Elijah: Do You Have a Sustaining Faith Picture?
Committing ourselves to the Jesus way does not mean that we will be spared moments of crisis — moments when we are filled with fear and paralysis. However, we must be prepared and make use of the spiritual resources that God has provided. Elijah’s experience helps us understand those resources.
God’s directions provide us with insight. God offers Elijah, and us, three specific spiritual resources: visioning, speaking, and acting.
As with our life picture, God desires us to have a faith picture.
God wants us to have a vision of faith always before us. God tells Elijah, “Go out and stand before me on the mountain” (1 Kings 19:11, NLT). When we talk about life-changing experiences, moments that have such a great impact on us that we can never forget them, we often describe them as “mountaintop experiences.” This is because mountains are places of vision. Our sightlines are expanded when we stand on a mountain. Our perspective changes when we view our surroundings from a mountaintop. When Elijah stood on the mountain, the Lord passed by; and Elijah was given a renewed vision of faith. Just as recognizing God’s picture for our lives can be difficult because we focus on our limitations, envisioning faith is difficult because we limit ourselves to what is visible at any given time.
But that is not what faith is all about. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (NIV). “It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (NLT).
Faith isn’t about the reality we perceive around us. It’s about the reality of the unseen presence and promise of God.
When we reach points of difficulty and resistance on our faith journey, when we become fearful and paralyzed, our inclination is to focus on the visible. Elijah was focusing on the circumstances that surrounded him. Jezebel had threatened him, and she had the resources to carry out that threat as was evidenced by the visible bodies of those she had ordered killed. Our inclination is to focus on the visible. But following in the Jesus way is not about the visible. It’s about the invisible promise of God.
It’s about realizing that nothing has changed, even though our circumstances might lead us to believe it has. God’s promise continues to be valid; God is still present with us. Everything that God has envisioned for our lives remains intact. When God made the covenant with the Israelites, gave them the law, and was preparing them to enter the Promised Land, God spoke these words through Moses: “Watch out! Be very careful never to forget what you have seen the LORD do for you. Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren” (Deuteronomy 4:9, NLT).
God’s message is that it is the Israelites’ faith picture that will sustain them in their new land. It is their commitment to keeping that vision of faith ever before them that will make or break their experience as God’s people. The biblical witness shows how important this spiritual resource is. When difficulties arose for the Israelites, the strength of their faith picture was always a crucial ingredient to the outcome. More often than not, when they lost their vision of faith, when they forgot what the Lord had done for them, their difficulties increased and calamity followed.
Keeping a vision of faith before us is critical if we are to follow in the Jesus way. We have to continually shape it and form it and articulate it in order to push through the times of resistance and disruption. God’s words to the Israelites are also for us:
You must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again. Tie them to your hands as a reminder, and wear them on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, NLT)
As we rehearse our vision of faith over and over, keeping it ever before us, it strengthens and sustains us, remaining intact as a source of strength during times of crisis and resistance.