…that was the title to the Sunday School lesson I participated in this past Sunday. Well, the Sunday School lesson I mostly silently sat through anyway. I’m a member of a Southern Baptist Church but for the last three Sundays haven’t been able to muster up the motivation to go. The Sunday before this I went to an Episcopal Church service which was quite nice for a change of pace. I’m trying to figure out where I fit in since my views are so radically changing.
Let me set the stage a bit. I’m in a Sunday School class where about 8 of us attend on a regular basis. There were about that many of us there this past Sunday. This lesson was a continuation from the previous Sunday when I was not there. The teacher had provided an outline of each of the four points with questions that followed. The scripture was 1 Kings 18:16-19:18. This is where Elijah challenges King Ahab to a duel of the gods. And his God won. Jezebel threatens his life because he had all the prophets of Baal killed. These are the four points:
1. Choose your camp
2. Trust in God’s help
3. Watch for slips
4. Climb back up
I missed the first two points, but if you’re at all familiar with the text it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. So I came in on points 3 and 4. Point 3 was about how when we’ve had these amazing mountain top experiences we need to be oh so careful not to slip down and fall. What caused Elijah to run? Fear. But God had just done this miraculous thing. Why would he be afraid? After he runs away he sits down under a tree and has a pity party and falls asleep (I’m paraphrasing obviously). An angel comes to him, touches him and tells him to get up and eat and drink a cake of bread and a jar of water. Twice. This sustains him for a 40 day journey. Really, two cakes of bread and two jars of water sustain him for a 40 day journey? When I eat breakfast I’m hungry again by 10 am. Now normally I’m right in line with the questions and can give the typical “right” answers. I know what they are. Having been mostly quiet to this point and wondering what I was doing there, I piped up and said “why doesn’t God do that today, why doesn’t He send an angel and some cakes of bread to us in our discouragement?”. In unison the rest of the class says…”oh but He does…He does it and you just don’t recognize it”. Uh huh. That’s a platitude that a year ago I would have chimed right in on. But really, I think they missed my point entirely. I’m not asking for signs like the Pharisees. I’m asking for a sign like Gideon. There’s a ginormous difference.
In point 4 the teacher went on about how gracious God had dealt with Elijah in his discouragement, how God had personally shown Himself to Elijah. She asked the question: Has God ever asked you “What are you doing here?” Everybody’s nodding their heads in agreement. I’m thinking…nope…God’s never spoken to me in a audible way. To be quite honest I don’t think He’s spoken to any of you that way either, but to each her own. Definitely, without a doubt, if God comes to me and speaks to me personally I’ll take back all my questioning. But I’m not holding my breath.
See He sends Elijah out to stand on Mount Horeb so he can see the LORD. God sends a great wind that tears the mountains apart and shatters rocks. He sends an earthquake. Then came fire. God was not in any of those. He was in a gentle whisper. Now I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m questioning how it is that Elijah survived the mighty wind, the earthquake and the fire. Then beyond that I’m telling you I have BEGGED God to just whisper in my ear and I swear all I hear are crickets chirping.
Then the teacher summed it all up quite nicely with additional questions. How can self-pity cripple your efforts? Ouch! Biting my tongue hurts. She continues…How can you keep from feeling sorry for yourself? Hmm…..I’ll have to think about that for a minute. Here’s a novel idea: How about we stop waiting around for an invisible worker of wonders to whisper in our ears the answers to all of life’s problems and get off our butts and do things for ourselves? That’s usually the way things get accomplished, right? I mean when all is said and done, at the end of it all, don’t we normally ask for God’s help and then go about making what we asked for happen anyway? So is God doing it or are we? And if it’s us doing it (I’ve never seen Him lap up a sacrifice on an altar drenched with water), why not skip the middle man and just get on with it? Isn’t that a hill on which to stand?