A Different Season Figuring out what God is up to when the momentum of success stops

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Interactive Transcript

0:01 The toughest thing anyone can decide to do in life is to gain the courage to take the first step toward a progress of any kind.

0:10 The Odyssean journey from zero to one is epic because it moves the vision we have for our lives out of the sphere of imagination into the realm of the concrete. You could be on the way to flying high, living the the life that you dream; or you will fall and face plant into the concrete pavement. Either way the gauntlet has been laid.

0:32  A student sends in an application to the dream school.
An entrepreneur actually writes down business proposal.
A singer songwriter finally mails in the demo.
A single guy musters enough courage to walk across the room in the hopes that the gorgeous bombshell might give him the time of day.

0:52 For most people who happen to survive the first step, when it’s the soles of their feet and not their face from the air that plants the ground, the first act of faith is typically followed by a season of momentum.

1:05 This is when the earth shakes. The universe, no, more than the universe, God Himself is conspiring with you. Every where you look there’s fire from heaven lighting your path. When you need provision, the sky opens up to drop more than you could ever need.

1:24 The dream school not only accepts you, but there’s a partial scholarship.
The bank calls and the business loan is approved, and it’s more than you asked for.
The major label loves the demo and offers a contract with a fat signing bonus.
She says yes she’ll marry him. (Ok, that was rather quick, but hey, it can happen.)

1:44 The season of momentum is awesome! There’s a swag in your step, there’s an excitement in the air. Everything is moving forward harder and faster than you can dream. You’re looking at everyone who is stuck at the gate and you cant understand why these people have allowed fear to paralyze them. “YOLO!” you preach and just as you hit the crescendo of your sermon…

THUD, a very, very “bassy” THUD.

2:13 It would have been okay just to hit a wall, because you feel like the strength of your momentum would have busted through brick, but this is a wrecking ball that came at you. This is different.

2:25 The impact is a suckerpunch to your gut; the wind is knocked out of you. You can’t breathe, you’re broken, you’re not sure if you even recognize yourself.

2:36 You finally graduate but new technology and the job market have rendered your degree obsolete.

The markets have changed. The profits barely cover operating cost, let alone your massive debt.
The album barely gets traction and the gigs are still empty.
The marriage is marred by a vicious verbal abuse on both sides, and it’s getting to the point where indifference is setting in.

3:04 Once you were the man with plan, you had all these assumptions about life and now you don’t even have any cards left to play. You wonder where God is.

***

3:15 Elijah is a prophet of God during time when the land is ruled by an evil power couple. Elijah’s God, the true God of Israel, has values that get in the way of people who only want to serve their interests. Elijah’s God sides with the poor and those who have been marginalized. This is inconvenient for those who are on top of the ladder. So led by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, the nation adopts new gods to suit their lifestyle.

3:47 Elijah has a solution. Elijah has an assumption.

3:52 He gets out of his gate by inviting the people who support Ahab and Jezebel to send the priests of their god Baal, all 450 of them to a god contest. He believes that if he can show the royal couple and the rest of the people the wonder and the power of his God, the rightful God, then this should settle the question of which god they should serve.

4:20 “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” Elijah courageously asks them. (1Kings 18:21)

4:33 At first they say nothing. I guess deep down they know who the true God is. But after Elijah walks them through his detailed proposal, they eventually agree.

4:45 The contest is simple: choose an animal, set in on an altar, summon your respective gods, the one who responds with fire is the god that they should serve.

4:58 So early on game day, the prophets of Baal get the first crack at the fire contest. “From morning till noon, they called to their god, they shouted to Baal to answer them. But there was no response”.

5:12 Then they kicked up a notch, they danced around the altar but no one answered.

5:18 Shortly after, Elijah starts to heckle them. “Shout louder” maybe Baal is busy taking a dump. (1 Kings 18:27)

5:26 Midday arrives. After the shouting, the rave, they amp it up by mutilating themselves. But still no fire. Still, Baal is a no show.

5:39 It’s Elijah’s turn.

5:42 But before he gives it a shot, he has a trench built around the altar. He then douses the altar with so much water that eventually the water runs off the altar and fills the trench.

5:55 Elijah is so sure about his God, he stacks the odds against him for effect.

6:03 And then Elijah prays for God to answer by fire . He prays three things: 1. that the people might know that the Lord is the real God, 2. that he is turning the hearts of his people toward him and lastly, and 3. that Elijah would be vindicated as the servant of the true God. (1 Kings 18:36-37)

6:23 “The the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice. And It wasn’t just a spark, it was a consuming fire. It ate up the offering, and the altar of wood and stone. It even licked up the water in the trench.

06:39 When the people saw this, they fell and cried, “The Lord – he is God! The Lord he is God!”

6:48 Assumption: correct! Predicted outcome: called it and nailed it! You can feel Elijah’s swag. You can feel the confidence.

6:59 He he seals his victory even further. He has the prophets of Baal killed to ensure that the idolatry never comes back.

7:08 And then… the bassy THUD! The wrecking ball.

7:15 A message from Jezebel: May the gods deal with me if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like on of the prophets you had just killed. (1 Kings 19:2)

7:26 What happened? The contest was supposed to seal the deal. Who could contest the miracle, the signs, the wonders, the fact the Lord had beat Baal?

7:37 You would think that Elijah, who just took on 450 prophets of Baal, who had just called fire from heaven, you would think he would stand his ground, after all Jezebel  was just one woman.

7:49 1 Kings 19 tells that not only did Jezebel strike fear at Elijah’s heart, but he ran for his life, became so depressed that he prayed that he might die. Elijah’s assumptions were pulled from under him, he found himself curled up in the desert without a card to play.

8:10 Seeing his condition, God sends an angel. Interestingly the angel doesn’t sermon Elijah for his fall from faith. The angel merely gives him bread and water for the journey Elijah is about to take.

8:27 Strengthened by the food Elijah sets out on a forty day trek toward the mountain Horeb, with the expectation that he might meet God there.

8:34 After spending his first night in a cave, the word of the Lord came to him and asked: What are you doing here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:9)

8:43 Again, Elijah isn’t beaten up about his lack of faith. There’s no pointing out how someone who had just called fire from heaven could lose his spine in an instant.

8:52 God simply asks a question we all need to ask from time to time. How did get here? Where did I lose it? How did the big picture slip away? A bit of introspection, a bit of self awareness might help us figure out the deep truths about ourselves we would rather hide.

9:14 Elijah is quick to answer, though. He’s a bit defensive. He talks about how he tried so hard to fight for God, how he laid it all on the line. Elijah echoes the sentiment of someone who has actually taken the risks and the risks have not paid off, and now Elijah is deflated.

9:34 Then the Lord tells Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’

9:44 Now, in some sense we know that God is everywhere. But this beyond that, this is more than just being present, there is a sense that Elijah is about to experience something glorious.

9:55 Check out what happens next: (1 Kings 19-11-13)

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord,”

10:08 Yep, that’s what I’m saying. If the glory of the living God should show, the torrential mighty wind would be exactly how it would play out. Imagine make that entrance to a party.

10:22 “But the Lord was not in the wind.”

10:25 After the wind there was an earthquake.

10:28 Yes! The earthquake option is fitting for God, he is after all the power behind the universe. Imagine your enemies cowering every time you came into the room, if your very presence causes tremors.

10:41 “But… the Lord was not in the earthquake.”

10:45  “After the earthquake came a fire,”

10:48  Of course, God is the consuming fire that consumed the altar, this makes perfect sense other than the fact that Elijah had already been there and done that and somehow that magic trick didn’t do it for him.

11:01 And so guess what? The Lord was not in the fire.

11:08 Not in the wind. Not in the earthquake. Not in the fire. God decides to show up in a way we couldn’t expect. Check out how God makes his glorious entrance:

11:20 “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” 

11:26 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

11:32 Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

11:38 Now hold on. If you’re like me we have a bit of a problem. Because for years, I had just associated the presence of God with the exact things God wasn’t in.

11:47 I love the mighty wind, the earthquake and the consuming fire. That’s exactly where I would expect to find God. But apparently God It isn’t always in the flash of light.

11:59 And it may be because of what God already knows to be true, the thunder and lightning doesn’t always produce confidence and faith. Sometimes all that thunder and lightning produces is an addiction to more thunder and lightning, and nothing else.

12:14 It was true for Elijah. And it was also true for the nation of Israel who had seen with their own eyes, who had experienced first hand, the great and tangible wonders of God and yet they still did not trust God.

12:29 Maybe God prefers the gentle whisper because it calls us close. It calls us toward intimacy and relationship for how else could you hear a gentle whisper?

12:41 Even if it is the second time God asks the question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”, God is not exasperated. He’s tone isn’t impatient. He is gentle.

12:52 Elijah doesn’t change his answer, though. He doesn’t feel like he can concede his self-pity. Still, God isn’t disappointed.

13:00 The Lord said to him “Go back the way you came.” (1 Kings 19:15) In other words Elijah, if you didn’t panic, if you didn’t allow yourself to freak out, if you didn’t allow the fear and the fact that you couldn’t control the circumstance to overwhelm you, you would have discovered that you were never alone.

13:21 As God begins to enumerate all the people who are still there, all those who have not given up, all those still fighting the same battles as him.

13:30 Elijah, you keep saying your alone, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel. All whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him. (1 Kings 19:18)

13:41 Could it be that when the momentum stops, or when the wrecking ball smacks into us, could it be that we are being ushered into different kind of season? One where we are invited to get to know God beyond the flashes of light, into the place of deep intimacy with him. Where even if the wind has been knocked out of us, the breath of his gentle whisper is enough to sustain us and redirect us. That we are never really out of cards to play.

14:14 The student can open themselves up to people who can teach them new things to survive and even thrive.
The entrepreneur can gather new investors to build things he couldn’t do on his own.
The singer song writer can begin writing songs from a different perspective. Not focusing so much about staying signed, but start capturing what is true, meaningful in life and in the process might touch more people in a profound way because of the arts honesty.
The couple can finally take the step toward revealing their true selves to their partners. They can acknowledge that marriages aren’t easy, and that they might need help of a counselor.

14:54 Maybe God is allowing us to enter a deeper place with him. But maybe it is beyond that. May be God is showing us that anything good that needs to be done in our lives will only make sense when we realize how much we need people.

15:13 We need to stop thinking that we are alone and seek out a community, or at the very least a friend who can journey with us. Maybe God is leading us to each other.

15:24 I pray that we do get the season of the consuming fire, and certainly if that’s what you need right now when God comes on strong for you, where we know without a shadow of a doubt that he is with you and us.

15:37 But I also pray that we know God through the gentle whisper, that we would learn to press our heads to his chest and feel him breathe life into us.

15:48 Lastly, I pray that we realize it sooner than later, that the surest way to find God is in the faces of people. I pray that you find a community or friend that will fight with you and for you.

16:01 May the Lord bless you and keep you and may he make his face shine upon you and give you peace. God bless you.


Pub Session Questions

Have you ever risked taking a step of faith towards a goal, have it followed by a string of success, and just when you were about to achieve the dream, things fell apart? Tell us your story.

What did you feel about God and life in these different seasons?

Was there anything good that came out from your season of redirection?

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