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Elijah: Prophet Of Courage And Confrontation

Sermon #8

1 Kings 19:1-4


Intro: We have followed the prophet Elijah through many valleys and across a few mountain tops. He has been at the lowest of lows and he has enjoyed the highest of highs. He has witnessed the power of God on a personal level and on a national level. We have seen him as the Student Servant and the Champion Soldier. In this chapter we will meet the Depressed Saint. In chapter 17 we saw his humility. In chapter 18 we saw his heroism. In chapter 19 we are confronted with his humanity. We are given startling evidence of this by the words James used concerning Elijah, "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are", James 5:17.

In essence, what we see here is a picture of a man who has pushed himself beyond his physical and emotional limits. Elijah is in a period of depression. In this chapter, we are allowed to see a side of Elijah that both shocks us and helps us.

It shocks us when we realize that great men and women go through periods of deep, dark depression. For instance, Winston Churchill said, "Depression followed me around like a black dog all of my life." A young lawyer in the 1800's suffered such a deep depression that his friends did everything they could to keep all razors and knives away from him. He wrote these words, "I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not." This lawyer later became the 16th president of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln. Even a man by the name of Charles Spurgeon was given to periods of depression. History tells us that there were times when Spurgeon would be so depressed that he would refuse to leave his home to go to church. On more than one occasion, his deacons had to come and physically carry their pastor to the pulpit.

While these accounts shock us, they also serve to help us. How? They remind us that depression is a common experience. It is something that often happens in life. In other words, if you go through a time of depression, you are not alone. Notice these facts concerning depression.

  • •Depression affects all classes, races, ages, groups and genders of people.
  • •17.6 million Americans will deal with some form of depression this year.
  • •One out of every 5 Americans can expect to deal with depression in their lifetime.
  • •The rate of clinical depression is twice that of men. Statistics teach that one person out of every seven in this very room will need some form of professional help in dealing with depression in their lifetime.
  • •The National Institute of Mental Health estimated that depression cost the nation between $30-$44 billion in 1990 alone. In addition to that, over 2 million work days are lost each year due to depression.
  • •Depression is the leading cause of alcoholism, drug abuse, and other addictions.
  • •Untreated depression is the number on cause of suicide.
  • •Depression is not something to mess with! If you are dealing with depression, get help!

Of course, not all depression is bad. Depression is the body's natural reaction to shock. When a time of grief, stress, frustration, or illness occurs, the brain will release chemicals that will serve to numb the mind and body. This is like a shock absorber. However, there are times when the brain and its chemicals become so out of balance that clinical depression may occur. Professionals say that a period of depression lasting over 2 weeks should be considered serious and needs treatment.

With these thoughts in mind, let's look at this account from the life of Elijah and think about the subject, How The Mighty Are Fallen. What happens when depression comes and how can we handle it?

In these first four verses of this chapter, we will witness THE MISERY OF THE PROPHET


A. After the great events on Mount Carmel, Ahab returns home to his wife Jezebel. She is, no doubt, waiting to hear the news that her prophets wrought a great victory. After all, she probably saw the fire fall from Heaven and now she see the rain. She must believe that Baal is responsible for all these things. Instead of good news, Ahab tells her that it was Elijah who won that day and that he has even slain her priests! When she hears this, she is infuriated! She takes matters into her own hands and decides that Elijah must die!

(Ill. I just want to interject a few thoughts right here. Jezebel is a typical domineering woman. Her actions prove this to be true. First, she made all the decisions in this matter. Second, she performed Ahab's job her way. Third, she used scheming and intimidation tactics when she saw her puny little husband beginning to cave into the pressure. Ahab, on the other hand is a true henpecked husband. He may have been the king, but Jezebel wore the crown in that castle! She was the boss, he was her puppet!)

(Ill. Besides this, Ahab paints another picture for us. He had been confronted with the truth that God was greater than Baal. He knew that, like the people of Israel, he should fall before the Lord in humble repentance. Yet he refuses to do so. When he arrives home, he even refuses to give God the credit for what transpired on Carmel, v. 1. He gives all the glory to Elijah! He is a picture of that lost man or woman who is confronted with the truth of salvation. But, while they come away knowing what they need to do, still they persist in their sins and refuse to bow before God. Friend, when the Lord calls you to come to Him, do not delay, but come quickly, while there is time and hope. Remember, the opportunity may never present itself again, Gen. 6:3; John 6:44; 2 Cor. 6:2.)

B. When Jezebel hears the news that Elijah has slain her prophets, she sends him a warning that she is going to have him put to death. Instead of standing, like he did before Ahab and the prophets of Baal, Elijah tucks tail and runs away. After all he had already faced: the dry brook, the empty barrel, the dead boy, the prophets of Baal and the lack of rain; and after all that he had seen the Lord do: close the heavens, replenish the barrel, raise the boy, consume the sacrifice, enable the prophet to destroy the false prophets and to run to Jezreel - it seems that Jezebel was a nothing, a non-problem. Yet, Elijah does that which is irrational and runs away. I mean when you are kicked by a mule, just consider the source! When a carnal person kicks your life and work, just ignore them and carry on!

He doesn't just leave Jezreel, Elijah runs due south almost 125 miles. He actually left Israel and ran all the way to the southern border of Judah. He went as far as he could so that he might avoid the reach of one woman!

(Ill. His behavior is irrational, but that is one of the effects of depression on the human mind. It causes the sufferer to think in ways that are not normal. Depressed people often do things that defy logic and description. Yet, to them, their actions make perfect sense.

A good example of this pattern of thought is found in Psalm 42. There, the Psalmist vacillates between sorrow and joy. He pours out his pain and lets us know that one minute he is up and the next he is brought low.)

I. We See Elijah Running


A. Elijah leaves his servant at Beersheba and goes alone another days journey into the wilderness. Sits down under a juniper tree, throws in the towel and asks God to take his life. Poor old Elijah has reached rock bottom. There are several aspects of these events that we want to consider this morning.

B. Elijah displayed some characteristics in this event that show us that his thinking was anything but rational. Elijah is at the end of himself and it shows. When these characteristics begin to appear in our lives, we need to take a close look at the condition of our heart. Note these warning signs.

1. Elijah cut himself off from those close to him, v. 3. As a result, he felt all alone. However, notice that this is irrational thinking. God still had 7,000 who had not bowed to Baal in Israel, v. 18. Elijah never sought them out. (Ill. One of the worse effects of a depressed spirit is the desire to separate oneself from every one. Many people who become discouraged have a tendency to develop an "I'm all alone" or a "Nobody understands" mentality. If these feelings are allowed to go on unhindered the pessimistic person begins to think that they are the only person in the world who is right. It becomes, "me against them." That is a sad, lonely place to be! You see this kind of thinking in the church all the time. A person will become discouraged and will drop out of church saying, "No one understands me. I just don't fit in." What they are doing is projecting their own feelings of hopelessness onto those around them. They are looking for a scapegoat to place blame upon so that they do not have to look too closely at themselves. Yet, the fellowship of the church is so important, Heb. 10:25! Even if the people at church don't understand what you are going through, at least they can pray with you and be a friend to you! You need people around you!)

2. Elijah took his eyes off the Lord and focused instead on his own circumstances, v. 3. When we leave God and His power out of the picture, we are in trouble. (Ill. Peter - Matt. 14:28-31. We must learn to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus - Heb. 12:1-2)

3. He stopped interceding for others and started requesting for himself, v. 4. This was the first time Elijah had prayed for himself. He had forgotten that he was the prophet to Israel. His attention is full of himself. (Ill. When we become so self-conscious that it dominates our thinking, we are in trouble spiritually. When we get to the place where everything is about "me", we need to check up. Someone is in trouble and on the verge of a time of discouragement and depression. We must always strive to be God-conscious.)

4. Elijah adopted an attitude that said, "Life is hopeless.", v. 4. Elijah said, in effect, "I've had it! I quit!" He sat down and he gave up. Elijah felt that life was no longer worth living. As long as we can remember that there is hope, we can make it through. May we never forget that God is still on the throne, and no matter how bad things become, God is in control! He knows where we are and what we are facing. He will see us through! As long as there is a God in Heaven, there is hope for you - Rom. 8:28; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17.  (Ill. Job - Job 23:10!)  Elijah gave up on life, on ministry and on God.

5. Elijah claimed that he wanted to die, v. 4. Many people who are depressed have these types of thoughts. However, most are irrational as were Elijah's. If he really wanted to die, why didn't he just stay in Jezreel and let Jezebel take care of it for him? Again, this is just more evidence that he is thinking very irrationally.

C. All of these things that Elijah said and did are typical of depressed individuals. In fact, it might be helpful to you for me to list some of the symptoms of depression.

•Lethergy - Everything seems like it's too much trouble to do.

•Disturbed Sleep - Early waking, difficulty getting to sleep, waking up tired after a normal might's sleep)

•Loss of interest in Usual Activities

•Feelings of Guilt, Worthlessness and Hopelessness

•Lack of Concentration



•Lack of Sexual Desire

•Sensation of Utter Despair

•Sense of the Hopelessness and Uselessness of Everything

•Fear Of Death


•Obsessional Behavior

•Permanent Sense of Anxiety

•Feelings of Wanting to Cry, but inability to do so

•Bouts of Uncontrollable Crying

•Thoughts of Suicide

•Changes in Appetite and Weight

•There Are Many other symptoms. This is not a definitive list by any means.

D.  If several of these things are true about your life, then you may need to seek some sort of help.  Do not be ashamed to get the help you need, because depression can literally ruin your life.  It can even take your life!

I. We See Elijah Running

II. We See Elijah Retiring


A. Elijah attempts to rationalize his request for death by saying that he was no better than his fathers. The question I have is "Who told him that he was better in the first place?" Apparently, Elijah had come to believe that he was something special. After all, hadn't God used him in a great way? Hadn't he trusted God and seen the impossible done time and again? Yes he had, but he was no better than anyone else. It seems to me that Elijah must have thought that Ahab and Jezebel would repent when they saw what God did. He must have had dreams of leading the whole nation into a great revival. I guess that he thought he was the man of the hour and that the world would fall at his feet. Nothing shocks the system quite so hard as finding out you weren't all that you thought you were!

What is Elijah's problem? Pride! He was guilty of believing his own press! He was caught in the backwash of a great victory and he may have felt as though he were invincible. He believed himself to be more than he was and when he was reminded that he wasn't what he thought he was, he was thrown into the pit of despair!  The saint of God had better beware of those special times of great victory!

(Ill. Of course, this is a problem that we all face from time to time! We are all guilty of believing that we are greater than we are in reality. When the truth hits home, it can lead to depression and times of spiritual drought. When we do hit bottom, we are often guilty of trying to rationalize our behavior. We try, like Elijah, to convince ourselves that things are as bad as we think they are. In truth, they never are, nor will they be, as bad as we think!)

B. Ill. When we consider the great ministry enjoyed by Elijah, we may wonder what got him into this shape. I think there are two primary reasons why Elijah ended up under that juniper tree asking God to take his life. These are the same two reasons that can lead to serious problems for you and me if we do not heed the warning signs.)

1. Elijah Is Physically Exhausted - Think of the activity on Carmel and of his flight into the wilderness. This man is totally exhausted. The Lord knows this and therefore He does not rebuke Elijah for sleeping.  Rather, God refreshes the prophet and allows him to sleep and to rest, v. 5-7.

(Ill. These bodies were not designed to be pushed constantly. The Lord set this thing up so that man could have a day of rest, Mark 2:27; Even the Lord Jesus Christ took time away from His work to rest His body, "And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.", Mark 6:31. That's why I say if you can take a vacation, take it! Your body needs the rest and the break from activity. Let's face the truth; we run from activity to activity, with a cell phone in one hand and a day planner in the other. We stay up late and get up early and never take time for our bodies to rest. This is not what God planned and it can lead to serious trouble for you!)

2. Elijah Is Emotionally Spent - This man is drained from the ministry he has been performing. He has been giving out constantly. He is emotionally drained.

(There is an old Greek saying that goes "You will break the bow if you keep it always bent." There are times when you and I must unstring ourselves and relax. It we do not, we will break after al while! God never designed us for the types of pressures we allow ourselves to be subjected to.)  (Ill. The constant stress of life is a major cause of disease and death.  You see, when we are under stress, our bodies release a chemical called adrenalin.  It energizes us and helps us get the things done that need to be done.  It gives us sudden bursts of energy.  However, when adrenalin is constantly being pumped into your system, it can have negative long-term effects on the body.  Some scientists believe that it can cause serious damage.  Hence, there is the need to unplug.  Especially after times of stress and pressure.)

C. Ill. Elijah Was Not Alone In His Feelings - I can think of at least two other men in the Bible who had feelings similar to Elijah's. One was Moses, Num. 11:10-17. Moses nearly broke under the physical and emotional demands of leading Israel. The Lord helped Moses by giving him 70 assistants aid him in the work. Another that comes to mind in Jonah, Jonah 4:8-9. Jonah was depressed because of faulty thinking on his part. His primary problem is spiritual. Of course, he too was physically and emotionally drained. God told the prophet what he needed to hear. The Lord set him straight. Sometimes our depression can come as a result of faulty spiritual thinking!

While I have never entertained the thought of being better off dead, I too have nearly broken under the constant pressures of ministry. The only thing a person can do is to unplug from the demands of life and seek refuge in the Lord. He will strengthen the burdened life and give renewed strength for the journey. I have also suffered from bad thinking. I have seen things from my own perspective rather than from the perspective of the Lord.)

Conc: This is a bad place for us to leave our friend Elijah today. I wish there was adequate time to tell you all that the Lord did for him. However, we will consider all of that when we come back to Elijah next week. In the meantime, let me leave you with the following assurances:

1. Elijah had not been forsaken by the Lord.

2. God still had a plan for Elijah's healing and for his future ministry.

3. God wanted to bring Elijah out of the valley of his depression.

Friend, God wants to do the same for you. Do not think that you are above having episodes of discouragement and depression. It can happen to you! If you have recognized a tendency in your own life to be depressed and discouraged, let me invite you to bring your need to the Lord Jesus. He wants and waits to help you. Remember what He said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.", Matt. 11:28; "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee", Heb. 13:5; "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.", 1 Pet. 5:7.

I will leave you with this thought, your depression is not a sin, and it may not always be the result of sin! However, to allow yourself to wallow in it is a sin! If you see signs of depression in your life seek the help you need.

There are some people who do not believe that Christians can become depressed. They will say things like, "Just snap out of it."; "Where is your faith?"; "Just get over it!"; "If you trusted God like you should you wouldn't feel like you do." My friends, talk like that is foolish! I want you to know that Jesus Christ promised to save those who trusted in Him from Hell. However, He never promised to save us from discouragement and depression. He did promise to help us, to be with us, to sustain us and to bring us safely home when our journey is ended.

So, here is the invitation: If you are like Ahab and have never been saved and feel the Lord is calling you to come to Him, then you come and be saved today. If you are depressed and discouraged and need God's help with a matter, then you come. If the Lord is calling you to come to Him today for whatever reason, then you come right now. This altar is open and the Lord is waiting!

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