Robert Jeffress - When Bad Days Come
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. Welcome again to Pathway to Victory. There's no getting around it, sometimes life is just difficult. In fact, if you're not going through a hard time right now, chances are there's a scary issue lurking right around the corner. So when that day comes, will you be ready for the challenge? Today as we continue our series, "Choosing the Extraordinary Life", we're looking at a bad day in Elijah's life to discover how to prepare for tough times ahead. My message is titled, "When Bad Days Come", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
December the 26, January the 2nd, the day after your birthday, Monday's. The morning after the great victory on mount Carmel. What do all of those days have in common? Well, they all have the potential of being a very bad day. Have you ever discovered that after a day of celebration or after some momentous event in your life there's some times can be a let down, a bad day. Well, those who want to live successful and significant lives have learned that bad days are inevitable, the key though is to learn how to handle bad days. And that's what we discover how to do in the life of Elijah.
Last week, we began looking at the subject of a secret to success. The sixth secret for living a significant life is learning how to handle bad days. And bad days, I said, really, aren't just 24 hour periods. I use the term "Bad days" to refer difficult seasons in our lives when difficulties and disappointments pile up to the extent that they almost become unbearable. Elijah had one of those seasons in his life. Remember after he had ascended to mount Carmel and was at the summit of success, defeated the prophets of Baal, he immediately went into the valley of despair. And we learn some important lessons about bad days from what Elijah did and what he didn't do.
There's some of you watching or are here in our worship center right now, you're going through a bad season in life. You know, sometimes our bad seasons or bad days are the result of our own terrible choices. We make a bad choice and we spend months if not years suffering the consequences of that bad choice. Other times our bad season isn't because of something we've done. You can't always blame depression. You can't blame the illness. She can't blame the death of a loved one on a bad choice you've made. Sometimes our bad days are simply the result of living in a sin infected world. We've talked about the consequences of bad days, we've looked at the four causes of bad days, now let's talk about the cure for bad days. As you look at Elijah's life, he demonstrates four key principles for handling bad difficult seasons in your life.
If you have your Bibles turn to 1 Kings 19. Principle number one for handling a bad difficult season in your life is to expect bad days, expect bad days. You know it'd be wonderful if we could avoid these difficult seasons all together but notice the title of today's message was not "if bad days come", but "when bad days come", they're going to happen. Job 5:7 says, "For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward". We're born for trouble. And Jesus said it this way in John 16:33, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world". In this world you're going to have difficult situations because we live in a sin infested world. Don't be surprised by that. Elijah was surprised, he got blindsided by this bad season of life, but just because he got blindsided doesn't mean we have to.
Let me mention just three events in life that are guaranteed to trigger a difficult time in your life. There are more, but as a pastor, there are three that I have seen. First of all, the death or the desertion of a loved one, the death or desertion of a loved one. When I was in my late 20s and early 30s, I experienced the death of both of my parents, and especially after my dad died, I mean, was like somebody hit me with a baseball bat. And I remember I went through a period of about six months of really deep depression. I didn't even recognize what it was until I had gone through that period of time. But the fact is when you lose a loved one, a mate, a parent, both parents, somebody's child close to you, don't even expect to feel normal again for at least six months to a year. That is a normal response to such a loss. And by the way, for many people divorce produces the same kind of emotional loss as does the physical death of a loved one.
A second cause of a bad day can be a devastating loss. The loss of a job, the loss of your home perhaps in a fire, the loss of your health, the loss of perhaps your safety by a criminal assault. All of those things can trigger a bad season because when these losses come into your life you begin to war wonder is God really in control of my life? Can he be trusted to take care of me? You know, many times a fellow Christian will go through a loss and we'll surround them and say, "Oh, your faith is amazing. You haven't even shed a tear. Isn't this person a wonderful example of faith? They're strong in spite of this devastating loss". Many times what we think is faith is simply shock. They're in shock, that's all it is. And once shock wears off, they fall into depression and discouragement. And that's why it's important for us who are Christians to surround fellow Christians who have gone through a loss, not just a couple of days after the funeral or a couple of days after the loss, but be there when the real emotions set in, that was true for Job, he experienced that devastating loss that led to deep discouragement.
Thirdly, sometimes a bad day can be triggered by after an exhilarating success. After that adrenaline has been pumping, after your company or your church or your family has experienced a great success, don't be surprised if that's not followed by a difficult season in life. You know, understanding these certain events that trigger bad days can actually help you schedule bad days. Did you know you can put bad days on your schedule? You can know the day after you returned from a vacation, that's going to be a difficult day, put that on your calendar. Don't expect to do any heavy mental work or lifting, just return some phone calls, return some mail, go through some simple tasks. You know, the day after you returned home from the hospital after a major operation, that's going to be a bad day, prepare for it, plan for it. If you've been overseas and have gone through eight times zone changes, know the next couple of days are going to be bad, schedule those bad days as well.
It's important that we learn to manage bad days by expecting them. Secondly, refresh yourself physically. That's one way to handle a bad season of life and that was true of Elijah. Remember he went a day's journey after he had run from Jezreel to Beersheba, the Bible says, "He went a day's journey into the wilderness". And verse 4 says, "He prayed, 'Lord, take my life'". What would cause him to pray that? He was emotionally and he was physically exhausted after running that 120 miles. And whenever we are physically and emotionally exhausted it warps our perspective. If you are physically and emotionally worn out already and then you get the news you've been terminated from your job, you don't think realistically, you begin to think, "Well, I'll never work again". That's not reality but your perspective is warped when you're a physically and emotionally worn out.
God knew what Elijah needed after being worn out. To gain his emotional and spiritual equilibrium, what he needed was rest. And that's why in verse 5 it says, "And Elijah lay down and he slept under a juniper tree". Did you know sleep is a gift from God, the Bible says. Often sleep can be the cure for a bad day. The lack of sleep can be the cause for a bad day as well. Elijah had gone a day's journey into Beersheba so it was probably at night that he laid down to sleep and when the Lord felt like Elijah had gotten enough sleep he sent an angelic wake up call. We find that in verse 5, "And behold there was an angel touching him, and said to him, 'arise and eat'. Then Elijah looked and behold there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and he laid down again".
The angel provided water, provided food, a cake for Elijah to eat. This is the first instance of angel's food cake in history, it's right here. I don't know if that's true, but it sounds right. Verse 7, "And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, 'arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you'". For many people, not all people, but many people, depression results in the suppression of hunger, nothing looks good to you. You don't want to eat when that is exactly what you need to regain your strength.
You know, I think about this instance in the life of the apostle Paul, Acts 27 tells us that after Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, he was put on a boat to go to Rome where he would stand trial before Nero, and the boat ran into trouble, a violent storm, the passengers and crew ended up not eating for 14 days. And Acts 27:35-36, it says, "Paul took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all and he broke it and began to eat. And all of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food". Paul didn't have a three hour prayer meeting to get the people encouraged, he fed them. There's just something encouraging about eating.
Do you ever wonder why it is our custom that when somebody is going through with the loss of a loved one, what do we do? We bring them food, don't we? That's our custom. It's not only because they may not have anything to eat and they need the physical sustenance, but bringing food and eating is a way of saying, "Life will go on". Inspite of this hardship you're experiencing right now, life goes on. And that's why it's important that we refresh ourselves not only with sleep but with food as well.
Thirdly, to overcome bad days it's not enough to refresh yourself physically, we need to strengthen ourselves spiritually. Now, as I said, the angel probably came to Elijah in the evening and had him sleep, and the next morning he got up and ate, took a nap, got up and ate again, but look at verse 8 of 1 Kings 19, "So Elijah arose and ate and drank and went into the strength of that food 40 days and nights to Horeb, that is mount Sinai, the mountain of God".
Now we saw last time that when he got to mount Sinai, he went into a cave. Remember that last week? And the Lord said, "What are you doing in that cave? You're supposed to be a prophet, what are you doing in that cave"? And then Elijah had his little pity party for himself in verse 10 and said, "Oh, I've been zealous for you Lord, and look what has happened, the people have forsaken you and I'm alone and left". Well after he said that the first time in verse 10, look at what happened in verse 11. "So God said, 'get out of that cave, Elijah'. He said, 'go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord,' and behold the Lord was passing by and a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord: but the Lord wasn't in the wind . And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not the fire: and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing".
When bad days come into our lives, we want God to do something big, something miraculous don't we? A miraculous cure to the illness. The immediate return of a prodigal. The overnight breaking of a destructive addiction. The eraser of the financial problems we're suffering. We want God to act dramatically and instantaneously. Sometimes he does that, but usually that's not how it works. It's not in the big things, instead it's in that still small voice that God comes to give us courage to face that illness or the grace to accept that prodigals departure from God, the ability, the wisdom to handle the financial difficulty we're experiencing.
That's how God speaks most often. And when the waves are crashing and the winds are howling around us, it is important that we learn how to listen to God's real but sometimes small voice in the midst of our bad season of life. And the way we do that is by strengthening ourselves spiritually. If you're going to make it through a bad season in life you have to learn how to strengthen yourself in the Lord so that you can hear that still small voice of God no matter what circumstances are swirling around you. So let me share with you some practical ways to strengthen yourself spiritually when you find yourself in a bad season of life. Five things, I suggest you do.
Number one. Dedicate a time and place where you can get alone with God. Now, hopefully we all have a quiet time with the Lord every day, but i, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about if you're going through a challenging time in life, set aside a couple of hours, maybe half a day where you're going to get alone with God.
Now you say, "Well, what do you do when you're alone with God"? Well, that's number two, select a portion of the Bible to read and meditate on. During these couple of hours you spend alone with God, select a portion of the Bible to read and meditate on. Remember, if we want to hear God's voice, the primary way God speaks to us is through his word. And that's why when we want to hear God's voice, we ought to read his word. That's how he's going to speak to us. So select a portion of the Bible to read and meditate on.
Third, choose one or two verses in those passages to memorize. "Thy word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against God". As you read through, Mark a verse or two, that really speaks to you and memorize that so that it can come back to you after you're through with your time with God.
Number four, this is something I think is important. Read a few pages in a good Christian book that is centered on the attributes of God. Why do I say that? Because when we're going through a difficult time in life, we need a reminder that we are serving not a philosophy, we are serving a real person, the Almighty God. And reading a book about the attributes of God will remind you of that God who is in control of your circumstances.
And then finally, I spend time in prayer. That's what Philippians 4 says, "Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything". Tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers, and the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Strengthen yourself spiritually. Fourth. And this is a step many people miss. Encourage yourself emotionally.
You know what our first tendency is when we're going through a bad season in life is to withdraw, to withdraw from our friends, to withdraw from our church, to withdraw from people and go hide and try to solve the problem on our own, by the way, that's exactly what Elijah did. What did Elijah do in his bad day? He said to his servant when they got to Beersheba, he said, "Now you stay behind and I'm going to go a day's journey by myself and sit under this juniper tree". And that's why when he begged the Lord to take his life, he was all alone. And if that were not enough, God tells him, "Okay I want you to go down to mount Sinai". He did, but God never said go find a cave and hide in it, that was Elijah's choice.
The greatest mistake we make when we are going through a bad season is to hide ourself from other people. God created us where we need community, we need other people for our emotional encouragement. See God created us in such a way we need other people. That's why God said to Adam, "It is not good for man to be alone". A relationship with God is not enough folks. It's important, but God even said, it's not enough. You're a physical human being, you need other human beings to associate with. It is not good for us to be alone. And the most healthy social group that we can be a part of to take care of us emotionally is the church of Jesus Christ. That's why God created the church because the fact is, we need one another.
You know, I've noticed as a pastor, when people, church members are going through maybe a disappointment in life, maybe a child who's gone astray, maybe a problem in their marriage, maybe a loss of a job, their first tendency is to, "Well, I'm going to take some time off from church for awhile". What a mistake that is. Dr. David Jeremiah writes, "Our faith isn't a luxury intended for periods of smooth sailing and neither is our fellowship. When trouble comes along, that's when it's wonderful to be a part of a faithful Bible believing body of people who will rally around you, they'll pray for you, support you with their resources, and encourage you and counsel you in tough decisions".
Now listen to this. The devil is the only one whose opinion is that you should take a sabbatical from church. We need one another, especially during those difficult seasons of life. And that's why the writer of Hebrews wrote Hebrews 10:24-25, "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together but encouraging one another". That's what Elijah needed. That's right. God said, Elijah, "Get out of that cave and go reconnect with people. Go anoint Jehu and Hazael, go meet that guy, Elisha, pour your life into him because he's going to follow you in the ministry anyway".
We need one another, and that's how we encourage ourselves emotionally. Bad days are inevitable, but they don't have to be paralyzing. Those who live a significant life learn to expect bad days and learn how to refresh themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You know, I have found that going through a bad season of life is a lot like traveling through a dark tunnel. The bad news is, in that tunnel, it is dark, you can't see in front of you, you don't know if you'll ever make it out, but the good news is, once you've entered into that dark tunnel, with God's help, you're already on the way out.