Two weeks ago, I talked about loneliness. Last week, I talked about the difference between fitting in and belonging. Tonight, I want to wrap up this series by stating that thanks to God’s work through Jesus, we all belong. We no longer have to be alone; even though we may feel that way at times.
When I was talking about loneliness, I brought up the story of Elijah. He had a contest with the prophets of Baal and won! But after that, Elijah ran and hid. He was afraid of the queen. He thought his life was going to end. And when he found a cave to hide in, God came to him. God fed him. He provided for him. He even asked Elijah what was wrong.
And Elijah told him: I am done. I am exhausted. I give up. He goes on to also say I am the only one.
Have you felt that way before? Have you ever thought you were the only one left who was doing right? The only one in your life that actually cared anymore?
Have you ever been so overwhelmed with life’s circumstances that you were just ready to give up? Ever say, “I can’t do this anymore!”?
I don’t know about you, but when I get to one of those places, the first thing I usually do is isolate, just like I talked about a couple of weeks ago. I want others to hurt. I want revenge. I want to know other people are going through the same thing.
This is also why I work so hard at fitting in. I don’t want you to know I have that pain, so I dress up and put on a smiley face. I turn to my addiction to cover over the pain. I act like everything is all right. I put other people down so I that I can find myself with the end crowd.
Isn’t this all strange? We isolate by not allowing anyone to know how we are feeling, and then we do things we don’t really want to do so that we can fit in by taking the path of least resistance.
And we miss out on what God is offering.
Let’s read the story of Elijah’s encounter with God after the defeat of Baal’s prophets (I Kings 19:8-18).
8 Elijah got up and ate the food and drank the water. His body felt strong again, and he journeyed for 40 more days and 40 more nights to Horeb, God’s mountain where Moses received the Ten Directives. 9 When he arrived at Horeb, he walked into a cave and rested for the night.
Eternal One (to Elijah): Why are you here, Elijah? What is it that you desire?
Elijah: 10 As you know, all my passion has been devoted to the Eternal One, the God of heavenly armies. The Israelites have abandoned Your covenant with them, they have torn down every single one of Your altars, and they have executed by the sword all those who prophesy in Your name. I am the last remaining prophet, and they now seek to execute me as well.
Eternal One: 11 Leave this cave, and go stand on the mountainside in My presence.
The Eternal passed by him. The mighty wind separated the mountains and crumbled every stone before the Eternal. This was not a divine wind, for the Eternal was not within this wind. After the wind passed through, an earthquakeshook the earth. This was not a divine quake, for the Eternal was not within this earthquake. 12-13 After the earthquake was over, there was a fire. This was not a divine fire, for the Eternal was not within this fire.
After the fire died out, there was nothing but the sound of a calm breeze. And through this breeze a gentle, quiet voice entered into Elijah’s ears. He covered his face with his cloak and went to the mouth of the cave. Suddenly, Elijah was surprised.
Eternal One: Why are you here, Elijah? What is it that you desire?
Elijah: 14 As you know, all my passion has been devoted to the Eternal God ofheavenly armies. The Israelites have abandoned Your covenant with them,they have torn down every one of Your altars, and they have executed all who prophesy in Your name by the sword. I am the last remaining prophet,and they now seek to execute me as well. They won’t stop.
Eternal One: 15 Travel back the same way you traveled here, but continuenorth to the desert of Damascus. There, I want you to anoint Hazael as Aram’s king, 16 Jehu (Nimshi’s son) as Israel’s king, and Elisha (Shaphat’s son from Abel-meholah) to replace you as prophet. 17 Jehu will execute anyone who escapes from Hazael, and Elisha will execute all who escape from Jehu.18 I will keep for Myself the 7,000 Israelites who have not bowed down to Baal or offered him kisses.
Did you notice that Elijah says the same thing twice? I have been devoted to You with all my passion! I have done everything! And I am the only one!
And notice God’s response: Go and stand outside and wait for my presence.
Mighty wind. Not God.
Earthquake. Not God.
Fire. Not God.
And Elijah had to hide his face.
And then God asks the exact same question. And Elijah gives the exact same answer. Only this time, I think Elijah whispers, or maybe sobs, out the answer.
And have you ever done that? Have you ever switched from anger to desperation when confronted with the presence of God?
Elijah is saying, “God, I’m the only one! I have done everything! And they still want to kill me! I wish I was dead!” And after God reveals Himself in a gentle whisper, Elijah is moved from his anger to clinging to God.
God responds by giving Elijah some things to do. Go and find these people. They will work with you. And there are 7000 people that you don’t know about who are just as passionately devoted to me as you are.
When we are in the midst of our loneliness, not only do we miss out on God, we miss out on God’s people that are all around us! I am certain that some of you here tonight feel all alone. Even though I know the love God has for you. Even though I know the love all of these people have for you, you still feel alone. And I hope you can hear the gentle whisper of God. I hope you can hear His voice telling you, “You belong.”
Over the last two weeks, I have asked all of you to write down on cards that thing that was keeping you separated from God. I have those cards with me tonight. I have read over them. Prayed over them. Shared them with the prayer team here at Freedom and they have prayed over them, too.
And I want to say a few things about these cards. The things that were written on here are painful. They are sad. They are real. They are common. Many people struggle with these same things, only so many people think they struggle alone. Also, these things aren’t just going away. Many of you will wake up tomorrow and still endure the same struggle.
But this is not the end of the story.
You are called. You belong. You are part of something much larger than you can imagine. You need to go and find others.
We are going to have a time of blessing. You will be reminded that you are a child of God. Hear God’s voice speaking to you; sometimes in a whisper. And you will be encouraged to go and seek others to come alongside us.
You belong here.
“You are a beloved child of God. You belong here. You are sent to go and find others and bring them here because they belong, too.”