ELIJAH – 4: Standing Alone in Spiritual Conflict

By Cal

- I have always liked to serve as part of a team and have been part of many great teams
- I have always enjoyed being part of a pastoral staff that worked together
- I don’t like to work as a loner
- There is encouragement, support and help when a team works together
- A team provides many ways of looking at and responding to situations
- But that’s not always the way it is in ministry; sometimes you have to stand alone
- To minister alone requires deep convictions, strong courage and a God-given calling

1. SOMETIMES, YOU WILL STAND ALONE

- you can’t always have a team around you; sometimes you will work and witness alone
- This was Elijah’s experience
After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” (1 Kings 18:1).

- Elijah’s days of seclusion were over; it was time to confront Ahab
- His time of hiding was ended, he was to go public
- it would again be a one-man assignment
- he would face the king and the 950 false prophets alone
- while Elijah had been in the ravine and ministering in Phoenicia, Ahab demonstrated unbridled lusts and gratified his own every whim
- while the rest of the country experienced famine, Ahab had plenty of food in the palace
- Ahab’s only concern was finding grass for his horses and mules
- Ahab was heartless, sensuous, cruel and cowardly
- He was a man who knew no restraint, and Elijah had to face him alone
- But Elijah knew that he wasn’t alone
- He knew that God had Ahab’s number and God would have the last word
- Elijah knew that trusting God and doing his will always give you a majority.

- the time for confrontation came
- The God who had said, “Go hide yourself” now said, “Go present yourself”
- Ahab had to be faced and dealt with

- Elijah already knew what we need to learn: any person who follows God obediently must eventually confront sin
- So Elijah left Zaraphath and confidently walked the 100 or so miles on foot to face Ahab
- Along the way he would have seen the devastation the drought had caused throughout the land
- No doubt he sensed the hostility of the people looking at him as he passed
- But he carried on to meet Ahab
- He wasn’t afraid to walk alone

2. OFTEN, YOU WILL EXPERIENCE SPIRITUAL CONFLICT

- the only way to see the experience of Elijah confronting Ahab is to see it for what it really was
- this was not only a confrontation between the two men, Ahab and Elijah
- it was a confrontation between good and evil
- it was God confronting Satan
- it was another episode in the conflict of the ages
- just like Moses confronting Pharoah, Samson dealing with Dagon, and David facing Goliath
- this was a battle between two kingdoms: the devil’s and the Lord’s

i. Get to the key issue
- Ahab wanted to blame Elijah for the problems: “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17)
- Ahab saw Elijah as no more than a nuisance, an agitator and troublemaker
- Ahab was like a lot of people today
- There are people today who like to blame God and the people of God for the troubles they are experiencing
- They do not want to accept any personal responsibility for their troubles
- They prefer to attack the man or woman of God
- And I’ve noticed that when people feel guilt and know there is something wrong in their own lives, they are quickest to attack the person who stands up for what is right

- Elijah’s warnings had been an unwelcome intrusion in Ahab’s indulgent life
- He was irritated when someone pointed out what was wrong in his own life and lashed out at Elijah
- It is a dangerous thing when a godly person becomes a nagging irritation to us
- Ahab didn’t realize it but Elijah was his best friend
- his warnings had been intended to help him
- The drought was actually a sign of God’s love, as he tried to get Israel’s attention before they self-destructed

- Elijah didn’t beat around the bush or waste time on secondary issues
- he got to the key issue

- Elijah denied Ahab’s accusation
- Ahab had been searching for Elijah for three years and wanted to kill him
- Elijah knew there was no point in arguing with Ahab
- That’s a good lesson to learn – don’t waste your time arguing with some people

- then Elijah seized the initiative
- He took charge and started issuing orders and directives
- He followed the axiom: “When in doubt, take charge”
“Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mt. Carmel.” (1 Kings 18:19)
- and the bewildered King did just that; he was too intimidated not to do what Elijah said!
- it is always good when politicians and government leaders do what the man of God says!
- There is no point in arguing with the devil or his representatives; just take control of the situation

- this is critical in spiritual warfare
- don’t argue with the enemy; seize the initiative

ii. Recognize the enemy
- picture the scene
- Elijah stood alone facing…
• The king
• 950 false prophets
• the entire population of Israel
• tens of thousands of people who for more than three years had not seen rain

- this was spiritual conflict
- the forces of evil were arrayed for battle
- this was the moment to determine who really was the living God

- Most of us only know that Baal was a heathen god, but there is much more to know
- When the Israelites came to the land of Caanan, the worship of Baal and his side-kick Asherah was well-established
- Baal was a party-god and Asherah was either his sister or his live-in girl friend
- The worship of Baal involved lots of sex, heterosexual and homosexual, and also prostitution.
- Worshipers of Baal and Asherah would get together on top of hills and have big drunken orgies and called it “worship.”
- When things did not go well for the worshipers of Baal and Asherah, the worshiper was supposed to offer a sacrifice.
- This sacrifice needed to be human, usually one of the children of the worshiper.
- They would toss the child into a fire, and this was supposed to make Baal and Asherah happy, so the worshiper could go back to those orgies on the hilltop.

- When the Israelites first came to Caanan, God told them to destroy completely the Caananites.
- This Baal worship was almost certainly the reason why God wanted the Caananities completely wiped out
- It was a whole culture of sin, and this sort of thing is far too tempting for most people.

- whether it is confronting the system of Baals or some other manifestation of evil , we cannot avoid spiritual warfare
- people today go to one of two extremes when it comes to spiritual conflict
- some belittle the whole idea of an evil spirit world
- they act like everything is determined by human planning and ingenuity
- they totally discount the spiritual realm

- or people see demons and the devil’s imps behind every telephone pole
- these people describe almost every situation and problem as being the result of the devil’s actions
- both extremes are problematic
- in many parts of the world there is a genuine awareness of evil forces; in the western world, there is a tendency to belittle or minimize spiritual warfare

- spiritual conflict is real
- there is a devil and he seeks to oppose anything that exalts Jesus Christ
- sometimes that opposition is open, violent and damaging
- sometimes it is quiet and subtle – but just as real
- don’t give the devil credit for things that he really didn’t do
- on the other hand, never underestimate his schemes

iii. Present the alternatives
- Elijah asked one simple question
- It got to the heart of the issue:

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal is God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)

- The people had to declare themselves
- The people wanted to serve two Gods, but it couldn’t work
- They wanted to straddle the fence
- They wanted to serve Jehovah but wanted the Baals too

- What a picture of people today!
- They want God and the devil too, but of course it is an impossibility
- But Jesus was clear: it is one or the other
- You can’t have one foot in the world and the other foot in the church
- We are either for Jesus or against him

- I love the reaction of the people to Elijah’s challenge
“But the people said nothing.” (1 Kings 18:21)
- they knew Elijah was right but they didn’t want to change
- there was silence

iv. Spiritual conflict takes many forms
- one thing is certain about spiritual conflict: it is unpredictable
- you never completely understand it
- the devil will use a wide variety of schemes and tricks to deceive, destroy and disrupt the work of God
- every encounter with the enemy is unique
- sometimes it is in flagrant opposition to the work of God
- at other times it is subtle, like a sinner wrestling with the invitation to follow Jesus

- when the people didn’t answer Elijah, he threw out a challenge

- with Elijah, it was a confrontation to see whose God would answer by fire
- the prophets of Baal were cornered
- Baal was the sun god, the god of fire
- Elijah had put them on the spot

3. ALWAYS, YOU MUST KEEP YOUR ALTAR REPAIRED AND YOUR MOTIVES PURE

i. Keep your altar repaired

With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. (1 Kings 18:32)

- God’s fire would not fall on a strange altar; Jehovah’s altar needed to be in order
- the place of true worship had been neglected and fallen into disarray
- don’t ever think that you can be victorious in spiritual warfare if you have abandoned your place of worship
- Elijah rebuilt the altar – alone

ii. Keep your motives pure

- Elijah’s motive in this whole exercise had nothing to do with himself
- It was all about God
- He wanted the name of Jehovah to be known and revered
- He wanted the people to turn back to God
- Elijah’s main concern was God’s reputation

Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again. (1 Kings 18:37)

4. EVERY DAY, YOU CAN EXPERIENCE BLESSING THROUGH PRAYER

- like Elijah, you can know the power and presence of God in your life

i. Your praying is pivotal in seeing God work

- you can’t get away from it: nothing is going to happen without prayer
- Elijah was a man of prayer and at this pivotal moment, he prayed

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. (1 Kings 18:36)

- His prayer was short – only a few words – but it was effective
- We need to pray long in private yet short in public.
- Elijah had spent much time in the presence of God and didn’t need to impress the Lord

ii. Watch God work

- it is always thrilling to see God work
- he wants to demonstrate himself and he will when we follow his pattern

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there. (1 Kings 18:38-40)

- the people saw the fire fall
- they recognized Jehovah as their God
- Elijah ordered the prophets of Baal slaughtered

iii. Miracles don’t necessarily bring faith in others

- some people say, “If we only had more miracles, more people would be saved,” but that is not necessarily the case
- sometimes, as it was with Pharaoh, the miracles did not lead people to believe, but rather to harden their hearts

- notice that a demonstration of God’s power doesn’t force people to believe.
- Ahab didn’t change either his beliefs or his behavior
- Some people will persist in opposing God in spite of any demonstration of God’s power
- In fact, everyone today who does not believe that Jesus is God the Son does so in spite of all the evidence for the resurrection.

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