What Is Needed

Read 1 Kings 19:1-9

Life can have moments of great discouragement. There can be times when a person perceives a great deal of effort is being exerted but little progress seems to be obtained. Some describe this as “beating my head against a wall.” The idea of giving up comes into the person’s mind. It may appear that there is no chance of success. The discouragement seems to take over a person’s thinking and will. Then a surprising and unexpected change occurs. A new energy emerges in the person. There is a renewed vigor to continue and move forward. A lot of effort may still be required yet a feeling of hope returns.

Elijah faced a great time of discouragement. He had been holding Ahab accountable as God instructed but Ahab was listening to the counsel of Jezebel, his wife, instead. Jezebel greatly disliked Elijah because he was a threat to her and her following of Baal. Elijah had defeated the prophets of Baal and they were killed in the process. This angered Jezebel and she vowed to kill Elijah. Elijah fled in fear to the wilderness outside Beersheba. He is extremely discouraged and ready to quit. He even asks God to end his life before falling asleep. When Elijah is awakened, he finds food and drink provided to renew his energy. After falling asleep and waking a second time, he was encouraged to eat and drink more because the journey ahead would be long. Elijah was renewed and re-energized enough to travel to Horeb where he found shelter and rest.

Our journey can be a long one. We can become weary and discouraged. The idea of giving up can dominate our thoughts. During such a period, we would do well to remember Elijah’s story. When Elijah reached the point that he thought it would be better to die instead of continue, God provided what would be necessary for the journey to continue. God will always do the same for us. A certain person, a specific resource, a special message will arrive to join us on the journey. We will be fed, renewed and encouraged so with a new vigor we can journey on. When God perceives we have completed our journey, then rest will come and we will find blessing.

Pieces of the Picture

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

Matthew 17:1-13 (NIV)

Jigsaw puzzles have always been an enjoyable pastime in my family. My father used to spend hours putting puzzles together on our dining room table. He passed his love of working on puzzles on to me. Recently, my oldest son has also begun putting puzzles together. There is something satisfying about the process of working on jigsaw puzzles. Taking the time to look at each of the pieces in order to see how the piece might fit with the others helps to slow life down a bit. When you put the final pieces into the whole, you gain a sense of accomplishment. Each time I work on a puzzle, I am amazed how the final picture turns out after combining hundreds or thousands of pieces.

In the passage which we read today, we see the putting together of pieces to give a picture of Jesus. Jesus decides to reveal the picture to three of his closest disciples. When Peter, James, and John join Jesus on the mountain, they see the light of glory encompassing Jesus. This provides a piece of the picture. Jesus is more than a teacher, healer, and compassionate person, there is something divine here. Then they see Moses and Elijah standing beside Jesus. Why Moses and Elijah? They are two pieces of the picture of Jesus. Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the prophets. Both the Law and the prophets point us, and the Jews, to the Messiah. Next the disciples hear a voice which indicates, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” The voice, attributed to the Father, provides another piece of the picture. The voice affirms Jesus as God’s Son. Combining these pieces and understanding how they fit together gives us a picture of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.

Like putting together a jigsaw puzzle takes time and patience, constructing our picture of Jesus is the same. Scripture provides us with pieces which we must examine and determine how they fit together. When we are able to witness the picture coming together, excitement quickly fills us. We can also share the picture with others and encourage them to put together the pieces for themselves.

In The Quiet

In a world where there is constant noise around us, sometimes the loudest voice is found in the quiet.

Recently, I was sitting in my office and considering what I might wish to share next with those who read my posts. As I sat at my desk, I heard the ticking of a clock which hangs over my desk. Outside the window I could hear a bird calling. Then I became aware of the sound of my own breathing. I just sat for a while and listened. It created a calm that allowed my mind to open to possibilities. At one point, I realized that the inspiration I was searching for was found in the quiet surrounding me.

The concept of hearing the big things in the midst of the quiet is one which we find in Scripture. When we hear the story of Elijah and his fears and frustrations as a prophet of God, we hear of God being present in the quiet:

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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13a, NIV)

The psalmist reminds us the importance of finding God in the quiet when we see these words:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV)

I have to admit that I have not always been very good at sitting in the quiet. I have had to train myself to sit and listen. My nature is to be going, doing, actively engaging. In order to achieve any ability to just sit and listen, I have had to work on deliberately creating a quiet environment and forcing myself to resist the urge to break the surrounding silence with activity. When other individuals would tell me what a rewarding exercise it is to be in a more contemplative and listening state of silence, I thought they were crazy or at the very least I would become crazy trying to participate in such an exercise.

Over time, and with the forced guidance of others, I began to become more comfortable being in the quiet. Early on I had to learn to forgive myself when my mind would race on and I would not be able to sit for any amount of extended time. As I engaged more frequently in taking deliberate quiet time, I found myself feeling much more comfortable with the quiet. Continued engagement in periods of time like these, let me to begin embracing these times more and more. I also was pleasantly surprised that I was able to “hear” more each time. The ideas which began to fill my mind were inspired thoughts by the Lord. While there was no audible voice, there was a sense that the Lord was speaking to me.

All of this brings me back to the two passages from Scripture which I shared with you earlier. I find the Lord more often in the gentle whispers of the world around me. I experience the presence of the almighty God more intensely when I am still.

You may be skeptical like I was. You may say that you are too busy to take time for quiet. Your fear may be just like mine in the sense that you are afraid you would go stir crazy if you just sat in silence. Let me tell you that I understand all of those thoughts and feelings because I had them all. Yet, if you will deliberately, and maybe even force yourself, to make time to be in the quiet, a whole new world of possibilities will open to you.