The Called: Courage to Face the Opposition
1 KINGS 18:17-21
The crowd was silent. The soul of the nation was at stake. Queen Jezebel and her weak husband, King Ahab, had already installed temples to worship Baal and they were executing the prophets of Israel. Elijah confronted the crowd, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal is God, follow him.”
Baal was a fertility god where worshipers had intimate relations with both female and male prostitutes in the hope of securing prosperity. The worship of Baal was strongly condemned by the prophets of Israel, as seen in the Leviticus passages condemning “males lying with males,” a condemnation of Baal worship and not relevant to us today.
Then Elijah ordered that two piles of wood be stacked, and two bulls be cut into pieces. He challenged the prophets of Baal, “You call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire is the true God.” The crowd yelled, “Yay! Go for it!” Elijah said to the Baal prophets, “Please, you go first.”
All morning they cried, “O Baal, answer us.” They wore themselves out praying and limping around the altar. They cut themselves and their blood flowed. At noon, Elijah couldn’t contain himself and began teasing, taunting, jeering. “What’s the matter? Is Baal meditating? Has he gone to pee? Did he go on a trip? Did he fall asleep? Wake him up!” But nothing happened.
Then Elijah told the crowd to come near. He took twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel, dug a trench around the stones, laid the wood and the bull sacrifice on the stones, and commanded, “Bring four jars of water and pour them on the altar.” The altar was drenched and the trench was filled with water.
Then Elijah prayed, “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God, and that I am your servant…Answer me, O Lord, answer me.”
And the fire of the Lord fell, consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried, “The Lord is God; the Lord is God.”
The current sermon series is The Called. Elijah was called by God to confront evil and he was given the courage to succeed.
Who is called? Whom does God call? You? Yes, you are called. You have a purpose. Don’t say, “Oh, I’m not important, I’m insignificant!” You are not a nobody. You are not insignificant. You are special. You are called, called by God.
How does God call? How do you know you are called? The Elijah story gives us a pattern. I call it Triple C. Conviction, courage and confrontation.
Elijah had a deep conviction that there was a problem in Samaria, a conviction that there was evil and he had a deep conviction that he was called to do something about it.
The first C is Conviction, conviction that there is a problem, a conviction that there is a need. Perhaps you say, “I live in a retirement center. What can I do?” Surely there are problems somewhere. Surely there are people in need who need help.
Perhaps you say, “I have a full-time job. I don’t have time to go somewhere.” There is no opportunity for mission in your workplace? Is there sexism? Is there inequality? Are there people in need who need help.
Or, “I’m too young to be called.” There is no opportunity for mission in your school? There are no bullies to confront?
With eyes open, with eyes that see what God sees, look around. See where you are called. You are called when you are convicted, convinced there is a wrong, an injustice, a need.
And then, act with courage. Sometimes you need to speak up, say something, stand up to opposition, do something that makes you uncomfortable, where courage is required. Perhaps not as dramatic as the courage Elijah exhibited, but still courage.
Where does courage come from? How do you get courage? From Psalm 27 which we read this morning, verse 14. “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”
In the scriptures, the word wait means to hope, to anticipate, and to trust with faith, patience, humility. The Common English Bible changes “wait” to “hope”: “Hope in the Lord! Be strong! Let your heart take courage! Hope in the Lord!”
Wait, hope and “take courage.” I have the Bible downloaded on my iPhone. I entered the word “courage” on the Search line. 26 times courage is mentioned and 12 times it says “took” or “take” courage. Interesting. Courage is something you take? Reach out and take? In Acts 28.15, when Paul arrived in Rome to be imprisoned, “Paul thanked God and took courage.”
But, isn’t it contradictory to “wait” and “take courage”? Simultaneously? While we wait, we take? Waiting is a two-way street. The Lord is also waiting, waiting for us to take courage. Picture Jesus standing there—smiling at you, patiently waiting—with his hand outstretched holding courage. “Here,” Jesus is saying, “Here is courage. Take it. It’s yours.” When you’re in a difficult situation and courage is required, reach out and take it. Jesus offers it to you.
Sometimes courage surprises us and it’s there without waiting! The senseless, horrible Las Vegas massacre has given us many examples of immediate self-less acts of courage. The first responders, not knowing where the bullets were coming from, fearlessly ran into the inferno as the crowd was running out. It is amazing there was no stampede, but frightened people stopped to help others, provided first aid and guided others to safety. One man, even though he was shot in the leg, pressed his finger on a stranger’s wound and held it there all the way to the hospital. Some threw their bodies on top of others, protecting them from the onslaught. Amazing courage.
Taylor Winston jumped a fence, found a truck with keys inside, stole it, loaded as many victims as he could onto the truck bed and drove them to a hospital. He went back for more and rescued 30 victims before the ambulances arrived. The Marine veteran returned the keys to the truck’s owner on Monday.
Conviction, courage and confrontation. Confrontation does not necessarily mean a dramatic confrontation like Elijah’s challenge to the Baal prophets. Confrontation does not need to mean calling down fire on the boss or neighbor. Confrontation can be calm, polite, respectful.
Bob and Joan Morgan, out of a deep conviction for the needs of the homeless, are called to UMOM where they have courageously confronted the desperation and have volunteered for years. Two weeks ago, in spite of their health issues, at 6am they were at the Phoenix Zoo UMOM Walk setting up arrangements and afterwards tearing them down. Later in the day, they were here in Fellowship Center helping prepare for the BBQ and on Sunday cleaned up afterwards. Then they called on a shut-in!
For two weeks, Trudy Thompson Rice volunteered as a Red Cross nurse in a Houston hospital. Many youths and adults from our church go on mission trips.
Our granddaughter Amanda, a freshman at Chaparral High School, escorts a boy who has down syndrome to his classes because he easily gets lost.
I could go on naming persons of our church who are called. Could I name you? When and where have you been called? You are called. You have a purpose. You are Jesus’ hands and feet. When you are convicted there is a need, take courage and confront.
Let God take your mind and think through it. Let God take your lips and speak through them. Let God take your hands and do good through them. Let God take your heart and set it on fire.
© 2017 Douglas I. Norris