Most of us are no strangers to discouragement. Many have experienced times when discouragement has turned into despair and hopelessness. The main trouble with despair is that it’s self fulfilling. People who fear the worse tend to invite it. Elijah was a great prophet of the Old Testament. He had this amazing battle of faith against the prophets of Baal and as the story goes, called down fire from heaven to prove Yahweh is the one true God. However, as we’ll read in our text, this great moment of faith was followed by discouragement, despair and depression.
We are going to examine discouragement and its causes, process, and results. We’ll also identify the cure for discouragement.
The Devil’s Yard Sale
One day, the Devil laid out his gleaming, razor-edged tools upon a worn and ancient wooden table. He announced a “fire” sale and carefully marked the price upon each tool:
ANGER: $100, RESENTMENT: $400, HATRED: $600, etc.
Each tool sold almost as quickly as it was placed upon the table. Toward the end of the day, a crooked old man in tattered rags approached. The man eyed the tools that remained, but was taken by a certain tool at the end of the table. The tool resembled the two long and bowed fangs of a viper. Its chrome-like pointy tusks caught the sun and sent flashes of blinding light everywhere. With one hand, the old man blocked his eyes from the glare and with the other, he reached for the tool. As he grabbed hold, the tool’s steely, needle tips nearly pierced his hand. This seemed to please the old man. He snatched up the tool and held it to his chest. With a glint in his eye, the man asked the Devil, “How much for this one?”
“I’m sorry, that tool isn’t for sale,” the Devil replied.
Without hesitation, the man said, “But I’ll pay double.”
The Devil narrowed his eyes and hissed, “Sir, I’ve told you, that tool is not for sale, nor will I ever sell it. It is the most useful tool I own and without it, I wouldn’t be half as effective in my work. With that tool alone, I can accomplish my every task. Now good day, sir.”
Dejected, the man looked once more at the shiny tool, then slowly placed it on the table. With almost a whisper, he said to the Devil, “If I can’t buy it, would you, at least tell me its name?”
A slow and wicked grin grew across the Devil’s face. “Of course, old man, its name is… Discouragement.”
Perplexed, the old man wondered out loud , “Why is this tool so important to you?”
The devil responded, “It’s more useful to me than any of the others. When I can’t bring down my victims with the rest of my tools, I use discouragement, because so few people realize it belongs to me. Nothing paralyzes a person, nothing stops someone in their tracks like discouragement. When overcome with discouragement the person can’t pray, they can’t worship and they become a victim of their environment. Discouragement drains their victims of courage, vision, faith, expectation and the will to make a difference in the kingdom of God. If I can get them discouraged then I have successfully neutralized them. They are left with only enough energy to feel sorry for themself.”
Scripture – 1 Kings 19: 1-19
Elijah Escapes from Jezebel
19 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” 3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel[a]touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel[b] of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.
9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
God’s Revelation to Elijah
11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
15 Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Elisha Follows Elijah
19 So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him.
Historical Information – Elijah
- Hebrew Prophet
- Lived: 9th Century B.C
- Showed up during King Ahab’s reign
- Proclaimed the coming drought as punishment for worshiping Baal (the god jezebel was promoting)
- His role in history is significant as one who helped direct the Jews back to God.
5 Causes of Discouragement
1 Emotional Stress: Chapter 18
Elijah had just experienced an incredible confrontation with Ahab and the prophets of Baal. He was now faced with the threat to his life by Jezebel.
2 Physical Exhaustion: Chapter 19 Verses 3, 4
Elijah ran for his life and went a great distance adding exhaustion to his troubles.
3 Personal Opposition: Verse 2
Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life and he was truly in danger.
4 Significant Achievement
He had just experienced a great victory. Discouragement often comes after a triumph.
5 Basic Fear
He was afraid of what Jezebel would do to him.
The Process of Discouragement
- Negative Thinking
- Blame Shifting
- Improper Comparison
The Cure for Discouragement
- Renew Spiritually
- Link up with other Christians/ Talk to someone
- Make a choice to move ahead