Get comfortable and in a quiet and restful place and really hear the words of Jesus.
Have you ever been tired? I mean really tired?
I’m talking about the kind of tired that is more than just physical fatigue. It is the kind of tired that you feel in your mind, in your heart, and deep down into your soul. After living through these past 18 months, I am sure that all of us have felt, in one way or another, this kind of tired. As a result we have been unsure, sad, angry, argumentative, bitter, and, frankly, a bit numb. I have often thought how good it would be to be little again. So that when we get to the point where we are tired and cranky and crying tears of fatigue, our moms, grandmas or our aunties could just give us a snack and put us down for a nap, because when we woke up from that nap – everything was always so much better.
There was a man in the Old Testament that found himself in a situation where he needed a snack and a nap.
Elijah was a prophet of God and his story is found in 1 Kings, Chapters 18-19.
There had been a severe drought and famine in Israel for over three years. The people of Israel had been going back and forth between following Jehovah God and the false god Baal. Elijah asked King Ahab for a ‘Contest on Mt. Carmel’ so that he could prove that Jehovah God was the only one true God.
Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed. – 1 Kings 18:22-24
The contest took place. For hours and hours the prophets of Baal danced around their altar, cried, screamed, and even cut themselves. They raved like this until it was evening and there was no sound, no reply, and absolutely no response from the false god Baal.
Finally, Elijah got his turn. He rebuilt his altar in the name of God, dug a trench around it and put wood and the bull on top. Then he had tons of water poured in the trench, all over the wood and the sacrifice. Then something incredible happened!
At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!” Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there. – 1 Kings 18:36-40
So here is a list of everything that ended up happening that day to Elijah:
- He had a very long and hard day on top of Mt. Carmel.
- He came down the mountain and had all 450 prophets of Baal killed.
- He told King Ahab to take care of himself and eat and drink something.
- He climbed again to the top of Mt. Carmel and continued to pray for rain – even though
- He had already asked God for the rain.
- He kept going from looking for the rain to fervently praying for the rain – finally on the 7th time – he saw a tiny cloud.
- He told Ahab to go home – a big storm was coming.
- A big rainstorm began.
- Elijah ran all the way home, beating Ahab who was riding in a chariot.
- King Ahab told his wife, Jezebel, what happened – she is furious and tells Elijah that she is going to have him killed.
Finally – Elijah realizes that he is at the end of his rope.
He is physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. He goes off to be alone and says to God, ‘I have had enough! Just let me die!!’ Then Elijah falls asleep.
So what does God do? He gives Elijah a Snack and a Nap.
God sends an angel to wake him and give Elijah some warm bread and cool water. Elijah falls asleep again. The angel comes again and tells Elijah, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.” – 1 Kings 19:7
God knows that rest is so incredibly important. During creation he built in a rhythm of rest.
Jesus learned from his father and also had rhythms of rest in his daily life.
The word Sabbath, or Shabbat in Hebrew, means to cease. That is more than just stopping our work. It means ceasing our labor.
Rest Gives us Strength
Today, in this environment, rest is not honored and is definitely not important. It can even be seen as a sign of weakness. Rest is not weakness but is a form of strength. I have heard it described as tempered strength. Tempering, in metallurgy, is the process of improving the characteristics of a metal, especially steel, by heating it to a high temperature just below the melting point and then cooling it down. This process toughens the metal by lessening the brittleness which reduces internal stress.
The degree of hardness of steel is obtained by hardening – but hardening will also give the steel a low degree of toughness. Tempering reduces the hardness and increases the toughness by lining up the electrons in rows instead of all just over the place. This is what gives the steel its strength.
When you go through struggles and stresses, when you are exhausted and about to boil over, remember how important it is to cool down and align yourself with the rhythm of rest that God created for us so that we can endure the journey ahead of us.
Rest Maintains our Dependence on God
When we overlook rest it affects every area of our life; our health both mental and physical, our ability to function, our attitude, and our relationships. When we are tired and rundown our dependence on God suffers.
Look at Elijah after he had the contest on Mt. Carmel with the prophets of Baal. He ran down the mountain and killed all of the prophets. Then went back up the mountain, continually looked for rain, even while he was praying. Instead of trusting and depending on God, Elijah just kept on doing stuff.
We, like Elijah, just keep on going, keep on doing, and keep on thinking that we have to keep up this pace. We lose our perspective and stop depending on God!!
Back to the story of Elijah.
So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.
But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” – 1 Kings 19:8-10
Elijah is telling God that he has been working his heart out for God. He has gone above and beyond and no one cares!
Then God instructs Elijah.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. – 1 Kings 19:11-13
Did you catch that? Elijah heard the quiet and then and only then was he able to listen for God.
Through all of our hustling and striving and working and doing – God is looking down on us and saying – You do not have to prove anything to me! I already know you!
Without the sacred rhythm of rest in our lives we will not be able to hear his gentle whisper – his small still voice telling us
- You are Already Valuable…
- You are Already Chosen…
- You are Already Loved…
- You don’t need to do Anything!
Get comfortable and in a quiet and restful place and really hear the gentle words of Jesus calling us to rest.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
– Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
The story of Elijah does not end with him resting.
He went on to do many more amazing things for God – just continue reading to find out what he does.
When we stop and rest and listen for God, that is not the end for us either.
Once rested and recovered, we will go on to do many incredible things for God.
But for us to be able to do that we need to remember what God is telling us.
The plans I have for you need to start with a snack and a nap!
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Kristin Barksdale, Journey Member
Kristin Barksdale is a long-time member of Journey Church. She and her husband of 41 years have 2 grown children. She lives in Castle Rock, Colorado, and is looking forward to enjoying this new adventure called retirement.