There is only one way to go from the mountain top. It is into the next valley. As beautiful as everything looks from the peak, there are deep shadows and dangerous draws in the valley. King David remembered his boyhood days as a shepherd when he wrote the 23rd Psalm. “Yea though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for though art with me.”
Elijah had just had a mountain top experience. Literally, he won a victory on Mt. Carmel! He had defeated 500 false prophets. He had seen God consume his soggy sacrifice with fire from heaven. God had listened to his prayer. But when he was threaten by a hateful queen, he tumbled into a deep depression. Exhausted, he felt all alone. His identity was blurred. I believe he was suicidal.
Success is often followed by discouragement.
There are a few sports teams who are able to dominate for a generation, but most champions struggle to repeat. Even the premier teams struggle to put up back-to-back championships (there are exceptions). Life is full of mountain tops and deep valleys.
My whole ministry has been full of the ups and downs. Church planting is no exception. We have had several huge wins. And we have had our share of severe losses. I wish I could say I was immune to thinking I could claim the wins. But there is no way around feeling responsible for the losses. I am consumed with rehearsing what happened and what I did wrong or could have done differently to change the outcome.
I am spiritually spent after the wins. And the losses, well let’s just say, EMPTY. I can identify with Elijah. I bet you can too. In 1 Kings 18-19, we read about Elijah’s story. We also find God’s encouragement!
First, God sends an angel to care for Elijah’s physical needs. He provides sleep, food and water. Oh did I mention sleep! Sometimes what we need is a nap and a milkshake. That is what I needed today anyway. I am tempted to feel guilty, but there are times when that is what I need.
Second, God calls Elijah to come to Him. It wasn’t easy. It was a long journey. Elijah had to put forth the effort to seek God. When I am discouraged, I resist the hard work of seeking God. But it is exactly the right thing to do. The reward far exceeds the effort.
Third, God honors Elijah with His presence. After a display of His majesty and power, God meets Elijah in a small still voice. My grandson is just two months old, but he already knows when he is in the arms of his mother. And just like that, there is nothing sweeter than those moments when you sense the presence of God.
Fourth, God clarifies Elijah’s calling. I have been tempted to quit. Most pastors have. The good news is the alarming statistics of pastors leaving the ministry is frankly fake news (Lifeway, Christianity Today). Although many pastors face discouragement, they are not quitters! God is faithful and He renews a person’s calling and redeems all that has gone wrong.
Fifth, God gives Elijah a Teammate. God gave Adam, Eve. He gave Elijah, Elisha. He will give you a teammate. Most recently in my discouragement. God showed me that I had been trying to do way too much in a vacuum. Our leadership team has raised the bar. I am encouraged by their willingness to work through the issues and lighten the load.
God is the lifter of your head.
If you are discouraged, lean into God. Let Him lift your head (Psalm 3:3 “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”). He loves you and will minister to you just like He did Elijah.
Warning: Fulfill your responsibilities if you are to discover the rewards God has for you!