Robert Jeffress - Learn How To Handle Bad Days
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". It doesn't matter who you are or what you've accomplished, everyone has bad days, don't they? And the manner in which we respond to those painful moments reveals a lot about our personal character. Today as we continue our series called "Choosing the extraordinary life", we'll observe Elijah's reaction to one of those really bad days. Elijah's experience will teach us valuable lessons about responding to hardship in our own lives. My message is titled "Secret #6: learn how to handle bad days" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
As you search through the scriptures, one of the things you discover is that some of God's choicest servants have had to endure bouts with depression and discouragement. I mean, think about Moses and Jonah, great men of God but there came a point in their life that they said, "Lord, please take my life". They were that discouraged. Even the great apostle Paul, the pantheon of courage, remember at a point in his life, 2 Corinthians 1:8 he said he despaired even of his own life. When we look at the character we're studying, Elijah from the Old Testament, James makes the comment in the New Testament that Elijah was a man with a like nature as ours. He was just like we are. He had feet of clay. He had difficulties in his life.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that what James had in mind when he wrote those words was the part, a part of Elijah's life that we're going to look at today that we find recorded in 1 Kings 19. It was Elijah's season of depression. It was Elijah's, what I call, bad day. And one of the keys for having a successful and significant life is to learn how to handle these bad days not if they come into your life, but when they come into your life. One of the many evidences for the fact that the Bible, it truly is God's word is the way it deals with its heroes. If you've ever studied Greek mythology you know in Greek mythology the heroes of mythology are presented as flawless. No weaknesses whatsoever. That's how we know it's fictitious. But in the Bible, you see the heroes of the faith presented as they really are, warts and all.
And that's true of Elijah. He was a person with the same kind of nature as we have and subject to the same discouragement and depression. By focusing on Elijah's dealing with discouragement and depression, we're gonna learn some important lessons about how to handle bad days, bad seasons of life. Specifically we're gonna do three things this time and next time. First of all, we're going to talk about the consequences of bad days, what they do to us. Secondly, we're gonna look at the causes of bad days, what leads to these times of discouragement in our life and finally we're going to discover the cure for bad days.
First of all, let's talk about what bad days look like. When I talk about this concept of a bad day, I'm not talking about when you misplace car keys and can't find 'em. Or you have a flat tire on central expressway. I mean, those are inconvenient, those are annoying experiences but their effects quickly dissipate. When I'm talking about a bad day or a bad season, I'm talking about a time in your life that begins with some bad, unwelcome news that's followed by painful consequences that can cause discouragement and even deep depression in your life.
Now sometimes those bad seasons of life are the result of our bad mistakes, our wrong choices in life. Other times, the bad seasons we go through have nothing to do with us. It's the result of living in a sin-infected world. Some of you have lost your mates. That's not your fault. That's a part of living in a sin-infected world. Maybe you've lost your job. Maybe your health has broken down. Maybe a friend or a mate has abandoned you. It's not your fault all of the time but the consequences are still painful, aren't they? Regardless of whether the bad seasons we experience are the result of our own choices or living in a sin-infected world, the key is how to handle those bad days and those bad seasons.
And we're gonna talk about those in a moment. But first of all, let's talk about some of the consequences of bad days in our life. What can they lead to? First of all, bad days can lead to discouragement. Discouragement. If we're not careful, discouragement dissolves quickly into depression. Remember the people of Israel shouted out after the great contest, "The Lord, he is God"! "The Lord, he is God"! But quickly they turned back to Baal, the majority of them and Elijah became discouraged. Look at verse 4 in 1 Kings 19. But he himself, Elijah, after running from Jezreel to Beersheba, he went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree and he requested for himself that he might die. He said, it is enough. Now, o Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.
Sometimes a bad day will result in discouragement. Other times, people respond to bad days with restlessness. That is, when things are not going as they feel like they should, they're going through this time of discouragement, they lose themselves in meaningless activity. God says the answer to bad days is not activity. Sometimes it's stillness. Remember in Psalm 46:10, the Psalmist said, "Be still and know that God is God".
Thirdly, sometimes bad days lead to foolishness. There's a correlation between restlessness and foolishness. Sometimes after we go through a bad season of life or we're in the midst of a bad season in life, we're tempted to make disastrous decisions. When things don't go our way, we abandon our jobs. We abandon friendships. We abandon a marriage. That is not the cure for a bad day at all. Elijah had a foolish response. He ran away from where he should have been. God hadn't told him to run. Elijah really didn't want to die. But he had gone into a period of discouragement and depression and he was about to make a foolish decision hanging up his prophet's mantle.
You see, if Elijah had been attentive, he would have known there are some warning signs that lead to bad seasons of life that signal a time of discouragement that we need to be aware of so that we don't stumble in the same way Elijah did. What are those warning signs that bad days may be coming into our life? Let me mention four of them very briefly. First of all, being physically and emotionally exhausted. That's always a sign that a bad season of life or a bad day may be around the corner. That was true for Elijah. I mean, think about it. He had been in perpetual motion and activity from the time he had left the widow at Zarephath until he went to king Ahab and confronted him again. And then he had that great contest on the top of Mount Carmel with the gods. And then he prayed for the rain to come. He had been in motion. He had no allowance for rest and relaxation. No wonder he became depressed and discouraged. God made us as spiritual beings but we're more than spiritual beings. We're physical beings as well.
I remember one of my mentors, what he said one time. He said, sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap. Do you know that's true? Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is not read your Bible or pray, it's just take your nap because we all get tired. And when we get exhausted physically and emotionally, it leads to a bad season of life. We are physical beings but we're spiritual beings as well. And many times satan will look for those times when you are physically exhausted just like Jesus was when he faced the temptations of satan in the wilderness. Jesus was physically exhausted, he was on a fast. He was prone to satan's entry into his life. And satan will do the same thing to you as well. Don't give him an entry point into your life. Don't let your guard down. John 10:10, Jesus said, the thief, talking about satan, comes only to steal, and kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
A second cause of a bad season in life is focusing on challenging circumstances rather than a powerful God. Focusing on challenging circumstances rather than a powerful God. In 1 Kings 19, we have the aftermath of the contest on mount Carmel and we have it from Ahab's viewpoint. You realize you're in that battle for the Gods on mount Carmel. Jezebel wasn't there, we don't know why. She stayed back at Jezreel at the palace. Perhaps she was so convinced of the outcome, she said, I don't even need to waste my time. We know Baal's gonna come through for us.
Well, now Ahab had to go back to the palace to tell Jezebel what had happened. Have you ever imagined what that conversation must have been like? I imagine as Ahab came through the front door, she cried out, Ahab, Ahab, honey, good to have you back home. How did it go today? Um, Jezzie, you better sit down for a minute. I have something to tell you. Now we find it in verse 1 of chapter 19 lest you think I'm making that up. Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. And soon her face turned red, verse 2. She sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, so may the Gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the one of them, like one of them by tomorrow about this time. She was saying, Elijah, in 24 hours, you're a dead man. I'm coming after you.
Now look at verse 3. What happened when Elijah got that message? And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and he left his servant there. What had changed? I mean, just a few hours earlier, he had seen a marvelous display of God's power in consuming that animal sacrifice. And now he was fearful because of one irate woman. What had changed? I'll tell you what changed. His focus. He had developed a case of spiritual nearsightedness. The key to navigating through bad days is to become a bifocal Christian. Not to negate or deny your circumstances but at the same time you're dealing with your circumstances, have your focus on your God as well. Remember the promise of Isaiah 26:3? Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusts in thee. That's what Elijah needed to remember.
Thirdly, a cause of bad days, holding onto unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations can always lead to a bad day. Success in life is thrilling but it can also be addictive and lead to unrealistic expectations. Success doesn't always continue. Success is almost invariably followed by failure. That was proof for Elijah. Elijah experienced success, 1 Kings 18:39. When the people cried out, "The Lord, he is God", "The Lord, he is God", Elijah believed that the revival in Israel was gonna be complete. Everybody was gonna join in and it would last forever. That was unrealistic. Elijah was holding onto an unrealistic expectation that led to his despair.
Fourth, believing you are indispensable can lead to a bad season of life. Now listen to me on this one. When we think we are solely responsible for the success of our marriage, or the good choices our children are making, or the growth in our business, or the size of our investment portfolio, or the good health we're in, when we think we're responsible for those things, first of all, it causes pride but then it causes despondency because when those things change, then we fall into despondency because we think, well, if I was totally responsible for my success, I must be playing a part in this setback as well.
That's exactly what happened with Elijah. Look at verse 9. Then he came there to a cave and he lodged there. And behold the word of the Lord came to him and he said, what are you doing here, Elijah? What are you doing in this cave? Elijah, I called you to be a prophet. You're supposed to be out there proclaiming my word. What in the world are you doing hiding in this cave? That's what he said to Elijah. Well, Elijah had a great answer for God, or at least he thought it was. In fact, it was so great, he repeated it twice in 1 Kings 19:10 and 1 Kings 19:14. He said, God, you want to know what I'm doing here? It's really all your fault. Look at what he says. He said, I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. And this is how you repay me. For the sons of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, torn down thine altars and killed thy prophets with the sword.
You see what he's saying? He's saying, Lord, look how zealous I've been for you. I was the one to bring this great revival. I gave it everything I have and now look what the people are doing. They are forsaking your covenant. They're tearing down your altars and they're killing your prophets with the sword. All of that was true. The reason Elijah was so discouraged was he thought he was responsible for the initial revival and now he thought he was responsible for the apostasy of the people. He felt the burden of all of it. Then he adds that final word. And I alone am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.
God said, Elijah, that's your problem. You think you're all alone. You're not. You're not the only holy one left in Israel. Remember Obadiah? He just told you in the last chapter about the 100 prophets that he had hidden away in the caves. Not only that, he says in 1 Kings 19:18. He said, I will leave 7000 in Israel. All the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that not kissed him. Elijah, there's 7000 people I can name just like that who have not bowed down to Baal yet. No, it's not all on you. You're not indispensable. I have other servants as well.
Look, God was not being cruel in doing this to Elijah. He was being very compassionate. He said, Elijah, quit feeling all the pressure. You're not indispensable. This belongs to me. This is my responsibility to bring this spiritual revival to Israel. Jesus said this to the pharisees in Luke 19:40. He said to the pharisees, I tell you, if my disciples become silent, the stones will cry out. Maintaining that healthy perspective on what's our responsibility and what's God's responsibility can keep us from despondency when bad days come into our life. We've talked about the consequences of bad days. We've talked about the characteristics of bad days. Next time we're gonna talk about the cure for bad days. How to handle these difficult seasons of life, not if they come into your life but when they come into your life. Learning how to manage those seasons of life is indispensable to experiencing the extraordinary life.