Revival | What Are You Doing Here? | Chris Willis

June 16, 2024 00:33:59
Revival | What Are You Doing Here? | Chris Willis
Neuma Melbourne East
Revival | What Are You Doing Here? | Chris Willis

Jun 16 2024 | 00:33:59

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Revival | What Are You Doing Here? | Chris Willis | Neuma Melbourne East Church

Originally recorded on Sunday 9th of June, 2024 | 9AM

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Episode Transcript

Good morning. Thank you for that very warm, slightly over the top and awkward welcome. This morning I definitely don't get a welcome like that when I go to work each day. So I appreciate it. Look, before I actually begin though, I just side comment. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that's here today. Why? Well, because each of us grow in spiritual maturity when we're connected to a community of faith in which we are shaped because we are known. And specifically over the last two years, Numa East has been that place of both connection and belonging for Yule and I and our family. So thank you for being that place and thank you for being those people. Now we're going through a series at the moment on revival. And the word revive means to bring back to life or to bring back to strength something that is dead or something that is dying. And in the Old Testament, there are eight main stories of revival. One each under Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Asa, Hezekiah, Josiah, Ezra and Nehemiah. So what I wanted to do today was just to pick one of these characters and to pick one of these stories and unwrap it. And my hope in unwrapping this story is that you would begin to see and feel and sense and know. The presence of God at work in both your momentous moments of victory as well as in your dark days of despair in which inevitably you will have some. So which story and which character is it? I'm going to give you three clues and let's see if you can guess it. Because if I was just to let you guess the character, your chances aren't great. It's one and a 12 and a half percent, you're not going to get it. But these clues, they're good. So you're going to get it. Clue number one, the character I have chosen and the story I have chosen is about a character who is mentioned in both the Old and the New Testament. This story is about an individual who was the first person in the Bible to pray for someone who was dead and to see them come back to life. That's a give me. And this story is about an individual who confronted 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah and overcame. But in the next moment he ran out into the desert and asked God to kill him. You guessed it. Are we actually going there? Yes, we are going there. It is the story of Elijah and his flight to Mount Horeb. Now, why did I choose this story today? So I chose this story today because a very common characteristic of men and women who God chooses to use in mighty ways is that they do experience both momentous moments of victory, where they have incredible faith, where they overcome impossible odds and they do amazing things. But in the next moment they do have these dark days of despair where they wonder where is God, is he near and is life worth living. And oftentimes in our space of faith we have conversations about those momentous moments of victory, the highlights. But when we begin to compare and measure the highlights of another person's story against real life, real life never really matches up to the highlights. And we have very few conversations about that space of emptiness and despair that does occasionally punctuate a life of revival. And this part of Elijah's story, it actually starts on a monumental high. Why? Because for three years there's been no rain in Israel. Why? There are two reasons because Ahab becomes king of Israel and this dude as an opening comment does more evil in the eyes of the Lord than all those that had gone before him. He's not a good king, pretty wicked in fact. But secondly he marries a woman named Jezebel and he builds for her a temple to the pagan god Baal, the god of Jew and of fertility in the land of Israel. And because of that God sends Elijah to say there will be no rain in this land because you built temples to the god of Jew. So for all you single people here today, this is for you, this section. Be very careful who you choose to marry because who you choose to marry will shape the course of your future and also the most any other decision that you make in your life. Do you feel the weight of that? Yeah. In fact, you know why Pastor JJ looks so happy every Sunday? Because he married well, you guessed it. That is right. Yeah, that is right. But the story of Elijah does go on because after three years God speaks to Elijah and says, get up Elijah, leaves our epheth, it's time I'm going to sin the rain. So Elijah goes and he finds King Ahab and he says go and assemble the 450 prophets of Baal. He says, the prophets of Asherah and all the assembled of Israel at Mount Carmel because it's going to happen. Elijah arrives there and he says, I've got an idea. What about we do this? What about we build two altars? We put two bulls on the altar and then we pray to God. And who's ever God sends fire from heaven? That is the one true God. And everyone hears this idea and they're like, wow, that is an amazing idea. I mean, what better way to know is who God is the real God than this? So the prophets of Baal go first. They build an altar. They make an offering. And then they start to pray. They start to shout. They start to cut themselves. But their God does not respond because their God does not exist. But Elijah, he doesn't sit there quietly. Elijah's a trash talker. Have you ever played against one of those and he starts? He starts taunting and he's like, okay, prophets of Baal, guess what? Maybe your God is death. Maybe your God is distracted. Maybe your God is on vacation or maybe he's asleep. I don't know which one, but whatever it is, you're not doing enough. Get louder and get going. So the prophets of Baal, they continue. They pray louder. They shout louder. They cut themselves more deeply, but nothing happens. Then it's Elijah's turn. And Elijah, it's evening by now. And he gets 12 rocks and he builds his altar. He puts his bull on the altar. And just for fun, he saturates this altar with water until it's soaking wet. And then Elijah prays the simplest of prayers. His prayer kind of goes like this. It's like, God, I'm not praying for you. Because you want to do this. I'm not praying for me because I know you want to do this. I'm kind of praying for everyone here today because they need to know that you are Jehovah, the one true God. And then boom, fire comes out of heaven, consumes the altar, consumes the offering, consumes the water and everyone falls on their face and they're like, Elijah, your God is the one true God. What better God is there to serve? And then Elijah has the 450 prophets about put to death by the sword. And in this one moment, Elijah has just experienced the most remarkable miracle of his life. Because guess what? He confronted the odds, 850 to one. And God backed him up. God sent fire from heaven. God consumed the altar. And in this moment, Elijah had the greatest moment of his life. Now have you ever thought to yourself, God, if you just give me one massive miracle, I'll be good for the rest of my life. Have you ever thought that? Have you ever thought, God, if you just give me one supernatural healing, I'll be good. God, if you just knocked me off my feet, or God, if you just sent fire from heaven right over there. Oh God, if you just gave me a husband or a wife that was just so far out of my league that I knew it was you, I'd be good. Have you ever thought, God, if you just, I would never doubt and I would always believe. Just one miracle. And I would always live in that momentous moment of victory and I'd never have a day of despair. But guess what? This was Elijah's fourth massive miracle. This is where I do want to slow down, pick up the story, and I'm just going to read it and we're going to go through it. But this is in 1 Kings chapter 19 verse 1. Now Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like one of them." Now if you've not heard this story before, you might think that Elijah's response is something like, "Go and tell Jezebel that I am Elijah and I call down fire from heaven, bring it on 'cause you're toast." But when Elijah heard these words, he was afraid and he ran for his life. And when he came to Bathsheba in Judah, he left his servant there while he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness. And he came to this broom bush. He sat under it and he prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said, "take my life. I am no better than my ancestors," then he lay down under this bush and he fell asleep. Now if anyone here that's got an A type personality and you do like to take notes, I'm hard to take notes off. But for you today, I've got three points and five considerations. Okay, so point number one, success does not immune you from despair. And that is to say that there were not many people in life or in Scripture that have been more successful than Elijah in hearing from God, witnessing miraculous miracles. And sometimes I think it's easy in life to think that, "Hey, if I was only just a little bit more successful, if I just made a bit more money, had a bigger business or had a different job, or if I was just more successful in my faith in hearing from God and witnessing miraculous miracles, then I would be immune and inoculated from this sense of despair or emptiness." However, one of the common characteristics of all men and women that God chooses to use in mighty ways is that they do experience both momentous moments of victory as well as dark days of despair. And if you ever find yourself in the place that Elijah did, I want you to know this morning that you were definitely not the first. You are certainly not unique and you are absolutely not alone. You're in good company. The story goes on and all at once an angel touched Elijah and said, "Get up and eat." And he looked around and thereby his head was some baked bread over hot coals and a jar of water. And he ate and he drank and then he lay down again. Point two, "In the desert of despair, God is closer than you think." Question, where was God when Elijah was running in the desert? Well, God was right there next to him. Look, it might be my little warp sense of humor here, but I actually find this story kind of funny because Elijah, he's extreme. He gets up, he runs into the desert, he collapses under a bush and he says, "God, kill me." What's he saying? He's basically asking God to do for him what Jezebel offered to do for him for free. I mean, aren't you glad that sometimes God doesn't answer all your press? Because God is with Elijah, he hears Elijah's prayer and he goes, "Nah, I don't think I'll kill you, but I do think I'll give you something to eat because that'll make you feel better." And then God's kind of there and he's burning some wood. He's needing some dough, he's breaking some bread and he says, "You know what? Eat and rest because that'll be good for you at this time." And sometimes I think it's easy for us when we are in a desert of despair to think that either we are far from God or that God is far from us and has left us, but actually God is closer than you think. In verse 7, "The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched Elijah 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 40 days and 40 nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. That's the same name as Mount Sinai where God spoke to Moses face to face. And then he went into a cave and he spent the night and the word of the Lord came to Elijah. What are you doing here, Elijah? And Elijah replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your commandments, they have torn down your altars, they have put your prophets to death with the sword and guess what? I am the only one left and they are trying to kill me too." Now I'm not sure about you, but I do really appreciate the very pointed question that God asked Elijah in this moment because the truth is when I read this story I asked the same thing. Specifically, Elijah, what are you doing here? How did you get here? How did you get from a place at Mount Carmel calling down fire from heaven to actually carrying in a cave at Mount Horeb? What actually happened? Point three, the voices that you listen to matter because when Elijah was listening to God, he was in the zone and he was winning. But when Jezebel's voice got into Elijah's head, he began to think two things. He thought, number one, my life is of no consequence because despite everything that I have done, beside all the miracles that I've seen, beside all the work that I have worked out, these people of Israel still kind of go back to Baal. My life is of no consequence. And the second thing he thought was, and I am all alone because I am the only one left. And friends, all of us have voices inside of us that shape us. Voices from your parents, from your teachers, from your colleagues, from your bosses, from your coworkers, voices from deep, deep, deep within your past, have voices just yesterday. Voices that encourage you, that is to put courage into you and voices that discourage you, that pull courage from you. Voices that give you hope that tomorrow is better than today. And voices that tell you that your best days are behind you. But those voices that you choose to listen to in your moments of silence will echo most deeply in your soul. And I don't know if any of you have been to my house, but some of you have. And you would notice, there are some rooms in my house that they're plastered with like declarations and verses. And no, none of that is me. Yes, all of that is Yuli, who is much more disciplined in the art of subconscious schooling than I am. Though if you do go into our guest bathroom, you will notice that there is not less than like 43 of these like verses and declarations plastered on the wall. And no, it's not wallpaper. And yes, people who do go into this bathroom tend to stay there a long time. No, it's not because of the food we have. But it is because words and voices that stir hope bring life to the soul. And if you sit in this room and you kind of look right, you know, there's Jeremiah. For I know the plans that I have for you says the Lord plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. And then if you look left, there's a sign. The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me on the right path for his namesake. And even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death and I feel like I'm going to die, you are with me. You're right in your staff. They comfort me and you prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup it overflows and surely, surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the presence of my Lord forever. But by this stage people are wondering why you're taking so long. So you've got to get a move on and as you go for the door is this verse. And I am reminded of this that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. So by the time you leave this room, not only are you relieved, you are refreshed. Yes, you're refreshed. Why? Because words that stir hope bring life to the soul and the voices that you listen to matter. This is the last part that I'm going to read and then we'll talk. It's verse 11. When the Lord said, "Go out Elijah, stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord for the Lord is about to pass by." And then a great and powerful wind, tore the mountain apart, shattered the rocks before the Lord but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind there was an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake and after the earthquake was a fire but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and he went out and he stood at the mouth of the cave. And then a voice said to him, "Deja vu, what are you doing here Elijah?" And Elijah replied exactly the same thing as if God had not heard him the first time. "I have been very zealous for the Lord God, Odmighty. The Israelites, they have rejected your covenant. They've torn down your altars and they've put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me too." The Lord said to him, "Go back the way you came. Go through the desert of Damascus and when you get there, Anoint Haziel, King of Aram, Anoint Jihu, King of Israel, Anoint Elisha to succeed you as prophet. Jihu will put to death any who escaped the sword of Haziel. Elijah will put to death any who escaped the sword of Jihu, yet I reserve 7,000 in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him." You've read the whole story now friends. And from this story, I just wanted to bring to life and just to talk about five considerations if you ever find yourself in this place that Elijah did in a day of despair. Number one, consideration one. This is so profound, but it is straight from the book. However, I do feel slightly remiss to say it. Get something to eat and have a sleep. Because in this story, Elijah, he collapses with exhaustion under a broom bush. And the truth is, and my kids do know this about me, so I apologize now. I apologize for the past and I apologize in advance. But if I was to see Elijah there under the tree, my inclination would be to go, "Elisha, get up, get back to Mount Carmel and get back to work. What are you doing here?" But God does not do that because God is not like that. In this moment, God comes alongside Elijah. He gets some sticks. He lights it on fire. He burns it down to coals. He needs some dough. He bakes some bread. He gets some water. It's sparkling. Twist the lemon. And he says, "Elijah, rest and eat for your journey is long." And what I find notable about this passage is that God doesn't come and kick Elijah and say, "Hey, Elijah, Jude, oronomy 8. Man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. Get back to your scripture." No, he doesn't do that. Not in that moment. Elijah is exhausted. He doesn't come up to Elijah and say, "Get up Elijah, back Mount Carmel. Let's go. 40 days." That doesn't do that either. He comes alongside and he says, "Sleep. Rest. Your journey is still long." And you know, sometimes when you just had something to eat and a great sleep, life just looks better. Absolutely. Straight from the book. Sorry, I had to say it. Point number two, consideration. Lean in and listen. Have you ever wondered why God did not speak to Elijah in the powerful wind or in the thunderstorm or in the fire? Because I mean, God had already done miraculous miracles that Elijah witnessed through the wind, through thunderstorms and earthquakes and through fire. But actually, those miracles were not for Elijah. Those miracles were for Ahab and the recalcitrant people of Israel. These miracles were for people whose hearts were far from God so that God could get their attention. But Elijah knew God and God knew Elijah. So when God wanted to speak to Elijah, he wanted Elijah to lean in. And as Elijah leaned in to listen, he learned that God's presence is most powerful when it's personal. And oftentimes the moment that God uses to shape and reshape our lives is not just through a miraculous miracle, it's not just through a conference and it's not just through worship. It's actually through a gentle whisper that means absolutely nothing to the people around you but means everything to you. And I know this to be true over and over and over again. Now I don't remember the year, the month, the date or the day that I became a Christian. I know right, that's shocking because some of you can go to me. Yeah, yeah. 1979 in June the 6th on this day, on this day and this second, I gave my life to the Lord. But I don't remember the year. I do remember there was a period in my life where I had one question and my question was simply, "God, are you pleased with me?" And this question kind of drove in me a passion to go out for every response to know God that there was over this nine to 12 period of time. And it reached a point where the youth passed that at that time said to me, "You can stop coming to the front now, I think you saved." But that did not stop me because that was not my question. So I kept going and then during that course of time and that period of time, there was a conference that I went to and during that conference, you know, people were prophesying, people were praying, people were falling over, people were crying and I was there. But nothing. I was like, "God, come and get me." But you know what? At the end of the night, the most invisible and innocuous of volunteers kind of just brushed past me and said, "God is pleased with you." Yeah, I know right. And those five words that seemingly meant nothing to everyone around me put a confidence in my soul that reshaped the direction and the choices of my life because God's presence is most powerful when it's personal. Lean in and listen. Third consideration, get connected and don't do life alone. Get connected, don't do life alone. When God asked Elijah, "Why are you here?" Elijah's response because my life is stacked up to nothing and I'm alone and I'm the only one left. Now, was Elijah the only one left? Well, no, because in the previous chapter, Obadiah had told Elijah that he put aside a hundred prophets and then God reinforces actually. I've got a thousand that haven't found the knee Elijah. But irrespective, Elijah felt alone. And the church, the gathering of us, it's a beautiful thing and it exists for many reasons as catalogically because yes, it is the bride of Christ. It is the thing that God is coming back for. It represents his, his heartbeat to the world. But do you know what else the church is? It's a promise and it's the promise that you don't have to do life alone. It's a promise. And a huge way that God actually heals each of us is by human contact. That is when you rub shoulders with people who are faith filled, that are full of joy, that have hope, it envives from you hope, faith, joy. So get connected and don't do life alone. Consideration four, get back to your purpose. You know, God's ultimate response to Elijah's plight was to recommission him and repoint him back to his purpose. God said to Elijah, you know what? Go back. Go on anoint Haziel. Go on anoint Jehu. Go on anoint Elisha. They will continue the work of revival that you have started. And you know what? When God recommissioned Elijah with purpose, Elijah found the energy and the strength and the passion from life within himself. It was there all the time. Why? Because purpose has the power to propel you into your future. And purpose reminds us that the days are in front of us are just as if not more exciting than the days that are behind us. And the final consideration in this story, if you ever feel like Elijah, is this. Get immersed in the biggest story. Because as Elijah's life and story is, Elijah's life and story is just one very, very, very small chapter in a much larger story. And this is God's story of how he's seeking to bring those whose heart, who are far from him close. And yes, Elijah did start the journey of revival for his generation. But actually one of the greatest things that Elijah did was pass the baton of revival onto Hasil, onto Jihu and onto Elisha, who would continue to seek God for revival for the nation of Israel in the next generation. So friends, how your chapter ends really matters. Because how your chapter ends determines how the next chapter starts. And that means every day of your life matters in making sure that God's story is the greatest story ever told in your life and in your generation. Amen.

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