Fatigued Like Moses

Fatigue in battle. This is probably not something all of us are familiar with. Not many of us have been in a combative moment where we needed to use all the resources surrounding us to survive, let alone thrive. If we look past the worldly battles and focus instead on spiritual battles, then maybe we have a little more experience with the word “fatigue” than we realize. Spiritual warfare is something we face daily. Struggling to make sense of spiritual battles in a physical world can be tiresome, at best. There are times when our spirit is weak and tired. When did the Old Testament character, Moses, feel this fatigue? At the command of an actual battle… with his arms in the air.

In Exodus 17, Moses found himself in the middle of a battle with the Amalekites who were fighting his fellow Israelites. Moses knew going into the fight that if his hands stayed in the air, God would favor his people, but if they came down, his people would bear the consequences. Holding his hands in the air for a full day, with the sun beating down on him, watching his men wage war, would be a grueling task in general. Taking into account the other taxing activities Moses had been through, it’s surprising that he had the energy or patience to persevere this day-long battle at all.

Moses was with the Israelites… a people with an ability to grate on anyone’s nerves. Look at what just transpired before this battle account: the people were complaining about being thirsty, so God gave Moses the ability to give them drink. Before that? The people were complaining about not having food. God gave Moses the instructions on eating manna and quail for daily meals. It was obvious that the Israelites weren’t keen on listening to instructions (or eating this food for the next 40 years!). Before that, there was more grumbling and complaining from the people… and all of this after the miraculous escape from the Egyptians!

To say that Moses was a little stressed and tired of his situation would be an understatement, for sure. Then, out of nowhere, the Amalekites step in and decide they are ready for a battle! While Joshua is commanding the armies, Moses is spending the day watching (and probably praying!) while keeping his hands high up in the air. Can you just imagine his hands throughout the day? Of course when he first sees the victories on the field, he holds his hands high toward the sky, arms fully extended, fingers reaching to their tippiest of tips! But as the day lags on, and the sun becomes brighter, hotter, more of a deterrent, his arms start to fall. Slowly his shoulders hunch, his elbows droop, and his hands flop. He has the desire to keep his hands high, but knows he can’t go it alone. He needs help. He needs a refresher. He needs God.

How often have we felt this weariness? You know what’s right, you know what needs to be done. But actually doing it… that’s the complication. That’s when we need God most. Thankfully, God never abandons us. Just like He didn’t abandon Moses.

What does God give Moses? Friends. Two people who are willing to pull up the proverbial chair (well, rock, in Moses’ case) set their friend down and hold his arms high again. Aaron and Hur are the blessing that comes just when Moses thinks he can’t go any further and he is losing the battle.

Sometimes, God’s help comes to us in veiled ways. We are expecting a great thrilling rescue, an impressive tale that we can write home about. Or even an immediate end to our battle. Often God’s answer is more subtle. More simple. Making us more humble in the process (how many times was it that Naaman had to dip in that nasty Jordan river?!). God doesn’t take Moses out of the battle, yet He sends in reinforcements. Just like He doesn’t tell us to exit our battles, he tells us to persevere; to finish our race and our fight [2 Timothy 4.7]. God even references battle armor that He has left at our disposal… we just need to use it [Ephesians 6.10-18]! Our spiritual battle is an extensive, tough journey. God knows we will be weary, knows we need help, and gives us exactly what we need!

Ashley Coulson

In The Beginning…

One of the most important words in the English language is the word “begin.” It’s also probably one of the most flippantly used words in the English language. How many things have we begun only to never finish? How many things have we intended to begin only to never even start? Our lives are filled with beginnings that have no endings. But that stark reality doesn’t take from the word “begin” its place of importance in both our vocabularies and in our lives.

We’ve all heard lessons where the speaker implores us to “finish” strong in our walk with the Lord; that it’s not about how we begin but rather how we end. And in many ways, that is true. But it’s also true that those who begin well have a much better chance of finishing well. The Olympic sprinter who stumbles out of the gate rarely receives a medal.

134 times in the Bible we read the word “begin” or one of its variances. One of the most famous verses in the Bible, Genesis 1:1, tells us that, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Psalmist wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps 111:10) John wrote that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1)

But of all of the uses of the word “begin” that are found in the Bible, my favorite is an instance where the word actually isn’t even used at all. At least, not in a way in which we realize.

In the English Standard Version, Matthew 1:1 reads, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The word translated “genealogy” is the Greek word geneseos, which can be translated as origin, or… beginning. In fact, the Greek word geneseos is where the name of the first book of the Bible – Genesis – gets its name, particularly from Genesis 1:1, which we have already referenced.

And “Genesis” is certainly an appropriate title for a book which tells of beginnings – of the earth, of man, of sin, and of God’s plan for restoration. And in that vein, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to think of Matthew 1:1 as introducing a new beginning, in Jesus Christ. Matthew 1:1, very much so, provides for us, then, a “book of beginnings.” A book which can be – and is to be – read by all who cross its path.

Just a few days ago, we turned the page on the calendar and celebrated a new beginning – New Year’s Day. And this holiday is a day for reflection and anticipation, but especially for being a convenient time to “begin” anew. We make resolutions and commitments, most of which we will begin but never finish and some of which we will never even begin at all.

But what is certain, is that, whether we realize it or not, we are writing our own book. And all who cross our path will read it. They will read of our successes and failures, and of how we respond to each. They will read of our anger or of our happiness. They will read of our insecurities or of our assurance. They will read of our attitudes when we are away from the Lord’s people, whether in private or in public.

And if honest, most of us don’t like the book we’ve been writing in the past. Sure, each successive draft might be an improvement over the last, but we’re all still a long way from the bestseller we see in our minds. And so we begin again anew, with blank pages.

And that’s the most wonderful part of a time of year like this, that we have a chance to write our very own book of new beginnings. We can have our very own Genesis, and our very own story. And right now, we don’t know how that story will end. We know how we hope it will end, of how the story must progress to end in that way. But we can know how it will begin.

Begin well. Begin well, and increase the odds of finishing well – and receiving your medal.

James Miller

When I Was Growing Up…

When I was growing up, we had a little corner market about two blocks from our house. At seven years old, Mama would send me to the market to buy things like milk, eggs, and bread. Each time I went, I would look longingly at the rows of candy bars they always put right by the registers. We didn’t eat much candy growing up, probably because we were pretty broke! But I clearly remember drooling over those candy bars, one type in particular – Whatchamacallit! The name was so intriguing to me and one day, I succumbed to temptation and took a candy bar. I remember juggling that gallon of milk and eating a candy bar in the time it took to walk two blocks. Not an easy feat, but I did it, not really even having time to enjoy the Whatchamacallit!

I don’t know if it was chocolate on my face, crumbs on my shirt, or a wrapper sticking out of my pocket, but somehow, Mama KNEW I’d eaten some kind of candy. You see, MY mama was not one of those “Wait until your father gets home” kind of mamas. She took care of things herself, and boy, did she take care of me that day! Mama didn’t need to know what kind of candy bar it was or how I’d managed to steal it. She simply marched me right back to the store and made me apologize to the owner. I wanted to crawl under a rock. I felt horrible because the owner had always been so nice to me and now, I’d ruined that…or so I thought.

That was the first experience with sin I can vividly remember. Even at age seven, I was acutely aware of the damage I had done to the trusting relationship with my Mama and with the store owner. I remember Mama being so upset with me, and then Daddy was, too, when he got home. I was devastated.

But it was also my first experience with the joy of forgiveness. Mama and Daddy forgave me, not really holding a grudge against me… still kissing me goodnight and tucking me in that very night. I had to earn their trust back and it was a little while before I could go to the store by myself. The next time I went to the store, the owner didn’t give me a hard time or even look at me funny. He was just as nice as he’d ever been to me, almost like it had never happened.

Forgiveness is such an amazing thing. And very powerful…yet, how many of us really know how to forgive?

We are warned to forgive or we will not be forgiven – Mark 11:25-26.
We have examples of the limitlessness our forgiveness should hold – Matthew 18:21-35.
And we are instructed to do it with kindness and love – Ephesians 4:31-32.

All these things are easier said than done, but something I constantly need to remind myself of.

Sheri Hemby

Laps of Time

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a celebration in honor of my grandson. Friends and family were invited to share in a flood of pizza and cake. Children chased each other around a massive playground occasionally making pit stops for water breaks and minor first aid. The adults sat comfortably in the shade chatting about kids, jobs, and hobbies. After a while, all the children were corralled back to the pavilion for the main event: the opening of presents. For my grandson, it was a day to remember. After all, he had just completed his fifth successful lap around the sun. He blew out five candles planted on top of the cake, each one representing a completed lap. It was his birthday.

We measure all things in relation to time, one of God’s most wonderful creations. Time is simply a series of cycles: laps around the sun, revolutions of the planet, and so on. When you look at any situation … well, it is what it is. It is not what it could be. It is not what it was. It is what it is. When one finally meets Christ in the final judgment and is presented with his own IIWII (it is what it is), time is a way of showing how one has arrived at his own IIWII. Time is essential in assessing the path taken, a manner of showing your work, much like a teacher might require in a math class. In the end, it is what it is. The showing of one’s work is the marrow of all tales. Why did Jonah end up in the belly of a fish? Why was Saul’s kingdom taken from him? How a man uses his time is an integral part of the recipe for creating his own dish of IIWII … it is what it is.

We often think of time as a barrier, uttering phrases like “being trapped in time”. When viewed correctly, time is a very useful and necessary tool. It is impossible to measure progress without time. Many homes have a doorpost decorated with horizontal marks recording the height of a child after the completion of each lap around the sun. Parents can see the growth of the child by affirming the latest mark as the tallest. Can you imagine what would happen if the mark recorded after his eighth lap revealed that the child was actually three inches shorter than last year? What would the reaction be if his shoes were suddenly too big for him? There would be a deep concern about his progress. Doctors would be hired to investigate that last lap, looking for causes. What type of nutrition had the child received? Was his environment detrimental to his growth? What had changed? There would be no argument as to the condition and a relentless examination to determine the causes. Three inches shorter would not be acceptable.

What if each one of us had a doorpost in our own homes where we measured our spiritual progress at the completion of each lap? How would we react if we found ourselves to be spiritually shorter than we were at the completion of the previous lap? Would there be a concern and in-depth examination or would it be acceptable?

My mother was on her 69th lap when her race abruptly and unexpectedly ended. She had no forewarning. We are not promised a certain number of laps. It was her time to present her own IIWII in judgment. Each one of us has formed our own IIWII, our current spiritual condition. The uncertainty of life highlights the importance of using time (a gift from God) to measure our progress and take steps to improve our condition. What did you do on your last lap and what are you planning to do on this lap? Is your current IIWII acceptable to you? Are you willing to bet eternity on it?

Curt Roberts

United We Stand

My wife Stacy and I recently welcomed a baby girl into our family. We spent a couple of days in the hospital and the longer we were there the more the security stood out. This hospital had a building specifically for the maternity ward with security that felt like entering a prison. You had to check-in with a security guard at the front desk who would scan your ID and give you a nametag. After passing the first test, you go up the elevator to the actual rooms only to find locked doors with an adjacent telephone. To enter, you had to call the nurse’s station to state your official business. Then for me to hold my pride and joy, I had to prove parenthood by having the appropriate wristband with the correct numbers.

This process grew exhausting, especially leaving and returning several times in a day. While it often felt like I was attempting to cross the border from North to South Korea, I felt safe. I had confidence that our daughter would be safe. While the measures taken at times seemed extreme, it got the job done.

The church faces consistent threats and challenges. Since we are under constant attack, we must always be diligent to protect ourselves and each other. Sometimes these measures are tiring and extreme, but they get the job done. The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, provides a blueprint so no soul is left behind.

Know Your Enemy. Our enemy plays by no rules and possesses no empathy. The devil is not looking out for our interests, growth, safety, or wellbeing. His goal is to devour us (1 Peter 5:8) and to enslave us to sin (1 John 3:4-10). The stakes are real and they are high. He wants each of us to fail. We have done ourselves a disservice by creating images of the devil as red, horned, and with a menacing goatee. If that was the case, it would be easy to avoid his traps. Both Jesus (Matt. 7:15) and Paul (Acts 20) warn us of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The lesson is we must be suspicious. The devil will try any method to bring us down. We must test the things of the world against the truth of God’s word. We cannot afford to be lax in our defenses, but must strengthen ourselves and make sure the sheep around us (people, things, ideology) also seek the will of God.

Keep Your Friends Close. The previous point puts me on edge. That is a large task with a lot of room for error. Yet, the Lord knows what we need to be successful. The Hebrew writer gives two practical ways to assist other Christians (Hebrews 10:23-25): first, we must be vocal in encouraging good works and righteousness. This would include both the exhorting to good works and the discipline against the works of the devil. Secondly, we must spend time together. This passage is mostly used to encourage attendance to worship services. I think that is appropriate and we weaken ourselves by missing the time together. However, I think this passage can be extended in a larger context to being with one another away from services as well.

As Christians, we share the same moral code and goals. By being together, we can keep an eye out for the roaring lion and his traps, while pushing each other to grow in righteousness. Solomon explains that two is better than one because more can be accomplished and resistance to the devil is easier (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). There is truly strength in numbers.

Support the Shepherds. While it is every Christian’s responsibility to encourage and defend the flock, our elders/overseers/shepherds are specifically entrusted with the souls of their congregation. This does not absolve us of responsibility, but instead gives us new direction to support these men. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

The Lord put certain protections in place to keep a congregation together and prevent the devil from picking off souls. The eldership is one of those protections. We hurt ourselves by making their work more challenging than it needs to be. We resist their direction, we create needless conflicts, and we act more like sheep than humans. Sheep do not strike me as possessing a superior intellect. While our attitude is to be subservient like sheep, we possess the rational thought to make wise decisions. The more support we provide for our shepherds the more joyous their job will be. The more joyous their job the more protection the flock will enjoy from the enemy.

People do not have to fall away. The Lord blessed us with the church to love and protect one another as we strive to reach heaven. If each individual Christian takes on the task of seeing that not one soul is lost, we will fortify our position against the attacks of the devil.

Jared Rogers

Purer In Heart

I always remind my students to make good choices and to let me see their true character. I tell them that their good decisions will make me happy and ultimately reward them. Each student reacts differently, but I find myself spending more time helping two types of children. The first kind of student knows that they are smart, cute, and well liked, but at some point in the school year it starts to go to their head. These students will point out how well they are doing and want recognition immediately. Then they are usually upset if I divert my attention to another student who usually exhibits bad behavior but is showing improvement. The other kind of student is constantly making bad decisions and is often mentally or emotionally exhausted. Usually they see their error and want to improve.

These characteristics remind me of the Pharisee and the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50.

Simon, the Pharisee, was an elite Jew who prided himself on keeping the law and set himself apart from the world. Much like the generations of Jews before him, Simon was waiting for God to send the promised Messiah. After all, he was ready for his earthly reward!

In Simon’s eyes, the sinful woman was unworthy of even a passing glance. She experienced nothing but disapproval from men and kept neither God’s nor man’s rules. She was downtrodden, exhausted, and needed a savior. Lucky for her (and the rest of us), Jesus showed an outpouring of love and compassion towards those that were seen as the most undeserving of compassion and mercy.

We know from Luke 7 that Simon invited Jesus to dinner, but he did not even think to wash Jesus’ feet or anoint Him with oil. But when the sinful woman heard of Jesus’ presence at the Pharisee’s house she came with an alabaster jar. Kneeling before him she washed His feet with her tears and anointed them with oil. Scripture doesn’t tell us how this woman knew about Jesus. But it is clear she knew of His love and mercy and wanted to show gratitude by acting humbly and serving Him. Simon should have been horrified that he had not thought to do such an act himself but nothing could be further than what was in Simon’s heart. Simon said to himself, in verse 39, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of a woman she is – that she is a sinner.” Simon’s heart was not only judging the woman but Jesus…the very messiah he had been waiting for!

In Matthew 5, Jesus taught what we know as “The Beatitudes.” In verse 8, Jesus speaks these words, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Simon made sure others recognized him for all that he was, had, and did. He made sure he appeared to be put together from the outside, but he overlooked the condition of his heart. Simon didn’t see his need for forgiveness, or his need for a savior. The sinful woman had just the opposite condition. The outside of her life was a mess before she met Jesus, but she knew her need for salvation. Her heart was not full of pride but overflowed with love.

A pure heart and the ability to see God is only possible with God’s help and a willingness to be honest about the sin that’s within our thoughts, words, and actions. What choices will you make that will expose your heart to others? Will it reflect the jaded heart of a Pharisee or the humility of the sinful woman? I hope we can all say that we would rather have the heart of the sinful woman and see God act in our lives, than be bound by pride and truly miss seeing God in heaven.

Jenny Clark

Don’t Plant Vines!

One architect who remains an icon with regard to design and conception is Frank Lloyd Wright. Mr. Wright’s use of geometric shapes in the architectural designs and conceptions he envisioned are still considered to be ahead of the times he lived and worked in. In fact, many of his designs remain icons in the field of architecture today.

Not one to mince words, Mr. Wright demanded perfection among his students. These high expectations were particularly demanded during the conception phase of a project. As Mr. Wright once stated in regards to mistakes made during the design of a client’s home, “Tell the client to plant vines!” While it is doubtful that Mr. Wright nor any of his architectural students ever had to instruct a client to plant vines in order to hide a mistake or design flaw, Mr. Wright’s point is easily understood. Sometimes it’s easier to hide a mistake than it is to correct the error.

We can apply this principle to spiritual application as well. We as Christians are instructed to confess our sins to one another as well as pray for one another (James 5:16). In (1 John 1:9) the apostle states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Yet we often times hide our sin behind “vines” hoping our Christian brothers and sisters never find us out. Over time we find ourselves planting more and more vines until our entire home is covered up with vines! Or to put it in spiritual terms, we become hardened to our sins (Heb. 3:8; 3:15).

Our Heavenly Father sees all our sins, even those hidden from men (Heb 4:13). “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:20) Yet, who among us doesn’t struggle with hidden sin? I certainly count myself among those who do.  Lest we forget, no man is free of sin while alive on this earth. Those of us who refuse to accept or admit this scriptural fact only deceive themselves (1 John 1:8). Furthermore, these individuals gain nothing in the end by the continued concealment of sin. God’s mercy and forgiveness comes only by the act of confession (Proverbs 28:13). The gift of forgiveness is provided to those who ask.

So we need to make sure that the sins we commit are confessed to our heavenly Father, repented of, and shared with our brethren when we need extra help to overcome. This will remove any “vines” that have been planted around ourselves and let our true Christian “light” shine forth.

Paul Dean

Setting an Example

What is it about you that causes others to be aware of your faith? If a co-worker or friend had a Bible question, would they know that you might be able to answer their question? We become so busy in our daily lives as students, homemakers, wage earners, and parents that we forget to allow the most important aspect of our lives to become the most obvious.

When our son was in high school, he took a Bible to school. Many lunch periods were spent in Bible discussions with friends and acquaintances. It was his reputation and example of a working faith that sometimes caused him to be bullied but often proved his honesty and intent. He did not allow what others said about him to be the standard for his reputation. Instead, his willingness to share the message of the Bible he carried outshone any words that others might have said about him.

Recently, my daughter told the story of her family shopping in a store with breakable objects. Her 3-year-old daughter, Addie, picked up an object and when told to put it back, she dropped it and it broke into pieces. Instead of walking away, Addie and her mother picked up the pieces and took them to the clerk. Addie told the clerk what had happened. The clerk thanked her for being honest and told of a similar experience that same day. A little boy had dropped an object and broken it. The family hurried to the front door. When the clerk stopped them and asked if they had broken the item, the mother completely denied it. Both children learned a lesson that day and both lessons were learned by example.

If a stranger listened to your conversations or watched your actions, would they see your faith reflected in the simple things you do each day? As Christians, we are called to set the standard for others. The Apostle Paul reminded the Colossian Christians that they were “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.” (Col. 3:12) He instructed them to clothe themselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Those are the characteristics that should be part of our everyday demeanor. Without them, we are not setting the example that Christ expects of us.

Do you make fun of those who look or act different because of a physical characteristic or ability? Where is your compassion? If a stranger needs assistance, do you walk away and pretend you didn’t see? Where is your kindness? Do you complain about other drivers when you are driving your children to school? Where is your patience? Certainly we set an example when we read the Bible, say family prayers, and attend church. But even more important are the everyday simple things we say and do. These are the occasions that set an example for those around us.

Margaret Batterton

the Kingdom of God

Christ and his kingdom have been the focal point of the entire Bible. Throughout the Bible, God worked to bring about his kingdom so we might be saved through Christ. As we study the New Testament, we learn of the laws that govern this new kingdom. It is a fascinating study to trace God’s kingdom, from the beginning when God ruled Israel before the kings, to when Christ will deliver his kingdom back to him at the day of resurrection.

There is no question that certain verses pertain directly to the kingdom being the church. For example, the least in the kingdom would be greater than John the baptizer, Matt. 11:11. There is also the concept that, in a sense, God has always had his kingdom and that kingdom has changed forms as far as its rulers and law. That is the idea that we will follow in this article.

If you recall from I Sam. 8:7, God was rejected as king by the nation of Israel. Because of their sinful hearts, they desired a man to rule them and not God. We know the story of how David eventually became king after Saul, but it was the prophecies about David’s line that pertain to us today. II Sam. 7:12-16 can be used as a dual prophecy dealing with both Solomon and Christ. Solomon’s would be the physical kingdom that would be set up, but Christ would also come and fulfill the spiritual aspect of David’s kingdom, as we see in Acts 2:29-35. Both would occur after David’s death. God would be the one to establish his throne forever. The new king would build God’s house, and the new king would sit on God’s throne.

I think this last point is important to consider a little more in depth because it is such a vital prophecy in which many important truths can come. If we look at whose throne it has always been, then we can understand the transition from David’s physical kingdom to Christ’s spiritual one. God has always had the right and power to rule, as seen in his power to create the world. However, God has allowed men to sit on his throne as stewards of his kingdom.

Consider I Kings 1:35, I Chron. 28:5, I Chron. 29:23. These scriptures point out that while Solomon was king, he was only sitting on the throne of the LORD, not his own. At the same time I Kings 2:24 says that God set him on David’s throne, and on the throne of Israel according to I Kings 8:20. The conclusion can be made that these were not different thrones that he was sitting on, but rather they were all the same throne. The throne of the LORD, the throne of David, and the throne of Israel were all the throne of the kingdom of the LORD. Although many kings sat on this throne, ultimately the throne always belonged to God, and thus he has always been the true king over his people.

There is a major prophecy in Jer. 22:24-30 in which we must conclude that the kingdom of David’s line would never again be a physical kingdom. Verse 30 is very specific in stating that no seed of David would physically sit on David’s throne and rule from Jerusalem. (Think of how many religions today would make God a liar if Christ would set up a 1,000 year reign from Jerusalem as they teach will happen.) Yet, according to Zech. 6:13, Christ would sit on his throne and rule, thus only leaving the possibility of a spiritual kingdom.

We know that the kingdom (in the spiritual sense, the church) would soon come as Christ taught before he was crucified, according to Matt. 16:28. We know that was fulfilled because of verses like Rev. 3:21 in which Christ stated that he was set down with his father on his throne. Paul pointed out that he had already been translated into the kingdom in which Christ was ruling, Col 1:13.

Knowing what this kingdom is in the New Testament is the most beautiful thing to understand because of what it means to us. I Cor. 15:24-26 tells us that Christ will reign until it is time to deliver his kingdom back up to God when death is conquered. That means when the day of resurrection comes literally, Christ will deliver us back to our heavenly father because it is ultimately his kingdom. What a joyous day that will be.

Ruston Laurence

No Man is an Island

When God created Adam He knew that it was not good for man to be alone. Adam only understood this fact after he named all of the animals and discovered that there was no other being on the earth like him. So, God created Eve to be Adam’s helpmeet. Eve was someone who could share his work and worries and encourage him all the days of his life.

Clearly, God designed us to crave relationships with other people. The need for community and connection is a reflection of the need we have to be with our Creator and it is just as powerful today. In fact, there are few times in our lives when we are more vulnerable to temptation and discouragement than when we feel isolated and alone.

James tells us that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (Jas 5:17) and although he was a mighty prophet for the Lord he too was disheartened because he felt utterly alone. Elijah was the instrument of God’s victory at Mt. Carmel and he showed all of Israel that there was only one true God. But this great man of God was brought low and forced to run one hundred miles in only three days to avoid Jezebel’s assassins. (1Kings 19:1-9)

At this point in his life, Elijah was physically drained and emotionally exhausted. In an act of desperation he asked the Lord to end his life. But rather than granting Elijah’s request, God sent an angel to feed him and give him rest. It was only after Elijah had time to convalesce that God spoke to Elijah. Ultimately, God revealed that He is still in control and that Elijah was only one of seven thousand faithful Israelites. (1 Kings 19:10-18)

While Elijah was running from danger he forgot the things that gave him purpose. He forgot his mission, he forgot the other faithful Israelites, and most importantly he forgot that God was always with him.

Elijah was a man who needed the comfort of a relationship with other believers and ultimately the consolation of a relationship with his Creator. As James tells us we are no different from Elijah and we can follow the same steps when we feel isolated.

We need to rest because our spiritual state is affected by our physical condition. Our busy lives leave us little room to recuperate but sometimes the more we spin our wheels the further we sink into the mud. God knew Elijah needed rest and he knows we do, too. Sometimes the best thing to do is just be still.

We need to refocus our lives and invest in relationships that will remind us we are not alone. God didn’t just tell Elijah there were seven thousand others; He told Elijah to go and anoint Elisha to be a prophet. It is amazing to think that there are thousands of other faithful Christians in the world. But that knowledge is nothing compared to the joy of serving and worshiping with a spiritual family.

The church helps fill our need for community but only a connection with God will truly save us from our isolation. Elijah’s biggest mistake wasn’t running away from danger, it was a failure to run to God for help. We need to cling to our Creator every time we are weak, or scared, or so lonely that we feel like the last faithful person on the planet.

A relationship with God is demanding. It requires a personal commitment to the Lord through prayer, meditating on scripture, and an earnest desire to do His will. It is only when we strive for a relationship with our Creator that we begin to feel the connection we need. God is never far from us but we must remember to run to Him.

Evan Clark