9/6/2017 Message: Finding God in the Chaos

The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson.  Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week.  If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them.  As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.

Slide 1

As Christians, it’s easy to get misled by others that by somehow becoming a Christian we’re supposed to have perfect little lives and everything will be awesome.  When I gave my sermon a couple weeks ago, I talked about some of the people who saw awesome victories and suffered great, great loss in the name of God.  The challenge for us all is to find God in all of it, whether it’s in the midst of celebration or sadness.

[Insert anecdote about 9/11.]

Slide 2

Elijah is a good example of living a life peppered with huge highs and tremendous lows.  Throughout it all, Elijah had to remember that God was in it all and it was his job to be constantly seeking God’s will.

Elijah was a PROPHET living in a time when the Jews had walked away from God.  They worshiped a god known as Baal which pops up from time to time in the Old Testament.  It was basically a golden cow.  Elijah spent much of his time feeling very, very alone, even in the midst of people who claimed to be part of the same nation and tribe.  Israel was living a life for the world and not for God.  In fact, so many people had turned away from God that it was said that 450 prophets served Baal while only 1, Elijah, served God.  Throughout much of his life, Elijah would spend his time going from place to place, looking kings and tyrants in the face and telling them God’s truth.  Sometimes God came through huge and sometimes Elijah got scared.

Slide 3

In Elijah 19, we see a story of great success for Elijah.  He essentially challenged the prophets of Baal to a competition.  In these days, people would give offerings at an alter in the form of a SACRIFICE followed by lighting the alter on fire.  Elijah suggested that the prophets of Baal prepare a sacrifice and not light the alter.  The challenge was to see if the god of Baal would send fire down from heaven to ‘accept’ the offering.

20 So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions?[b] If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal, follow him.” But the people didn’t answer him a word.

22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I am the only remaining prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us. They are to choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and place it on the wood but not light the fire. I will prepare the other bull and place it on the wood but not light the fire. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The God who answers with fire, he is God.”

All the people answered, “That’s fine.”

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since you are so numerous, choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first. Then call on the name of your god but don’t light the fire.”

26 So they took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound; no one answered. Then they danced[c] around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away;[d] or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!” 28 They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears, according to their custom, until blood gushed over them. 29 All afternoon they kept on raving until the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no sound; no one answered, no one paid attention. (1 Kings 18:20-29)

The prophets of Baal tried all morning, day, and evening to have Baal accept the offering but after A WHOLE DAY, there was no sign of their god.  It got so bad that Elijah even started mocking the prophets of Baal!  Look at easily God came to bat for Elijah when he offered a sacrifice…

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near me.” So all the people approached him. Then he repaired the Lord’s altar that had been torn down: 31 Elijah took twelve stones—according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel will be your name”— 32 and he built an altar with the stones in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold about four gallons.[e][f33 Next, he arranged the wood, cut up the bull, and placed it on the wood. He said, “Fill four water pots with water and pour it on the offering to be burned and on the wood.” 34 Then he said, “A second time!” and they did it a second time. And then he said, “A third time!” and they did it a third time. 35 So the water ran all around the altar; he even filled the trench with water.

36 At the time for offering the evening sacrifice, the prophet Elijah approached the altar and said, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant, and that at your word I have done all these things. 37 Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.”

38 Then the Lord’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!” (1 Kings 18:30-39)

Elijah was so confident in the power of God, that he even ordered WATER be dumped on his alter over and over again.  Still, God came through with flying colors.  Elijah had “won” and was on top of the world.  During these times it’s easy to overlook the power of God, but we have to remember that all good things come from God above.

Slide 4

With all that said, it’s a lot easier to thank God when we’re riding an emotional high.  What about when tragedy strikes?  What about when we feel desperate and alone?  What about when it seems like there is no one left who understand or supports us?  Elijah had those moments as well.

Shortly after the huge victory we just read, Elijah found himself ALONE AND ABANDONED by all the people of Israel.  Everyone saw the amazing things God did at the alter, and they still chose to live their own way.  Unbelievable!  Elijah began to run.  He was fleeing the dangers of the world around him and in doing so running away from the work God had in store for him.

Suddenly, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Armies, but the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.”

11 Then he said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.”

At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake,but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Armies,” he replied, “but the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they’re looking for me to take my life.”

15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go and return by the way you came to the Wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, you are to anoint Hazaelas king over Aram. 16 You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Then Jehu will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Jehu.18 But I will leave seven thousand in Israel—every knee that has not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:9-18)

The scene on the mountaintop is truly amazing.  God hears Elijah’s troubles and takes him to a place where he is surrounded by pure chaos.  There is a great WIND… like a tornado… but God wasn’t in the wind.  There was an earthquake but God wasn’t in the EARTHQUAKE.  There was even FIRE from the sky… maybe lightning?… But God wasn’t in that either.  In the midst of all these awesome displays of power on the earth, the Creator of all things was in a ‘STILL, SMALL VOICE’.  At the end of all the chaos, God was showing Elijah what it meant to focus on Him.

Think of the analogy between the chaos on the mountain and the situation Elijah was in.  He was being chased by those he felt were his countrymen and hunted by powerful rulers.  It might as well been wind, fire, and earthquakes chasing Elijah!  The chaos on the mountain mirrored the chaos in Elijah’s life.  What God was doing was showing Elijah that all of those things pale in comparison to the ‘quiet’ voice of God.  It’s easy to be distracted by all of the loud, shiny things in our life, but truly following God is looking for His will and His path through whatever chaos we may find around us.

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