We're glad you're joining us for a new beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast supported by Harvest Partners. Get more encouraging audio content when you subscribe to Pastor Greg's Daily Devos.
Learn more and sign up at harvest.org. We learn things in deserts and valleys and times of trial that we do not learn anywhere else. Here's the way I look at it.
Better to be in a valley or a desert with Jesus than anywhere else without Him. Getting everything we want—success, money, respect—would be an amazing way to live, right? Well, look at celebrities who have success in money and respect. And look at how often they suffer from depression and addictions and sometimes die quite young. Maybe many people want the wrong things. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us learn from Elijah. We'll see he learned from some of the toughest challenges life threw at him, and we can too.
Let me start with a question. Have you ever faced a time where you felt isolated and alone? Maybe your friends abandoned you. Maybe even your family abandoned you. Maybe your husband or wife walked out on you. Even your dog left you.
Cats leave all the time. They're irresponsible. But the dog, that was another situation. Maybe you're going through a time right now.
We call it a trial. But it could be compared to a desert, a wilderness, a valley, a storm. You pick your metaphor. But a time where it's hard. Maybe there was a time in your life when you were very active and now you find yourself inactive. A time earlier when you were very mobile.
Now you're immobilized. Well, if any of these things resonate with you, and I think this message before us is going to help, we're talking about the prophet Elijah and how after he went into the court of the king and the queen and told them there would not be any rain because of their worship of false gods, specifically Baal and Ashtoreth, and left the court, the Lord called him to obscurity. The Lord called him to a quiet place to just sort of disconnect. Where did Elijah get this courage? Where did he get this chutzpah, this boldness?
The answer is round to 1 Kings 17, 1. And Elijah the Tishbite of the inhabitants of Gilead said to Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand there shall not be dew or rain these years except my word. What was the secret of the boldness of Elijah? He served a living God.
And you do too. Not only do you serve a living God, but you serve a living God that is with you wherever you go. And if we were only more aware of God's presence in our life, I think it would affect a lot of the things that we say and do. I love how he says, As the Lord God lives before whom I stand.
Like right now, even though I'm standing in the court of Ahab and Queen Jezebel, I'm standing in the presence of God himself. So it's not going to rain. Now you have to realize or remember, he was kind of a gnarly looking dude, right? He was all hairy and he makes this pronouncement and walks out and they probably would have laughed. Where did this guy come from?
How did he get past security? What a joke. I'm sure not going to rain. And then the rain stopped. And then the drought came. And Elijah went from a joke to public enemy number one. Jezebel, who loved her gods, Ashtoreth and Baal effectively put a contract out on the life of Elijah.
They said, He's going to get whacked now. But he disappeared and no one could basically find him. For Elijah, it was exit stage left. So Elijah basically goes from the palace to a barren wilderness. From the throne of power to the desert of obscurity.
It was oblivion. And here's what happened next. First Kings 17, verse two. Then the Lord said to Elijah, Go to the east and hide by Cherith Brook near where it enters the Jordan River. Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring to you, as I've commanded them to bring you food. So Elijah did, as the Lord told him, and camp beside the Cherith Brook east of the Jordan.
The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening. He drank from the brook. And after a while, the brook dried up and there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.
Alright, we'll stop there. So what did we learn from this particular chapter from the life of Elijah? Number one, if you're taking notes, we learn things in deserts that we do not learn anywhere else.
We learn things in deserts and valleys and times of trial that we do not learn anywhere else. So God said, you're going to camp out for a while. This was camping, not glamping, by the way. Glamping is an expression used to describe people that sort of go camping in a rather luxurious way. I saw a motor home a while ago that was so decked out.
I think they spent over a million dollars on it. It has this big giant screen on the outside and all these things. That's one form of camping. But that's not what Elijah was doing. Now he's by the brook Cherith. Now maybe we envision this as a charming little scene, a little babbling brook and there's Elijah just hanging out. It's like snow white in the forest. It's wonderful.
Not at all. Actually the word Cherith means the cutting place. The cutting place. And God was getting Elijah ready for a huge showdown with the prophets of Baal.
There's going to be this shootout at the Carmel Corral. And God had to get Elijah ready for that. So the Lord's working on him. It's sort of like Elijah entered into God's boot camp. When we read about him at the beginning of the chapter, he's Elijah from the town of Tishbeth.
At the end of the chapter, he's Elijah, the man of God. So maybe you're going through a time of trial and you're saying, this doesn't make sense. Why did the Lord remove me from this position I had? Why did the Lord change this other thing in my life? Because God is preparing you for something else. Because everything in life is preparation for what is next. And there is something next for you. And God has a plan for you as he did for Elijah. But here's the way I look at it. Better to be in a valley or a desert with Jesus than anywhere else without him.
That's it. You know, it's like, Lord, if that's where you're going, that's where I'm going. My friend James Merritt jokingly says about his wife Theresa, if she ever leaves me, I'm going with her. I like that. So Lord, where are you going? That's where I'm going. You're going this way. I'm going that way. Even if it's not a place I necessarily want to go to, if you're there, that's where I want to be.
Like, count on this. The Eve of Galilee, when a storm hits, if that's where Jesus is, that's where I want to be, kind of to do another version of my earlier statement. Better to be in a storm with Jesus than anywhere else without him.
So Elijah's getting ready. Maybe you're in a spiritual desert. But a lot of godly people went into the desert before they began the most effective time of their ministry. Joseph spent 40 years in the desert being prepared by the Lord to lead the great exodus of the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt.
Joseph spent a number of years in a prison cell before he reached his position of power and influence. Paul spent three lonely years in the desert of Arabia as God was preparing him to be the apostle that would change the world, the cutting place. We went into our cutting place 14 years ago when our son Christopher died in an automobile accident.
I wouldn't wish that on anybody. It was the hardest thing we've ever gone through. It's still the hardest thing we go through. But in this valley, in this cutting place, we have learned things I don't think I would have learned anywhere else. We've grown closer to the Lord in a way that I really can't explain to you. God has changed us and He changes us.
And I might be talking to someone right now that's in that cutting place and they don't know why. Well, God has a plan. This was a process Elijah was passing through because before there would be a Mount Carmel for him, there must first be a brook called Cherith. Before there will be a crown, there has to first be a cross. Before there can be a resurrection, there has to be a Gethsemane and a Calvary. Before there can be life, there has to be death. Jesus said, if you want to find your life, lose your life.
In other words, commit all of your plans to the Lord. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. It's encouraging to hear from listeners who are impacted by Pastor Greg's teachings. Hi, Pastor Greg.
I'm a 65 year old guy who grew up during the same era as you and have a similar background as I also came from an alcoholic family. I simply want to say that I feel really a special bond with you, Greg. And I'm sure there are others who share that with you as well. Thank you for sharing your testimony. And I feel blessed to be exposed to Harvest Ministries. My wife and I are also Harvest Partners who want to help you speak the Holy Spirit's guidance all over our world as it is needed so much in these times.
Thank you again. Why do I have to go through a trial? Why do I have to go through a time of difficulty? Why can't I just go from mountaintop to mountaintop in the Christian life? Well, the answer is found in James 1, verse 2. He says, Brothers, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its work in you that you may be mature, lacking nothing. So number two, God allows trials in our lives so we will grow up spiritually.
You know, it's one thing to say I believe something. It's another thing to put it to the test. Back when we were all in school, some of you still are in school. You remember the teacher would occasionally do a pop quiz.
Okay, we're going to have a test. And all the nerds got excited. Yeah, they're excited. Why? Because the nerds and the geeks, they study.
I was never excited because I was too busy goofing off or drawing cartoons or creating distractions for the other students. And that's because they were ready. They were prepared. And sometimes the Lord will say, it's time for a test. You say you trust me. You say you believe in me.
Now I'm going to put that to the test and make sure that that's really true in your life. Because he wants us to grow and to mature as believers. Number three, God allows hardships, trials, deserts, storms, to show us his power. Sometimes it's simply to show us that he's bigger than our problem. And we call out to him and he delivers us. And we realize if God didn't come through for me, there's no way I would have got out of this problem I found myself in. So here is Elijah in a hiding place as God is going to provide for his needs.
Bringing me to point number four, trials and testings produce a necessary quality in our lives. Over in James 1, I quoted it already. Let me quote from a different translation. Listen to this.
I love this translation. With all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't treat them as intruders but friends. That's an interesting way to look at a trial. Here comes a trial. Oh no, an intruder.
No, it's a friend. What? Yes, because I'm going to learn something through this trial. Realize they come to test your faith in producing you a quality of endurance.
So let that process go on until you're fully developed and you'll be men and women of mature character, of integrity, with no weak spots. Similar to going to the gym and working out. How many of you go to a gym or a health club and work out? Raise your hand. Okay. A few of you might want to consider doing that. I'm not going to say who, but I'm looking at you right.
No, I'm not. Well, let's just say in theory you go, okay? I go to a gym. By the way, I hate going to the gym. My favorite time of working out is when it's over, right?
I'm my age now. It's not so much building muscle because I have so much I felt I had to stop. No, it's maintaining mobility to a large degree, right?
I want to move as quickly as I can, as long as I can. And some people, they love to go to the gym and they make all kinds of noise. They drop the weights.
You don't have to drop them, but they drop them. And they make a lot of noise when they're pushing, you know, that rep up or whatever. And they leave sweat everywhere.
Some people sweat. I can't stand that. And they post pictures of themselves. Please don't do that. Please don't take pictures of yourself working out.
Please. We don't want to see it. But there they are. Look at me. I'm working out.
Okay, whatever. But the ultimate goal is hopefully to produce endurance and strength and trials and valleys and storms and deserts. Make us stronger, not weaker. So here's Elijah hanging out by the brook chair. And God says, okay, I'm going to provide food for you every day.
But the way the Lord chooses to do it is so interesting. I'm going to have ravens come to you with your food. Now, a raven?
These are the birds that hang around in trees. And when some animal gets run over by a car, they call it lunch. And they get the little bits of meat and other gross things. And that's a feast of them. So they're bringing meat. Don't envision they're bringing little bags of In-N-Out and, you know, Chick-fil-A. Here you go, Elijah. Do you want fries next time?
No problem. Do you like spicy or regular on your Chick-fil-A sandwich? I like both. I created my own Chick-fil-A sandwich.
This really contradicts everything I said about the gym. Okay, so I get a spicy, I get a regular, and I put both of the fillets of chicken in one sandwich and I eat it. Why am I even telling you this? Now, this is kind of gross. You know, basically raven postmates bringing him his food every day. Like I said, they're carrion eaters, little bits of meat and some bread. So how did he let them know when it was time to eat? Well, if Elijah wanted to eat, he shot a tweet out to the ravens.
I had to say it. Now, really, the Lord directed the birds. They probably came at the same time every day. You wonder, why didn't the Lord just provide food like manna? Remember the Israelites? They'd get up in the morning, manna outside of the tent. Now, He has to have food brought by birds? But that was the way the Lord chose to do it.
And here's why. God mixes up the way He does things in our life to keep us on our spiritual toes and keep ourselves dependent on Him. Because He's the provider. Because sometimes we think, oh, my job, that's my provider. Or this person, that's my... No, the Lord is your provider.
Right? He's the provider. He'll provide through your employment. He'll provide through this or that. But then He may close a door there and open a door somewhere else so you'll be reminded, oh, right, it's God that provides for me.
Okay? And we come to see that. You know, it's interesting when Jesus healed people. Have you ever noticed He never healed any two people the same way?
He mixed it up. Sometimes I wonder if He had a little fun with it. Sometimes they'd touch Him, like the woman with the medical condition. They were healed. Other times He would touch them.
Other times He would speak the Word. My favorite healing is when He spit on the ground. Lord, I want to be healed.
No problem. Hang on one sec. That's what He did. And He rubbed it in the dirt. Here's mud in your eye, buddy, go.
You're good. And so He did this so people would not become dependent on a method or a technique or a tradition. But they would just say, Jesus healed me. Maybe it was also a little companionship for Elijah. You know, Elijah's out there all alone. Here come the birds. He probably had names for every one of them. Oh, the birds.
How you guys doing, you know? We have a little bird feeder outside of the window of our house. And there are these two birds that have kind of taken control of it. So my granddaughter, Allie, named one of the birds. She named the bird Irene. And then it turns out Irene has a boyfriend. Or her husband.
I don't know what's going on in the bird world, frankly. So this other little mate of Irene, he's the husband. Or the boy bird, the male bird. And so what do we name him? Well, he's pretty, so I named him George. After George Clooney. I couldn't think of anything else. Could have named him Brad Pitt, I suppose. Or Leo or something like that.
Or better yet, Greg. So they come and they eat at the bird feeder. So then we put in a hummingbird feeder. I don't know what's going on with hummingbirds. That is the most hyper bird on the face of the earth.
Is there caffeine in nectar or something? You know, buzzing around, buzzing. And they're not coming to the hummingbird feeder. We just put some new hummingbird whatever in it.
And nectar, fake nectar. And now they're not coming. And I thought, you know, hummingbirds are like the cat of the bird world.
They're just, they're aloof, they're standoffish. Okay, I'm way off my subject. Okay, back to the birds. Coming to Elijah, bringing his food. And then this interesting verse. One day the brook dried up. The drought affected him too.
He pronounced the drought in Israel and he faced the same effects of it personally. And I wonder if I'm talking to someone that has had their brook dry up. Maybe at one time in your life you had a full bank account, a growing career, a thriving ministry. And then the brook just dried up. Your career stalled. Your ministry slowed down.
Your future not looking so bright. Your kids left home, which was kind of a relief because they were in their 50s, but still. Your brook dried up.
Yes, the brook dried up. But God would now close one door to open another door. Everything was going according to plan. That is God's plan. A reminder to Elijah that water, food, and everything else comes from the Lord. It is his to give and it is his to take away.
Our life is the same. It's a Lord plan and prerogative to give life and to take life. After Job effectively lost everything, he said, naked I came into this world.
Naked do I go out. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. I read the story of a bunch of farmers who were raising cotton in the south. The dreaded bull weevil invaded and started eating their crops. They realized there was nothing they could do to stop the bull weevil, so they said, well, we can't plant cotton. Let's plant peanuts instead.
Amazingly, those peanuts made them far more money than they had ever made with cotton, so the farmers had a monument made dedicated to the bull weevil. Isn't that funny? Maybe there's something happening in your life. Why is this bull weevil here? Why is this problem here?
Why is this difficult person here? Why is this other situation happening to me and God can turn it around and cause you to pivot and look for a new way to get things done? God was still at work. Yes, his brook dried up, but God was gonna transform him and use him to change the world. Pastor Greg Laurie with great insights today on handling the bull weevils and other challenges that come our way. We're learning from the life of Elijah in our current series here on A New Beginning, a series called Elijah, The Power to Stand. Well, Pastor Greg, we're making available your book called Revelation, a Book of Promises.
What are a couple of things that would surprise people in a study of Revelation? One thing that occurred to me is, you know, we think of eternity as being timeless, but part of God's plan is a timed event. The millennium is a thousand years, so I guess we'll track time in some form.
Am I wrong? No, I think that's accurate because the word millennium actually means a thousand. It's the 1,000 year reign of Christ, but we are aware of the passing of time when we enter into eternity. In the Book of Revelation, we read about those who were put to death for their faith and they know that was an unjust thing, and they say to God, how long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood and those that dwell on the earth. So they're aware of the passing of time. They're aware of the injustice of what happened to them on planet earth, and they're praying and asking God to intervene. They're aware of what has happened and will happen on planet earth as well. Yeah, there's a lot of surprises in the Book of Revelation that shatter stereotypical ideas that have been passed on from generation to generation that quite honestly are simply not biblical.
But I think the more we learn about heaven, the better we will be enabled to live here on earth. You know, it was C.S. Lewis who said, loose paraphrase, those who think the most of the next world do the most in this one. And so Revelation is where the Apostle John is found banished on the island of Patmos. He had faithfully preached the gospel. He was the last of the apostles, and people probably never thought they would hear from John again. But as he's sitting on this island, Jesus Christ comes to him and takes him into what we might describe as a spiritual time machine, if you will.
I don't think it was a DeLorean. But John is suddenly hurtled into the future, and he's seen what is going to come. He's given an overview of the history of the church. He's taken into the presence of God in heaven. He's taken over to the great white throne judgment.
He's taken back to earth during the millennial reign of Christ. He gives us a front row seat at the Battle of Armageddon, the second coming of Christ, and much, much more. The word revelation means unveiling. And so this is an unveiling, a revealing of things that are to come. God wants us to understand these things because it will affect you in the way that you live. So we have a beautiful hardcover book, commentary on the book of Revelation, and it's simply called Revelation, a Book of Promises. This will be a resource that you will use in the years to come that you can go to again and again as you study this great book and let it have its impact on your life. By the way, there's a special promise in Revelation for the person who reads and hears and keeps the words found in this book.
So get a copy of this book, Revelation, a Book of Promises, that will help you understand this very important book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. And we will send this book to you for your gift of any size. Now, some can only give a little. We'll send you a copy.
Some can give a little bit more. Of course, we'll send you a copy. Whatever you can do, don't hesitate. I really want you to have this book because I think it's going to be a blessing to you. The Book of Revelation, a Book of Promises, available from Harvest Ministries right now.
Yeah, that's right. And we should point out we're including a custom bookmark that shows the timeline of last day's events so you can see what comes first, what comes next, and so on. It's laid out very clearly. The bookmark is included when we send you this significant book, a hardcover of more than 400 pages called Revelation, a Book of Promises. Just call us at 1-800-821-3300.
We can take your call anytime at 1-800-821-3300 or go online to harvest.org. Well, next time, more insights from the life of Elijah. We'll see how God tested him, then used him in a miraculous way. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Lauren. This is the day, the day when life begins. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to A New Beginning. This is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners. So for more content that can help you know God and equip you to make Him known to others or to learn more about how you can become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org.
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