14th Sunday after Pentecost
“Speak Up!”1 Kings 19.11–13 (the Message)
[11-12] Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.  When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?”
We finish our series on PRAYER today with this third installment. We hope that you’ve seen that prayer is about God and His desire to give you Himself in this living relationship of prayer instead of just giving you stuff. We hope that you’ll draw near to God and experience His drawing near to you, lighting you up with faith and then using that faith and prayer to reach out to others and witness to them the great power of our God.
Today we finish by learning that prayer and the activity of God isn’t what the movies tell us or what culture wants it to be. Special effects have ruined us because for the longest time they have made us believe that bigger is better. And today, bigger isn’t better but is the “norm.” If it isn’t big, if it isn’t EPIC, then its lacking. And so for faith to be believable and attainable we’ve been tricked into thinking that it has to be filled with a big-bang kind of awe or something is wrong.
When I was in high school, my friend and I were hanging out after youth group, staring up at the sky from the back bed of my ’66 Chevy truck. Our church was on the shore of Lake Lanier and the sun was going down over the lake, lighting up the clouds in all sorts of colors. As we talked about the lesson our youth pastor gave that night, Brandon said, “I just wish God would come out and write it in the sky! It would make it all so much easier.” I said back to him, “Of course it would be easy if an angel just popped out of the sky and said ‘Boo!’ and then hid again.” We both laughed but secretly longed for God to just speak up and make our faith easier. In that moment, God was painting a picture above us, using the sky and the clouds and the sun to do something greater than any human artist has ever captured. We wanted a BANG! When all the while, God was laying back with us, right there, close, painting a subtle picture of awe and wonder… and we missed it.
In the Scriptures, the teachers of the Jewish law struggled to believe in Jesus and they demanded He give them a sign (Matthew 12; 16). Jesus tells them that only a wicked and adulterous generation asks for signs and wonders. The only sign they would be given was that of the sign of Jonah; that Jesus, like Jonah, would be taken away for 3 days and then brought back. Jesus would preach and teach and offer repentance, just as Jonah had. That is the sign—preaching on repentance and resurrection.
We miss God all the time. I think the most successful Christians are those who journal. As they keep a record of their life and faith, they are able to easily look back over the days and years of their life and see where God has been active and real. It is often in the subtle moments where it was the providential, guiding–hand–of–God that they came through something, realized something, got over that hump, or grew in ways that brought them to where they are today. Journaling also reveals to us when we were far from God and often times shows us the reason we struggled in our faith.
What it all comes down to is whether or not we are looking for God in all things or in certain things. We are prone to looking for WOW moments. We want to be wowed or entertained in some way. But God is a mysterious God who uses all manner of ways to reveal Himself to us. Take our Scripture this morning. The prophet Elijah has seen the power of God at work in ways most of us could only dream or hope Hollywood would show us through a powerful movie.
At a time when Elijah was being pursued by those who wished to kill him, he turned to God for help and God told him to go to a mountain where God would pass by, revealing His presence to Elijah. In that moment, there were all kinds of earth-shaking, earth-shattering, earth-scorching moments where Elijah could have been sure it was God. And then, in the quiet, in the stillness, through what the Hebrew renders as ‘a gentle blowing,’ God is there, in the whisper. In THAT moment Elijah found and felt the presence of God.
I know you want your mind blown. I know you just want that WOW moment where everything changes in an instant. But the nature of prayer and faith is such that we come alongside the God who has come alongside us for relationship. God has promised to be with us in the less-than-epic moments. It is in the mundane that we must draw near to God because life isn’t a series of explosions. There are ups and downs that give a rhythm to life.
It reminds be of rafting the Ocoee river. It starts off exciting, jumping right in, with a rapid coming one after the other. Then there’s a short respite that helps you build up strength before the next class 3 rapid that is going to threaten to throw you overboard! This is what faith and prayer are like. We exercise our faith by participating in life, praying our way through both the rapids and the respites. But it’s in the respite that I feel closest to God. In the moments when I can hear my own heartbeat and gather my thoughts. When I can reflect upon the rapids that have sought to throw me from the boat.
The grandeur of God is in the day-in-day-out commitment, where we are amazed by the faithfulness of someone who will be with us in moments of honor and in moments of hell. God is with us, beside us, close. So let us not confuse God with the special effects of life. Let us look inward, into the heart, where God has chosen to dwell. The simplicity of prayer is more life–giving than any rush you can chase, for through prayer we have an on-going sustainability that feeds us in every moment. Be weary of those things that claim to be God in loud and boisterous ways. Find God in the quiet, in the stillness, and you will find that He is with you always.
Look beyond the loud.