Today we continue our new series entitled, “The Benefits of Prayer and Fasting,” under the banner of the overall series for the year: “Expectation.” We have already covered the 40-day fast of Jesus and Moses. Today we will look at the third person in the Bible who fasted for 40 days: Elijah. To get an idea of his story, please read 1 Kings 16-19. I will attempt to summarize it today.
King Ahab married Jezebel. She was a negative influence on him and he became an idol worshipper. This Israelite King worshipped Baal. He even built a temple and an altar in Samaria in order to do so. God used the Prophet Elijah to denounce the Baal worship. God led Elijah to declare that it would not rain until he said it would rain. It did not rain for 3 1/2 years. When the time was right, God sent Elijah back to confront Ahab and the prophets of Baal.
Elijah called for a showdown on Mount Carmel. Elijah was on one side with his God. On the other side there were 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah. Elijah asked the opposing prophets to go first. Whichever God answered by fire would be God. They danced, worshipped, called, prayed, and cut themselves, but nothing happened. Elijah taunted them. He said, “Cry louder. Maybe your god is sleeping.” In the end, their false god never answered. The true and living God, our God, answered by fire. Afterwards, all the false prophets were killed. Elijah then prayed for rain and God provided the rain after 42 months of drought.
Queen Jezebel was furios. She sent a messenger to Elijah who said, “I swear that by this time tomorrow, you will be just as dead as those prophets. If I don’t succeed, may the gods do the same or worse to me.” Surprisingly enough, when Elijah heard this, he was afraid. He ran for his life. He took his servant with him, and they went to Beersheba in Judah. Then Elijah left his servant in Beersheba and walked for a whole day into the desert. He was so tired, of everything, that he sat down under a bush and asked to die. He said, “I have had enough, Lord! Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors.” There he fell asleep. An angel came to him and touched him. The angel said, “Get up and eat!” Elijah looked around, and by his head there was a cake that had been baked over coals and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then went back to sleep.
Later the Lord’s angel came to him again, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat! If you don’t, you will not be strong enough to make the long trip.” So Elijah got up. He ate and drank and felt strong. This is where he went on a fast. Elijah walked for 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. When he arrived, after fasting the entire time, he had an amazing encounter with God. The Lord had Elijah stand in front of Him on the mountain. And the Lord Himself passed by Elijah. This is similar to what God had done with Moses. I will pick up the story from here tomorrow.
So what does this mean to you today? A few things.
1. No one is exonerated from the dangers of fear, doubt or unbelief.
a) One minute Elijah was the bravest man alive and the next minute he was running for his life. So don’t feel bad when you get attacked in your mind. We all do. The key is returning to the Lord, like Elijah did.
b) Fear cancels out faith and faith cancels out fear. You cannot be in-faith and in-fear at the same time. To avoid the dangers of fear, you must continually seek the face of God. Fasting is a good way to remain in God’s face. The practice of prayer and fasting will help you combat the dangers of fear.
2. Depression can attack anyone, even God’s servants.
a) It is dangerous to continually pour-out your life as a sacrifice for others, without spending time in God’s presence to get filled back up again. Elijah said it would not rain until he said it would rain. It did not rain for 42 months. Elijah called down fire from heaven. God answered by fire. Elijah prayed for the rain to come. God sent the rain. Elijah was an amazing man of God. But after that all of that, after he dedicated his life to God and His people over and over again, Elijah found himself under a bush, wanting to die. He even asked God to take his life.
b) People debate the actual numbers, but a certain percentage of Pastors in the United States battle depression. Many have quit ministry and left their churches. Some have sadly taken their lives. When Elijah was depressed, he needed to be renewed. So the Lord led him to go on a 40-day fast. Fasting will help you get refreshed and restored in God’s presence. When your singular focus is on God, He will fill you up!
*** As a closing note: if you are battling depression this morning, if you feel like you want to quit, if you are attempting to reject thoughts of suicide, please take the time to talk to someone, and PLEASE make sure you take the time to talk to God. Turn the plate down. Get on your knees. Seek God’s face. He will restore you. He will build you back up again. Those negative thoughts did not come from God. And as you fast, you will be better equipped to reject them. If you need someone to talk to, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will call you.
Father, this is a season of expectation for me. I thank You for calling me to my divine purpose. I am dedicated to it. I will arrive at Your overall expected end for my life. I will complete my assignment before I die. I pour-out my life as an offering to You and Your people. And Father, I will not get burned-out. I fast and pray. I spend time in Your presence. I cast my cares upon You. I allow myself the time to get restored, renewed, revived and regenerated by You. Fear, doubt and unbelief have no power over me. I will never give up. I refuse to cave in. I shall not quit! I declare this by faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
This is Today’s Word. Apply it and prosper!