Speaker: Mike Connell
In 1 Kings 19 we find Elijah had yielded to fear and intimidation, and drawn back from his God-given assignment. We then get one of those "God Questions". He knows the answer, but wanted Elijah to think about where he was at, to recognize his distorted thinking, and to get back to his assignment, which included raising up others to fulfill the ministry. What are you doing here? Elijah had chosen to yield to fear, withdraw from his assignment, sit down, become passive and isolate at the crucial point when he needed to press forward. Sound familiar? Learn to recognize the signs of pressure.
Let’s open our Bible to 1 Kings 19. I just want to share briefly with you, then we want to have a time to pray for you. We want to see God touch your life. Leaders need to be refreshed, need a fresh touch of God on their life. So we need to learn how to step up.
So, I want to take just a couple of verses and I’ll just open it up a little bit. We read in 1 Kings 19:9, and it says: “Elijah went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Verse 13: "Then came a still small voice - when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. The voice came to him again and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
This is a very serious problem for Elijah. Elijah had a call on his life to stand up in the nation that was corrupt to represent and speak on behalf of God and to confront the spiritual powers of his days. He was called to bring revival to his nation. He was anointed to bring revival to his nation and he emerged out of a season where he was hidden – no one saw him.
You remember the story of how he brought a famine on the land, and then how he called fire down from heaven. A fire came on the alter. Then they destroyed the prophets of Baal. So Elijah was in a move of God. The nation was ready for God to move. But all movements of God require leadership. Nothing happens without leadership.
When God wants to make something happen, He needs a man or a woman to stand up. He needs something anointed with the Holy Spirit who will stand up and represent Him. This has always been the challenge God has had – to have a man or a woman who will represent Him. Represent what He’s like and carry His power to pull down the things that intimidate lives.
The nation lived under witchcraft. It lived in a place of idolatry, of temple prostitution, of all kinds of witchcraft in the nation. There was an oppressive atmosphere set over the nation. Most people were intimidated by it. They lived in fear of it. But God looked for a man to raise up who could stand up in that environment, who was not afraid of the spiritual atmosphere, not afraid of the idols, not afraid of the temples, not afraid of the witchcraft, able to stand up and live a life differently.
So, Elijah began very very well. Then, there came a point where he came under spiritual attack. A spiritual counter-attack. He had made great progress – torn down the alters, built an alter to the Lord, destroyed the prophets of Baal. He was having a move of God. If he could’ve just kept the move of God going, it would’ve reached and touched the whole nation.
But there came a strong spiritual backlash. There came a strong spiritual pressure against him. The Bible says that Jezebel rose up, she said – ‘I intend to kill you. I intend to take your life. I’ll take your life like you took the life of the prophets.’ So she began to intimidate him.
This is always one of the big problems in ministry – is it’s easy to start well, but you need to stand in the face of the battle. You need to stand when pressure comes on you. You need to be able to stand when the spirit world pushes back on you. Usually pushes back on you through people –people accusing you; people threatening you; people intimidating you. You have to choose how you’ll respond.
Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6-7 – He says: “stir up the gift of God which is in you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So Timothy also had a problem. He had a powerful anointing, a powerful gift in his life, but he became intimidated by older people. He became intimidated by the religious culture. As a result of being intimidated, the gift in his life began to close down.
If you become intimidated, if you let fear get a hold of your life, the gift in your life will begin to shut down. The anointing will stop flowing. You’ll be concerned about how to protect yourself and save yourself rather than advancing the kingdom of God.
Paul wrote 2 letters to Timothy and in both of them he addressed this gift. In 1 Timothy – he said “Don’t neglect the gift.” Now, God has given to each one of us, a powerful gift. He’s given you the gift of the Holy Spirit – same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. That same spirit comes to live in you to empower you, to strengthen you. We all get the same Holy Ghost. We all get that same anointing comes into us.
But we have to choose whether we’ll stir up the gift of God, cause that anointing to flow, or whether we’ll become intimidated and withdraw, and hide in a cave. I wonder how many are hiding in a cave. There’s lots of Christians hiding in a cave, right down in the back of the cave – “I’m not coming out.”
What had happened to Elijah? I want to show you very quickly what happened to him, and I want to show you the mistake he made and how it outworked in his life. I’ll show it to you very simply. It may well be that some of you here tonight recognise you’re also under spiritual pressure and that in the heat of the battle, you’ve made the same mistake Elijah made, and ended up in pretty well the same place he ended up.
I had a pastor ring me up one day. I said: “How are you?” He said: “Can you help me? I am so depressed. I’m almost suicidal, and I don’t really know what to do. I have never been like that in my life before, but since I’ve come to this city, I’ve had these problems come.” I said: “I know exactly what the trouble is, and I know exactly what you need to do. You are under spiritual attack. You are under pressure on your mind and soul. It’s caused you to lose your perspective, to become intimidated, and to draw back inside, just like Elijah did.”
I want you to notice some things Elijah did. What happened was, Jezebel threatened him. In other words, a spiritual attack was launched upon him, threatening to take his life. Now, there is something in all of us that wants to survive, so anything that causes us pain, we draw back from. When you draw back from pain, you are trying to save yourself. If you draw back and try to save yourself, life will get very difficult. There’s no neutral ground when you’re in ministry. You have to stay in a place of strength and fire.
Sometimes it’s very difficult. Sometimes it’s very overwhelming. You see me ministering on the stage, the power of God flowing. There are times I come under immense spiritual pressure. Sometimes it’s like my head is so dark I wonder whether I can see again. I’ve had to learn how to stand up in these things. Every time you stand up, you grow stronger in the Lord.
Look what it says here in verse 3-4: “When Elijah saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which is in Judah, and left his servant there. And he went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life. Please be kind to me. Take me to heaven right now, or kill me.””
So what happened to the mighty man of God, who one day is calling fire from heaven and killing the prophets, the next day is sitting down depressed – “I think I need to die.” How did this great mighty man of God go from there to here? And then end up in a cave? “I’m not coming out. You can’t make me come out. I won’t come out.” He was hiding.
So what happened? The Bible says that he was threatened. It says – “When he saw that, he ran for his life.” Now, if you just read the scripture there, it says – “She spoke to him.” Now, the message is spoke to him. But it says – “He saw something.” What you see will affect what you do. What you see will determine you approach things. Instead of seeing ‘God is with me!’ Instead of seeing the coming revival, he looked and he saw imminent death. He saw himself being attacked.
Whatever fills your mind and heart, whatever you set your eyes on, whatever you make the focus of your life will affect your emotions, will affect your spirit, and will determine what happens to you. You can’t afford to let your focus become negative. You have to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. You have to keep your eyes fixed on what God has said. You have to keep your eyes fixed on God’s power, on His love for you.
How could it be that the God who brought fire from heaven and brought drought and then released rain, would now abandon him? How could it be that the God that commissioned him would then leave him alone? He lost his vision. He lost his view of the future. When the pressure came on him, he took his eyes off his vision. He took his eyes off what he’s called to do, he got his eyes fixed on his circumstances, he got his eyes fixed on himself. He said – “I’m the only prophet left. It’s only me! I can’t handle the pressure.” So he began to run.
When he got his eyes off God and his purpose, when he began to focus on the threats, his heart melted, his faith diminished, fear took over, and he ran as fast as he could. The Bible says – he ran. He literally ran for his life, ran away. What did he run away from? He ran away from his assignment. He drew back from what he was called to do.
It is very easy when pressures come to get your eyes off your vision, off what you’re called to do, to begin to look at the problems, become intimidated, and lose perspective. Instead of seeing it from God’s point of view, you begin to see the problems, the difficulties, and then you draw back from the place God wants you to be. You draw back from the position of faith. You draw back from your boldness. You start to shrink on the inside. Instead of there being strong prayer, now you can barely get up and pray. So he ran. He drew back from his assignment.
When a person draws back, they have no authority in their life. When the person draws back, there’s no anointing flow. God says – “I have no pleasure in him that draws back.” It’s staying in the battle, staying in the place of faith, staying in the place of believing God, that’s what pleases Him. I want to show you a couple of things he did. The first thing is he lost his perspective by focusing on the negatives. The second thing – he drew baack form his assignment.
The third things was – he isolated. He left his servant. He isolated himself. Isolation means you disconnect, means you stop connecting to people, stop connecting to God. Isolation and disconnection is the place of death.
It’s an interesting thing about sheep. You probably don’t see many sheep here, but we see lots in New Zealand. Sheep are very interesting. One night I should preach on sheep, that’d be a good idea. Funny creatures. This is what happens – when they get sick, they isolate. They draw away from the flock. It’s always easier to tell a sick sheep – they draw away from the flock. They draw away from fellowship. They draw back from the cell group. They draw away from the leaders’ meeting. They draw away from connecting.
They don’t want to connect because they don’t want you to ask question because they’re in a cave. “I don’t want you to look at me. So I won’t come near you.” See. There’s a fear that comes. Isn’t it interesting that when Adam and Eve sinned and fell, they felt fear and hid. Every time Israel was defeated, they hid in caves. A cave is a deep dark place with no exit.
What else did he do? The next thing he did was this – he sat down. Instead of standing up in his spirit and fighting, instead of rising in his spirit and beginning to pray, let the gift of tongues flow, he sat down. You can tell people sitting down – they may be standing up on the outside, but they’re sitting down on the inside. They’ve given up in the fight. They become passive. The fight is gone. They’re being knocked down. They need help.
Once he sat down, once he became passive and did nothing, then he became depressed. A terrible depression came over him and all he could think of then – “I just wish I could die.” Now, he didn’t suddenly arrive at that place. He progressed to that place. Firstly, when he got his eyes focused on the problems rather than on the solution, when he shifted his focus from his vision and got his eye on the problems. Secondly, when he let fear distort his thinking and he tried to preserve himself rather than giving himself to the assignment. Then he drew back from his assignment. He isolated himself. Then he sat down, became very depressed and very suicidal, and fell asleep. His last prayer before he fell asleep – “Lord, take me. I don’t want to wake up.”
Now God had mercy on him. God sent an angel to touch him and give him food. When you’re in a battle you need rest and you need food. But then, he carried on running. Another 40 days – that’s a lot of running. 40 days running is a lot of running. Finally, he found a cave and he went and he hid in the cave. “I’m not coming out.” God spoke to him and it’s interesting how God speaks. God asked a question. In the Bible, when God asks a question, He knows the answer.
Like, “What’s going on here?” He knows the answer. Like, the first question in the Bible – “Adam, where are you?” Hello? Like, God didn’t know where he was? “Come on Adam, you’re hiding behind those trees over there. I know where you are.” He said: “Adam, where are you?” That’s a relationship question. God knew where he was. God wanted him to face the question and face where he was and start to talk. There’s no record apart from saying – please kill me, that’s talking to God.
So, God looking at Elijah: “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here. What are you doing there? I had this big revival going on and you’re my key player in the revival. Why’re you in the cave? What are you doing here?”
I remember I was out one night with a group of people at a restaurant and as we were coming out of the restaurant, there’s another part of the hotel and it was the bar, and it was packed. People were all drinking and having a great time and there’s a DJ disco thing going, and it was pumping. Just like tonight. Wow. I heard the music and I like music. I thought: “That sounds like good music. I think I’ll go in.” You know the people, the leaders with me, thought: “Oh, pastor going in there. Why’s the pastor going in there?”
I said: “Just come in here and have a look. I guarantee I will find a backslidden Christian here because if you’re not filled with the spirit, you’ll get filled with something else. You don’t let God comfort you, you’ll try and buy a bottle and drink from that instead. You have to fix the pain somehow. So either come to God, or go down to the pub and buy a drink and then you’ll feel better.”
So, we went in there and I stood at the door. I looked around. They had people dancing. They even had the staff dancing on the bar. Oh, it was wild. I thought – “This is great.” I look over, and I see one straight away. So I went over. He went up to the bar, and he’s ordering all the drinks. There was a girl dancing on the bar, and I went and just stood behind him and waited. He turned around, and he was shocked.
He said – “What are you doing here?” I said: “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here. This is not what you were called to be. What are you doing here?” He’s got his back to the bar, arm full of drinks. I’m saying: “What are you doing here?” I said to him in a different way: “What happened to you that caused you to lose your confidence in God and come and try and find confidence in a bottle? What happened to you? What went wrong?”
He stood there holding the drinks, all the music’s going around, and he began to weep. He shared how his heart had been broken because a relationship he’d had broke-up. I said: “This is not going to help you. You need to come back to the Lord. You need to come back to the place you were called.”
So when God says: “Elijah, what are you doing here?” He’s really saying, “Elijah, how on earth did you get yourself here? We were having a revival. Where did you go? I turn my head to talk to the angels, and the next minute, you’re in a cave. I’ve been telling the angels about all the work my servant Elijah’s doing. ‘Woah. Did you see him? Fire from heaven! Killed all the prophets! Woah. Got that old ugly queen really worried. Man, look at my servant Elijah!’ What are you doing here in this cave?”
Elijah starts a story – “You don’t understand. I’m the only one faithful and they all want to kill me. I’m only trying to serve you. They just want to kill me, it’s not really fair. You never told me it was going to be this hard.”
“I become a cell leader – I never knew it was going to be this hard, that people would be not nice to me, and after I’m kind to them, then they walk away. They say bad things about me. So, I don’t like.”
“It’s only me who’s been faithful.” How can hiding in a cave be faithful? You see, he’s a very confused man because he let a spiritual pressure confuse him. God says: “Well actually Elijah, there’re 7000 others who haven’t been involved in this stuff.” “Really? I didn’t see that. I didn’t know about that.”
So God spoke to him twice – “Elijah, what are you doing here? Elijah, what are you doing here?” In other words, He’s saying – “You don’t belong here. You need to return to your assignment.” So He spoke to Him – “Go back to your assignment.”
Notice what He tells him to do. Get this – “I want you to raise-up some disciples. I want you to anoint others. I want you to multiply your ministry. I want you to multiply the ministry. You’ve been doing this all alone too long. You need to think strategically. You need to raise-up others who’ll carry the ministry. I’ll even tell you who they are so you don’t have to think – “Oh, there’re no one. Not him. Not him. There’s no one.”
God said: “I’ll tell you who they are. Elisha, and Hazael, and Jehu. You invest in those people. You release what’s in your life on them, and then you watch. The job you couldn’t finish, they’ll finish it up.” God reveals his intention – that he should raise up disciples, that he should multiply his ministry. But it started by returning to his post.
Now in this passage here tonight, you see the result of spiritual pressure. This pastor that called me, he was incredibly discouraged. I said to him – “It’s just spiritual pressure. It’s just a spiritual attack and you’re sitting under the tree like Elijah. I’ll stand with you. I’ll pray for you. But you need to stand up again, come out of that cave, go back to your assignment, go back to praying, go back to ministering, go back to doing what you need to do. You need to rise up again.” I told him how to stand up in prayer, how to recognise it was just a spiritual attack.
I said: “You need to stand up and pray in the Spirit until you feel your spirit raise up. Then you need to begin to speak into the spirit world and declare that enemy defeated. Go back again, begin to minister. If you will do this – pray in tongues, rise in your spirit, speak the word of God over your life, confront the devil, confront the spirits that are troubling you, and speak God’s word over your life, you will break through.”
That man has got a very thriving church in that area now. See? Because he stood up. Now, he didn’t ring me once, he rang me on several occasions. Each time, I told him the same thing – come out of your cave, go back to your assignment, stand up again in prayer, and speak God’s word over your situation. Get your eyes back on the Lord again; and he was a changed person. We’ll finish just at that point.
I’m sharing this with you tonight because I feel there are a number of people, and you are in a cave. Outside, you look like you’re doing everything ok, but in your heart, you’ve been hurt. In your heart, you’ve taken a knock. In your heart, you’ve drawn back, you’ve lost your vision. There’s even some of you here who’ve sat down. You’ve been contemplating giving up. God says – “What are you doing here? You don’t belong in that cave. You’re a mighty man of God. You’re a might woman of God.”
The same Spirit that overcome the devil and raised Christ from the dead is within you to help you. Don’t isolate, don’t draw back, don’t focus on the problem, stand up, refocus your vision, and then begin start to pursue. God says you’ll breakthrough.
You follow the story through, the wicked queen was torn down, her kingdom was overthrown, and God’s kingdom was established. But the key was a change, and the focus on discipling new people.
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