Greg Laurie - Exit Stage Left
Let me start with a question. Have you ever faced a time in your life where you were isolated and alone? Maybe your friends and family even abandoned you. Maybe your husband or your wife walked out on you. Maybe even your dog left you. Cats always leave you, they've never been your friend, just deal with that. Or maybe, right now as I'm giving this message, you're in a time of difficulty or trial, similar to a desert, because there once was a time in your life where you were active, but now you're inactive. Once you were mobile, now you're immobilized. If any of these things resonate with you, then I think this message I'm about to share with you will help, because this is the story of the prophet Elijah, storming into the court of the wicked King Ahab and his even more wicked wife, Jezebel, and throwing the gauntlet down at the nerve center of Israel, and telling these idol-worshiping people that it wasn't gonna rain.
God was gonna withhold the water because of their worship of false gods. And here's where Elijah got his boldness, his courage, his hutzpah if you will. 1 Kings 17:1, "And Elijah the Tishbite of the inhabitants of Gilead said to Ahab, 'As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there will not be dew nor rain these years except at my word.'" What were the secrets of this miracle-working prophet? By the way, he was a human just like you are. Just like me. He had his shortcomings and his flaws, we'll see that later. He says it in his opening statement, "As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand". Elijah served a living God. He knew God was alive and powerful, and he constantly stood in the presence of God. He understood that wherever he went, the Lord went with him, and so that gave him the courage. And that's something that will give you courage as well.
So, when he first walked in, I think that probably Ahab and Jezebel thought he was a joke. How did this guy get past security? Remember, he's kind of wild looking, he's all hairy, dressed strangely, and they're in their beautiful, royal robes, and he makes this bold statement. They probably thought, "That's such a joke," and then it stopped raining, and it wasn't a joke anymore. And suddenly, Elijah became public enemy number one. Basically, the queen and the king put a contract out on him. We gotta get this guy whacked fast, because he is a threat to our nation. So, what was Elijah to do? It's exit stage left. The Lord said you've gotta get off the grid. No Instagram posts. No tweets. No anything, nobody needs to know where you are, because the Lord said to him in verse 2, "You've got to hide yourself".
By the way, I just read an interesting little article that said one week off of social media can ease your depression and anxiety, one week. And then he said you also gain nine hours of free time that you did not have. Think about that. I'm gonna go off social for one week. Well, Elijah was off the grid and nobody knew exactly where he was. Why was he hiding? Because the king and queen wanted him dead, but also because God was getting him into shape for what was ahead. So, Elijah went from the palace to the barren wilderness. He went from the throne of power to the desert of obscurity. He's in oblivion, and here's what happened.
1 Kings 17 verse 2, "And the Lord said to Elijah, 'Go to the east and hide by the Cherith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.' So, Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Cherith Brook east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat. Each morning and evening, he drank from the brook, and after a while, the brook dried up and there was no rainfall anywhere in the land".
We'll stop there. Okay, if you're taking notes, here's point number one. We learn things in deserts that we don't learn anywhere else. We learn things in deserts we don't learn anywhere else. And when I say desert, I'm using it as a metaphor for a difficulty, a trial, a hardship, whatever it is you might be going through similar to that, but you will learn things in that place.
Now, when we think of the Brook Cherith, we think a little babbling brook, you know, sort of like Snow White in the forest, and the animals are gathered around smiling. No, it wasn't that way at all. Actually, the word "Cherith" means the cutting place. The cutting place. God was getting Elijah ready for his showdown with the prophets of Baal. It was gonna be the shootout at the Carmel corral. This was gonna be big, and he was gonna have to be almost a different person when that event came with incredible faith. This was sort of like Elijah's bootcamp experience. You know, at the beginning of the chapter, he's introduced to us as Elijah from the town of Tishbite. At the end of the chapter, he is introduced as Elijah the man of God. Something happened in that cutting place.
I wonder if I'm talking to somebody right now that's in a cutting place or a spiritual desert. You're walking through a valley, but you need to know you're not the only one. But we ask, "Oh, man, come on. Why do I have to go through these valleys? Why do I have to go through these trials? Why do I have to weather these storms? Why can't I just go from mountaintop to mountaintop"? Here's the answer, James 1:2, "Brothers, count it all joy when you fall into various trials knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its work in you that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing".
Number two, God allows trials in the life of the Christian so we will grow up spiritually. Jesus will test us. Oh, you think you know this? You say you trust me, and you say that you believe I'm in charge in your life? Here comes a test. Not to make us miserable, not to hurt us, to test our faith and strengthen our faith, so we'll understand this truth is really true, you see? So we can advance as Christians.
Thirdly, God allows hardships to show us his power. Sometimes he'll just allow a difficulty so he can deliver you from it, or even remove the difficulty from you. Now, honestly, there are times we have to go through it and we're not delivered, but then there are times he'll take us out of it altogether.
And fourth, trials and testings produce a necessary quality in our life. So, here now is Elijah in his time of trial by the Brook Cherith. Now, he's gonna get fed every day, how? Ravens, basically Raven Post Mates is the new delivery system. Maybe the Lord did it this way so Elijah would have a little companionship, you know? He's all alone out there, nobody to talk to, probably named the birds. "Oh, here they come". We have a little bird feeder outside of our window in our kitchen, and so we have these birds that come. We name the birds. And there are two birds that kind of dominate it. There was one that was there all the time, and my granddaughter Alley named... Now I'm blanking out on their name... Irene. Irene! What? She's a kid. Irene, she says to the bird. Okay, it's good.
Well now, all of a sudden, she shows up with some boy bird. He's kind of got a little red front here. He's a pretty bird. "Well, let's name him George," I said. George and Irene. You say, "Why George"? I don't know. I thought George Clooney. I don't know. We could have called him Brad, or Leo, or Greg. I don't know. So, they hang out. "Oh, look, there are the birds". We'll stop over there, "Look at the birds. Here they go". Now, we have a hummingbird feeder, too, and we recently moved it. And now the hummingbirds aren't coming anymore. They're so aloof. Hummingbirds are like the cats of the bird world. You know, they're fickle.
George and Irene, every day they are there getting the seed. Hummingbird, they may come, they may not come. I don't know. But I am pretty awesome. They are very hyper. Is there caffeine in nectar? I don't know what's going on with that. But, maybe a little companionship for Elijah. Maybe he even started to enjoy it. Get up in the morning, get some water from the brook and wait for the birds to show up and bring me lunch. And then one day the brook dried up. The brook just tried up, it stopped. See, he had to face the consequences of the plague coming on the land, too. There was a drought, and now he's facing the drought. And I wonder if I'm talking to somebody right now who just had their book dry up. Your bank account isn't as full as it once was.
I think that's true for most of us right now with this economy. You had a growing career, not so much anymore. You had an amazing ministry and it's not what it used to be. Your brook dried up. Your career stalled. Things aren't looking so bright as they were before. Your kids left home, which frankly is a relief, because they're in their 50's, but still, your brook is dried up. But don't despair, because God is not done with you yet. God was not done with Elijah, he was just done with this chapter in the life of the prophet. Now Elijah was ready for the next act. He was ready for the next chapter in his life. Everything was going according to plan, God's plan.
So, now it's time for chapter three, or act three in the life of Elijah. The Lord was going to expand Elijah's life and grow his faith. 1 Kings 17 verse 8, "Then the Lord said to Elijah," this is after the brook has dried up, "Go to the village of Zarephath and near the city of Sidon". Now, by the way, the city of Sidon, Sidon was the center of Baal worship. This is where Jezebel the wicked queen came from. So, the Lord is effectively sending Elijah to Baal central, which is kind of ironic. And then the Lord says, "There will be a widow there to fed you". So, he went to Zarephath, "He arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks and he asked her, 'Would you bring me a little bit of water in a cup?' And as she was going to get it, he called to her".
Hey, bring me a bite of bread, too. I find this humorous. "Okay, I'll get you some water". "Hey, get me a sandwich, too, would you mind"? But this woman is so gracious, and think of how Elijah looked. He was strange looking, all hairy, and he comes up to this lady who's basically at the brink of death, she even protests and said, "I don't have enough bread to share. I'm out of flour and olive oil to make more. This is my last meal". He's like, "Yeah, whatever, just give me something to eat," but it wasn't that way. See, he was testing her, or more to the point, the Lord was testing her. Would she trust God, and in this case, the man of God. And she said yes, and look what happened next. Verse 15, "She did as Elijah said and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers just as the Lord had promised through Elijah".
Here is something to think about. This was humbling for Elijah, why? Well, let's be honest, men don't like to be dependent on anyone. Men like to think that we fix things, we're the ones with the answer to the question. We're the ones with the solution to the problems. Now, we aren't as often as we think we are, but to go be dependent on a woman, and not just a woman, a widow, and not just a widow, an impoverished widow, and to be dependent on her each and every day. But this is the thing I find so impressive about Elijah. It was whatever God told him to do, he just did it. He was just obedient. He was obedient in really little things.
That may not seem like a big thing to you to sit by a river and let the birds bring you food. It may not seem like a big thing for you to go and be dependent on a widow. It may not seem like a big thing for you to do some of the things he did, but it was the little things that built up to the big things. If you wanna be used by God, you have to be faithful in little things because of this simple truth, you're never too small for God to use, only too big. Jesus said if you're faithful in little things, you'll be faithful in large ones. But if you're dishonest in little things, you will not be honest with greater responsibilities. Elijah was so faithful, and he was so obedient, and he did this for the Lord, and this woman continued to provide for him.
Point number five, God loves to take what we have and multiply it. God loves to take what we have and multiply it. I had so little to offer to God after my conversion. Well, I draw these cartoons and that's kind of it, you know? But the Lord was giving me gifts that would develop in time. Ironically, for me to be a teacher is almost a laugh. The student that got bad grades is now gonna be a teacher? I think the Lord had a little fun with that one. You have no idea what God may call you to do. You say, "Well, I'm kind of a behind-the-scenes person". The Lord might say, "Yeah, well, I'm gonna put you in front of everybody. That's the new kind of person you're gonna be". And you might say, "I like to be in front of people. I like to have big crowds watch me".
The Lord might say, "I'm gonna put you behind the scenes now". And another person, he might say, "I'm gonna give you this gift that you never had before," it's a supernatural gift to someone else who will do a different thing. But God loves to take what we have and multiply it. Like that little boy with the loaves and fishes that he gave to the Lord. Listen, there are three things that's for. There are three things we can give to God. Time, talent, and treasure. Every one of us can give our time, our talent, and our treasure to the Lord. First there's our time. We have a given day. Will we dedicate any of that time to the Lord? Will we dedicate any of that time to Scripture? Will we dedicate any of that time to prayer? Will we dedicate any of that time to worship and church? Will we dedicate any of that time to sharing our faith with others?
You have your time, then you have your talent, and we all have different kinds of talents, don't we? And then God may give you gifts on top of those talents, so we give those to him as well. And finally, there's your treasure, your resources, and I have found that God is faithful to provide for our needs if we will honor him. There's an amazing promise in the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi, where God says bring all of the tithes into my storehouse that there may be food enough in my temple, and if you do, listen to this promise, if you do, the Lord says, I'll open up the windows of heaven for you, pour you out a blessing so great you won't have room enough to take it in. Then the Lord says this, try it. Let me prove it to you. Don't you love that? Here's what God is saying. Take your income, always give a percentage of it for the work of the kingdom of God. That's why we have an offering, by the way.
Maybe you've wondered what is this mysterious bag passing by? What is happening? That's for you to invest in the kingdom. You don't have to do it, no one's pressuring you to do it. If you don't wanna do it, don't do it, but do you realize the blessing that can come your way as you're faithful to give to the Lord? Elijah passed every test that God gave him, and the widow did, too. But now he's gonna face the biggest test so far. 1 Kings 17 verse 17, "After these things," underline that phrase. "After these things, the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, he finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, 'What do you have against me, O man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?'" Wow, pretty accusatory. "After these things," we read.
After what things? After Elijah has trusted God with every test that has come his way. After he faced off with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. After he's gone off the grid and waited for the birds to feed him. After he's been dependent upon this poor woman and seeing God provide. After these things, the worst-case scenario, her son dies. She even accuses Elijah. And when tragedy strikes, sometimes people lash out at God. Why did you do this to me, God? Why did you let my son or my daughter die? Why did you let my parents die? Why did you let my sibling die? Why did you let this tragedy befall me? Why, and we shake a fist in the face of God. It's understandable; we do it, but we need to remember this simple thing. It's not a punishment when a loved one dies. She thinks, "Why are you punishing me, God"? No, sorry to break this to you, people die. The stats on death are pretty impressive. One out of every one persons will die, right? That's why we all need to be prepared for eternity.
So, it's not a punishment on you, it's life and it's death, and it happens to everyone. The Bible says there's a time to be born and a time to die. But I can understand this woman's pain. As I said earlier, my wife and I have been there. But to her credit, Elijah says, "Give me your son". He took the hit, by the way. He could have said why are you yelling at me? I've been here helping you all this time. He just says, "I hear you, okay, give me your son". And she says, "Here".
There's something in her that knows that God's gonna intervene still. And I wonder if we could just take those things and give them to the Lord. I'm having problems with my son, he's a prodigal. Why don't you just give him to the Lord right now? I'm having problems with my daughter, she's just so much drama. Why don't you give her to the Lord right now? I'm having problems with my husband, he's such a loser. Maybe change your attitude, and then give him to the Lord. I'm having troubles with my wife. Give her to the Lord. My career, give it to the Lord. My ministry, give it to the Lord. My anxiety, my fears, give it all to the Lord. That's what she did.
What happened next? 1 Kings 17 verse 21, "And he stretched himself over the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, 'O, Lord my God, please let this child's life return to him.' The Lord heard Elijah's prayer and the life of the child returned, and he revived. Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother, 'Look,' he said, 'Your son is alive.' Then the woman told Elijah, 'Now I know for sure you're a man of God and that the Lord truly speaks through you.'" Wow, this took a lot of faith. Listen to this, you think Elijah was close to God? And he was, God would speak to him, but then the Lord wouldn't speak to him for a while.
You say, "Man, I wish God would speak to me like that". Listen to this, you are closer to God as a Christian than Elijah the prophet was, and I'll tell you why. Elijah the prophet stood in the presence of God, he was aware of the presence of God, but you have God himself living inside of you because of what Jesus did on the cross. So, let me close this message by saying what I said earlier. You can be closer to God than even Elijah was. "Yeah, but God spoke to Elijah all the time. He never speaks to me," you say. Ah, question, do you own one of these? By the way, this is called the Bible, yes, filled with the words of God, and God will speak to you through the Bible.