Every so often we meet Christians who have taken shelter in Elijah's cave. The reference of course is to I Kings 19 when Elijah fled from Jezebel to Sinai, and took refuge in a hole in the rock. After what was arguably his greatest victory over the curse of Baalism in Israel, Elijah entered the pit of despair. His lament to God was, "O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers" (verse 4).
Those Christian folk sheltering in a cave have seen the strength of Mordor, and have quailed. They have conceded defeat in their hearts. They have retreated to living out their days, awaiting the end of their lives, looking only then to release from suffering and an escape into heaven.
This demeanor is understandable. If it took hold of Elijah, the greatest of the northern prophets, how can ordinary Christians avoid it, for we live in a day and age when Unbelief is both pervasive and adamant? Yet, Christ calls us to be warriors. He calls us to fight the good fight of the Faith. He exhorts us to be of good courage. He calls us to be like the Rohirrim as they slew the forces of Sauron before the gates of Gondor, with, we are told, the joy of battle in their hearts. We Christians are to be merry warriors.
How can this be? How can we maintain such a countenance when we find ourselves uttering Elijah's lament: "I alone am left."
And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” [I Kings 19: 13-18]The Lord gives Elijah a reality check. He tells him to get back to work: anoint Jehu to be king over Israel, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, and anoint Elisha to take his place as the prophet of the Lord, and, oh, by the way, the Lord will leave seven thousand in Israel who have not bowed to Baal.
Here are some of the critical things to help recapture the joy of battle.
Firstly, regardless of how bleak things seem, the Lord has work for us to do, and our duty as soldiers is to be found doing that work. Our labour in the Lord is never ever in vain. [I Corinthians 15:58]
Secondly, we are part of the days and times and seasons appointed by God and in which he has called us to live and serve. If the Lord has called us to labour in such difficult times, when hearts are deadened to the Lord and alive to the idolatry of Man, it is a badge of honour. To swim with the tide is one thing; to swim against it is quite another. The Lord appointed us to live and serve Him in the times and seasons He has ordained--and for us, the season is one of difficulty. It is our service which matters, not its apparent success.
Thirdly, we are to learn to live and work in God's eternal time, not our own variable seasons. Our days are over in an instant; the Kingdom is eternal. The triumph of King Jesus upon the earth is certain and inevitable. The struggles of our day will only serve to make His inevitable triumph more glorious. All His and our enemies shall be put under His feet. We must never lose sight of the millennia to come, as we labour this week, this month.
Let's come out of the cave, and get back to work. May the joy of battle rest upon all His people.