Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Of Whom Shall I Fear?

Most of you will recall the story (I Kings 18) in the Old Testament where the prophet Elijah challenged the gods of Israel. The 450 prophets of the god Baal were to pray to him and Elijah was to pray to Jehovah God to send fire to burn up a sacrifice. All day the prophets prayed to their god with no results. Then Elijah prayed to Jehovah God and fire fell and burned up the sacrifice, not stopping until the wood, the stones, the soil, and even the water were burned up by the fire of the one true God. The people were amazed and worshipped Jehovah as the one true God;
then Elijah had the 450 false prophets killed. When King Ahab went home and told his wife, Jezebel, what had happened to her prophets she became so angry with Elijah that she threatened to kill him. Elijah became terrified of her and ran away into the desert where he fell exhausted under a bush.

I relay the above to set up my lesson for us today. Because in I Kings 19 we are told that a little later after Elijah had escaped to a cave that God spoke to him asking him what he was doing there. This was his reply, “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me,” (I Kings 19:10).
In just a few more verses God assures Elijah that he has 7,000 people who haven’t bowed their knees to the false god, Baal. (v18)
          Emotions are wonderful. As humans, we have the ability to feel happy, sad, apprehensive, confused, joyful, despondent, angry, thrilled, etc. Emotions are a part of what makes us truly human. But Elijah in his frightened isolated condition allowed his emotions to define who he was. Because he felt alone, because Jezebel had singled him out to attack, he just jumped to the conclusion that he was the only true believer in God that was left.  And his fear paralyzed him emotionally and spiritually.

            Satan is the author of fear not God. In fact the phrase, “fear not” is used at least 80 times in the Bible, most likely because God knows that Satan our enemy uses fear to take away our hope, keeping us emotionally and spiritually paralyzed just like Elijah.  As widows who are advancing in years you have many opportunities to fear.
What strikes your heart when you realize that you aren’t recalling names or words as readily as you once did? If you are like many women, it is a fear that you are just a step away from dementia. You quickly go from a momentary forgetfulness to a lifetime of dementia because you allow fear to enter your heart. I dare say that any number of you reading this struggle with the fear of suffering a stroke, falling and becoming incapacitated, losing your financial security, and some of you are simply full of dread and fear at the thought of dying. If having these fears isn’t bad enough, feeling like you’re the only one with these fears just compounds them.

            What’s the result or consequence for allowing Satan to fill your heart with fear? For Elijah, it was the inability to complete the call that God had on his life. He hid away in a cave and prayed for death to take him. Some have even suggested that he was suicidal. It’s not that much different for you. You harbor your fears, keeping them to yourself thinking, “I’m the only one. Surely no one else thinks this way or feels this way.”         

  I love that it was God who personally came to Elijah to let him know that he wasn’t alone and then told him where to find a helper, by the name of Elisha, to assist with his ministry. Listen, ladies, God has left his Word for you also. In Isaiah 41:10 God tells you this,

“So, do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 
Just as Elijah’s work wasn’t finished, neither is yours. God touched Elijah’s heart and sent him back into the fray to continue doing the work of a prophet with the added benefit of an intern. In fact, I suggest that Elijah was able to do his work better than ever before because God uses those broken times in our lives, those bruised and hurtful experiences to make us more sensitive to others and infuse us with His compassion. Yes, God can use our raw emotions and pain to minister to others. I can say that assuredly because it comes straight from the mouth of God, through his servant Paul.
In fact, it is the verse that forms the backbone of this ministry. It is found in
II Corinthians 3:3. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Did you notice that there is a purpose to God’s comfort and compassion to us? It’s so that we can then turn around and be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world that’s watching our lives to see how we are responding to whatever life hurls at us.
Scripture is full of verses reminding us that God will never leave or forsake us. There’s also example after example of God’s children who fearlessly shared the message of Christ, his death and resurrection to a world devoid of all hope in their lives, in spite of pain, imprisonment, beatings, and personal difficulties.
You have to look no further than Mary, the mother of Jesus, who endured the gossip, the sneers and doubtless mockery of a Jewish community full of Pharisees only too willing to cast aspersion on the legitimacy of her son and his claim as the Son of God.
This hatred for her beloved son culminated in a mock trial and then death by crucifixion, the most heinous form of death devised by man. Yet, Mary also lived to see his resurrection and followed his directive to wait for the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. She then became a charter member of the Christian Church and was a loyal follower of and witness for Christ. Oh, I’m sure Mary’s heart was full of fear many times – her son was constantly stalked by the religious leaders of their day - but that only made her a stronger woman as she knew the source of her strength: her relationship with God and the Holy Spirit within her.
God sends His Spirit to us too, He sends encouragers, and He’s left us His Word. You may live in a town where there are no other believers in the Bible as God’s Word or Jesus as God’s son, but still you belong to a worldwide body of believers. You are not alone, not a one of you! So, when you are tempted by Satan to jump to wrong conclusions or to give in to fear, remember the words of the Psalmist,

            “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

            I want to leave you with this prayer as you surrender your life – including its pain and brokenness- to the Holy Spirit to use you to bring the life and light of Christ
to a hurting world:

Holy Spirit, I yield myself to you today and ask that You would help me cross the path of those whom Jesus would help if in this day He would walk in my shoes. 
(Dr. Jack Hyles)
Message by Shari Hervold

Music by David Phelps - "God will take care of you".  A song that will touch your heart....A perfect song for the special message "Of Whom Shall I Fear?" by Shari Hervold.                                                                                                                           

Isaiah 41:10 - "So, do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."