Faith and Elijah

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Faith is a tricky thing sometimes.  We can go from what seems to be an abundance of faith to a complete lack of it in mere moments. There is no better example of this in scripture than the prophet Elijah.

Elijah goes to King Ahab and tells him to gather all the prophets of Baal (turns out there are 450 of them) and have them meet him at Mount Carmel.  There both Baal's prophets and Elijah will have the opportunity to prove that their god is the real god.

The contest is simple.  Each group will have the opportunity to ask their god to send fire to consume an offering prepared for him.  Those who serve the god who consumes the offering win the contest and their god will be know as the true god.

The prophets of Baal begin first.  They dance and pray and cut themselves all morning to no avail.  Their god does not answer.  Elijah knows that Baal is a false god and cannot possibly answer the prayers of his prophets.  He begins to show his confidence by mocking the prophets of Baal.  In 1 Kings 18:27, Elijah asks his counterparts if their god is asleep, travelling, or maybe using the bathroom since he won't answer them.

When Elijah's turn comes he has the altar and the offering soaked with water and then prays to God.  God sends fire down and consumes the offering, the altar itself, and the water surrounding the altar.  All the people know that God is truly God and Elijah puts to death all 450 prophets of Baal.

It would seem that Elijah is riding high at this point.  His obvious confidence in God has been vindicated.  His faith has proven true and his God is the undisputed true God after the confrontation at Mount Carmel.  So you would think that when Ahab's queen, Jezebel, sends Elijah a message promising to kill him just as he killed the prophets of Baal, that Elijah would shrug the threat off being confident in the power of his God.  Instead, we read this in 1 Kings 19:3:

Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
He then travels another day's journey and then in verse 4 asks God to kill him.

What in the world is going on with Elijah?  Has he completely forgotten the display of God's power at Mount Carmel?  How can he be so terrified of Jezebel that he asks God to kill him?  Why has he lost his faith?

Because he is human, just like us.

If we are honest with ourselves, we can all remember a time when God came through for us in a way that left no doubt that He is in control and is taking care of us.  We can probably all also remember a time not long after God's provision facing a situation that caused us to react with fear and uncertainty.  We all tend to forget God's past provision when faced with present difficulties.

I find great encouragement in looking at Elijah's struggles.  If so great a man of God can struggle with faith at times, then I don't need to condemn myself for similar struggles.  It is also encouraging to realize that God did not abandon Elijah because of his struggles.  He continued to speak to him and use him.  If you are struggling with your faith, you are not beyond the scope of God.  He can still use you for His glory.

What do we do when we struggle like Elijah did?  The same thing we should always do:  take it to God.  Remember the father in Mark 9:24 who confessed his unbelief to Jesus? We to should confess our lack of faith and ask God to grant us more faith that we might walk with Him through our difficult times.

So if find yourself in a place where faith seems scarce, don't condemn yourself and don't give up.  Remember that God's love for you as His child is unfailing and that you remain holy and blameless before Him.  Run to Him and ask Him to remind you of His faithfulness, His provision, and the sin covering blood of Jesus.

Faith is a gift from God so if we lack it the answer is not to try to "muster up" some more.  The answer is to ask God to grant us faith that we might glorify His name.  Every good and perfect gift comes down from above (James 1:17), including the faith we need.