Be The Difference — Lesson 11: “Warning: Deal Quickly With Discouragement”

Elijah was the man of the hour. He courageously and fearlessly confronted King Ahab and the 850 false prophets on Mt. Carmel. He trusted God, prayed and fire fell from heaven. Then he prayed a short time later and skies that had been cloudless, suddenly filled with storm clouds that released torrents of rain for the first time in over three years.

Immediately following that, God empowered Elijah to outrun King Ahab and his chariot down the mountain and twenty miles back to Jezreel. He had just experienced a spiritual high like most of us will never experience. At the close of chapter 18 it says, “the hand of the Lord was on Elijah.” That strikes me as being one of the biggest understatements in the entire Bible. That’s a little like someone who just won the Power Ball jackpot saying, “I picked up a little extra spending money over the weekend.” I think we can safely say that Elijah was on a roll.

When Elijah came down off Mt. Carmel he was confronted with the harsh reality that one battle won does not mean the war is over. Maybe he started celebrating a little too early, or perhaps his confidence in God began to shift to becoming confident in his own ability to stand against the enemy. Or maybe God wanted to remind him who it was who won the battle, sent the rain and allowed him to run faster than a speeding chariot. Whatever was on Elijah’s mind or whatever had crept into his heart, it’s seems clear that he took his eyes off the Lord and focused them on his circumstances, his problems, his feelings. Can you identify with that?

Don’t expect any “atta boys!”

If you’re in ministry for the praise or recognition, you had better stop right now and reevaluate your motives. Those “atta boys” or “atta girls” are few and far between. You cannot serve the Lord expecting praise from others. If you do, I’m afraid you will become easily discouraged.

God has often used my wife to speak the truth to me and keep me grounded. For example, there have been times when I’ve toiled over a week’s message for many long hours, delivered it in the morning service and felt like I had really knocked it out the park. So, on the way home I would ask my wife, “So, what did you think?” hoping that she would say something like that was the best sermon you’ve ever preached, only to hear, “It was fine.” Fine? Are you kidding me? I felt like I had experienced all those hours of labor pains and had given birth to this beautiful child. Fine? Talk about sticking a pin in my ego balloon. Then the Lord would quietly remind me, “It’s about me, Bill, not about you.” Really, Lord? I knew that! Can’t I even get an “atta boy?”

When you decide you want to be a difference maker for the Kingdom, it doesn’t matter in what capacity that may be, it is inevitable that you will face opposition, discouragement, and failure. You and I may never face the physical threat that Elijah faced, but I guarantee that you will have doubters, false witnesses, or those who are just always negative and never have a good or encouraging word to say about anything. Expect it!

You’ll hear things like, “You can’t do that. We’ve never done it that way before. That will never work.” Many years ago an elder in my home church once told the pastor, “If you choose to lead this church in this direction, I will oppose you every step of the way. If you say yes, I’ll say no. If you say no, I’ll say yes. One way or the other I’ll get you to leave.” Sadly, he eventually succeeded.

 

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