I’ve done it. You probably have too! So did two powerful men. Elijah had just cleaned house on 450 prophets of Baal in one evening. Then he called for rain and it came–after a three-year drought. Good work, Elijah!
But then a contract on his life changed his tune. He headed south and “ran for his life” (I Kings 19:3). He said what I would not expect coming from the man who called down fire from heaven. He moaned, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (4). “And he lay down and slept under a broom tree” (5). Doesn’t sound or look like the mighty prophet. His courage got dissed by the wicked witch and fear overtook faith.
He sounds more like a victim than a victor when God talks to him at Mount Horeb, two hundred miles south of where he should have been. God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (9). He was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. His answer: “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away” (10). He is a totally different man than the Elijah we knew a few days ago, and he was off on his arithmetic by 6,999. God told him there were 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. He was forgetting what he had just done to turn the tables on the enemy after one sinister threat. Surprising. Discouragement makes people say and do stupid things. It took God talking to him two times from heaven and giving him an assignment to raise up a disciple for him to shake off the discouragement.
Strange–it also happened to John the Baptist. No one had a clearer vision of Jesus. The first time he saw his cousin he announced with boldness and stunning revelation, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He staged the most successful revival campaign that any prophet in Israel had ever seen. Jesus compared him to Elijah and called him the greatest person of the old covenant. He had spent long hours daily in prayer and meditation, most likely for more than ten years. He is now thirty and he has taken the country by storm. No revival in the history of Israel surpassed what he did–and his pulpit was in the desert. Who wants to listen to a strange man who smells like a camel and eats locusts for breakfast? But they did.
Until he was thrown in prison. Then things changed. Not for Paul. He used it to his advantage until the whole imperial guard had heard about Jesus. Different for John. It was dark in prison and dark in his soul. We can’t imagine him saying this: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” I have urged pastor friends, my children, close associates to never yield to discouragement. It is a decision. We don’t have to be discouraged, and we are commanded not to. John was in a bad place. Dear/Sister/Brother, do not give in to discouragement. It will wreck your day!