Tony Evans - Encouragement that Calms Fear
As we continue with the study of the life of Elijah, we want to look at now another kind of supernatural miracle he needed. This was not a miracle that had to do with money and houses and land. This was a miracle that had to do with his need to be lifted out of his depression. Depression is discouragement on steroids. It's discouragement that now has produced an ongoing level of gloom, an ongoing level of emotional pain. And when discouragement becomes depression, depression unresolved because despair. And when depression becomes despair, that ongoing discouragement that has led to depression, which now results in despair, produces a sense of hopelessness.
That's our situation with Elijah. He's going to find themselves where many of us have often found ourselves, in a black hole. He's going to find himself looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, only to discover it's the light of an oncoming train. Because his whole world is going to be turned upside down in a day. When we come to chapter 19, we find out what led to this emergency shift in his emotions. You see, he had an expectation because when we finish chapter 18, he had told Ahab, "Cheer up, laugh, party. Eat and drink 'cause it's going to rain". And Ahab got in the chariot and made his way home.
Elijah beat him home by running. Ahab had a controlling wife. He had a woman who was telling him what to do. He had a controlling wife, and this wife had taken over when it was Elijah's anticipation that Ahab was going to turn things around. Who he was married to, he was married to a lady named Jezebel, and Jezebel was running this show. Jezebel was calling this shot. And Jezebel was telling him, "Elijah, you're a dead man". Jezebel is an evil threat that comes your way. It is something or someone who threatens your wellbeing, 'cause she threatened, "By tomorrow this time, you're going to be dead".
So, any threat in your life that comes your way that produces discouragement, depression, despair, or even as we're going to see in a moment, a desire to die, is a Jezebel in your life. It's something or someone who threatens the stability of your mental wellbeing. So, when a boss threatens you that he's going to fire you and it's not a legitimate reason, he's become Jezebel. When there's a person who threatens you or your stability, they are in fact being a Jezebel in your life. They are operating as the new lord over your emotions. And the reason why they can operate as lord over your emotions is because their threat gets into your head. And when their threat gets into your thought, your thought affects your feelings.
You see, we are made up of three parts: We're made up of body, our physical being. We're made up of soul, psychology is soul, the study of soul, so we're made up of a personhood. And then we're made up spiritually. What you have to understand is all three of these are interconnected and interrelated. So, as you'll see in a moment, if you feel bad physically, it affects how you're going to think psychologically, which may affect also how you function spiritually. Or if you're down spiritually, that may affect your ability to function physically or your ability to be able to reason psychologically. Or if you're off psychologically, it can make you want to go to bed physically and make you not want to deal with something spiritually. 'Cause all three are interconnected and all three affect the other two. So, it is understanding how these three connect with each other, and all three are in this story, that you will understand how to deal with that which controls the mind.
Now, let's understand, since emotions are part of the soul, how the soul relates to the thought so that you can understand how to find God's work in that which discourages you emotionally. If your mind is wrong, your emotions are going to be wrong. If your mind is right, your emotions are going to be right. That's why a change in your mind will always change how you feel. He is now living under a threat. Jezebel the evil one has threatened his wellbeing and his life. And he's trying to figure out now how is he going to face this. And this is overnight, his whole life is changed because somebody has gotten into his head.
So, what he does is he goes on another day's journey. The man had run 15 miles. Now, he's going to go on a whole 'nother day's journey. He sits under the juniper tree, verse 4, and he requests for himself that he might die. "It is enough now, oh Lord. Take my life, for I am not better than my fathers". He wants to die 24 hours after the biggest miracle he's seen. This is a fast slippery slope. Okay, watch this now, Elijah is not a carnal Christian. Elijah is not an unspiritual person. He's been called a man of God. We just saw the hand of the Lord was on him.
So, guess what? It's possible for spiritual people to get depressed. So, you can be spiritual and be down. You can be spiritual and be emotionally struggling through something. So, don't automatically feel that your discouragement is due to your carnality. Now, if you are carnal and if you are spiritual, then it could very well be related to that. But it's not automatically related to that specifically in the life of someone who is pursuing God. So, he's ready to give up, he's ready to throw in the towel. And when he's ready to throw in the towel, he lays down 'cause he's so tired under a juniper tree, which is only a tree big enough for one person to lay under it.
And there was an angel touching him and said, "Arise, eat", verse 5. "He looked up, and behold, there at his hand a bread cake baked on hot stones, a jar of water, so that he ate and drank and lay down again". When did the angel show up? The angel only showed up after Elijah had had an honest conversation with God. You see, he told God, "I want to die". He told God, "I'm not good as my fathers". He told God, "I have nothing left". He told God, "I'm done". And God sent an angel. But he still wants the real thing because he knows what you're going through. The Scripture says he knows we're of flesh.
So, Elijah comes and he bares his soul to God. 'Cause look, when you're ready to die, there ain't no time to be cute. When you're so low, you want to throw in the towel, that's not the time to play church. That's not the time to just go through religious activity. He gets raw with God. Second thing I want you to notice is how God addressed him. The first need he addressed was his physical need. Because one of the causes of discouragement, depression, and despair is physical. If you're hungry, James says you don't need just a prayer meeting, you need somebody to make you a ham sandwich when you're hungry because there is a physical reality going on. So, it is quite legitimate to examine whether there are physical causes to your emotional struggles and to have those physical causes addressed.
Now, God addressed it supernaturally 'cause he sent an angel. But let me tell you about angels. Hebrews chapter 1, verse 14 says that every believer has been assigned an angel. Every Christian has an angel. So, God has an angel and he knows your name. Now, the problem with angels is they're invisible because they're spirit beings, and they're supernatural in nature because they're heavenly beings. And so, the job of an angel is your personal post office carrier whose job it is to deliver whatever God wants delivered to you. That's what your angel's job is, and every believer has one. But notice the angel doesn't come until the communication takes place between Elijah and his God.
So, God needs honest communication because he says Elijah is of like nature. So, he deals with the reality of exhaustion physically, emotionally, spiritually. And so does everybody else. But that's also the opportunity that the devil looks for to take advantage of. Even in the case of Jesus, and Jesus didn't have a spiritual problem. But after he had fasted 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, it says, "The devil came to tempt him". Why? He was tired and he was hungry and he was weak. So, being tired, hungry, and weak gave the devil the opportunity he had to try to get to the most spiritual person who's ever lived.
So, you know if the devil is going to attack Jesus, who couldn't sin and didn't sin, and he already knows our propensity to sin, that you are perfect bait for him to enter your thought in order to get to the caboose of your emotions, in order to send you a downer in your life. But you've got an angel with your name on it, whose job it is to deliver the supernatural to you. So, the angel of the Lord comes in in verse 7 a second time. He's touched by an angel. "Arise, eat, because your journey is too great for you".
Now, watch this. So, he lets him rest before he lets him continue. "So he arose, and ate, and drank, and went in the strength of the food 40 days and 40 nights to Horeb, the mountain of God". When you are depressed, many times the last place you want to go is to the mountain of God. The mountain of God means to go in God's presence. That's the last place you want to go. But that's the first place God wants you to run to. He wants you to run to his presence and bring your depression with you. Bring your discouragement with you. He'll give you enough to get to the mountain, to get to his presence. So, he calls him into his presence, then it gets really interesting.
Now, there are a number of issues going on here. He asked him, "then he came to a cave, lodged there", verse 9, "And behold, the Word of the Lord came to him and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" Now, God doesn't have to ask, "Why are you here" 'cause he doesn't know. 'Cause he knows why you're here, he knows that you've been frustrated. In fact, he just fed you. But he asked him, "Why are you here" The reason God asked him, "Why are you here" is not for God to get information. The reason he asked, "Why are you here" is for him to fully express what he's dealing with. "So, what are you dealing with, Elijah"? And here's what Elijah says. Elijah says, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, for the God of hosts, for the sons of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, killed your prophets with the sword, and I alone am left and they seek my life to take it away".
Okay, so let's discuss why he's here. "Why are you in this situation? Why are you so depressed"? "Okay, you asked me, God, I'm going to tell you. I committed myself to you. I dedicated myself to you. All them other people are unspiritual. They didn't keep your covenants, they were worshipping those idols, and I'm all here by myself". He has adopted a victim's mentality. A victim's mentality is a mindset that you adopt because of negative circumstances that says I'm where I am because everybody else is where they are. I'm here by myself 'cause none of them are agreeing with you, and that's put me out here by myself, and you got me out here by myself. That's a victim's mentality.
Now, you can be a victim, but you are to never adopt a victim's mentality, where everybody else is responsible for where you are. A victim's mentality is "because of them, I'm here". And as long as you have that kind of mentality, you'll always be there. You may be a victim, but you are to never adopt the victim's mentality because then that allows you to put off being responsible to make the change you should make because they're not making the change they should make. He was just victorious with these people. He was just victorious with them making a renewed commitment. But because he was psychologically damaged, he developed a victim's mentality.
Now, please don't misunderstand me. You may be a victim, it may be unfair, it may not be right, it may be evil. So, you may be a victim, but that's different than adopting the mindset of a victim. And too many of us socially and economically, and in this case spiritually, have become victims of the devil. "If it wasn't for the devil, I wouldn't be here". Well, guess what? He ain't changing. Okay? "If it wasn't for them sinners, I wouldn't be stuck here". They're not changing. "If it wasn't for this situation, I wouldn't be here".
Okay, that may be true, but they may never change, so what are you going to do? So come, tell me why you're here, but don't expect me to just pat you on the back and feel sorry for you because the thing that brought you here may never change. And many of us block the supernatural because we become comfortable as victims. Many of us have gotten stuck in our station in life. This is a racial issue, it's a social issue, it's a class issue. And in this case, most importantly, it's a spiritual issue. Elijah was wrong. He says, "I'm a victim and I'm all by myself". Hmm, okay.
So God says, "'Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.' And behold, the Lord passed by. It was a great wind rending the mountain and breaking it into pieces, the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. There was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake". Verse 12, he said, "There was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. But after the fire, the sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in the mantle, and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave, and behold, a voice came to him and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah'"? He said in verse 14, he says it again, "I'm very jealous for the Lord, but the people have forsaken you. I alone am left. They seek to take my life".
So, guess what God does? You find at the end of verse 3, it says he left his servant behind. So, Elijah is by himself because depression gets worse if there's nobody in your life to change your thinking. See, if you're feeling sorry for yourself and you're talking to yourself, that's a bad conversation for yourself. You're already feeling sorry, and there's nobody to talk to but you, about you, regarding you, to tell you what you ought to do. And you aren't in a place to even hear you correctly. And what you are telling you is only related to how you feel. Then your discussion with yourself is helping yourself to become worse off about you.
So, God then enters the picture and tells him, "Elijah, tell me how you feel. Stop talking to yourself 'cause when you talk to yourself, you were getting depressed, you were suicidal. Start talking to me, okay? Now, I'm going to show you the wind and the rain and all that stuff. Now, talk to me again. No, no Elijah, don't talk to yourself 'cause you and you aren't getting together with you real good". God has to clarify, verse 18: "Yet I will leave 7.000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him".
Now, what's his complaint? "I'm the only one". God says, "Shhh, there's 7.000 folk like you out there. It's just you are so psychologically bent right now, all you see is you. I got 7.000 people you don't even know about who have the same faith, same commitment, same loyalty that you have, so you are wanting to die off of misinformation. You don't have the right information".
And so, what did God's presence in his counseling session do? Give him new data. And then God closes by doing one other thing for him. And it's a very important thing. In verses 19 through 21, he runs into a man named Elisha. The end of verse 19 says, "And Elisha passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah", Elisha does, "and, 'Please, let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.' And he said to him, 'Go back again, for what have I done to you.' So he returned from following him, took the pair of oxen, sacrificed them, boiled their flesh with the implements of oxen, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him".
'Cause sometime when you're discouraged, you need somebody with flesh and blood. Sometimes, talking to God, he's a Spirit out there, he's real, but he's a Spirit out there, so guess what God did? God gave him a friend. God said, "Look, I'm going to bring somebody in your life who is going to minister to you. 'Cause right now, your ministry has been depleted, and your get up and go is not there, so guess what? Now that I have been counseling with you and you brought me into the equation of your victim's mentality, I got somebody I have already set up to bring into your life to minister, to encourage, to lift you up, and to bring you out of your depression".
God has an angel for you, he's got a person for you, he has himself for you. He gave Elijah all three of those to give him a supernatural experience to lift him out of his depression. And one of the reasons that the church exists is to have people available in your life when you are down who can embrace you, minister to you, lift you up, and he can use you to do the same thing for somebody else. Because when we are depressed, we need another perspective. That doesn't deny the reality of how we feel, but what it does is doesn't let you live there.
Some of us are being destroyed by Satan. You need somebody who can whisper about the power of God in your life. Somebody is being intimidated by Jezebel, and you need to know from somebody who can see outside of you that greater is he that is in you than Jezebel who is threatening you. You need to be lifted out of your discouragement through honesty with God, through taking care of yourself physically in order to get the rest you need or the help you need, and to have somebody in your life who loves you enough and God enough to hook the two together. When that takes place, you may still get discouraged, but God will lift you out of it because even godly people have to struggle with discouragement.
There's a lot in our world that can produce fear, that unhealthy emotion where circumstances control what we think and how we react. Some of God's choicest servants like Elijah got afraid because they were being threatened, their wellbeing is threatened. Sometimes, our physical wellbeing is threatened, our circumstances, our economics. Our mental rationing and reasoning can all create the sense of dread in our circumstances. It's during this time that you need, I need, we need to take our fear to God, since he doesn't give us the spirit of fear, and ask him to provide something or someone to change the trajectory of our emotions.
God has a million ways of intervening in our fears to give us an encouraging word. Perhaps it's a sermon that you hear, a song that is sung. I know during some of my dark days at the loss of my wife, I got some songs sent to me that encouraged me in the insecurity of the moment. God has a million ways of doing it, just invite him to do it so that fear does not dominate. Now, you can't always control fear coming, but that's a long way from having fear ruling. And you don't want fear to rule, so invite God to do something through some means to let you know he is in the midst of your insecurity and fear, and can change it to dancing.