Freedom: From Loneliness

July 30, 2017
Freedom Sermon Series Graphic

Date

July 30, 2017

Scripture Reference

1 Kings 19:9-18

How could he be depressed? After everything he did, everything he saw, how could he not be happy? He stood before the king and told him that there wouldn’t be any rain until he said so. Three years went by without a drop of rain; there wasn’t even dew on the ground. After three years were up, he stood before the king again and told him it was going to rain, and it did. How could he be depressed?

During those three years of drought, he stayed with a widow who only had one jar of food left when he arrived. Just one jar. He told her to make him some food and the jar would never go empty. Every night, he, the widow and the widow’s son sat at the table and stared at the empty jar. The food gone. But then every morning, miraculously, there was food in that same jar that was empty the night before. God provided! How could he be depressed when he raised that same widow’s son back to life when he died.

How could Elijah be depressed? He just witnessed a showdown between the God of the world and a made up god called Baal. Baal was the detestable false god that was introduced to the Israelites by the queen of Israel. Queen Jezebel was a foreigner. She was from the nation north of Israel, but around 870 bc, King Ahab took her as is wife, and the both of them introduced Baal to the area. This was a detestable god made up god. People believed he was the god of rain and fertility. To get the rain to fall, you’d go to the temple and sleep with a prostitute. That was supposed to arouse Baal and make him send rain. Not only did they introduce that, they also actively put to death the Lord’s prophets.

But Elijah just witnessed God annihilate Baal and killed 400 prophets of Baal. How could Elijah be depressed? After witnessing all this, experiencing it all, how could he be depressed? He was lonely. He was faithfully doing God’s work, and yet he seemed to be the only one. No one cared. No one listened. No one else followed God. Even though he was faithful to God it didn’t seem like God was there working. He felt alone. And we’ve been there before.

We have all felt loneliness before

We know what it is like. We’ve had a successful moment at work, people are congratulating us, but then we come home and the moment wears off because there’s no one at home to celebrate with. We know what it’s like to come home to a house full of family, but you still feel alone as people aren’t getting along. We know the pain of loneliness when a loved one passes away, and even though people are reaching out to you and surround you, you still feel incredibly alone. We know what it’s like to feel alone in our guilt. We committed that one sin, the one we are convinced no one else struggles with. We are convinced that only really bad people fall into this sin. Really bad people…and me. I’m alone. I can’t tell anyone.

The thing about loneliness, is that once it has its chains around you, it is incredibly hard to break free. So this morning, we are going to look at Elijah, a man chained by depression and sadness because of loneliness, and we are going to see how to break free. We are in 1 Kings 19.

There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The Lord Appears to Elijah

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

1 Kings 19:9-10

Elijah’s complaint? I’ve been zealous for you, Lord. But Israel has rejected you. They put to death all your prophets, and they are trying to kill me too. I’ve been zealous but what has it got me? I’m the only one left.

We know the feeling. “Lord, I’ve been very zealous for you. But I’m alone. You haven’t blessed me with a family of my own.” “Lord, I’ve been zealous for you, but now my marriage has ended in divorce and I’m alone. I’m lonely.” “Lord, we seem to be the only Christian parents around. We are the only ones that make you and church a priority. All the other parents think we’re odd.” “I’ve been zealous for you, Lord. Yet, I’m excluded at work because I don’t get drunk like everyone or sleep around and that’s all they want to talk about.” “I’ve been zealous for you Lord, but I’m lonely. We have no time to hang out with friends because we are so busy with kids stuff.” “I’ve been so zealous and yet I don’t’ feel you near me, Lord.”

The thing about loneliness, is that once the chains wrap around us, they seem to drag us further and further away. And there’s a part of us that wants to break free, but another part that actually likes the loneliness. Even if we know that we need to be around people, our sadness, our loneliness, doesn’t want to be around others. So we push ourselves away until we are alone. That’s what Elijah did. He ran away from everyone. And when we are alone…

When we are alone the devil feasts

Earlier, we read in 1 Peter 5 that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. We’ve talked about it before, but the devil is like a lion looking to devour his prey. If you’ve ever watched Animal planet or planet earth, you’ve probably seen a lion hunt. Normally they don’t attack an animal in the middle of the pack. Rather they attack the one that’s off by itself. Secluded. Alone.

When we seclude ourselves from other people, and we are alone, the devil attacks. His goal is to tear us away from Jesus and destroy our life. How does he do it? He gets you to believe that you’re the only one living for God and it’s not worth it. “Just give up and give in so you can fit in.”  He tries to make you feel guilty over your sin. Even to the point where he makes you believe that God can’t forgive you. If God can’t forgive you because your sin is so bad, then you can’t go to him. Stay away.  Or he makes us think God isn’t working, and you’re on your own.

That’s what he got Elijah to believe, and Elijah gave up. Just before this he told God he was ready to die. He was sick of it. There he was in this cave, many miles from anyone else, the devil tempting him to give up on life. And he was ready to give in; ready to die. And here’s what happened.

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks 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 came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19:11-13

Even here, hundreds of miles away from Israel, God is still with Elijah. He could outrun everyone else, but he couldn’t escape God. The same is true for us. See,

In Christ, you’ll always have God.

And we sometimes say that like it’s no big deal, but it’s an amazing statement. How embarrassed would you be if your friends knew what you really thought of them at times? Do you think they’d still be your friends? What if your spouse knew how much you looked at other people, and imagined what life would be like with them? Do you think your spouse would stay with you?

God knows everything about you. He knows every single angry thought you’ve had at him. He knows every action you’ve ever done. He knows your motivations. If you have doubts about an imperfect person staying with you when they found out your secret sins, why should we expect a perfect God to stay with us when he knows all our sins?

The answer? Because of one Friday afternoon 800 years after Elijah. On that day, people heard the groans and the cries of a lonely man. Though physically he wasn’t alone. He was surrounded by the soldiers, women were by his feet crying, there was a criminal hanging on either side of him. And yet, Jesus was incredibly alone. And the people heard it.

While he hung from that cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Alone. Lonely. God had abandoned Jesus. And when God leaves you, that is hell. Literally. When God leaves you, all the forces of hell attack and you experience all the pain of it. He was alone and suffered alone. Not for his own sins, but for yours; for mine.  The one person who was perfect, the one person who deserved to have God always with him, God said, “I’m going to leave you.” Why? So that God can say to you, “I will never leave you.” God no longer sees your sins. They have been taken away on the cross with Jesus. God will never leave you because of Jesus.

That day, God came to Elijah and wanted him to know that he was there and in control. How did he assure him of it? Through his Word. He came in a whisper. God comes to you the same way to assure you that he is always with you. You read it in his Word. As you open up the pages of Scripture you read how God will never leave you because of Jesus.

This morning, God’s word was connected to the water in baptism and baby Henrik received that promise from God that he would never leave him. His sins had been washed away in Christ, and God will always be with him. That promise is yours too.

In the Lord Supper, God’s Word is connected to the bread and wine, and Jesus gives to us his body and blood to assure us again and again that we are forgiven and that God is always with us. God wants us to know that he is with us. He wants us to know that we are never alone, and he lets us know that through his word.

“What are you doing here, Elijah.” God says, “I’m with you. I’ve got work for you to do. I haven’t left you. What are you doing here?” Here’s how Elijah responds…

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anointJehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

1 Kings 19:14-18

God tells him that not only is he with him, but quit being lonely. There were 7000 people in Israel who hadn’t bowed down to Baal yet. There were 7000 other people who followed God. Get up and go to work spreading God’s word.

In Christ, you’ll always have family.

When the Holy Spirit works faith in your heart, you become part of a group throughout the world. You become part of the Holy Christian church. No matter how different we may be, we all share something in common: faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus. We are all fighting the battles of this world as we live our lives for Jesus. You aren’t alone.

That’s what we are doing here. We are a family of believers and part of what we do is encourage each other as we walk with Jesus. That’s one of the reasons Sunday mornings are so special. We get to see our family of believers who encourage us as we realize we aren’t alone. We walk together.

As Henrik was baptized today, not only did he have his sins washed away, but he was brought into God’s family. That’s what we all are. We’ve all been made part of the family of God. So as long as Henrik is living in the Liberty Hill area, he will always have family through Jesus. We will be here to encourage him on his journey to eternal life.

That’s true for you too. No matter what you’re struggling with, no matter what you’ve done or haven’t done, you always have family here at Peace. We are here to encourage you, just like you’re here to encourage us. But you don’t just have family here at Peace, you’ve got family throughout the world as you are connected to all believers everywhere.

We live in a world where loneliness is all too common. We are more connected now than ever, and yet we are lonelier than ever. But when you’re lonely, open your bible and read how God is always with you. He’s with you because your sins have been forgiven in Jesus. Because of him, God promises to never leave you.

Then lean on your church family. Lean on each other. Encourage one another.  Be there for others just as they are there for you. You are never alone as you journey toward the same goal of heaven.