SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #3
January 15, 2011
When it comes to eating in fancy restaurants the most outlandish oddities on the menu come with the most exorbitant prices. Often they are presented in unusual settings. Imagine having a flock of ravens for waiters. What a presentation! Faithful Elijah was nourished from the beaks of ravens. The only problem is that ravens are considered to be unclean. They were among the creatures perched on the sheet that came down in Peter’s dream. If being fed by ravens is not stress inducing it must at least be appetite suppressing. Would it not have been more appetizing had a flock of tropical macaws delivered the meal?
Has God ever delivered truth to you through the some unlikely vehicle or person? Be very careful how you judge the means God chooses to bring spiritual nourishment. One might just be rejecting the very truth that the soul is needing most.
What if you had twenty-four hours to live? How would you live it? Jezebel sent Elijah a twenty-four hour ultimatum, thus giving him an opportunity to learn something about himself that he had not known before. He bolted and ran, praying along the way that God would let him die before Jezebel could get to him. Praise to our loving God for sending an angel to put him through a depression recovery program of good nutrition, rest and time alone with God. It seems that even the prophet of the Lord was subjected to depression that seems to be the result of inappropriately dealing with a stressful situation. How could this happen to such a pillar of faith? How can we avoid falling into a similar trap?
First, we must accepted without reservation the facts regarding the condition of our hearts. The Bible says, “The Heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Even Elijah, after God’s great miracles, had a heart that wanted to take some credit for the amazing power of God that came in answer to the prayer of faith. He wanted everyone to recognize that his calling has been of God all along. He wanted to see an immediate and complete revival and reformation.
Stress can come from the tension between reputation and character-between what we think we are and what we really are-between the outcomes we want and the outcomes God allows. Stress can also be the energy expended to do, in our own strength, what God has promised to do for us. How much energy have you used in trying to protect your reputation? It is hard work that does not bring a reward. Could this be what Elijah was experiencing? Stress that led to depression? Here is some sound advice from Elder A. T. Jones.
“I want to know how anybody is going to stand faithful to the third angel's message and do the work of that message who cares particularly what people say about him and has much respect for reputation or puts his dependence upon reputation? He cannot do it. But thank the Lord, God has something a great deal better for us to depend upon, and that is character. Let us not forget that Jesus, our example in this world, "made himself of no reputation" (A. T. Jones, General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 3, 1893 p. 124).
The experience of Elijah mirrors what God is taking us through. I know that you are going through trials where God is weaning you from your own reputation and presenting to you His perfect Character. This journey of character development is a painful process, but God is wonderfully orchestrating it from His Sanctuary. One of the least understood aspects of the gospel is one of the greatest stress reducers if rightly understood; namely the work of the Comforter. Jesus said, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).
When you are convicted of sin do you feel comforted? Jesus says that this is the work of the Comforter. Here is a wonderful thought by Elder Waggoner: “Mark well the fact that the first work of the Comforter is to convict of sin. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, which pierces ‘even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ Yet even while sending the keenest and deepest conviction, the Spirit is the Comforter. He is none the less the Comforter in convicting of sin, than in revealing the righteousness of God for the remission of the sin. There is comfort in the conviction which God sends. The surgeon who cuts to the very bone, that he may remove the poisonous death-breeding substance from the flesh, does it only that he may successfully apply the healing oil” (E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p. 290
Here is the same thought expressed more eloquently by the Messenger of the Lord: “Repentant sinners have no cause to despair because they are reminded of their transgressions and warned of their danger. These very efforts in their behalf show how much God loves them and desires to save them. They have only to follow His counsel and do His will, to inherit eternal life. God sets the sins of His erring people before them, that they may behold them in all their enormity under the light of divine truth. It is then their duty to renounce them forever” (Ellen White, Courage and Conflict,p. 8).
We have the opportunity to cooperate with God as He cleanses His people. Do you sense the work of the Holy Spirit plowing deeper to show you things about yourself you did not know? Do not despair. God is working out the Elijah message in your life. God is turning us from self-centered observers into Christ-centered, fruit-bearing Christians whom He can use to bless others. Thank God for this cleansing work. Surrender to this process is a powerful cure for stress. His word to you is, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Health Nugget: Are you starting the new year with a resolution to exercise more? Here is something to help you stick with it. Everyone knows that the skeleton is made of bone. Bone is composed mainly of calcium. This too is common knowledge. What is surprising and motivational is that calcium is deposited in the bones, not during periods of rest, but during periods of weight-bearing exercise--or stress. So get on the treadmill if you are in colder climes or go for a brisk walk if you are in sunnier environments. Subjecting the body to the stressors for which the Creator designed it actually increases our ability to deal with the negative physical and mental stressors which are unavoidable in this life.