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Preparation for the Battle, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 8, 2024 9:00 am

Preparation for the Battle, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 8, 2024 9:00 am

Many people these days tend to see religion as a personal choice. It’s not so much about truth as it is about finding a faith that “works for you.” But in our brand new series called, Something Better, Pastor J.D. explains why that attitude doesn’t really work!

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John MacArthur
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J.D. Greear
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Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

Today on Summit Life, a cautionary message from Pastor J.D.

Greer. What God does is He chooses the weak to shame the strong. He chooses the simple to confound the wise. You see, rejoice in your weaknesses, Paul says.

The flip side of that is this. If you're going to rejoice in your weaknesses, beware your strengths, because those are places that you're most likely to forget God. Thanks for joining us today for Summit Life with pastor, author and apologist J.D.

Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovich. Everyone knows the anxiety of a job search, maybe nowadays more than ever before. And when you're applying for a job, you do everything you can to put your skills and natural talents on display.

Your strengths and abilities are what will hopefully qualify you for that position. But today on Summit Life, pastor and author J.D. Greer reveals that when God chooses us for a job, He has an entirely different standard.

And for that, we can be grateful. We just began a study in the life of Elijah titled Something Better. And if you missed yesterday's teaching, you can catch up online at Right now, let's dive back into First Kings for the second half of a message. Pastor J.D.

titled Preparation for the Battle. First Kings 17, let me give you a little historical context, getting into First Kings. Israel, Israel was founded as a monotheistic nation. Well, Israel, the northern kingdom, has a succession of really bad, ungodly kings, culminating in the worst king ever, King Ahab. Well, Ahab married a cute little thing from the neighboring pagan nation of Sidon called Jezebel. Now, most of us think of Jezebel as something that's not flattering. There's a reason for that, because Jezebel was just a wicked woman. She brought into Israel the worship of her two favorite gods, which were Baal and Asherah.

And she set up temples to worship them all over the countryside of Israel. The point is this, for the first time in Israel's history, we're dealing with a pluralistic society, which means that everybody has their own different god. Into this situation, this pluralistic situation, God sends a man named Elijah. And the whole point of Elijah's life is which god is the real god? And is there a way to know which god is the real god?

Or is it whatever Baal works for you is fine? So if you have a Bible, I'd love for you to take it out now and open it to the book of First Kings, chapter 17. You see, the stories of Elijah go from big picture, or what God is doing in the world through Elijah, and then they zoom back down to what God is doing in Elijah's heart.

They kind of go in that rhythm. And so we're going to look first at what God is doing big than what he's doing in Elijah, because you're going to see today that God has one major obstacle to overcome in using Elijah. One. And when God conquers this one thing in us, this one area that he conquers becomes the source of most of his power in our lives. So here we go. First Kings 17, verse 1. Now Elijah the Tishbite, he said to Ahab, as the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word. And the word of the Lord came to him, depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there. So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan, and the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

All right. What you have here is what I told you about a minute ago, that you're going from the big picture of what God is doing through Elijah in the world, verse 1, and narrowing down really quickly into what God is doing in Elijah's heart. And God is going to teach Elijah one major lesson. One major lesson he has to teach to anybody that he uses.

You ready? Here it is. The lesson of complete dependence. The brook that God placed him by was called the brook Cherith. Cherith in Hebrew literally means to cut down. In other words, God is saying to Elijah, Elijah, I'm going to cut you down. I'm going to remove from you any strength you have in yourself. I'm even going to remove the ability that you have to take care of your own most basic needs, and I'm going to teach you. I'm going to reduce you to the status of an infant and teach you to depend completely on me.

Write this down. Before God can use us, he must first break us. Craig Groeschel says that this story reminds him of the story of the little bird who got a late start flying south for winter because he got a late start. He got caught in a snowstorm. The snowstorm was so bad that his wings froze and so he had to make a crash landing. He's there crash landed with his wings frozen, can't fly, thinks he's going to die when along by comes a cow who takes a dump on him. But the manure warms his wings and they thaw, and he realizes that he's going to be able to fly again.

So we get so happy about it, he begins to chirp and sing. Well, this attracts a cat who comes along and eats him. And there are three things that we can learn from this story. Number one, not everyone who drops manure on you is your enemy. Lesson number two, not everyone who digs you out is your friend. Lesson number three, when you're in manure, sometimes it's helpful for you just to keep your little chirper shut, all right? God is at work in your disappointment and your pain, removing your idols, which is your false sources of trust and joy and hope, making you depend on him.

Write this down, write this down. If dependence is the objective, then weakness is an advantage. If dependence is the objective, then weakness is an advantage. Elijah's greatest enemy was not his weakness, it was his strength. And he's about to go into a battle where he's not going to have the strength to do it, so God first has to take him back to the brook Cherith to remove his most basic abilities, because there he'll learn to depend on God. And sometimes God makes you weak so that you can find your strength in him. Has this happened to you? 2 Corinthians 12, 9, Paul says it this way, therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me.

How crazy is that statement? I will boast about my weaknesses. When's the last time you did that? Where's God made you weak? I thought about my own ministry, and Veronica and I were talking about this the other night, that there are a couple skills that I lack in ministry. But I've noticed that over the last 20 years that these skills that I lack, God has always supplied somebody who would come alongside me that was strong in that area.

And I can tell you over 20 years that these areas that I'm the weakest at have been the strongest areas in the organizations that I lead. Why? Because God takes a point of weakness and God makes it a point of strength. I've had temptations over the last years that I've asked God just to remove from me altogether. And you ever ask God to take away a temptation from you and you're like, God, why don't you do it? Why won't you take that away from me? It would just be easier if I just never had that thought again.

You want to know why? Because God keeps me in a point of weakness so that I won't get proud, so that I won't start thinking I'm superhuman. And I'm realizing that one of the reasons that God lets me continue to struggle with certain sins is he just wants to remind me all the time, hey, you're not a Superman standing up there telling people how to be like you. You need to stand up there as somebody who is broken so that you can point them to the same grace that you found. I don't need a pastor who's Superman.

I need a pastor who's in touch with Jesus. So see, God takes weakness and he turns that into strength because that's where his glory and his power overcome yours. See, God is, some of you have just found out that you got diagnosed with some kind of disease, some kind of debilitation, and you're wondering how in the world am I supposed am I supposed to go into the future with that?

And I'm telling you, that is God allowing something to be broken so that maybe for the first time in your life, he can work his power and do things that you've never been capable of doing. Jesus said it this way, Matthew 5-3, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the poor, listen, I've told you this before, I have never wanted to be poor in the spirit on anything. Jesus said you got to be poor in spirit because it's only if you're poor in spirit that you'll ever open your hands so that you can receive my spirit and be rich in mine. The problem with you, JD, is not that you are too poor in your spirit. The problem is you're not poor enough because if you were poor in your spirit, you wouldn't look to your spirit, you'd look to mine. And I got more richness in my spirit than you ever will have in yours.

So why don't you see the cross only fills empty hands. You got to come with empty hands before you find the richness of God's power or his righteousness. That starts, by the way, it's salvation. If you're saved, you realize that the reason that God saved you is not because you climbed the moral ladder high enough and finally got your life under control, where God said, now I approve of you and now I'll take you to heaven. If you are saved, it's because you came to a point where you said, I have no righteousness, I have no ability to lay claim of God's acceptance. There's no way I'm going to make it into heaven. And through the poverty of spirit that you showed in that moment, God saved you because he said, you have no righteousness. You said, God, be merciful to me, a sinner. And God filled you with gift righteousness in Christ. Spiritual power works the same way.

When you are poor in spirit, you can be strong in God's spirit and God's strength. I remember hearing this old Southern Baptist pastor named Adrian Rogers talk about this one time. They had a big audience who was preaching to a couple thousand people in it. And he said, all right, he said, I want everybody in this room who was valedictorian or salutatorian in their graduating class to stand up. Smattering of people stood up all over the audience. And he said, remain standing. He said, if you were homecoming queen, stand up. A few people stood up. If you were captain of the cheerleading squad, captain of your athletic stance, a bunch of people stood up. If you went to college on scholarship, if you were all American.

If you make six figures now on your job. By the end of his little thing he went through, probably 20, 30% of the people were standing up because he just named things that are impressive, the who's who. And he said, all right, remain standing. He said, for those of you that are standing, everybody's kind of real impressed at everybody standing up. He's like, for those of you that are standing, I got good news and I got bad news. He said, the good news for those of you who are standing is God can use you too.

He said, the bad news is you're not his first choice. His first choice are those people that are seated beside you. Because God has never really been interested in displaying your strengths. God has been interested in displaying his. And so what God does is he chooses the weak to shame the strong. He chooses the simple to confound the wise. He takes the things that are not and use them to bring to nothing the things that are so that all flesh would glory in God's presence and no flesh would glory in their own.

So God makes you weak. And he says, blessed are the poor in spirit, because he's simply trying to let you let go so that you can embrace his power. You are listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. To learn more about this ministry, visit anytime. We'll get back to today's teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to make sure that you knew that you can find Pastor J.D. on YouTube. I don't know about you, but it seems like YouTube is quickly becoming the number one choice for media in my house.

And as you know, that can be for better or for worse. There's just so much to watch. But thankfully, it includes solid biblical teaching from Pastor J.D.

Greer as well. And when you subscribe to his channel, J.D. Greer, you'll automatically be notified when we post new episodes of the Ask the Pastor podcast and Summit Life TV so you can watch along as Pastor J.D.

preaches. And we're always posting new YouTube shorts to give you bite-sized, gospel-centered content throughout your week. Once again, subscribe to Pastor J.D. 's YouTube channel by searching for j.d.greer. Get on board.

We can't wait to have you join us. Now let's get back to today's teaching. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. You see, rejoice in your weaknesses, Paul says.

The flip side of that Summit Church is this. If you're going to rejoice in your weaknesses, beware your strengths. Beware your strengths, because those are places that you're most likely to forget God.

Beware your strengths, because those are the places you're most likely to forget God. Verse 7, and after a while, the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. And now we go from bad to worse. The brook dries up, the courier ravens with their daily rations of beef jerky and the Hebrew spam or whatever they were bringing.

They quit coming. Look what happens next, verse 8. Then the word of the Lord said to him, arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I've commanded a widow there to feed you. Zarephath, like where is that?

Take I-95 north out of Israel, exit 297. No, no. Zarephath, the point is, it's in Sidon, which is outside of Israel, and he goes to a widow. Now a widow in those days was the weakest of the weak. Well, I mean, she's a woman, so she doesn't have the ability to work like the man did in those days. She's a widow, so she's unmarriable. She is poor.

Here's the weakest of the weak, and God says, I'm going to have her provide for you. She's in Sidon, all right? She's in Sidon.

We'll come back to that. Elijah gets to Sidon, and he finds this widow. And he has what had to have been an awkward conversation. Hey, we've never met, but God told me, you're supposed to give me something to eat. And she's like, well, I'd love to, but the famines hit Sidon, too. And I have just enough flour and just enough oil to make one cake for me and my son.

And Elijah says, I got a hunch that if you'll just do what I'm saying, that you're going to find that God will do something that you're not expecting him to do. And so the woman in faith obeys. She takes the bread, she takes the oil, she makes the cake. She goes back to the place where she keeps the flour and the oil, and guess what?

It's been replenished. And as many cakes as she makes, the more flour and oil keeps getting replenished so that the entire every day of the famine, she has more than enough because God supernaturally multiplies the flour and the oil. Now, I told you she is from Sidon. Do you remember who else was from Sidon? Starts with J, rhymes with Isabel.

Jezebel, that's right. And guess who the main God was in Sidon? Baal.

Baal. So God, follow this. God first took from Elijah his ability to provide for himself and provided for him through a special act of providence. Then God took away from him even that. God made him even weaker and then took care of him through a full-blown miracle. The greater Elijah's need, the greater God's glory and the provision.

Write that down. The greater the need in your life, the greater God's glory and the provision. Let me ask you a question. When Elijah was a young man and he'd made money and bought food with it and fed himself, was God providing for him in that?

Yes, he was. But it's easy to forget that, isn't it, in a situation like that? And you start thinking you're the one that provides for you. So when God removes his ability to provide for himself and starts to provide for him through this special act of providence by controlling the ravens and the stream, it's easier to see the work of God in that, is there not? But when God dries that up and sends him into a widow's house and multiplies flour and multiplies oil, there ain't no mistaking that that's God at work. The greater the need, the greater chance for God to display his power. Can I point out something to you painfully obvious about the miracles of Jesus? Get this. This is what you come to church for right here.

It's an insight like this. Every miracle that Jesus ever did had one thing in common. You want to know what it was?

Are you ready? It fixed a problem. Jesus' miracles were not magic tricks where he's like, I'll prove to you I'm the son of God and then he makes Peter levitate or turns him into a gopher and flies him around the Sea of Galilee or catch bullets in his seat. That would have been impressive, but that's not the nature of Jesus' miracles. All his miracles were problems. You know what that tells me? That means if you're here with a bunch of problems and a bunch of weaknesses, good news, you're a candidate for a miracle. And I'm looking at a bunch of you that don't really feel like you have any problems because you're middle class in spirit. Bad news, you are not a candidate for a miracle.

In fact, at the end of our service, maybe you should come down here. I'll lay my hands on you and pray that God will give you some problems because then you could experience the miraculous provision of God. Every miracle in the Bible starts with a problem. Watch, when God really wants to show off his power, when God really takes you into the heart of Sidon where Baal lives and he really wants to put himself on display, he will often make you weaker in that moment so that his power can rest upon you. Because see again, he doesn't want to put your talents on display because that's not going to help anybody.

That might impress some people, but it's not going to help them. He wants to put his power on display because he is the God and Savior of all who call upon him. That's why he chooses the weak, the shame, the strong. And that's why when I preach to you, I alluded to this a minute ago, I don't want to try to impress you with my strengths. Oh, look how much he knows about the Bible.

Wish I knew that much. Oh, look how awesome his Christian life has been, how successful his Christian life has been. Isn't our pastor fantastic? That might impress you, but A, it's not really honest.

B, it's not going to help you. I would much rather show you my weaknesses and display the power of Christ in me because then I can point you to the same grace and power that I have found. There is a fountain that runs deep and wide and it is every bit as full for you as it has been for me. And every ounce of strength and grace that I have tattooed into my life is fully available for you. It's not that you're really screwed up and your marriage is all fouled up and your kids are messed up and you've made a lot of bad decisions and you got guilt and you got brokenness. And then me, there's a bunch of us that are a bunch of saints and we just don't need that much. That's not true.

That's not true. The point is not what kind of sinner you are. The point is what kind of savior he is. And quit comparing yourself to how bad you think you are compared to other people and you compare your brokenness to the size of Jesus' healing. Jesus went into a grave and came out from it.

It was your grave that he was going into because he wanted to take the deadness of your marriage and the deadness of your family and the deadness of your brokenness and he wanted to put his gospel into it. So he raised you from the dead at the cross of Jesus Christ so that you would know it's not about your power, it's about his. The greater your weakness, the more chance for God to display his power. If dependence is the objective, and it is, and weakness is an advantage. So rejoice in your weaknesses because in those places you're made strong. So again I ask you, where has God made you weak?

He's put you there to trust him. Maybe there's some unexplainable things that are happening to you right now. Maybe they've happened this weekend. Maybe you're like the bird that got dumped on. Right, you come in here this weekend smelling like manure. You know, and you're just like, I just don't understand why things are happening the way they are.

You realize that God is at work in that training you to trust him and depend on him. He's taking you back to the brook Cherith. I'll tell you what it reminds me of, it reminds me of a scene in that great 1980s movie Karate Kid, right? Now I know that some of you aren't as old as I am, but we've all seen that movie, right? I mean that's kind of a classic.

And not the ripoff that came off two years ago because that was a total, total shame. All right, but I mean like the real one with LaRusso, Daniel LaRusso, and Mr. Miyagi and all that stuff. Okay, even if you haven't seen the movie, you probably are familiar with the scene where you know Mr. Miyagi is training Daniel to fight Karate. He does it by having him, you know, sand the floor and wash the car and paint the fence and all that kind of stuff. And Daniel just gets fed up with it because he feels like Mr. Miyagi just made him his slate. And so, you know, he's ready to give up late one night.

He's like, I quit. And Mr. Miyagi said, Daniel son, you know, sand the floor, you know, sand the floor. And he sand the floor and Miyagi throws a kick at him and he blocks it. And he's like, Daniel son, paint the fence. You know, he paints the fence and he throws a punch and he blocks it. And Daniel son, Daniel realizes that all this stuff in the mundane things of painting the floor or painting the fence and sanding the floor and the cars, whatever.

You don't sand the car, but you know, all the things that he's doing. Mr. Miyagi has been training him in the mundane to prepare him for the battle. And what happens is you realize at some point that God took you to the Brook Cherith, which is a very unglamorous place. The only audience there are the ravens. But God is producing in you the character and the faith and surrender that he's going to use to bring the prophets of Baal to shame on Mount Carmel.

The reason that God could use Elijah the way he did on Mount Carmel is because he'd taken him to the Brook Cherith. And that's what he's doing with some of you. You're like, how can I know?

I'd love to be able to give you your Mr. Miyagi moment, right? But I can't. What I'm going to tell you is these stories are written so that you don't have to have one. So that you can just realize that God is always at work in all things. He says, working them for your good and his glory because he's preparing you for eternal things. God is producing in you, in the mundane, in the sand the floor, and the paint the fence moments of your life. He is working in those things to prepare you for eternity. You see what I'm saying? Look at your Bible one last time. Let me show you something here. 1 Kings 17, 1.

I'm going to show you one of the most important transitions you can ever make in your life. How is Elijah described in verse 1? Elijah the, the tick bite, that's right.

He is defined, watch this, by where he's from. Now look in verse 24, the last verse of this chapter, and you'll see Elijah mentioned again by the widow. How is he now described? Elijah the man of God. Elijah has gone from being in verse 1, to being defined by where he's from, to being defined by who he belongs to. Have you made that transition in your life? So what defines you?

Is your identity wrapped up in God or in something else? A powerful question from Pastor JD Greer on Summit Life. As we're starting this new teaching series, we also have a very special new featured resource for our gospel partners and anyone who gives generously to this ministry this month. It's called Elijah and Elisha, an eight-day scripture guide through 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 6, highlighting the lives of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Take just eight short days and you'll see God move in miraculous and mysterious ways through these two men of the Old Testament.

And what you'll discover along the way is that while God used these prophets in extraordinary ways, he can still move the same way through ordinary people like you and me. We'd love to send you a copy of this latest devotional, Elijah and Elisha, with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry. To give, call us now at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can always give online at And while you're on our website, you can also access our entire suite of gospel-centered content like the entire Summit Life broadcast library, the transcripts for each sermon, Pastor J.D. 's blog, his podcasts, and our weekly email newsletter and daily devotional and more, all free of charge, thanks to the generosity of our gospel partners. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us again tomorrow when we look at four aspects of God's character that set him apart from all the false gods we've ever invented. Listen Thursday to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program is produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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