Last week at Common Ground we glanced a the life of the prophet Elijah, who was quite an amazing guy. He performs miracles, speaks with angels and ultimately rides to heaven on a chariot of fire. What a way to go! But his life wasn’t perfect, and in 1 Kings 18-19 you see why. The same man who wins a high noon, Western style showdown with the prophets of Baal in front of the entire nation (eat your heart out John Wayne), finds himself almost immediately afterwards running from a woman and hiding in the desert. God has to send birds to feed him and an angel to coax him out of his funk.
You have to imagine that sitting there out in the wilderness, dehydrate, hungry and alone, that Elijah it would be easy for God to say, “Well, he sure blew that one. Guess I’ll just have to raise up someone else.” But that’s not what happens. God does, in fact raise up another prophet to succeed Elijah, but not before using him again and again to deliver His word. How successful was Elijah after his wilderness experience? He’s one of only two men to appear with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17). Pretty heady stuff!
So, what do we learn from this brief scene in Elijah’s life? Three things:
- Past success doesn’t make you immune to future failure. Elijah was on a roll. Killing it. His showdown with the prophets of Baal was the stuff of legends, and five minutes later he was running in fear for his life from a woman who wasn’t even there. Pay attention to your own life, there is an enemy out there, “prowling around like a lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
- Past failure doesn’t necessarily prevent future success. Let’s face it, we all fail. We all do things we’re not proud of, make mistakes that make us feel miserable, have accidents we know we could prevent that hurt both ourselves and others around us. Its easy to write yourself or someone else off as ‘not worthy’ after such incidents occur, but look at Elijah. God actually asks him, “What are you doing here?” when he’s in the wilderness. It a not so subtle reminder that he’s in the wrong place. But Elijah rebounds nicely. We find if we keep reading that he goes on to do more great things for God even after his fail.
- If God hasn’t quit, then neither should you. And God doesn’t quit. There’s a lesson in here somewhere about discerning the will of God, but at this point let’s just focus on the fact that God saw Elijah fail and wasn’t ready to give up on him. Maybe you’ve messed up something in your life. Don’t give up. God may not be done with you yet!