Welcome to the Restart New Year’s Message
Today I will address New Year’s resolutions in an effort to climb to Bible Ground and seek to live “There”. When you think of it; New Year’s Resolutions are really a compilation of Stops and Starts. I have noted some below:
- Self Indulgence
- Fleeing corruption
- Forgiving Others
- Acting with Humility
- Routine Bible reading
- Giving to others
You and I either want to end bad habits and tendencies, or we want to begin to live a higher quality life. But what makes us fail in these endeavors; to end or to start? There’s certainly a bunch of reasons for that, but here are some suggestions…
- Make up our mind to do it
- Try to ignore our past failures
- Listen to our Friends
- Judge our progress by our feelings
- We ask God to help us with our wants
We rely on our own strengths and willpower. We keep doing the same things as we tried in the past. We listen to the counsels of well meaning friends. We seek to “feel good” about ourselves. And we talk to God only to service our wants and desires.
Lessons in New Year’s Resolutions from Elijah
- Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab – 1 Kings 17:1
Now Ahab is King of Israel. Do Ahab and Elijah get along? NO. Ahab’s wife is Jezabel – whose disobedience and wanton immorality endures today when people call a shameless woman a “Jezebel.”
- Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word
And would you think this news was good news or bad news to Ahab. BAD. Of course the Lord knows this – and so He sends Elijah away to a place of hiding
- The word of the Lord came to him, saying, Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.
East is away from where he is at; from the familiar environs of the city to a remote place. The other side of the Jordan. God says “Go hide yourself”
- It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there
Note it says YOU WILL. This is not some weak, Sunday School phrase. God will Provide. This applies to you and I as well – He will provide the way to get you back on your feet; to walk the Jesus path. It must have been difficult for Elijah to accept God’s promise “You will drink from the brook” as (don’t forget) there has been no rain. But let’s not skim over that God promises to command the birds! What an unexpected source of power and strength. But don’t we all this? At times we all want to have a place of hiding – water for our parched throats. – and a supernatural provision to strengthen and sustain us. But the question I asked before is why when we do our best do our best intentions fail us?
May I humbly suggest to you the answer is plainly seen in this verse. And this answer is the single and only reason we and fail to gain traction in our Christian walk – and why God’s blessing is not among us. It is found in the word “There.” This is the key to the verse, to all that follows, it applied to Elijah and it applies to you and I. Nothing is promised if Elijah was to go anywhere else. He had to go there – there is where he had to be. God promises to do all that we could think or ask – when we are “there” – at the place He ordains. But you and I want cheap Christianity. We want all the benefits without extending the effort. We want personal luxury; we want no inconvenience; we want things lush; comfortable; a soft place to lay our heads; fields of rich harvest and convenience – a life companioned by bunnies and shade trees.
But God has different ideas. He sends us to Cherith – a name that means cut off, or cut down. Cherith is where THERE is – to the place where miracles await and yet to get to THERE you must be cut off and cut down; you must leave HERE. But we don’t like that; we don’t like the difficulty; the struggle; the discipline to keep to the Jesus Path – the four disciplines you will hear from the pulpit of Restart Church almost every week:
- Daily Bible reading
- Concentrated seasons of prayer
- Gathering together with fellow believers
- Service to others
Do you stiffen your neck at those four practices? Are you living for yourself; standing in your pride; doing what you want? God warns Jacob about this.
- Then God said to Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there – Genesis 35:1
He says Go to Bethel – which means “House of God”. Well, most Believers do pretty well at going to Bethel – to the house of God. But we are terrible at dwelling, abiding and living THERE. At departing from HERE to Live THERE. Does that describe you? Is your faith a calendar event – an hour on Sunday? Or is yours a life process? God does not use people strong enough to use – but people weak enough to use. We must be both submissive and humble enough to go THERE from HERE, and to remain THERE. Check out this instruction from Jesus:
- Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them – Matthew 28:16
Jesus tells them, appoints them, commissions and dedicates to them to go. And what do they do? The disciples of the Jesus path GO – they go THERE, away from where they were. Can you imagine a more clear message than to humble yourself; to reset your priorities; to get out of the grip of societal notice – of being lauded and admired – and go to a place like Cherith… to be cut off and cut down – to humble yourself; to leave yourself behind; to go THERE – to remain THERE. Let’s join Elijah in verse 9
- Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food
Go at once – go now, today! – we tend to linger; the journey is set before us, we know what to do – but we wait. He is told to go to Zarephath. Do you know what that name means? It means “the workshop for the refining and smelting of metals” For you and I to THERE, means we must go to Zarephath – into the fire for our refinement; to submit to the anvil and hammer – not to live justified in yourself; but remaking yourself; submitting yourself.
THERE – You must be THERE. Nothing can happen to maximize your life – to get the most out of your walk – to live as you should – to receive the benefit of God’s provision for you. – unless you are THERE . God directs your supply; it is provided for; it awaits you; it is ready! Will you go leave the comfort of where you are and go THERE – to the place of His choosing?
- So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink. As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand
The first thing we notice is that he went immediately into the smelter; into the fire of refinement. He did not hesitate like you and I do. He goes. There he meets the widow and what does he do? He calls her and asks her for water! There has been no rain! Water is not abundant! And then to top that off he asks for more. You and I are familiar with her frame of reference as she hears this. She (as we) feel taken advantage of. If I really do the Christian thing – it’s going to take all my time; it’s going to cramp my style; I’ll have no ME time. And she does as we do; she moans and complains of her circumstance in order to convey the impossibility of what she is being asked.
- But she said, As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.
But though she was faced with those obstacles – Elijah was not! Back in verse 9 Elijah learned from God:
- I have directed a widow there to supply you with food
Elijah knew that if she left HERE and went THERE the blessing would most certainly come. We need to leave the place of doubt and obstacles and (like her) go THERE – back into her house – THERE where God waited with the miracle, THERE where the meager elements of oil and flour awaited God’s hand. What was the result?
- So she went and did according to the word of Elijah… the bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah
And though certainly her obedience to go THERE is critical lesson. Something else jumps out at me. She acted according to the word of the Lord – through Elijah. We must know the commands of the Lord – how can we learn His instruction – how can we find the roadmap to there?
- Daily Bible reading
- Concentrated seasons of prayer
- Gathering together with fellow believers
- Service to others
We must hear and know the commands of the Lord. Your life will NOT be rich without daily devotion to these four disciplines. Only then can you know His commands and have them to rely on rather than your own judgement. Because it is His Word which shows the way to THERE – and helps you along – even though THERE often doesn’t feel right. Take Phillip for example.
- But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza (this is a desert road) – Acts 8:26
Phillip was called to the desert road. He had to leave the lush surroundings of Jerusalem and go out to the desert. The lesson for us is that we too have to leave the provisions and distractions of Jerusalem; to leave our comforts; our pleasures; our willfulness; our ego-pleasing selfish indulgences. Because God calls us to the desert; He calls us THERE. A place that is OTHER than the place of our wants and desires – a place OTHER than the place where our willfulness serves to guide. So what does Phillip do? Does he stay in his circle of friends – where he can party and compromise God’s values? Nope
- … So he got up and went
This is where you and I come in. We must learn God’s commands and get up from HERE and go THERE. And additional key is once you do – you not only help yourself – you help others. Your life is preaching the gospel according to you. People look upon you and wonder why you don’t remain HERE with them in the stench of self-interest and wonton indulgence. You will be a witness – like Elijah is to us – by going and living THERE. Your life is all someone else may know of Jesus. When you live THERE, you are a witness to those you within your circle of influence – because you choose to live honorably. But what kind of message do you send when you live the good-timing life – when you compromise and live to satisfy your urges; your sensuality; living pridefully and indulgently?
You cannot supply your own needs – trying to supply our own needs invariably leaves us dissatisfied (the familiar “morning after”) Trying to supply your own needs also leaves us financially upside down – we spend on that which cannot satisfy. It all happens because You and I start with needs – God starts with leaving HERE on the way to THERE. Jesus says
- Go ye therefore…
You must go from where you are at. You must go to the desert; YOU and your plans must be cutoff, YOU and what you think your life is must be cut down (as at Cherith) – you must lose your ego; release the rights to YOUR destinations; YOU must learn to live humbly before God; leaving behind prideful selfishness. You must submit yourself to the purifying fires of the smelter – of the refining work of the Holy Spirit (as at Zarephath) YOU must depart from the place you are and GO – begin the journey to THERE. And how do we know the way?
- Go ye therefore…observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…
Leaving for THERE means to Do what He instructs you to do; and not just some of those things – the easy things. – but in the HARD decisions; in obedience. The directions to THERE; the source of instruction is – READing the bible, PRAYing, GATHERing together, SERVing other. If you do poorly at these – then you cannot find your way THERE. If you live like you don’t need them; believe you don’t need them – when you favor your conceits; when you feel your life is your own, to do with as you please – you will NEVER find your way THERE – never.
Paul writes You are not your own; you were bought at a price. The pathway to THERE begins when we depart from where we are under His Instruction! Guided by the Word. And the most excellent news is that HE HIMSELF promises to guide and to help us get THERE
- Go ye therefore…observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you… I am with you always
Like the Psalmist reminds us:
- You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your Presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand – Psalm 16:11
He will make known the path of life; He will fill you with the joy in His presence, with eternal pleasures at His right hand. He tells you how to get THERE; He makes known the path to take and He companions you with His presence along the way
I don’t know what’s got a hold of you. I’m talking about stuff of resolutions; stuff you want to stop; or should stop, but don’t . All I know is that it takes climbing up to BG to get to THERE; to the place where of awaiting provision; to the place of miracles; to fulfillment and honor. So today, right now, get up and GO.