“When Despair Invades Gospel Work”
Wednesday Wisdom Well
This well serves a unique drink:
Words that refresh and cause you to think.
The past two days I have attended a conference called the Gospel Coalition and enjoyed hearing from excellent Bible teachers like Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, and James MacDonald. Today I also had the privilege of hearing Paige Benton Brown speak–a woman I have never heard before but one God used to encourage my heart. I wanted to share a bit of what she presented in her talk entitled “When Despair Invades Gospel Work” based on the story in 1 Kings 19. I encourage you to flip to this story–how God speaks to Elijah’s disappointed and despairing heart–when you get a moment. It spoke to me because I have been in Elijah’s shoes throughout the past year and I imagine you have experienced some sort of disappointing experience too. May these wise words encourage you as they did me.
“When Despair Invades Gospel Work” by Paige Benton Brown
Brown says we need to look at three key points in 1 Kings 19:
- The Context of despair: The background to why Elijah is despairing is because he has just experienced a grand moment in 1 Kings 18 when God showed up in a major way but he faces a disappointment and runs away.
- The Cause of despair: Elijah’s despair is understandable but not excusable. The important part is how we respond and where we FIX our eyes (and not just a quick glance!). (See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.)
The reasons for his despair:
- Elijah pushes God in the background. (vs 1-3)
*He is afraid and downplays God. He is viewing God through the lens of his situation rather than viewing the situation through the lens of God.
*If the problem is in the foreground, that is our focus. And the foreground defines our reality.
- Elijah perceives God as out of bounds. (vs 4-5)
*He sets parameters on his life. “This is how I’ve decided it will be and God, You went out of bounds.”
- Elijah puts God in a box. (vs 10,14)
*He limits God to make him not big enough to come through. His own view of God is his cause of despair. All our problems are ultimately spiritual.
*God hasn’t let Elijah down; His plans have let him down.
*Faith doesn’t know what. It knows WHO.
3. The Cure for despair: how God responds to Elijah
- Preservation (vs 5-7): God doesn’t say “buck up, little camper” but instead ministers to Elijah body and soul (meets his needs, feeds him).
- Invitation (vs 8-10): God invites him to come see Him. He asks Elijah a question to assess what was going on in his heart. He reaches for him in his despair, just like He reaches for us.
- Demonstration (vs 11, 12): God shows Elijah His power and demonstrates who He is through the fire and wind.
- Communication (vs 13-18): God speaks in His still, small voice to Elijah’s heart and His Word challenges Elijah.
May this story encourage us to FIX our eyes on God even in the midst of our despairing moments!