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Down in the Valley (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 18, 2024 3:00 am

Down in the Valley (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 18, 2024 3:00 am

The prophet Elijah’s story shows us that even those with strong faith have moments of weakness and failure. How does that happen? Hear the answer, and learn how to press on even when you’re tempted to give up. Join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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Reading about the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament, we see that even those with strong faith have moments of weakness and failure. So how does that happen? We'll find out today on Truth for Life and learn how we can press on even when we're tempted to give up.

Alistair Begg is teaching from the opening verses of 1 Kings chapter 19. Most of us find it okay to march when the band is playing and the crowd is out and all is going well. It is a little more challenging when the wheels come off our wagon. And let's be honest enough tonight to say that there are times when we get up in the morning or we turn around one afternoon, and all of a sudden it would appear that every single wheel came off the wagon. And we are certainly not rolling. We're stuck. I think there are people here tonight. And despite the fact that the hymn singing has been great and the opportunity for fellowship has been fine, you're not exactly on the mountaintop.

You're rather in the valley. There's been a change in your life from faith to fear. Well then, let's just learn here from Elijah, because the reason that he found himself in this condition was largely because his focus changed. He started, as it were, to look at God through his circumstances rather than to look at his circumstances through God. There is a reason that the King James Version translates verse 3, and Elijah saw and ran for his life.

He looked at things but looked at them differently now. He began to walk by sight and not by faith, and so his peace was affected, his spiritual prosperity was eroded, he had magnified the difficulties, and he was beginning to become paralyzed. Admittedly, an angry woman is an awesome opponent, but God was more than able to meet that. Genesis 12 and the encounter of Abram with the circumstances that weren't all the best reveal the exact same thing.

After God has called Abram out, there is a famine which arises in the land, and as a result Abram goes down into Egypt. He goes there to live there for a while because the famine is severe, and as he's about to enter Egypt, he says to his wife Sarai, I know what a beautiful woman you are. That must have made her feel good. I don't know whether he said it in the morning or the evening, whatever it was, but that's always a good start to the day, you know.

I know what a beautiful woman you are. She didn't know what was coming next. He was about to jeopardize her purity. He was about to jeopardize her life. He was about to jeopardize their marriage for the sake of his own neck. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, This is his wife. Then they will kill me, but they will let you live.

Say, You are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake, and my life will be spared because of you. You call that a hero of the faith? How in the world can this happen? From the great success of his early beginning to the immediacy of a circumstance that is famine and that is warfare, he crumbles like a pack of cards. The longer we live, the more we ought to be sympathetic with the conditions of men and women around us and recognize that what we experience is not alien to them either. Elijah had not only begun to focus on the circumstances and clouded God in it, but he had begun to focus on himself. Verse 9 of 1 Kings 19, he had gone into a cave to spend the night. This was after he had been strengthened, as we'll see in a moment. And the word of the Lord came to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? What are you doing in a cave?

Listen to his reply. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, put your prophets to death with the sword. I, even I, am the only one left. I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. I am the only one left.

Any time we find ourselves with a threefold eye, we are in danger. Elijah had fallen into the self-trap. He had fallen into the notion of believing that he was the only one who was doing anything.

Do you ever have one of those days? I'm the only person in here that cares about this. I'm the only one that's doing anything around here. Any time we find ourselves doing that, we're probably in great danger, because the fact is, the only reason that we've ever known any faithfulness in our lives is because we have been kept by God's power, as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1, verse 5. It is because through faith we have been able to stand. Anybody here tonight and you've been coming into these meetings and you've been congratulating yourself, saying, You know, I'm the only one.

The fact is, you're not. Elijah was in the predicament because he was out of focus, but he was also out of fellowship. You see, whenever we take matters into our own hands, then faith and hope are no longer exercised. And when faith and hope are no longer exercised, then they will be replaced by something, and usually by discontentedness and a lack of peace. The progress to despondency in Elijah's life is just very clear to see. In verse 3 he runs away. In verse 4 he ends up in the desert. He finds a little tree, the broom tree, and he sits down underneath it.

And he prays that he might die. We don't have time to expand this tonight. I don't want to get into it over my head either. But if we're going to take this at face value, what Elijah is saying is, I've just had enough. I don't want to face another day. I don't want to see another person. God, I want to die.

There is all the difference in the world, dear ones, between anticipating the glory of heaven with joyful expectancy and lying down on the job. Some time ago I was asked to go and visit an elderly lady. They told me that she was dying, and so I went to see her. And when I got there, she was certainly lying down, and she had an oxygen supply that ran from a large tank that had been put in her home, through a tube, and to her nose. Now, I'm no expert on death and dying, but I've sat at the bedside of a lot of people that are dying.

And I'm certainly not a doctor, we've made that clear, right? But neither the physical situation nor my own spirit of discernment within me told me that this lady was anywhere close to dying. Everybody was very quiet. They were all going around the house in a kind of pre-death nuptial.

But when I got in the room, I didn't sense that at all. So I just spoke loud, "'Oh, hello, Mrs. So-and-so, how are you doing? Shh! Don't you know the ladies?' I said, "'Hey, out of here.'" Within fifteen minutes, this lady was sitting up in bed having a real royal conversation with me. Today, she's running all around Cleveland.

She's in the mall, she's all over the place. What she'd done was she'd got herself under a broom tree. She laid down and she said, "'That's it. I'm finished now, Lord. Now, just take me home.'" The Lord said, "'No, I'm going to send you back, and he'll shake you up a wee bit, and you'll be up on your feet, and you'll be running all around annoying your husband for another five or six years.'"

Which is exactly what's going on. Now, I don't know your lives. I don't know your hearts. I know many of you live alone. I know there must be times of discouragement in your lives. Don't find a broom tree for yourself and lie down under it. Do you hear me? God has purposes for you.

Remember what I've told you every day. Every day you get your legs over the bed is a sign that God is not finished with you, and even from your bed or from your chair. So let's learn by example what not to do in relationship to Elijah here. He runs away, he goes to the desert, he finds a tree, he sits underneath it, he says, "'I've had enough,' and he requests that he might die." One of the biggest problems that Elijah faces is the problem of self-pity. And so God comes to him and he refreshes him.

Look what he does. After he had lain down under the tree and fell asleep, an angel came and touched him and said, "'Get up.'" Do you like getting woken up when you're asleep? If he had really needed to sleep, the Lord would have let him sleep, but the Lord knew he needed to get up. So he sends an angel and he says, "'Get up and eat.'" And he looked around, and there by his bed was a cake of bread baked over hot coals and a jar of water. And he ate, and he drank, and he lay down. So he must have been sleepy, right? But he was supposed to eat. So he ate, and then he lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, "'Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.'" So he got up, and he ate, and he drank, and strengthened by that food, he traveled for 40 days and 40 nights. I mean, that's what you call a drink of water, right? I mean, that's amazing.

If we get some of this bread and market it, it would be incredible. Until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God, and then it was when he got there that he goes into the cave and he spends the night. And even after the Lord has come and refreshed him and picked him up and sent him on this big journey, still he's in the cave.

Still he's at this nonsense about, I'm the only guy that's left, Lord, that's serving you. So the Lord, first of all, comes to refresh him. And then he comes in verse 12 to reveal himself to him. The Lord says in verse 11, "'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.'"

And we know this story, how this great and mighty tearing of the mountains, of the winds come. But the Lord's not in the wind. And then in this great earthquake, but the Lord's not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord wasn't in the fire.

But after the fire came a gentle whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Why did he pull his cloak over his face? Because he knew that he could not bear to look upon the glory of the Lord. Isn't it a strange thing how in Christian television everybody wants to go on the TV and tell about how they saw the glory of the Lord?

You can fill up a half-hour program talking about what you saw and the experience that you had. Isn't that so very different from the Bible? When Peter on the boat saw the glory of Christ, what did he do? He threw himself on the deck, and he said, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. When Moses saw the glory of the Lord in the desert, he took his shoes off his feet at the command of God because he knew that he was standing on holy ground. When Elijah discovers that God reveals himself to him, he pulls his cloak over his face. When Isaiah sees the glory of God manifested as his train fills the temple, he cries out, I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. It seems to me that if we would really see the glory of the Lord, it wouldn't put us on Christian television. It would put us in the silence of our bedrooms, in the quietness of our hearts.

We need to ask God to reveal himself afresh to us when we have found ourselves in this kind of self-pitying despondency. He spoke in a gentle whisper. Isn't it interesting how often out of the mouths of babes and children God speaks to us? You may have heard the story of the grandpa taking his grandson to the graveside of his grandmother. It was in Scotland, and they always have florists selling flowers out of baskets in the summer outside of graveyards. And so the grandpa had bought some flowers. He was going to put them in his wife's—the jar there at his wife's tombstone. And he gave them to his grandson to carry. And as they were making their way through the graveyard, the grandpa was despondent because of all the memories that were filling up in his mind.

And the wee boy was plaguing him with questions. Where is Grandpa? Is she in the ground? No, said Grandpa, we put her body in the ground, but she's not there.

Well, where is she, Grandpa? Well, she's with Jesus. Well, where's Jesus? Jesus is in heaven. Where's heaven?

Well, Jesus went up into heaven, so it's up, at least in our minds. So that satisfied the wee boy, and they continued to walk together. He continued to hold the flowers. And the grandpa got a few strides in front of his grandson, and he turned around to call him. And as he turned around to call him, he noticed that the boy was holding the tulips up in the air as he walked. And he said to his grandson, Why are you holding the flowers in the air?

And he said, So that Granny can see them if she's looking. The simple faith of a tiny child. God has made of death a narrow sunlit strip between the goodbyes of yesterday and the hellos of tomorrow.

Some of us have lost loved ones in recent days, and our hearts are tender towards it. You know the story of the man making the journey with his son, and as they make their outward journey traveling together, they come and pass over a rickety old bridge which goes over the river. The boy is anxious over the bridge, and when they make the return journey, they discover that the river has swelled its banks and washed the bridge away. And so the father picks up the child in his arms and begins to wade with him out into the river. And as he does so, the boy begins to cry. And the father simply holds him closer to his heart, and the boy falls asleep as his dad walks with him into the river. And the next thing the boy knows is that he wakes up in his bedroom and the sun shining through the windows, and he's home. That's death for the Christian.

What we fear most, we never experience. We fall asleep in the arms of Jesus, and we wake up, and we're home. The Lord came to his despondent servant, he refreshed him, he revealed himself to him, and finally he reinstated him. The Lord says to him in verse 15, Go back the way you came, and go to the desert of Damascus, and when you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.

And then he gives him a whole list of duties to perform. The thing that strikes me about the contrast between 1 Kings 18 and 19 is the truth that runs through the whole of the Bible, and it is this. With God, failure is never final. The God whom we worship is the God of the second chance, right? And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, Get up there to Nineveh. Is there somebody here tonight? And the word of the Lord has come to you with power and influence in the past. For whatever reason, it's a long time since you've been on the mountain.

Oh, you've got all the pretense, and you're able to say the right things, and you cover it up well with a smile and the right kind of jocular attitude. But day by day as you get in your car and drive out of this car park and make your journey home, you know that all is not well with you, that where you are supposed to be and where you are is two different places. And the devil wants to come to you and kick you while you're down and tell you that you're done. I want to say to you tonight that the God whom we worship is the God who completes what he begins. When Paul writes to Timothy, he reminds him that even when we are faithless, he abides faithful because he cannot deny himself. And when he writes to the Philippian believers, he says, I am confident that he who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. More progress is made in our spiritual pilgrimage through tears and failure than it is through success and laughter. Well, here's an illustration of it in 1 Kings 19.

I'd like to leave you with two words. They're not original to me. They're actually original, in this story at least, to Martin Lloyd-Jones, who was greatly used of God in Britain and indeed throughout the world. Martin Lloyd-Jones was for me the epitome of all that a preacher might be. And so, as a young man, I used to love every opportunity I could to go in here and preach. I once wrote to him, and he wrote back to me in the letter as a treasure. I once met him in Glasgow after he preached there.

My wife and I both did. Never forget, he wore a black coat which buttoned right up to the top. He wore a hat that was black, looked like he came off the Mayflower, and this was in 1970-something.

He always would keep his overcoat on when he sat on the platform until the time came for him to preach, and then he would take it off. Eric Alexander was a young man also under Martin Lloyd-Jones's influence. He told me on one occasion that he wanted to go and stand by Martin Lloyd-Jones as he greeted people at the end of his message.

Eric Alexander said he wanted to know what Lloyd-Jones said to people when they came up to talk to him. And he said that he stood a little away, and the first individual came up and said whatever they had to say, and Martin Lloyd-Jones looked them in the eye, and whatever else he said to them, his parting words were, too, keep on. And then the next person came, and the same thing, keep on.

And the third and the fourth and all the way through. And Eric Alexander said to me, you know, at first I said to myself, Is that all that a great man like this could say to somebody? Just keep on? And then he said, It dawned on me that that is ultimately what all of us need said to each other all the time. Just those two words, keep on. Whether it is the experience of Abram, whether it is the encouragement of Barnabas, whether it is the pursuit of the mountain with Caleb, or whether it is the valley of discouragement with Elijah, I exhort you to keep on. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg encouraging us to persevere in every circumstance by trusting in who God is and in all of His promises.

Alistair returns in just a minute. Today's message is titled Down in the Valley. And if you found yourself identifying with Elijah's struggle or if you have a friend whose faith has turned to fear, you can download and share this message for free. In fact, you can download the whole series.

It's titled Dangers, Toils, and Snares. You'll find the messages on our website at truthforlife.org. Or if you'd prefer, you can own the complete study on a convenient USB.

That way you can listen to all 13 messages in your car, on a road trip, on your daily commute to and from work or to school. The USBs are available for purchase at our cost of just $5. Find them on our website at truthforlife.org slash store. And if you have lingering questions about dealing with the trials of life, let me point you to a free seven day email devotional titled Suffering Knows No Strangers. In this limited series of daily emails, Alistair answers some of the most common questions about suffering and why God allows it. Each daily email explores why we suffer, God's purpose for suffering.

Get started today. You can sign up for the seven day devotional at truthforlife.org slash reading plans. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. But as they make their journey home, that you will refresh them, that you will reveal yourself to them, and that you will reinstate them to a place of usefulness. Hear our prayers and let our cries come unto you.

For Jesus' sake we ask it. Amen. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Not only does God allow trials in our lives, sometimes He leads us right into them. Find out more when you join us tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-18 06:47:08 / 2024-01-18 06:55:59 / 9

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