Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow
“When I was 16, I was a thief.”
Nick Ely, lead pastor of Christ Church Central Phoenix, shared with the Grand Canyon University community at Monday’s Chapel the time when he hit his lowest point.
He was working at Blockbuster Video, which was running a promotion: Get a Best Buy gift card if you sign up for a magazine subscription.
Ely would persuade customers to get a magazine subscription, but without the incentive of the gift card. Instead, he scanned the cards under the desk and kept them for himself.
So when his Young Life leader asked him if he could get him an HDMI cord, Ely thought, no problem. He used his stolen Best Buy gift cards together with his employee discount number to buy the cord, and shortly after, was fired.
“I remember still to this day the shame and embarrassment I felt. … I was very deeply afraid of what people would think of me and how they would treat me at what felt like my lowest moment.”
Ely then shared with the Chapel audience how God will treat you at your lowest moment through the story of the prophet Elijah.
Elijah in 1 Kings 18 was sent to Israel, whose people had turned away from God to worship a false idol, Baal. He confronted King Ahab and challenged him to a spiritual showdown.
Elijah, the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of false goddess Asherah would prepare a bull as an offering but were instructed not to light a fire on the altar. The god who answered with fire from the sky would be considered the true god. Nothing happened for the prophets of Baal and Asherah, but when Elijah prayed to the Lord, He sent fire from heaven to consume the offering.
“It’s a day of soaring success for Elijah, and he is banking on the fact that, in this moment, there will be national repentance and revival and that Yahweh will be placed back in his rightful position as the one true and living God.”
But that doesn’t happen.
Instead, Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, sends a messenger to Elijah, telling him that he will be put to death, so Elijah fled into the wilderness and asked the Lord to take his life.
“The reason that I want to draw your attention to these verses today is simply this: The way that God treated Elijah in his lowest moment is the exact same way that He will treat you at yours,” said Ely. “… When you find yourself in the pit of despair and you are filled with fear about how God will treat you, I want this story and God’s Word to bring crystal clarity to exactly what He thinks about you, how He feels about you …”
First, “God supplies so I can receive,” said Ely.
In 1 Kings 19:5, after Elijah fled to the desert and asked the Lord to let him die, God instead sent an angel who touched him after he fell asleep and said, “Get up and eat.” He saw at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. An angel came to him a second time and did the same, telling him to arise and eat to prepare for a great journey.
“Personally, I’d be like, Elijah, are you serious, bro? Why don’t you just suck it up and get back to work? … Do you remember yesterday when I called down all the fire … Have you forgotten who I am?” Ely said. “ … Instead, God sends an angel — get this — to give Elijah a nap and a snack.”
Ely said that God supplied exactly what His prophet needed at that moment: “What God has given you in this moment, it may not be what you planned for. It may not be what you expected. It may not be what you even prayed for … but it is what you need,” and if there is something you don’t have, it is because God, in His wisdom and love, knows you don’t need it.
The second way God will treat you in your lowest moment is to speak to you.
Ely said we expect God to speak to us in some dramatic, supernatural way. Yet in 1 Kings 19:11, the Bible describes how wind tore through Mount Horeb, where Elijah was, and an earthquake shook the ground, yet the Lord was not present in any of those things.
He spoke to Elijah after the fire in a low whisper, and when Elijah heard it, he wrapped himself in his cloak, stood at the entrance to a cave and heard God’s voice.
“God does not always speak to us in ways that feel spectacular,” Ely said. If we need to hear Him, we just need to open the Bible and read His words.
Ely recalled a particularly busy day of meetings and frenetic activity that he had. When he got home at the end of the day, he finally heard his phone quietly playing music in his back pocket all day.
“I realized that it wasn’t until I was quiet that I heard what was there the entire time … and that’s what our life is like with God. All the time, we fill ourselves with so many words and beeps and dings and Zooms and notifications and schedules and DMs … we don’t ever stop long enough to hear the voice of God in the low whisper.”
The third way God treats you in your lowest moment?
“God sends, so I can go,” Ely said.
In 1 Kings 19:15, God gives Elijah a to-do list: anoint a foreign king to assert His sovereignty, pick an Israelite king to establish His authority over His people, and select a prophet to be Elijah’s successor.
Those marching orders might sound harsh, but they’re actually a measure of God’s kindness, Ely said.
“It’s kind because God knows that self-centeredness is the road to despair,” he said.
“One of the most powerful things you could do is stop thinking about yourself for a moment and find somebody else with a need and go meet that need in Jesus’ name. … It is a God-given grace to take your eyes off of yourself in times of trouble and put them on God and put them on others.”
Ely reminded the GCU audience that God provided us with something Elijah never had: Jesus, and as Easter is approaching, it is time to remember that Jesus is alive.
“Know that God supplies, God speaks and God sends, and He has done that ultimately and finally for you in the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, so run to Him, receive from Him, listen to Him and go for Him.”
Manager of Internal Communications Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.
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