Robert Jeffress - Choosing The Extraordinary Life
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. And welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Let me ask you a personal question. In your quiet, private moments, do you ever find yourself thinking there must be more to life than this? Perhaps you feel a longing for something more. Well, today we're beginning a new series based on the life of Elijah in which we'll discover God's seven secrets for success and significance. My message is titled "Choosing the Extraordinary Life" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
My friend Dr. James Dobson has written about the ordinary existence that most men experience, but you could take his words and certainly apply them to most women as well. He calls the ordinary life the straight life. Listen to his description. He said, "The straight lie for a working man is pulling our tired frame out of bed five days a week, 50 weeks out of a year. It's earning a two-week vacation in August and choosing a trip that will please the kids. The straight life is spending your money wisely when you'd rather indulge in a new whatever. It is taking your son bike-riding on Saturday, when you want so badly to watch the baseball game. It's cleaning out the garage on your day off after working 60 hours the prior week. The straight life is coping with head colds and engine tuneups and crab grass and income tax forms".
That's a pretty good description of the ordinary existence of most men and women. And yet I believe perhaps the reason you're here today or you've tuned into this broadcast is you've been captivated perhaps by the subject matter, the title, "Choosing the Extraordinary Life". Perhaps deep down you want a life that is truly extraordinary. One that is making an eternal difference in the lives of people. But deep down you say, "An extraordinary life for me? Pastor, you don't understand. I'm retired". Or, "I'm an accountant". Or, "I'm a homemaker". Or, "I'm a student. What eternal difference can an ordinary person like me make"?
Don't ever underestimate the power of an ordinary person to make an extraordinary impact. Consider the story of Edward Kimball. Edward Kimball was a carpet salesman in Boston. He taught a Sunday school class of high school boys at the mount Vernon Congregational Church in Boston. And there was a boy in his class that Edward Kimball was concerned about. The boy was 18 years old. He wasn't a Christian. Kimball prayed for him regularly, but he decided he needed to do more than pray. He needed to share the Gospel with him. And so he decided to go to the boy's place of work, the Holton Shoe Store there in Boston to present the Gospel to him.
Edward Kimball walked on the sidewalk in front of the store up and down for a few minutes trying to screw up the courage to go in. But finally he went in and he asked the boy if he could share the Gospel with him, talk with him. The boy said yes. And so they went back to the stockroom and Edward Kimball presented the Gospel to him. And to his surprise, this 18-year old prayed to trust Christ as his Savior. Later that 18-year old boy as a man wrote about that experience. He said, "I was in a new world world. The birds saying sweeter, the sun shone brighter. I had never known such peace". That 18-year old was named Dwight Lyman Moody, D.L. Moody, who'd go on to become the greatest evangelist of the 19th century.
But that was just the beginning. D.L. Moody preached evangelistic crusades all across America and he was responsible for leading another man to Christ named J. Wilbur Chapman. J. Wilbur Chapman would become a Presbyterian minister. He would also be an evangelist. And because of the ministry of J. Wilbur Chapman, another man became a Christian. He was an ex baseball player named Billy Sunday. Billy Sunday traveled the country in the late 19th century and early 20th century preaching evangelistic crusades around the country. He even preached in the old sanctuary of our church, First Baptist Church, Dallas. Many were led to Christ through Billy Sunday's ministry.
In 1924, Billy Sunday went to the city of Charlotte, North Carolina to lead an evangelistic crusade. And over those weeks, there were so many people in Charlotte who were led to Christ. Such a revival that took place in that city that an organization of businessmen was formed, the Charlotte Christian businessman's club. And that club made a difference in the city of Charlotte. 10 years later in 1934, the Charlotte Christian businessman's club sponsored an evangelistic crusade. It was 1934. And they invited another well-known evangelist to come lead that crusade. His name was Mordecai Ham. And one night as Mordecai Ham was finishing his message, he issued the invitation, and down the sawdust trail, the aisle, walked another teenage boy. His name was Billy Graham. And Billy Graham became a Christian that night. And God used Billy Graham to preach all over this country and all over this world to more unbelievers than any human being has ever preached. He led the evangelistic crusades in our country.
And in 1953, Billy Graham came to the city of Dallas to lead a crusade at the Cotton Bowl. My parents who are now in heaven had only been married a few years. My dad was a Christian. My mom was not a Christian. My dad did everything he could to drag my mother to come down to the First Baptist Church of Dallas where he was a member, but she refused to come. One thing she couldn't stand Dr. Chriswell. She just hated the preaching. She hated everything about it. She would not come. But when Billy Graham came to town, my father persuaded her to go to the Cotton Bowl, to the crusade. She did and there she trusted in Christ as her Savior.
It was announced that the next Sunday Billy Graham would be preaching at the First Baptist Church in Dallas. So my mother decided to come with my dad and they sat up in the balcony of the old sanctuary. When Billy Graham finished his message, he walked down from behind the pulpit, took Dr. Criswell by the hand and placed his membership in our church where he continued to be a member for 54 years. When he came down to do that, my mom turned to my dad in the balcony and said, "If it's good enough for Billy Graham, it's good enough for me". And she joined the First Baptist Church of Dallas. That was 1953. A year and a half later I was born. And I can truly say that I became a Christian. I became a member of this church. I eventually became pastor of this church. Not just because of the great influence of Dr. Billy Graham, but because of a man who lived 150 years before him. A carpet salesman, a layman in Boston who took the call of God seriously in his life and wanted to make an eternal impact.
Don't ever underestimate the power of God using an ordinary you to make an extraordinary difference. He did that with Edward Kimball. He also did that with another man who lived 3000 years ago. His name was Elijah, and he is the subject of our new study, "Choosing the Extraordinary Life". Over these next weeks, we're going to discover Elijah's seven secrets for living a spiritually successful and significant life.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to 1 Kings 11. To 1 Kings 11. To understand the world in which Elijah lived, we have to understand what was going on morally and spiritually in the country. It's easy to say, it's easy to think, well, back in biblical times, it was a lot easier to live for God than it is today. Today is filled with such sin and secularism. It's just too hard to live for God. Things were not as bad back then as they are today. And that's true. Things are not as bad today as they were back then. Things back then were worse than they are today. And if you don't believe that, just look at the spiritual debauchery, the idolatry that characterized the world of Elijah.
Now, the book of 1 Kings begins with a funeral and it ends with a funeral. It begins with the funeral of king David. Remember David was the ultimate king of Israel. When David died, the downward slide of Israel began and it began with his son named Solomon. Solomon started out strong for God. He prayed for wisdom as a young 19-year old king. His heart was wholly devoted to God, but then he disregarded the commands of God and that began the downward spiral of Solomon. Look at 1 Kings 11:1-4. "Now king Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh, Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian and Hittite women from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, 'you shall not associate with them neither shall they associate with you or they will surely turn your heart away after other gods'. But Solomon held fast to these in love".
Let me say as strongly as I can, don't marry, don't date a non-Christian because more often than not, they will turn your heart away from God. My dad married my mom when she wasn't a Christian. He didn't know better. He was just untaught, new in the faith himself and God overrode that decision. And occasionally God will do that. But the majority of time I've seen after 40 years in the ministry, it works just the opposite. You don't turn the heart of the non-Christian toward God. That non-Christian will turn your heart against God. It happens over and over. And that's what happened to king Solomon because of the women. Not because they were foreign, it was because they worship foreign gods.
Look at what happened in verse four. "For it came about when Solomon was old that his wives turned his heart away after other gods and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God as the heart of David his father had been". After Solomon died, Solomon's son, Rehoboam became king and the downward slide continued. There was a civil war that occurred in 922 BC.
Now, let me give you three minutes of Israel life history that will help you understand the Bible. In 922 BC, there was a civil war that split Israel into two parts. There was the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom consisted of 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel. And because it had the majority of the tribes, it retained the name of Israel. Anytime you read in the Bible from 1 Kings 12 on the word Israel, it's referring to the Northern Kingdom. The Southern Kingdom had two tribes in it. One of those tribes was Judah from which would come Jesus Christ. The Southern Kingdom became known as Judah. So you had Israel in the north, you had Israel in the south. Israel in the north had 19 kings and they were all rotten to the core. Every one of them. They were all evil. The Southern Kingdom, Judah had 20 kings during its brief history. 12 of them were evil, eight of them were good.
Elijah lived in northern Israel. He was in the kingdom of Israel. That's where he ministered. And the downward slide of the Northern Kingdom that began with Solomon intensified under a king named Ahab. Ahab was the king when Elijah lived and ministered. Ahab it says did more to provoke God to anger than any king before him. Why was he so ungodly? Part of it had to do with his heritage. If you don't think parents make a difference in their children, look at what happened to Ahab. 1 Kings 16:25 says, "Omri," that is Ahab's father "Did evil in the sight of the Lord and he acted more wickedly than all who were before him. But then came Ahab". If you thought Omri was bad, look at what Ahab did. He multiplied the sins of his father.
And that's interesting. Omri's rain was seen as unsuccessful. The 60+ years he was king, the nation was filled with bloodshed, the economy went to pot. When Ahab became king, things turned around. Because of trade deals with Phoenicia, the economy picked up and the people were happy. Everybody, if you ask the average Israelite, thought things were going splendidly in the nation of Israel. It could well be said in Israel there was a chicken in every pot, in a chariot, in every garage. People were happy with what was happening in the country. But you know what? God does not judge the success of a nation by its GDP. It's Gross Domestic Product. God judges a nation by GBP. It's Godly Behavior Product. And by that measurement, the nation was in a serious deficit position. The nation was sliding downward spiritually. That intensified in under Ahab.
First of all, because of his ungodly father, but also because of his ungodly wife. The reason Ahab provoked the Lord to anger more than anyone before him was because of his wife. Now I know some of you ladies are thinking, that's right pastor. Blame it on the women. Blame it on the women. No, it wasn't because she was a woman. It was because she was a pagan. She was a foreign wife who worshiped a foreign god and she brought the worship of that foreign god, Baal into Israel. And that's why we find in 1 Kings 16:31, "It came about as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sardinians".
Jezebel made a sport of hunting down the prophets of Jehovah God as we'll see in the weeks ahead. But the thing that angered God most about Jezebel was the worship of Baal. And that downward slide of Israel that begun with Solomon intensified under Ahab, it finally culminated in the worship of Baal. Who was Baal? It's interesting the worshipers of Baal did not deny the existence of Jehovah God. They simply said Baal was greater than God. In fact, his name means "Lord" or "Owner". Baal was thought to be the god of the sun, of rain, of fertility and climate change. Isn't that interesting? They attributed climate change which was so integral in an agricultural society to the economy. They attributed climate change and rain to this false god named Baal.
We do the same thing today when we talk about mother nature. Do you hear these idiotic commentators and meteorologists talking about mother nature, mother nature, mother nature? Mother nature is just another name for Baal. There is only one God who controls what happens in this world and his name is Jehovah God. He is the God overall. Well, they didn't understand that. So they worshiped Baal. But what was particularly odious in the nostrils of God was the way in which they worshiped Baal. They worshiped him through sexual perversion, through self-mutilation and through child sacrifice. The idols to Baal were made out of sheet metal. And in the belly of that idol, it was carved out. It was made hollow so that they could build a fire in the belly of Baal. And once that fire was lit, they would take babies who are alive and throw them into the fire and burn those babies alive. That's what they believed that they all required of them. And so it was that child sacrifice that particularly enraged God.
Look at verses 32 and 33 of 1 Kings 16. "So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria". Ahab built a temple for this false god Baal in the capital of the city. And they have also made the Asherah. Asherah was thought to be the female companion of Baal. So he made a statute of the Asherah thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him. Evil was running rampant and unchecked throughout the nation. And at that particular time, God raised up his representative, a man named Elijah. It's interesting when we look at Elijah. He was no spiritual superman. James 5:17 says that he was a man with a like nature as ours. He was an ordinary person. He had the same battles you and I have. He battled with depression, despair, temptation, with doubts about God. Nevertheless, God used him in an extraordinary way to make a difference in his nation. Why was that? I want you to notice three qualities of Elijah.
First of all, Elijah was a man of passion. He burned hot. He burned hot for God. We find that in the opening words where he just appears out of nowhere on the scene. Look at 1 Kings 17:1. "Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead said to Ahab, 'As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word'". Now, that took guts to come before a pagan king and a pagan queen who loved to kill Jehovah's prophets. He came and said, "God's going to stop the rain". Now, when he said, "As the Lord lives," notice that. Underline that in your Bible, "As the Lord lives". That was certainly a jab at Ahab and the god he served who was as dead as they come. Baal was a statue that was made by man's hand. Elijah was saying, "I serve the living God. You're serving a dead God".
But by saying, "As the Lord lives," he was saying something else. He was telling us something about himself. To Elijah, God was more alive and more real than even Ahab and Jezebel were. To Elijah, Ahab and Jezebel were just like blades of grass that blow a little while in the wind and then die. But Elijah, he wasn't serving the Baal, Ahab or Jezebel. He was a servant of the eternal God. And he was consumed with that passion to make that God known to the entire world.
A.W. Tozer once said, "The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God, overall we step out of the world's parade". We shall find ourselves out of adjustment to the ways of the world and increasingly so as we make progress in the holy way. Elijah was extraordinary because he got out of the world's parade. He wasn't going the way every other person in the world was. He wanted to be different. He wanted to stand for God. And it was that passion for God that caused God to use him in an extraordinary way. Elijah was a man of passion.
Secondly, he was a man of purpose. He was a man of purpose. And Elijah understood he had one reason for living and that was to make God known to as many people as possible. In fact, you find that in his name, Elijah, the name Elijah that his parents bestowed upon him literally means Yahweh is God, Yahweh is God.