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Turning Up the Heat
03/09/2008
Scripture: 1 Kings 17:7-16; 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Corinth...
Track 2 of 10 in the Elijah: The Humble Hero series
Running time: 59 minutes, 19 seconds.


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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

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All my life I have had people who I came in contact with who were tough, demanding and expected a lot from the things that I was called and asked to do. From my dad, to my coaches and today through the many customers I deal with on a regular basis, there are those who stand out to be very tough individuals to deal with on a regular basis. For me, those individual are a blessing because they teach me some very valuable lessons every time I deal with them. They made life tough most of the time but I always did my best work when working with them.

One of my heroes, Vince Lombardi was a coach who made life tough, miserable at times and very challenging for those who played for him. But there wasn’t a player who walked away after playing for him that wasn’t a better man in the end. Reading books by some of his players revealed how tough he was but also how his influence changed their lives and made them winners. Life is a tough business and it takes tough individuals to not only survive it but also to have great influence while living it.

Tough times, tough love, a kick in the pants, pressure, high expectations, are all valuable tools of those who are great leaders. They realized that great things are usually accomplished while under stress and pressure. It is in the heat of the battle, the critical few seconds of a game, at the very end of an important deadline that some of the greatest plays or acts are made. Winning, being first, standing on top or having powerful influence doesn’t come to the weak and lazy, it comes to those who strive for it and are willing to pay the price to accomplish it.

In our society today, overall, do we have a sense that hard work is the key to success? Is the next generation learning that value lesson? Why? What is the concept of “entitlement” doing to our country today and what are the advantages and what are the disadvantages? Is the next generation a generation of entitlement? What can we do to stop that trend?

We will see in our study of Elijah, God didn’t send this hero out to do great work without first training him to win. God often used tough times, hard work and difficult experiences to get his heroes ready for what he called them to do. Last week in your study was the first step in God’s training for Elijah. This week Elijah will move into God’s advanced training course. God had plans for Elijah that would take him far beyond those days of sitting by a brook and having birds feed him his meals.

Unfortunately, too many Christians have an attitude or an expectation that once they become Christians, life should be like what Elijah experienced, birds catering their meals to them. Have you noticed how Christians act? There are basically two kinds of Christians, those who just sit with their mouths open waiting to be spoon fed by the preacher, the Sunday school teacher and anyone else to provide for them and then those who are servants to others? There are those who desire to be served and there are those who love to serve others?

What about you? Do you live your Christian life waiting to be fed or have you learned to feed yourself? How long should it take for a baby Christian to grow up and become mature? Should we be concerned if a Christian of 40 years still sits with their mouth open waiting to be fed?

Is the church a place of high expectations or a place of entitlement?

1 Kings 17:7-9 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.”

I want to stop a minute and reflect back on something Elijah said in our first lesson:

1 Kings 17:1“There will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

How tough do you think it was for Elijah to watch his people suffer from the drought when he was capable of causing it to rain by his own words? What would his temptation be?

Again, here is one of those spots in scripture where we look at the name of a town and gloss of it quickly because it is hard to pronounce and, who has ever heard of Zarephath. There is significance in the name of this place. This should be a lesson to us that in all the details of God, even the smallest detail is important and has great significance to it. All the details need to be understood and followed.

In Hebrew, the name means “to melt” or “to smelt”. In the noun form it means “crucible’. What is a crucible? This place got its name because there was a smelting plant located there. But the name of the place would prove to be a crucible for Elijah. This place was designed by God to further refine the prophet and make a major difference in the remainder of his life. At Zarephath God will mold Elijah into a man ready to do great things for Hm. But before a person can be molded for God’s work, he first has to be melted and that happens only with the heat of fire.

The world sees tragedy and hard times as a negative. For many, life is only good when good things happen. When difficulty comes in, something must be wrong. What about you, what is your attitude when life becomes difficult or when life takes a major turn for the worst? Do you remain positive or do you sulk and look to blame someone for the downturn?

Look at our times today, what is our general response when difficulty comes upon us? What are the negative things we are facing today? Slow economy, high gas prices, 4.8% unemployment, a war, terrorists, an election, I hate my job, high taxes and going higher, a recent death, sickness, loneliness, etc.

Are these really bad? For the Christian, what might these things be? What is the crucible in your life?

Many of us already know that God usually doesn’t stop with just one test. In most cases, one test is followed by another. In many cases, many back to back and so on. Once you think you made it through the test, another one starts pretty quickly. There is a principle God wants you to know and to expect:

Crucibles create Christlikeness.

The very first skill I learned from my dad as a printer way back when I first started in the business was to melt lead. Any printer who has been in the business for a long time at one time or another learned that skill. Before the age of photographic type and then computers, lead type was the method by how we printed everything. Type, once it was used was then melted and then cast back into lead pigs to be used for the next job. High heat would melt the lead and from that process all the impurities would come to the top so I could scoop them out. The constant melting and re-melting would damage the lead over time so I had to add dross to the liquid metal to give it strength to hold up for the next printing job.

That is what a crucible does, that is what a furnace does, it brings to the top all the impurities so that they can be skimmed off leaving greater purity. How many times when terrible things are happening you think God is mad or that God is punishing you? The fact could be that he is using the situation to get you ready (to make you pure) for something he needs you to do. Training is not easy. Practice is usually hard before games but without the hard work or the pain, winning a game is not possible.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
There is something else we also need to know when dealing with the crucibles in life:

Isaiah 49:14-16 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

Throughout this whole drought ordeal, what do you think Ahab is doing? What tendencies do politicians normally have when tough times come that affects their popularity with the people? They attack what they think is causing the problem when normally the problem is really them.

Why is Israel suffering from a terrible drought? It is not because of Elijah!

Ahab and his army are desperately looking for Elijah. God now calls Elijah to leave his hidden place and go up to the city of Zarephath. Basically God is asking Elijah to walk out into the open, walk through the populated areas of Israel and go to the next destination. The walk is over 100 miles to the northwest to the coast in open territory that required him to move through the territory controlled by Ahab.

1 Kings 17:10-11 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

Once Elijah arrived at Zarephath, he was confronted by 2 tests:

First Test: The test of first impressions

Never underestimate first impressions because they are often a test!

Some read for me the words of Elijah here in this passage. Now put yourself in the situation of Elijah. The reason God is moving you is because the brook you are staying next to had dried up. You get up and leave during a major drought and move 100 miles over a dry and barren land on foot to the city of Zarephath. After that trip, how do you think Elijah said those words?

1 Kings 17:12 As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

Welcome to Zarephath, What do you think Elijah’s first impression was when he heard this ladies response to him? Is this the woman God promised would take care of me? If Elijah didn’t first die of thirst, he surely would die from starvation.

Have you ever been blindsided by first impressions? You thought something was going to be one way to quickly find out it was something totally different. Very often what follows is the first impression blues. Can someone explain to me what that is? Has anyone ever experienced it before? Why would this be considered a test?

Second Test: The test of physical impossibilities

1 Kings 17:13-14 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’”

What is so fascinating here about this passage, it describes two types of people. There are those like the woman who sees only the impossibilities in life. Then there are those people like Elijah who see only the possibilities.

What is the difference between the woman and Elijah? How come she only sees what can’t happen while Elijah can see what can? The difference is simple, Elijah already saw God do the impossible. He knows for a fact that the possible exists because he saw God do it first hand.

Today, what is the difference between those who see the impossibilities in life and those who see the possibilities? Is today any different?

1 Kings 17:15-16 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

Does this sound familiar? Who else did the same thing? Do you understand why Jesus was also thought of as being Elijah besides John the Baptist?

How do we apply this lesson as a class?

Here are some true principles:

- When God leads, it is often surprising…don’t try to analyze it.
- When God leads, the beginning days are often the hardest....don’t quit.
- God’s promises hinge on obedience…don’t ignore your part.
- God’s provisions are enough…don’t fail to thank God.