Recommended Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18
Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That is such an undeniable truth, because if we allow fear to permeate our hearts and minds there is so much that can and will go wrong.
What are some of the things that can happen when you become fearful? To name a few, you might become anxious; you might doubt yourself and your capabilities; you might think irrational thoughts and/or do irrational things; then there is paranoia, fatigue, potential dysfunction of several physical functions that result in health issues, loss of trust, bitterness, loss of peace and joy and we may settle for less than what God intended for us. In other words, fear can affect your spirit, soul and body.
Elijah was one of the most interesting of the prophets in the Bible. He was chosen by God to speak against evil and call God’s people out of their sin back to restoration. He spoke out bravely and performed many miracles, praying boldly fully believing his God would show up – and boy did God show up! He prayed for a drought – there was a drought. He prayed for a young boy to be raised from the dead – he came back to life. He prayed for fire to come down from heaven – and fire literally came down from heaven. Yet Elijah was a simple human – James 5:17 NLT says “Elijah was as human as we are, [emphasis added] and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.”
For me, one of the most fascinating stories about Elijah was in 1 Kings 18 & 19. In chapter 18 he told the evil King Ahab to summon the people of Israel to Mount Carmel – including 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah (the false gods that Queen Isabel encouraged people to worship.) When everyone had gathered Elijah challenged them to make a decision – follow God or follow Baal – but the people were unmoved.
Elijah realized that he had his work cut for himself, so he had them bring two bulls and told the false prophets to prepare one of the bulls and put it on their altar; then they should call on the name of their god to send fire to the wood under their sacrificial offering. In 18:24 NLT he says: “‘Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!’ And all the people agreed.” He allowed the prophets to go first and they called repeatedly for their god to send down the fire – crickets. By noontime with nothing happening, Elijah began to taunt them and they even more fervently begged for their god to answer until evening was approaching, still with no results.
Elijah then called the people around him where he rebuilt an altar, dug a trench around it, put the wood on it and prepared his bull. He repeatedly had them bring water that was poured over the offering and the wood until it was saturated and the trench was running full. Verses 36-39 NLT tell the story of what then happened: “At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.’ Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, ‘The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!’ Then Elijah commanded, ‘Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!’ So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.
What a victory! Elijah had bravely confronted King Ahab, the people of Israel and all the false prophets – and won. He had to be elated – life was good!! He was so pumped up that he then began to pray for rain. He sent word to Ahab that he should leave for home immediately because it was going to rain. Although the sky was clear and blue except for a very small cloud, soon a wind brought a torrential downpour – another victory! But it does not stop there. In verse 46 NLT it says “Then the Lord gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel.” He had to be on top of the world at this point after a day full of winning. However, I am sure he also had to be exhausted. The stress of such intense ministering is extremely draining on people. He surely was ready to spend a lot of time resting and relaxing. But..that was not to be.
When King Ahab returned home and told Queen Jezebel what had happened and how all of her prophets were dead, I Kings 19:2-3a says “So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: ‘May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.’ Elijah was afraid and fled for his life…” [Emphasis added]
What happened to that brave man that had confronted 850 false prophets, called down fire, prayed for and got a heavy rainstorm and outran a chariot? His life is threatened and he just runs away?! What happened to his faith and belief in his God? We do not really know. What we do know is that as was stated in James 5:17 he was human just as we are; and, we all know that there are times we just do not have what it takes. Our faith falls away and fear takes over. I do believe that one thing that may have contributed was his probable exhaustion. When we are physically and emotionally tired it is so much easier to give up and give in to negative things – such as fear.
The story told in 1 Kings 19:1-18 tells us how Elijah, out of his fear, escaped to the wilderness where he sat down under a tree and literally prayed to die. But God was not going to let him off that easy – He pursued him, saw to it that he was fed and had water to drink, so that he was physically built up. He also talked with him and encouraged him and then sent him back the way he had come.
It does not matter how strong in the Lord we believe ourselves to be, we can fall prey to fear. But we have to remember that where there is fear our faith has wavered. Consequently we need to build our faith – get into God’s Word and read about how He will not fail us, how He is there with us always, how He will give us the strength to move on victoriously.
We are living in uncertain times right now with a lot of turmoil around us. It would be easy to give in to our fears. But we cannot do that! We have to stand strong and know that our God is more powerful than any evil out there. We need to be praying every single day for His strength and protection and for His will to be accomplished. Wonderful things can come out of the most horrible of circumstances. I believe that we will see that happen. Even when we personally mess things up, it is never too late for God to show what He can do. The phrase “fear not” is used at least 80 times in the Bible, so if you want to do a full word study to help encourage yourself, you have a lot of material to work with. Below I have listed some scriptures that I hope will be an encouragement to you.
The Lord speaking directly to Joshua said in Joshua 1:9 NLT “‘This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’”
Moses addressing the Israelites said in Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG “‘Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.’”
Moses speaking to Joshua said in Deuteronomy 31:8 MSG “‘God is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry.’”
Then in the Psalms we have a lot of encouraging words: 23:4 NIV “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” 27:1 NLT “The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?” 34:4 NLT “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” 56:4 NLT “I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” 118:6 NLT “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”
Isaiah prophesying said in Isaiah 41:10 MSG “‘Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.’” And, in verse 13 NIV “‘For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.’” Then in chapter 43:1b-3a NLT “‘…But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…’”
Jesus said in John 14:27 NLT “‘I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.’”
Paul speaking to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:13 NLT “‘Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.’”
Paul writing to Timothy said in 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV “‘For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.’”
“You need God desperately every day equally, regardless of how threatening – or how successful – things look.” Chris Tiegreen
Written by Karran Martin – July 14, 2020