he was not? He was not anywhere anymore. He went to heaven. Where did Enoch go? He is not, but he is. He's in heaven.

Enoch and Elijah are prototypes of what happens to believers who are still on this earth when Jesus comes back. The Bible says that one day, there are going to be a lot of people who go to heaven just like Elijah did, without the chariot; a lot of people who go to heaven just like Enoch did, without dying. The Bible says it this way that in that day, those of us who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Elijah and Enoch are prototypes of the resurrection and rapture of the believer. So, Elijah has a peculiar appearance. He has an incredible place among the prophets. He is a performer of miracles. He's going to heaven in a special way. And his prominence in the New Testament is amazing.

Even though Elijah is from the Old Testament, he shows up in the last half of this book more than any other prophet in biblical history. Elijah's mentioned 30 times in the New Testament, believe it or not. That's more than Daniel and Jeremiah and Isaiah. He wasn't a written prophet, he was an oral prophet, but Elijah's mentioned 30 times in the New Testament. And there are two incidents in the New Testament that kind of highlight how much the people of that day were aware of Elijah as a personality. Remember, when he stood on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord, the people who were there with him didn't seem surprised at all.

You see, the Jewish people believe, and the Bible teaches they believe this, that before their Messiah comes back, which we know he's already come back, but they believe their Messiah is still coming and that before he comes, Elijah will appear. And so, when Elijah shows up on the Mountain of Transfiguration, he didn't surprise anybody. They were expecting him. And do you remember when Jesus was on the cross and in one of his last words from the cross, he cried out, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani"? That is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me"? And the scripture says that when those around the cross heard these words, they said, "This Man is calling for Elijah! Let us see if Elijah will come and save Him".

You see, it's so interesting to us because Elijah's not in our mainstream thinking process at all. We don't ever, you didn't think about Elijah this week, did you? I didn't either; until I started studying this again, Elijah's kind of on the back shelf. Oh, I know about Elijah. But the Jewish people never forgot about Elijah. He's a very present personality, both in the New Testament, and his place in Judaism today is still very important. Each time the Passover is celebrated in a Jewish home, a cup of wine, called Elijah's cup, is placed on the table during the meal. It is left untouched in honor of Elijah, who, according to their belief, will arrive one day as an unknown guest to herald the advent of their Messiah. During the Passover dinner, Biblical verses are read, while the door to the house is briefly open to welcome Elijah should he show up that day. It is further said when he comes, he will resolve all of the controversy over the law.

So, your friends in Judaism know about Elijah. Every time they celebrate the Passover, whether they ever stop to think about what is behind it, they put Elijah's cup on their table as a testimony to the fact they believe Elijah's coming back before their Messiah shows up. And then there's another tradition among Judaism called Elijah's chair. That is a very interesting thing because, as you know, the Jewish people function under the covenant of circumcision. And at every circumcision of a Jewish male in Judaism today, Elijah is supposed to be there, seated at the right hand of the one who is being circumcised, and he's supposed to be seated in a richly carved chair. It's called Elijah's chair. And salutation to the child and an invitation to Elijah are a part of the ceremony. And when the chair of Elijah is made ready, the words, "This is the chair of Elijah, blessed be his memory," they have to be said in a loud voice.

Does it seem strange that this character that we know a little bit about, who we've tucked away in the Old Testament, we look at it once a while when we're reading through the Bible, is a person of such great prominence both in historic Judaism and even into the practice of Judaism today? That's sort of the legacy of his life. But now, in these last few moments, I want to give you some of the lessons we can extrapolate from the life of Elijah. I have to do this quickly. First of all, Elijah encourages us to believe in the promise of revival.

Everywhere I go these days, people say, "You know, Dr. Jeremiah, we're praying for a revival in America. Doesn't seem like there's anything else gonna work". One thing we do know: the political thing ain't working all that great. And if our hope for a change in our culture is wrapped up totally in the politics of our country, we're gonna be very disappointed. What we do know that in history, there have been many great revivals that have happened in America; five, actually. People keep saying, "We're praying for a revival". I don't know about you, sometimes when I hear that, I think, "You guys, you're wasting your time. We've crossed the Rubicon. We've gone past the point of no return. There's not gonna be a revival in this nation, as wicked as we have become". Then I read the words of 1 Kings and the awfulness of that day, which is way worse than it is here today. And in the midst of that darkness, the Bible says one man by the name of Elijah walked into the presence of the king and pronounced judgment on him, and what happened because of that was a revival in Israel.

When I think about that, I have hope. I find myself thinking, "God, you did it once; you can do it again. Do it in my time, do it now. I'm tired of reading about all the great revivals. I want to be a part of one. I want to experience one". Also, we learn from Elijah to be encouraged in the potential of one person. Elijah was the change agent in Israel. He didn't walk into the presence of Ahab with his cabinet and with his military advisers. He wasn't surrounded by an army that was sent to protect him in front of this powerful man. He walked into the presence of that king in his strange getup and said, "Ahab, I'm telling you, it's not gonna rain for three years or until the Word of God says it's gonna rain. Get yourself straightened out, sir". You say, "Where in the world did he come from"?

I don't know, he just walked on the scene. He came from God. God sent him. God said, "Elijah, you're the man. Go tell this wicked king his number is up". Let me tell you what that means to me. You may be a young person listening; you probably think there's not anything you can do to change the situation in the school that you attend. You're so outnumbered. You think the whole world's going this way. And here you are, you're trying to walk to the beat of a different drummer, and it's almost impossible. And it can get really discouraging to be the only one. And you wonder, "What can I do"? And I'm here to tell you, don't you underestimate the power of one person who will stay in faith toward God. Mister, you walk out into your job every day; you're the only one that says the name of Jesus Christ, except in a swear word, where you work. And you're almost afraid for people to know who you are and what you believe because you are not just in the minority, you are the minority.

I want to tell you something today, sir. If you will walk with God and be God's person, there is no limit to what God can do through one. Elijah was just one, one, somebody, one, and God used him, and that gives me hope, and it should give you hope. It helps us to believe that maybe God can raise up an Elijah in our schools or an Elijah in our workplaces, an Elijah in our culture, in our city, and even in our government. God works through one and maybe you're that one. Maybe you've sensed his putting his hand on your shoulder. Thirdly, Elijah helps us to see the power of prayer. There's hardly anything in the Book of Kings about that. But when you get to the Book of James in the New Testament, you read this incredible verse. "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it didn't rain on the land for three years and six months".

How did he get the power that seems to be present in what he does? He got it through prayer. The Bible says he prayed earnestly. I mean, get this: he's living in this decadent age, and he has the faith to believe. He goes before God on his knees and he says, "God, you need to do something, and here's what I'm gonna ask you to do. Don't let it rain in Israel for three years. Lord God, I'm asking you, don't let it rain in Israel for three years". And then he went right to the king and told him, "It's not gonna rain in Israel for three years". You're praying to try to get through next week. Elijah's praying that it won't rain for three years. And if you go back to the first words that are said by Elijah in this narrative, it goes something like this. He says to King Ahab, "As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand".

Do you know why Elijah wasn't afraid to confront Ahab and stand before that king? Every day he stood before the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He lived in the presence of Almighty God. To me, that's the best definition of prayer you can find. What is prayer? It's not just saying a prayer. Prayer is a condition of heart. The Bible says pray earnestly. It says pray constantly. It says pray always. And we say, "How does anybody do that"? Well, it means you live your life in the presence of God. You can have these brief conversations throughout the day. That's what it means to pray earnestly. Elijah was living in the presence of God, and he was a courageous man. Let me give you another one quickly. Elijah encourages us to see the purpose of God's Word.

I don't have time to take you through all of this, so I'm gonna give you an assignment, and it'll be a good one; not too many chapters between 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 2. You can read the whole story of Elijah sometime this week, and here's what I want you to look for. I want you to look for the phrases that sound like this: "And the Word of the Lord came to Elijah. And the Word of the Lord told Elijah, and the Word of God told him to do this". All throughout this whole narrative, those phrases are stashed. In other words, Elijah lived every day by the Word of the Lord. And sometimes you see that these people did things, and they did it because the Word of the Lord came to them through Elijah. Let me tell you something. You can do great things when you're a person of prayer and your GPS system is the Word of the Lord.

He didn't do anything in his life without an acknowledgement from the Word of the Lord, except one thing, and that's the day he ran from Jezebel. There's no record in the Bible that says, "And the Word of the Lord came unto Elijah, get out of here. That woman's after you". No, he did that on his own, and it got him in all kinds of trouble. So, he encourages us to believe in the promise of revival, to see the potential in one person of faith, to see the power of prayer and the purpose of God's Word. And then let me add, he also encourages us to believe in our possibilities with God. I know that one of the great problems that you have, if you preach on Bible characters, is that all the people sitting out there kind of glaze over and they say, "Oh, well, that's nice to know about Moses and nice to know about Paul. But I mean, they were different, man, they're Bible people".

I think some people think these cats were born in heaven and dropped down on earth. That's not true. All of the people of the Bible, all of the personalities were personalities who are just like us. In fact, listen to these words again from James chapter 5. "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours". I looked it up in many translations and paraphrases, and they all say the same thing. Elijah was like you, he was like me. He wasn't somebody with special stuff. He was a person like you and like me. He wasn't a super-duper saint. He wasn't hatched in heaven. He was a man who was born of parents, even though we don't know who they were. He grew up as a child, he had an adolescence, and somewhere in the process of time, God got ahold of this average man and used him in a dynamic way, and he changed his world. We go through periods of time in our life when we think, "I could never be like him". Or, "Look at her, what a great Christian she is. I could never be like her". Or, "He preaches a sermon. I could never be like him". Or, "Look at her, she teaches Bible study fellowship. I could never do that". And you will never do that unless you believe that God can help you do that.

The difference in Elijah was not in his family. The difference in Elijah was in his faith. He was an average, ordinary person like us who just happened to open his life up to what God wanted to do through him. I don't know if you've noticed this, but I've looked around, as I've lived in this Christian world, for a lot of years. And I've met a lot of people who, man, if you walk up to them and you didn't know their story, you would never guess they could even be in the story, people who've led great ministries, people who've had great impact on their culture. They aren't something special. Some of them are not attractive, some of them don't look like they know how to lead, but God, in them, uses their abilities and empowers them to do great things. Elijah, more than anything else that I hope you will retain from today, is a man like us.

Don't put him off in some separate category and say, "Well, I'm not gonna listen to that because I don't get anything from Elijah. I don't relate to him". Well, if you don't relate to him, you're not listening. Elijah was a man of like nature, such as us. And in all of his strangeness, his hairiness, his leather belt, his strange ways, his miracles, the Bible says he's just like us. You may be sitting here thinking, "You know, I like to serve God, but, Pastor, you don't know, man, I'm really different. Everybody tells me I'm different. God ain't gonna use me". Well, he won't use you if you don't let him. But it seems to me God likes to take different people and fill them with his Spirit and allow them to do great things so he alone gets the credit. And I've seen that happen over and over again.

Years ago, after I'd been the pastor of this church for just a few years, I invited a friend of mine to come here and preach, and nobody here had ever seen him preach or heard of him; most people didn't know him. In the circles I grew up in, he was quite well known. He was an evangelist, and his name was J. Don Jennings. J. Don Jennings came to this church to preach one Sunday, and I reminded the people, before he came, of his situation. He had a terrible thyroid problem that he'd had almost all of his adult life, and his thyroid problem caused him to twitch and shake. If you've ever been with him, he twitches like that. He'd be talking to you and his arm would just go like that and twitch.

It was an amazing thing to me, he was a tremendous preacher. When he would get in the pulpit, he managed to incorporate his twitches into his gestures. If you didn't know it ahead of time, you might not even know; maybe he's kind of got some jerky gestures, but he's a great preacher, and you didn't know it. Unfortunately, though, you don't want to ride with him in a car when he's driving. I know that wasn't something I wanted to do. He was a hero of mine. He had red hair and really good-looking dude, and he dressed to kill. Long before hankies, he had a hankie, man. When he stood in the pulpit, he looked like he had come out of some fashion review and then you'd realize, this man was serving the Lord with this problem. I talked to him about it a lot. One day he told me this. He said, "One day, Dr. J, somebody gave me a sheet of paper, and this is what it said". He said, "This is old-time southern wisdom".

Here's what was written on the paper: "God can hit a straight lick with a crooked stick". He said, "That's when I knew I was gonna be okay 'cause if ever there was anybody who was a crooked stick, I was it". If you ever heard him preach, he preaches with such power, you don't even notice him. God has used him as an instrument for the salvation of many, many people, first of all, as a pastor, then as the president of a college, and now, in his retirement, even preaching. I tell you something today. If God couldn't hit a straight lick with a crooked stick, I'm not in the equation and neither are you. Because all of us qualify under the category, don't we? We're imperfect people. We're crooked sticks. But Elijah was willing to commit himself, in all of his foibles, to God, and God used him.

And it's my prayer that during this time when we walk through his life in this serial of his stories, that during these stories, God will get a hold of your heart and you will say over and over again, "If God can use that man, God can use me. I want to be used of God". You don't want to come to the end of your life and look back over your shoulder at all the things that you might have done that you never did.

We had a big event in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and that's, of course, as you know, where I started out in the ministry. And they had a huge reception afterwards, and all the people that were still living who'd been a part of that church came. Fifty couples showed up for this reception, and it caused me, as I was thinking about this message, to remember times when I would sit in my little study and in the mobile homes that we used to start that church and thinking, "God, what am I doing here? Why am I here"? I would say, "Lord God, I spent four years in college and four years in seminary; now I'm sitting in a trailer in the middle of an empty field. And this is what you've called me to do".

God built that church. And Donna and I stood there for almost two hours and heard these people tell us, not so much about what happened while we were there, but what happened after we left and how God used the testimony of his Word and the training and evangelism for them to win their friends and their loved ones to Christ. I'm so glad I didn't quit. I wanted to quit sometimes. I wondered what I was doing. I'm here to tell you, men and women, God wants to use your life. And you say, "Well, my life is almost over, Pastor". Well, you know, you should pray this little prayer I heard a man pray once. "Oh, Lord God, be the Lord of what's left," amen? That's a good prayer. "Oh, Lord God, be the Lord of what's left". And God will hear that prayer for any of us.

Today, I pray that you will take great courage and joy from the knowledge of this man who made an impact in his life because he trusted God. Let me leave these final thoughts with you. The name Elijah is made up of two words, "Eli" and "ya". And his name actually means Eli, Elohim, Yah, Jehovah. "Jehovah is my God". Can you imagine all these prophets of Baal who didn't believe in the Jehovah God? "Who's coming to see the king today"? "I don't know, his name's 'Jehovah is God,'" and Elijah, "Jehovah is God," walks in among the prophets of Baal. There's another possible translation of his name that would be translated, "Jehovah is my strength". But it doesn't matter. If Jehovah is your God, he's your strength. Whatever it is that God speaks to you about, here's what you do.

You say, "God, you are my strength. You are my God. I can do anything if you will help me". Donna wanted to go see all the houses we lived in. We lived in three houses in Fort Wayne. We went to visit every one of them. Believe it or not, they're all still standing. We pulled into the first house on Trier Road, sat in the driveway and talked for a few moments, and then remembered that the day we pulled into that place pulling all of our belongings in a U-Haul trailer behind us. I told her, "I'm gonna go in first and unlock this place and then we'll go in and start putting our stuff together".

And I remember walking into the kitchen and walking over to the cabinets. And somebody had gotten there ahead of us, and there was a big sign on the cabinet doors, and this is what the sign said: "God's commandments are God's enablements". I didn't get it at first, but then I realized someone had put that sign up there to tell me if God has called you here, he will enable you to do what he's called you to do. He will help you. And I'm here to tell you, that's true. It's true for me, and it has been true for us, and it'll be true for you. You just have to say yes to him. You have to quit putting him off and marginalizing him, trivializing him, and say, "Lord God, I want your blessing on my life. And no matter what it takes, no matter what you ask me to do, I'm here, I'm in the game, I'm ready to go". And you will be surprised what God begins to do in your life.
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