I just came off a five-week sabbatical. It was not a “get to” take some time off, it was a “had to” take some time off.
Two years ago I had a total knee replacement on my right knee. I didn’t know how bad my left knee was until the right one was fixed. Because it gave me so much trouble, I stopped exercising. I stopped playing golf. I stopped most all physical activity.
With no diversion outside of working, I worked all the time. My mind was constantly consumed with church family activities. I ate, drank and slept church. As you may know, there is always something good going on in the church family, and there’s always stuff that gives you a headache. In the past when I became battle weary, I’d go out behind the church and hit a couple of bags of golf balls to clear my mind. Then I would come back with a fresh mind and a renewed perspective.
But I didn’t do that for two years. The old saying, “All work and no play makes Kenny a dull boy” is not true. All work and no play will make Kenny, or anyone else for that matter, a dead boy. This is what the Lord showed me over the last few weeks.
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Understand, I love people. I love my Journey family. I love what I do. But when your adrenaline runs all the time and never stops, it drains your brain of serotonin, which is like motor oil for your nervous system. Just as a car running without oil soon throws a rod and locks down, my body threw a rod and shut down, too. I simply ran out of gas.
The first two weeks I slept more than 10 hours a day. I couldn’t get enough sleep. I would fall asleep in my recliner. I would want to get something in the kitchen and didn’t have the energy to even get out of the chair. Emotionally, I had flat-lined. I didn’t even cry over Hallmark commercials. I knew then I was in bad shape.
That’s when the Lord taught me the same lesson He had to teach Elijah. He confronted the wickedness of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel with her 450 prophets of Baal and her 400 prophets of Asherah. He challenged the prophets of Baal with a contest. Both groups would prepare an altar and offer an ox as a sacrifice. The God who sent down fire to consume the sacrifice would the declared the true God.
The prophets of Baal spent most of the day screaming at Baal to send down fire. They cut themselves with knives to show Baal how serious they were, but alas, nothing happened. Then Elijah prepared his altar along with the ox and encircled it with 12 stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel. He dug a ditch around the altar. He poured 12 large barrels of water on the ox and the altar filling the ditch full. Finally, He asked the Lord to send down fire. God rained down fire and consumed the ox, the altar, the stones and the water. Israel cried out, “This is the true God! This is the true God!”
The prophets of Baal were scared and began to run for the hills. Elijah said, “Don’t let a single one escape.” Elijah had them brought to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered them all there. It had not rained for over three years, according to a previous prophecy Elijah proclaimed over Israel.
Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees.
Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.”
The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.”
Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.”
Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!”
And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. 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. (1 Kings 18:41-46 NLT).
Makes me tired just reading what Elijah did that day. Building an altar, butchering an ox, calling for God to consume the sacrifice by fire, killing 450 false prophets, praying to break a three year drought, and then out running a horse drawn chariot all the way from Mount Carmel to Jezreel. That’s 83 miles!
Talk about an adrenaline rush! The Lord’s servant has to be suffering tremendous battle fatigue now that he has finally slowed down.
The devil is not stupid. He preys on us during our weakest moments.
When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 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. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” (1 Kings 19:1-4 NLT).
Here is God’s prime prophet who has been filled to overflowing with the presence and power of God having performed miraculous deeds beyond imagination, and this woman pops off and threatens him, scaring him so badly he flees. Fatigue, indeed, makes cowards of us all.
The enemy of our souls always attacks when our souls are running on fumes. Take a look at how our Lord dealt with our weary warrior.
Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush. Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep.
The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more — you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.” He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep. (1 Kings 19:5-9 MSG).
God knows Elijah needs rest and sleep. I think he slept for days. Sleep is a good thing.
Elijah’s exhaustion has caused him to lose sight of his purpose. He has lost sight of his calling. He lost hope.
But we find God in the stillness. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). If we don’t take time to be still, we can become so busy doing things for God we completely forget that He created us to do things for us.
Take a minute and allow the Holy Spirit to take you back through your journey to the times when God was there for you. God had some things for Elijah to do, and He has some more things for you to do as well.
Kenny Ashley is pastor of The Journey at Lake Wylie. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.