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Rev. Carl H. Kemp, Pastor

Dealing with Discouragement

October 1, 2006

           1 Kings 19


Tell the story of Elijah’s flight from Jezebel and the circumstances which led up to the events of 1 Kings 19.

In our text God comes to minister to the despairing prophet. His counsel can also help us in our moments of deep discouragement.

I.    God tells Elijah to attend to his own physical well-being (vv. 5-8).

A.    Low spirits are often the results of low physical vitality.

1.    This was the case for Elijah. He was exhausted from his recent struggles with Ahab, Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal.

2.    We, too, can succumb to moods of despondency when we are depleted of our energy—physically and emotionally exhausted.

B.    God ministers to his basic physical needs for rest and rejuvenation in preparation for ministering to his deeper emotional and spiritual needs.

1.    The Bible is interested in the whole person. While the spiritual side of man is emphasized, the physical side of him is not ignored.

2.    Likewise, the church should not be drawn into an incorrect and unnecessary choice between ministering only to the spirit and not to the body. Jesus ministered to both.


II.    God helped Elijah change his way of thinking (vv. 9-1418).

A.    God helped Elijah shift his thinking from self to others.

1.    Despair is essentially selfish. It is preoccupation with my problem, my difficulty. Notice the emphasis on “I, me, my” in Elijah’s words.

2.    God helps Elijah contextualize his own struggles within the framework of others in his same predicament (v. 18).

3.    Seeing our own troubles in the context of suffering humanity can help us avoid some of the self-pity associated with despair.

B.    God helped Elijah shift his thinking from himself to God.

1.    All of his life Elijah had associated God’s reality and presence with the miraculous—sustenance by ravens, raising the widow’s son, fire from heaven, etc.

2.    The purpose of the theophany at Horeb was to show Elijah that God is present in all of life. It was designed to teach him that the same presence which had been manifested in the spectacular (wind, earthquake, like the earlier fire from heaven) could also be manifested in unspectacular ways (the gentle whisper).

3.    We too need to look for God in the ordinary as well as in the spectacular and the miraculous.


III.    God assigned Elijah a manageable task (vv. 15-17).

God ordered Elijah to anoint the next kings of Israel (Jehu) and Syria (Hazael) and the next prophet (Elisha) through whom God would continue to act. This assignment ministered to Elijah in two important ways.

A.    It helped him move from the unmanageable to the manageable.

1.    Elijah’s despair was fed by a “Messiah” complex. He felt that he and he alone could solve Israel’s problems (vv. 1014).

2.    By assigning him these ordinary tasks God brings him back into the world of what he can really do.

3.    Our own despair can be dispelled by returning to the world of the manageable.

B.    It helped him see that he is but part of a much larger divine agenda that transcends any one personality—king or prophet.

1.    Elijah is gently helped to see that the will of God will continue to unfold whether or not Ahab, Jezebel, or even Elijah is still on the scene.

2.    He is but a small part of a much greater enterprise. As such, his role, which both preoccupies him and frustrates him, shrinks in its significance.

3.    We, too, need to see our problems in the context of the unfolding will of God.


God is there for us like he was for Elijah in life’s difficult struggles as well as its spectacular victories.


            Elijah experienced the depths of fatigue and discouragement just after his two great spiritual victories. The defeat of the prophets of Baal and the answered prayer for rain. To lead him out of depression, God first let Elijah rest and eat. Then God confronted him with the need to return to his mission in life---to be God’s prophet. Elijah’s battle were not over; there was still work for him to do. Often discouragement sets in after great spiritual experiences especially those that produce a high level of emotional excitement of that require a lot from us physically. When you feel let down after a spiritual “high” do what is necessary to restore your inner resources. And remember that God still has a purpose and plan for you.

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