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God's Schoolhouse in the Funeral Home

Elijah: A Man Like Us  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Elijah graduates from God's Schoolhouse of Trials and Suffering with an A+.

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Introduction

Pastor Chuck Swindoll tells the following story.
TOUGH DAYS. We all have them. Some are worse than others. Like the one the construction worker reported on his accident form. When I got to the job site I saw where the hurricane had knocked off some brick at the top of the wall. So I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building and hoisted up a couple of barrels full of brick. When I had fixed the damaged area, there were a lot of bricks left over. Then I went down to the bottom and began releasing the line. Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was much heavier than I was—and before I knew what was happening the barrel started coming down, jerking me up.
I decided to hang on since I was too far off the ground by then to jump, and halfway up I met the barrel of bricks coming down fast. I recieved a hard blow to my shoulder. I then continued to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my fingers pinched and jammed in the pulley. When the barrel hit the ground, it burst its bottom and the bricks spilled out.
I was now heavier than the barrel. So I started down again at a high rate of speed. Halfway down I met the barrel coming up fast and recieved a sever injuries to my shins. When I hit the ground, I landed on the pile of bricks, getting several painful cuts and deep bruises. At this point I must have lost my presence of mind, because I let go of the rope. The barrel came down fast—giving me another blow on my head and putting me in the hospital.
I respectfully request sick leave!
As we have seen, Elijah had some bad days. He spent a year in the wilderness with a bunch of birds bringing him food, then the brook dried up. For two years he has spent his days in the house of a poor widow woman and her son scrapping by just to survive. Now, comes the climax of his trials and troubles. The widow woman’s son dies! Every time Elijah obeyed God his trial and suffering got worse.
That seems to be the way life goes in God’s schoolhouse of trials and suffering. But, Elijah was just about to graduate, if He passed this last test of his faith. Let’s see how he does.

A. Elijah at the End of His Rope (17:17-18)

Why had God put His choice servant through so much pain and suffering? We often wonder the same when we find ourselves in God’s schoolhouse of testing. What we see is that our trials get worse before they get better. But, God has a great purpose behind this truth.

1. The Crisis of Belief (17:17)

Henry Blackaby made this term popular in his work Experiencing God. A crisis of belief is a turning point in our relationship with God. Let me make 4 points about a crisis of belief:
An encounter with God requires faith.
Encounters with God are God-sized.
What you do in response to God’s invitation reveals what you believe about God.
True faith requires action.
Elijah was entering into a crisis of belief when the woman’s son died. What would he do? What did he believe about God?

2. The Critical Blame (17:18)

The widow woman was experiencing her own crisis of belief. Her grief so overwhelmed her that she blames Elijah for the boys death. That is what grief can do to you: you blame others, yourself, and even God.
What is God up to in these tests of faith He sometimes puts us through? The answer to this question is life changing.
Richard Blackaby says, “This crisis could have been Elijah’s breaking point.He had faithfully and courageously weathered earlier storms, but this trial was more severe than any he had previously faced. After three years of struggle he may have assumed the storms would abate. He would not have anticipated that God would strip him of what little he had left until nothing remained but God.

B. Elijah Crying Out to God (17:19-22)

In these verses we see Elijah’s response to the crisis. We learn valuable lessons about prayer.

1. A Step of Confusion (17:19-20)

Elijah is perplexed and confused over this crisis, but he take ownership of the outcome. Why God? Why God? is his initial response. Don’t we do the same?

2. A Step of Confidence (17:21a)

Elijah knew deep in his heart and soul that God could do anything, even raise this boy back to life. After all, he has seen God’s miraculous power at work in the wilderness and in the widow’s home. His confidence is in God. This is the secret to seeking miracles in our lives—confident faith in God—that He can do what is humanly impossible. Elijah’s repetition of laying on the boy is not a desperate response to a hopeless situation. Rather, Elijah was going to do this until God answered his prayer. Elijah was persistent in prayer, he was not giving up until he got an answer from God, no matter what the answer would be.

3. A Step of Conviction (17:21b-22)

Elijah now teaches us some lessons about prayer. Elijah’s prayer is a good primer on how to pray in times of crisis.
He prayed earnestly.
Blackaby says, “A prayer can be respectable, liturgical, and even poetic, But a cry reflects desperation. We cry when there is nothing left to do. We cry when we know that unless a response is immediately forthcoming, tragedy will ensue. Perhaps that reality is why revival eludes us.
He prayed specifically.
He prayed boldly.
He prayed privately.
When a crisis invades our lives crying out to God must be our first response. And, we must continue to cry out until God calms our hearts and minds with Holy Spirit peace.

C. Elijah Finished the Coarse (17:23-24)

In the last two verses we see that both Elijah and the widow graduate God’s schoolhouse of testing with A pluses.

1. Elijah Makes an A+ (17:23)

Blackaby says, “God knows that great service requires extensive preparation. To remove all dross of sin requires purifying fires to be stoked to an intense heat. Saintly service most often flows from great affliction. God does not give such service to lukewarm, sin-filled servants. God was willing to go to great lengths to prepare His servant for the epic assignment apportioned to him.”
Elijah was not a graduate from God’s schoolhouse to testing and ready to take on the greatest God-given assignment of his life. Revival was about to break out in Israel.

2. The Widow Makes an A+ (17:24)

We cannot overlook the widow who graduated alongside Elijah. She came to a complete faith in God. A faith that would trust God no matter what. If God could raise her son from the dead, surely He could meet her daily needs. God took this widow to the same place He took Elijah—He stripped away both of their self-confidence and self-reliance, so that God was all they had; and God was all they needed.
How low does God have to take us before we will cry out to Him in faith? If we will allow God to strip away all of us so that all of Him is what remains, then we would be ready to take on the God-sized assignment He has invited us to.
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