When the props are knocked out from under you
Published 7:07 pm Monday, January 29, 2018
Ever had the props knocked out from under you? I mean, have you ever had a foundation-shaking letdown, a confidence crisis, or a serious questioning of yourself or your abilities? Sure you have. We all have.
An elderly man in a Southern town was talking: “I don’t amount to much in this town,” he said, “I have not been what others call successful.” It sounds like the man’s props were knocked out from under him.
In the scripture, we read about a prophet named Elijah (l Kings 19:1-15). Here is another case of the props being knocked out. Only a few hours earlier on the top of Mount Carmel, Elijah had stood out as a giant among humankind. He had challenged the people of Israel and the 450 prophets of Baal with his magnificent declaration, “If the Lord be God, follow him.” Then he had put these Baal prophets to the test and Elijah and his God had emerged victorious. The Baal prophets were destroyed.
But soon thereafter something happened that literally knocked the props out of Elijah’s world. He became a prisoner of himself. King Ahab returned and told his Queen, Jezebel, of all that had happened at Mount Carmel. Jezebel immediately sent a threatening message to Elijah telling him that she was going to have him killed. The scripture states that Elijah was afraid, and he arose and went for his life. To say the least, Elijah’s props were knocked out from under him, and he became deeply discouraged. As mentioned earlier, he became a prisoner of himself.
But later, after encountering an angel in a cave at Mount Horeb, the word of the Lord came to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And after Elijah had stated his reason, God offered him several valuable insights. And it is these same insights that God offers us today, and I want to pass them on to you.
The first insight is that there are no permanent victories. Irving Berlin stated it correctly when he said, “The toughest thing about being a success is that you have to keep on being a success.” As numbers of us realize, civilization itself is not attained by a single battle or a brief sudden victory. Civilization is a matter of the long pull.
It’s a matter of millions of unknown men and women consolidating the gains that have been made, and by tireless efforts, preserving those gains. Simply put, our American heritage is the result of countless caring human beings who never saw their victories as permanent.
Not long ago, after I had performed a wedding ceremony, a young married woman rushed up to me in the hallway and said, “I appreciate your remarks about marriage but the real question is, “How do you stay married? I hope you will address that subject sometime.” Do you hear what that young married woman is saying? She’s saying that there are no permanent victories even in marriage, especially in marriage.
The second insight is that self-pity is not the answer.
Like Elijah, we can just feel sorry for ourselves. We can just throw in the towel and quit on life. “Woe is me!” we can choose the way of self-pity.
My friend, Bishop Bevel Jones, shared a story about a man who was complaining about the sorry state of his home life.
He said, “It’s gotten so bad that the other night our faithful little dog came barking up to me and led me to the front door. I opened it to let him out, but he didn’t want to go out. He wanted ‘me’ to leave.”
So much for self-pity. Jesus once asked a question of a paralytic that continues to be asked today, “Do you want to be made well? (Luke 5:6).
When Elijah was full of self-pity, God sent God’s angel to tell him to “Get up and eat!” Do something!
And the final insight is that there are always moments of unexpected grace. By far, this is the most important insight in this article. There are always moments of unexpected grace, because of the faithfulness of God. The same God who sent God’s angel to Elijah comes to us.
The same God who helped Elijah see his situation with a new perspective also enables us to see our lives with a new perspective. And the same God who gave Elijah his strength to get up and move on, provides us with all-sufficient grace.
While on a flight to Houston, Texas, I sat by an employee of Six Flags Over Georgia. He was a young guy in his thirties who was on his way for a job interview with Six Flags Over Texas. The young man said that he and his wife were praying that they would do God’s will in the situation.
Believe it or not, the next day I ran into the same fellow at the airport in Houston. This time we were both waiting on our flight back to Atlanta.
Upon greeting him, I asked him how the interview had gone.
He replied, “Fine, but the Texas Six Flags is not nearly as pretty as Six Flags Over Georgia. I said, “So you will have to sacrifice beauty for more responsibility. He answered, “No, I’m hoping to make beauty.” There’s always a moment of unexpected grace.
Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways. halbradyministries.com