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Elijah: The Prophet Of Courage and Confrontation

Sermon #4

1 Kings 17:17-24


Intro: Elijah is a recent graduate from Dry Brook University. There he learned to depend upon the Lord for all his provisions and not upon himself. It was there, by the brook Cherith, in the wilderness, that Elijah had his flesh broken. As soon as that trial of faith was past, Elijah finds himself enrolled in Empty Barrel Graduate School. While there, he has his pride broken as he must trust the Lord to provide for a widow, who in turn provides for the prophet. It seems that Elijah's life is marked by one trial after another. Someone who did not know any better might start to think that Elijah is being punished for something.

Of course, the Bible teaches us a different truth. God isn't correcting His prophet, He is perfecting Him. God is teaching Elijah lessons that can be learned in no other fashion than through trial and difficulty. You see, it is in the storms of life that we learn God can walk on the waves. It is in the valleys of life that we learn that He is the Lily of the Valleys. Sometimes we must go through the fires of life to find out that He will go with us every step of the way. These are the things Elijah is learning and they will serve him well in the very near future. God is preparing Elijah to stand for Him in very powerful way.

In our text today, the prophet faces another difficult trial of faith. In a sense, Elijah is getting some on the job training from the Lord. Let's look into on this poignant scene of tragedy and triumph and learn, along with Elijah, the valuable lessons that are learn during On The Job Training.


A. A Dead Person - This boy who had been so miraculously fed by divine providence is suddenly cut off and dies. It must have seemed like a great contradiction to the widow and to the prophet.

(Ill. I will remind you this morning that God's way do not always make sense from a human perspective, Isa. 55:8-9. Yet, even when the Lord's ways don't make sense, you can trust Him. When He does what we think is contradictory and unusual, it is merely to open the door for Him to reveal Himself in a new and powerful way. Therefore, regardless of the problem or the trial, simply learn to walk with your eyes on the Lord. Trust Him and He will take care of every situation, Psa. 37:5.)

B. A Distraught Parent - Evidently, this is the only son this poor widow woman had. Certainly she had pinned all of her hopes for the future on him. No doubt she was looking to the day when he would arrive at manhood and would provide for her upkeep. She probably expected to be with her son for many years to come. However, now her dreams are shattered and she is devastated and grief stricken. Her heart is broken and her world is shattered. You see, she knew the drought was coming, v. 9, but she did not know death was coming, v. 17. She was prepared for one, the other caught her totally off guard! She is placing blame every where. She blames Elijah for bringing the judgment of God into her home. She is even blaming her past sins for the trouble she is having.

(Ill. Friend, have you ever been at that place in your life? Have you ever watched everything you worked for, everything you loved, everything you lived for crumble around you? Do you remember how that felt? That is a difficult place to be! Yet, there are times when the Lord will allow His children to pass through those kinds of fires. (Ill. Job - Job 1 - 2; Abraham - Gen. 22; Joseph - Gen. 37-50; Paul - 2 Cor. 12:7-11; The Disciples - Mark 6:45-53. Do you get the idea?) Why? He does it so that we might learn to trust Him and not external resources. He does it so that we might learn to rely on Him more perfectly. He does it so that we might experience His grace in a new, fresh manner. He does it so that we might be brought to a place of utter dependence! When the Lord has brought you low, learn early to look to Him. It will help lift you out of your situation for faster. Illustration: You can catch a wild buzzard and put him in an open pen that's, let's say, 6 x 6, and he will die there. He cannot file away. Why? A buzzard needs at least a 12 foot runway to take off! Take a bat, place him on the ground and he will flop around there until he dies. Why? He can only achieve flight from an elevated position. He must launch out into the air. Take a bumblebee and put him in a tumbler, leave the top open and that bee will never find his way out. He is so interested in trying to fly through the glass in front of him, he will never think to look up and find the way out. What is the point? All three of these, the buzzard, the bee and the bat all fail to notice the freedom that is right above them. As a result, they remain trapped in their prison.

You see, the widow thought she was passing through a storm of correction. She thought God was hurting her. What she failed to se was that she was in a storm of perfection. God was, in fact, helping her! We're that way too, aren't we? We miss the help God is trying to give us while we focus on the hurt we feel in our hearts. The answer to life's storms is found in looking up to Jesus early and always.)

C. A Discouraged Prophet - What an effect this must have had on Elijah! I mean, he has trusted God to feed him with ravens. He has trusted God to give him water from a brook. When the brook dried up, Elijah had followed God's call to Zarephath. There he had submitted to the humiliating thought of being fed by a widow. He had trusted God and miracles had resulted. He had seen God do the impossible. He had even watched as God worked in the heart of a pagan widow woman and brought her to the place of faith. He had watched the Lord feed her and her family through a time of terrible drought. Now, this woman's son is dead and she points her finger of accusation at him. It must have been a very discouraging day for the man of God!

(Ill. Folks, we are never more vulnerable to the attacks of the flesh and the devil as we are when we are discouraged. When we have tried to cross all out T's and dot all our I's and things still fall to pieces, it is easy to get defeated and discouraged. When that happens, we begin to wonder why. We begin to question God. We begin to lose faith and hope and we become discouraged. When that happens, we are easily defeated. Now, I don't know what kind of valley you are trudging through this morning, but I know the God of the valleys. When we start to become disillusioned and discouraged, we need to run to Him and find the help we need. If we do not, then we will be just another casualty on the battlefield of faith. Discouragement is a tremendous tool in the hand of the devil!

(Illustration:. W. A. Criswell was perhaps the best-known pastor in the world during his long tenure at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. His sermons, personal efforts, and multiplied books have been the means of winning untold numbers to Christ.

But in Criswell's biography, author Billy Keith tells an interesting story about the man who led Criswell to the Lord. It was when W. A. was ten years old, and Rev. John Hicks came to his small Texas town to conduct a revival meeting. Hicks stayed in the Criswell home during his two week campaign. Young W. A. was greatly taken with John Hicks, and one day he asked permission to leave school to attend the ten o'clock services at the church. Entering the chapel, he sat directly behind his mother and drank in every word that Hicks spoke. When Hicks gave the invitation, the lad went forward and, with tears, took Jesus Christ as his Savior.

Years later, when Criswell was a world-renowned pastor, he recounted his conversion to a friend of his, Wallace Basset.

"Would you repeat that, W. A.?" Basset asked.

He repeated the story.

"I just can't imagine that," Basset said. "Johnny Hicks was a dear friend of mine, and he was here in Baylor Hospital in his last illness of which he died. I went often to see Johnny, and one day as I sat beside him, he said, 'Wallace, my life is over, my preaching days are done, and I've never done anything for Jesus. I've failed, Wallace, I've failed.' "

Those were the last words the old preacher ever spoke. He didn't realize how successful he had been in that one conversion.

The lesson? Never discount what the Lord is doing in you, through you, to you and around you. He has a plan, and if you are a part of that plan, all will be well in the end! Therefore, fight discouragement as if you were fighting for your life, for in a sense you are!)

I. Elijah's Test


(Ill. Up until this point, Elijah hasn't had to do much. He moved when God said move. He stayed when God said stay. He ate when God provided. All Elijah has done is basically watch God do the impossible time and time again. However, he is placed in a position where he must get personally involved in what the Lord is doing. He is brought to a place where he must trust God for that which has never happened before!)

A. V. 19 Elijah's Calmness - Even though he is confronting death and baseless accusation, Elijah is the picture of calmness. He doesn't get upset and attack back. He doesn't lash out at the widow. He doesn't even defend himself. He merely asks for the widow to give her son to him. Then he takes the boy to his room and places him on his bed.

(Ill. What a lesson this is for you and me! How often do the storms of life begin to blow in on us and we react to them very badly? Something unexpected will happen and instead of taking it into the presence of the Lord like Elijah did, we take it to ourselves and we fall apart. We worry. We fret. We wonder why. Someone attacks us and instead of taking it to the Lord, we get upset and attack back. God help us to learn the lesson that in the midst of trials and trouble, we can do not better than to bring them to the Lord and leave them with Him. We cannot handle them, but He already has, Phil. 4:6-7; Matt. 6:25-34. May the Lord help us to remember that He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind, 2 Tim. 1:7. Let us learn to calmly take our burdens to the Lord. He never gets excited, why should we? He never loses sleep, why should we? By the way, when the widow gives the prophet her son, she is giving tangible evidence of her faith in God to do the impossible.)

B. V. 20-21 Elijah's Compassion - Elijah's heart has been touched by the pain this widow is experiencing. He has watched her grow in her faith. He has experienced her generosity. He has enjoyed her hospitality, and his heart is moved at her need. His compassion for this widow and her son is seen in three ways.)

1. V. 20 Seen In His Prayer - He petitions the Lord on behalf of the widow. In doing so, the prophets reveals the heart of one who knows God and cares for others. In fact, he is seen actually fulfilling the law of Christ, Gal. 6:2. He is bearing the widow's burden in the presence of God.

2. V. 21 Seen In His Position - He humbled himself and stretched his own body on top of the body of this dead child. Elijah knew that Law and he must have known that touching a dead body would defile him, Num. 19:10. The point here is that Elijah was willing to humiliate and humble himself to reach out to another. He was willing to suffer lose that they might gain. That is the heart of ministry! Elijah has learned to feel the need of others. That is the essence of Christlike service.

3. V. 21 Seen In His Petition - In this verse, Elijah asks God to do something that had never been done before! There is absolutely no record of any dead person ever being brought back to life before this day. This is an amazing prayer that Elijah prays! Elijah places everything on the line for the glory of God and for the need of this one woman. He trusts God for the unseen. His heart is moved for her and he trusts the Lord to do something about!

(Illustration: For us, we must remember that during this time, Elijah's world has been turned upside down. However, he seems to be taking no thought for himself. He seems to be occupied with the need of this poor widow woman. I just want to remind you that one of the surest and quickest ways for you to get your need met is to stop worrying about your needs, and find someone who has a need or a burden and get under that burden with them. As we do that, we are committing our way unto the Lord and we are saying, "Father, I trust you to take care of me, now use me to help this other person." That kind of faith honors God and He will bless the life that is moved for others, Phil. 2:4.)

C. V. 22-23 Elijah's Conquest - These verses tell us the triumphant news that Elijah received the object of his faith. He watched as God did the impossible before his eyes.

1. V. 22 Elijah Prevailing In Prayer - God honored the faith of the prophet and raised the child to life again. Why? Because Elijah trusted God by faith!

(Illustration: Friend, a faith that honors God is a faith that is honored by God! "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.", Matt. 21:22; "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.", John 14:13; "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.", John 16:23-24; "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.", 1 John 5:14-15. Those are great and precious promises from the word of God. However, we hear them and say, "That'll never work for me!" And you are absolutely correct! Why? Well, it isn't because God can't answer your prayers, it's because He won't answer the prayer of unbelief! Note what James said about it, "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.", James 1:6-8. God will not honor a lack of faith. If was want to see prayers answered like God answered Elijah, then let us learn the secret of prevailing prayer. It is simply stated in James 5:16, "he effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.")

(Illustration: The story is told of a small town in which there were no liquor stores. Eventually, however, a nightclub was built right on Main Street. Members of one of the churches in the area were so disturbed that they conducted several all-night prayer meetings, and asked the Lord to burn down that den of iniquity. Lightning struck the tavern a short time later, and it was completely destroyed by fire. The owner, knowing how the church people had prayed, sued them for the damages. His attorney claimed that their prayers had caused the loss. The congregation, on the other hand, hired a lawyer and fought the charges. After much deliberation the judge declared, "It's the opinion of this court that wherever the guilt may lie, the tavern keeper is the one who really believes in prayer while the church members do not!")

2. V. 23 Elijah Presenting The Proof - When Elijah carried that child up those steps, all he had in his arms was a dead body. When he came back down, he had a living miracle. Imagine the joy that must have filled that house when God worked this miracle for Elijah and the widow. What a glad day that must have been, when God eliminated the problem by His power!

(Illustration: Remember, we are talking about the power of faith in God to work in times of struggle! It was faith that moved this impossible mountain and it is faith that will move the mountain you are facing this morning as well, "And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.", Matt. 17:20! My friends, you can count on the Lord to look after you! Illustration: Years ago the captain of a large vessel set sail with his family from Liverpool. His destination was New York. One night when everyone was asleep, a sudden squall arose. The wind came sweeping over the water, struck the vessel and almost capsized it. Everything movable was sent tumbling and crashing, and the passengers became aware that they were in imminent peril. Everyone was alarmed, and many sprang from their berths and began to dress. The captain's little daughter, just 8 years old, was awakened and cried with fright, "What's the matter?" When they told her about the storm she asked, "Is Father on deck?" Assured that he was, the little one dropped back onto her pillow without a fear. In spite of the howling winds and crashing waves, she was soon fast asleep. Never fear child of God, your Father is always on deck!)

I. Elijah's Test

II. Elijah's Trust


A. God's Man Is Vindicated - The widow expresses her firm confidence that Elijah is who he claimed to be. Apparently, Elijah and the widow needed this little bit of encouragement.

(Illustration: Those who do not know the Heavenly Father may mock at out use of faith in the face of trials, but in the end, our faith will always be vindicated! I remember when God lead me to quit my public job. It was step of faith that seemed impossible at the time. However, six years later, I can say that faith in God has been vindicated! He Who feeds the sparrows looks after me as well. He Who puts cloths on the grass of the field and repeatedly proven His power in my life. I say that not to brag about my faith, for it is small. I say that to glorify God Who can take a tiny grain of faith transform it into a power that can receive the impossible! When God's people trust God completely, He will see them through their trials!)

B. God Message Is Validated - The widow also expresses her confidence in the Word of God. When she sees the outworking of faith through Elijah, she understands that God possesses all power in Heaven and earth and that He will perform His Word.

(Illustration: That is the basis of faith, Rom. 10:17. If God has given His word in a matter, then you can rest assured that He will see to it that His Word is kept to the letter. That which God has promised His people is a reality, even though it may not yet be seen.)

(Illustration: Why could Elijah pray for a resurrection when none had ever happened? Because of God's promise to sustain the little band until the drought ended. That boy was supposed to be alive when the first rains fell on the land! Elijah prevailed in prayer because He believed God's word!)

C. God's Method Is Victorious - Certainly, allowing a child to die and be resurrected from the dead would not have entered the minds of most people. It is probably not how we would have chosen to mold our man. However, I will remind you that His ways are not our ways! In the end, God's plan was accomplished.

1. The Widow Is Encouraged - The widow is now strengthened and grounded in her faith. She can believe God for anything! That is the place God wants to bring us to! He wants us to cast aside our doubts and cling to His Word. When God moves in power, it has a way of encouraging the troubled heart.

2. The Prophet Is Enabled - Elijah is now ready for the battles that lie ahead. God has put him through school and placed him in several impossible situations. Each time, God has proven Himself to be greater than the problem. Elijah has learned the lesson that he can trust God for anything. He has arrived at the place where he is ready to be used of the Lord.

(Ill. God's method for growing us isn't always pleasant, nor is it fun. However, it is essential that we pass through the growing process so that we can be better used of the Lord. As God takes us through the battles, and we see Him win them all by His power, we are enabled, by faith, to trust Him for even greater victories.)

Conc: Friend, where does this message find you this morning? Are you facing situations that seem impossible to you? Has it dawned on you yet that you aren't there by accident? That things didn't just work out that way in your life? Have you come to realize that, if you are saved, nothing can happen to you that isn't first approved by God? If we can ever understand that, then we have taken the first step toward victory over of situation!

Whatever it is that you are facing today, I challenge you to bring it before the Lord and trust Him to see you over it, around it or through it. Just like the widow placed the burden of her dead son in the arms of Elijah, I challenge you to place your burden this morning into the outstretched arms of Jesus. He will help you, but only when you trust Him by faith, 1 Pet. 5:7; Matt. 11:28.

If your problem is sin, Jesus can move that mountain. If it is emotional, financial, interpersonal, physical, spiritual, or anything else you can name, the answer lies in bringing it to Jesus. Will you come to the place where you can trust Him for your situation today?

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