Sunday, February 26, 2012

Elijah, a man of like passions

Thoughts from sermon 2/26/12

It is hard to come up with a hero’s name that would be more substantive than Elijah. Just this week in my prayers, I have been praying about the drought that California is facing. As we have just set records in the least moisture deposited ever during the winter months, I have begun to pray for God to send us rain. Of course, when I think of drought and praying for rain, I think also of Elijah, that great man of God. And being spiritually minded, I found myself wondering if the drought is not a signal of God’s displeasure to California. Of course, there is nothing to validate that thesis one way or another, and many people have made themselves look foolish predicting the hand of God in discipline when it is suddenly withdrawn, perhaps by lots of rain.

So my prayer I adjusted upon considering this. If this is your will, dear God, please send us a great prophet like unto Elijah that we may know it is. If it is not, then Lord, please send us rain. This summer is apt to be hotter and drier than any we have known for a long time, and I would that you would not forget your people, many of whom are unemployed farm workers. We need water for food and provisions. Please see to our needs, according to your glory, Oh God.

Of course in that day, the King blamed Elijah for the plight of the nation, but God would not allow the blame to stay on Elijah, and the Spirit, through Elijah told the King that it was his own wickedness which caused the nation’s problems. There is certainly plenty of wickedness in our state that such a prophet, were he raised up, could point to.

The meat of the message was in the different prayers of Elijah. Why did God send fire from heaven with one prayer, and why did Elijah have to pray seven times for rain to come? We are not told why. Dave used it as an illustration of the times when we have to persevere in prayer, and I agree wholeheartedly that there are such times. Let me use the illustration of a 35 year prayer that I kept before the Lord.

In 1972, I was saved (May 5th) and found most of my family without Christ. I later found out that my mother had received Christ in Billy Graham’s first crusade (please do not try to tell me mass evangelism is a waste of time—it would be a waste of your time), and my closest brother had just recently come forward in his own church. At any rate, I held all of my family up to the Lord, praying that the wonderful liberty of freedom in Him that I had discovered might also be given to them. Three times I went to the Lord, and three times I waited in expectation for His answer. I knew my God—I knew He was a great God who answered prayer. The third time I prayed, the Spirit seemed to speak to my Spirit as I lifted each of my family before Him. With each member of my family I got assurance that God would indeed draw them to salvation, except for my father. “What about my dad?” I asked God. I focused, trying to listen, and it seemed as if it was going to be very hard for my dad, but, in the end, he too, would come to Christ.

In the years after 1972, I stood on those promises, being reminded when I would pray for my family, that this was already answered prayer, and I found God turning my petitions to praises as I praised Him for the salvation of each of my family. One by one my family was secured into the salvation of God, but my father seemed to be the unreturning prodigal son. In the nineties, while musing and praying for my father, who often seemed to have such a closed heart, and seldom the reverse, I received another prompting by the Spirit that not only would He do as He promised, but that my brother, the first to Christ would supplant me as the one to lead him to Christ.

I was praying while going to visit my parents, and I was surprised to see the very brother that God had seemed to impress on my mind, helping out at my parent’s home. I found myself gushing to him what had happened, and told him that God was going to use him to bring Dad to Christ. He seemed a bit taken aback, and I walked away, thinking I had probably blown it again, and that my brother probably thought I was crazy. I knew he would be right to think that, but I just could not quite get away from the feeling that it was a “God-thing”, and that God would bring it about.

Fast forward to about a month before my Dad’s passing away in 2007, and I was trying again to talk to him about Christ. He asked me not to talk about it ever again with him, saying he had already made his mind up about it. I replied, “Dad, it is as you ask. I will never bring the subject up again. But for the last time, I will say you are wrong. You are wrong, Dad.” I could see conviction and guilt all over his face, but I kept my word to him, even though it was tortuous to see him dying without my being able to talk more to him.

But my brother had not made such a promise, and during the last week of my father’s life, led my dad to Christ. By that time, God had worked in his heart, and Dad was most eager to give his life, what remained of it, to Jesus Christ.

I have many fond memories of these years. At the time, being a new Christian, but, even as now, thirsting to read all that is in the universe (I exaggerate, but not by much—I love to read), I read about some fellow called Jonathon Edwards, and found out that Edwards had been used to bring a great awakening to America. As a young man, Edwards was said to have prayed for all of his descendants, that they might be vibrant Christian workers in His harvest. According to the article, 167 descendants had been traced from Edwards and all were either pastor’s (or pastor’s wives) or missionaries.

Hey, I said, I am a young man like Edwards. I, like Edwards passionately want to see Christ come to those around me. Like Edwards, I want my descendants to all be busy for the Lord. God is gracious, and I believe He heard my prayer that day. Today my two daughters are married, one to a missionary’s kid, and the other to a pastor’s kid, and as I watch them active in their respective churches, and eagerly raising their children to be Christian, I cannot but be overwhelmed by my awesome God.

So pray, pray through, when you at first do not get an answer. But pray always expecting an answer, for the God we serve is an awesome God full of love and mercy. I do believe that sometimes people repeat a prayer that they really want answered, but sometimes I see that they really do not expect an answer. I have to wonder at those times, if God had not already given an answer, and found them not listening. Part of the awesomeness of prayer is knowing that God hears us, and that, if He hears us, we will receive whatever we ask of Him. I wonder sometimes if people forget that promise from Scripture, and I see a vast difference between the great prayer warriors of my church, who know God hears, and listen hard for His response; and those who may have tried prayer once but found it did not work. Sometimes the response comes so loud as lightening from heaven that every eye can see, but sometimes the answer is a far off speck of a cloud on the distant horizon, and those answers we need to take by faith. We need to station ourselves on the ramparts, and see what answer God will give to our complaints. As watchmen working through the night we need to come again and again with our petitions, but always knowing that each prayer, each petition is as perfumed incense to our God, giving us every expectation of an answer from our Loving Father.

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