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Josh Sullivan

1 Kings 19:9-18

The Un-giving up God

Pentecost 12

Focus: God does not give up on his people even when they want to give up on him.

Function: that the hearers call upon God in every trouble

Structure: Law then Gospel

            Have you ever felt like giving up? Sometimes it seems that things just aren’t worth it anymore. Everyone gives up at sports at one point or another. We’ve all had friends that have given up on us. And each of us probably has a friend that we have given up on. Human nature says that it’s easy to throw in the towel when the going gets rough. And it is. But have you ever given up on God?

            My friend Mark did. Mark was never really a popular guy. In fact, when we were in elementary school my mother made me be his friend because no one else would. Gee, thanks mom. You see, if you wanted to be liked, it if you wanted to hang out with the cool kids, and if you wanted the ladies to notice you, then with Mark was not place you wanted to be.

            I’ve known Mark all my life. We both started Lutheran school in the fourth grade. Mark and I made up half of the boys in the fourth grade class. We were also from a town about twenty miles away. In a class of fourteen, four of them being guys, it’s pretty easy to make friends; unless you’re name happened to be Mark.

            Mark learned from a very early age to give up on himself. He was never the brightest. He certainly wasn’t the most athletic. And he most certainly wasn’t the most socially gifted person ever. But Mark had a heart of gold. He was loyal to the friends he did have and he’d do anything for them.

            Throughout our time together in school I saw Mark try a lot, and I saw him fail a lot. He failed at making and keeping new friends. He failed at sports. He broke a different bone every year during football camp. He and I were the only two guys cut from the JV basketball team our freshman year of high school. 

            Somewhere along the desert landscape that is high school Mark learned a very important lesson. He learned how to give up. He began to feel sorry for himself. He had honestly tried after all. But his best efforts were simply not good enough for those around him. Mark even gave up on God. The thought of a savior who loves unconditionally was useless to Mark.

            Mark even gave up on life. Mark told a few of us his plans to end his life. He would do it at our junior prom, in front of everyone. By the time prom rolled around all the teachers were on alert, keeping their eyes peeled. Mark didn’t have a date that year either, but he still wanted to go. So that year I had two dates: my girlfriend on my right and Mark on my left.

            I was terrified of what might happen that night. Mark had grown up in a decent Lutheran home. He had attended Lutheran school since the 4th grade. He wasn’t the most popular, but he did have a few loyal friends. He had seen God active in his life before. But he was ready to throw in the towel nonetheless. He was ready to call it quits . . . for good. I thank God every time I think of that whole ordeal, because Mark didn’t kill himself that night. He decided not to give up after all.

            So I’ll ask you again, have you ever felt like giving up? Or worse, have you ever given up? There are more pressures on you now then there have been for teens in the past. School pressures, trouble on the homefront like never before, and of course, your peers. There is plenty going on in your lives. There are many chances for each one of you to give up, to throw in the towel.

            Many of you have seen God working in your life before. Maybe not by some miraculous wonder, but you have seen him nonetheless. That doesn’t make it any easier when the temptation arises to give up on school, our families, or even our very lives.

            Take the prophet Elijah for example. Elijah has seen firsthand the Lord working in full force. God had brought a drought on the land of Israel. God had even used Elijah to predict it. When a widow’s son died, God raised the boy from the dead using the hands of Elijah. Elijah had seen a lot of stuff. He had done a lot of stuff.

            Then he caps it all off with his own mountaintop experience. On a slope of Mount Carmel Elijah faces off with the 450 prophets of Baal. It’s Yahweh vs. Baal in a winner-take-all match to the death. Elijah stands alone against the prophets of Baal, with an indecisive Israel in the middle, waiting to be convinced.

            Elijah smashes his chances of winning by pouring three huge jars of water all over the sacrifice. There was so much water that the ditch around the altar was filled with it. This sacrifice was soaked. If Elijah hadn’t been the underdog by this point, he was now. The charge: the God that answered by fire and consumed the sacrifice would go home victorious. We all know what happened.

            Yahweh nuked Elijah’s sacrifice. Yahweh saved the day, He proved himself mighty. He proved himself God. The drought was over and God caused it to rain like crazy. All of this through the mouth of Elijah. He had seen and done a lot. He had seen God do even more.

            Yet in our text we see him running. We see him giving up. Elijah throws in the towel for several reasons. No one listened to him. The king and his wife were still bent on killing him and forsaking the true God. The people were still in an indecisive slumber. And it seemed as if he was the only one left who truly loved and served God. He had no other choice but to run away, to throw in the towel, to call it quits. Elijah had seen the enemy, and the enemy was too big.

            So we’re in good company when we want to give up and hide. After all, one of the greatest of the prophets did it.

            But that’s not the end of our story. Even though we may give up on God at times, we have a God who has never and will never give up on us! God speaks to Elijah on the mountain. He doesn’t tell him to buck up. He doesn’t tell Elijah to get over it and get back down to work. God reassures Elijah that he is, in fact, not the only one left. There others. Seven thousand others to be exact, who still are faithful. “Elijah, you are not alone.”

            If Elijah had been the only one left giving up would have been so much easier, he might have had an excuse. But God reminds Elijah that He is a God who doesn’t give up on his people. Sure we feel like giving up all the time. The pressure is too great, the stress is more than we can handle. But our God does not give up on us. He won’t.

            God could have given up on Adam and Eve in the garden. After all, one simple rule to follow and they botch it up. God could have, and maybe should have given up on us. But instead of pushing them aside he gives them a promise instead. He would not abandon them to hell.

            In Elijah’s time, God could have given up on Israel. But He doesn’t. And the same is true for us today. We look to the cross of Christ. It looked like all was lost that day. The Messiah dying. Not only that, but completely forsaken by his father. It looks like God might have given up that day. But in fact it’s just the opposite.

            In the cross of Christ we see God’s unwavering, unyielding love for us. God refuses to give up on us. Jesus Christ was abandoned by his Father so that you and I would never have to be. God would stop at nothing to bring to you back to him, to reconcile you and him. God would not give up on Israel three thousand years earlier, and he refuses to throw in the towel now.

            Children of God, your God is with you. “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Elijah was not alone, and neither are you. Look around you again. Look to your right. Look to your left. All these people next to you share your faith and your fears. But you are not alone. You are in this together . . . with each other, and with your God. For He has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” and, “behold, I am with you always, even until the very end of the age.”

            It’s so easy to give in, give up, and throw in the towel. And we do it all the time. But our God doesn’t. He proved it by walking this earth himself, Jesus, coming to seek and save the lost. Don’t give up on God. He is doing things in you and through you that you may not even be able to imagine. He used Elijah, doubts and all; and He is using you as well. Amen. 

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