Doubt the Drought

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Elijah had to doubt the drought before God would bring the rain. It is the same for us who wish to see God move in our lives. We must see the invisible, remember God's provision, and pray in dependence.

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Your stronger future will be the byproduct of stronger faith. You won’t get a stronger future with weaker faith and it’s impossible to have a weaker future while living with stronger faith. Stronger faith will always produce a stronger future.
For some of you it was a level of faith that got you from where you were to where you are now. And that’s great. But it will take a new level of faith to get you from where you are now to where God is inviting you next.
This story Elijah finds himself in the middle of a 3 year drought.
The drought occured because King Ahab and Jezebel, who ruled over Northern Israel, had begun to worship the god Baal and as a result, God speaks through Elijah and says that the clouds will be shut and there will be a drought and there is for 3 years. 3 years of no rain. Not even a drizzle. Just like there are some 2.5 year old kids right now that do not know a world without masks, there were 3-year old children who had never seen rain, heard thunder, let alone seen a cloudy sky. And it’s in the midst of this drought that God is about to do one of the greatest miracles in Elijah’s lifetime.
1 Kings 18:41–46 (NLT)
41Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” 42So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. 43Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. 44Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’ ” 45And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. 46Then the Lord gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel.
1. Stronger Faith sees the invisible.
41Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!”
Now, we need to pause here because Elijah does something so significant. Elijah doubts the drought. And this was no easy thing. Remember, for 3 years they had not seen a drop of rain. Not even a drizzle. Not even Karl the Fog visited Israel for 3 years. Nothing.
Now I can relate to Elijah because I am from Arizona. I am convinced that if you don’t believe in the devil, it is only because one of two things: You’ve never been to Arizona or you don’t have kids. But I was born-and-raised in Arizona. The land of 120 degree summers where your swimming pool feels like a bathtub. One time I went down a slide at a water park and even with water that metal slide was so hot and I only realized how hot it was because halfway down I felt my skin burning like I was doing a slip-and-slide in Hell. But it was too late. By the time I splashed into the pool I had a severe burn on my back that looked like some overcooked bacon. Arizona is that hot. I know a thing or two about living somewhere that it doesn’t rain much. The landscape is brown. Everything is dusty. Even the wind is hot on your skin.
So Elijah and everyone in Israel wouldn’t need a meteorologist to tell them that they are in a drought. Everything around them would remind them they are in one. The dusty and cracked landscape would remind them. The skies without a cloud in sight would remind them. Their dry skin would remind them of this. Every single day that they wake up and every time they step outside for the past 3 years they would be reminded that it hasn’t rained and there’s not a drop of rain in the forecast. At some point, you have to imagine that Israel might have thought that they would never see rain again.
So it would it would take next level faith to say that rain was coming. It would take laughable faith to declare that rain is coming in the midst of a 3-year drought. And it’s not like the sky was now full of cumulonimbus clouds (how about that for a word?). But Elijah shows us something here and that is that stronger faith survives the invisible. Stronger faith doesn’t believe it because they see it, but stronger faith believes it before they see it. Elijah shows us that if you are going to have stronger faith, there are going to be moments in your life that you’re going to have to doubt the drought.
And I want to tell somebody today that finds themselves in a drought today that stronger faith is going to at times require you to believe something before you see it.
It has felt like a drought at times these last 2.5 years.
For some you’ve been in a relational drought/financial drought/mental health drought/purpose drought/hope drought
But if 2022 is the year that you become your strongest self, it is going to take stronger faith, and stronger faith will mean learning how to doubt the drought.
It’s been a drought relationally. But you’re going to doubt the drought. God is about to send you deeper community than you’ve ever had. The rain is coming! It’s been a drought in your purpose. But you’re going to doubt the drought. God is preparing you and about to bring opportunities your way so that you can do work you love and that makes a difference. The rain is coming! It’s been a drought in your dating life. But it’s time to doubt the drought because God is about to bring you a man who loves Jesus, has a job, and isn’t a jerk. It’s raining men, hallelujah! Some of you have been in a drought in your faith. Over the last couple of years you’ve felt hope dry up in your life. But it’s time to doubt the drought because the rain is coming and God is going to do a new and fresh work in your life. And you don’t believe it because you see it, but you are beginning to see it because you believe it.
Like it says in Hebrews 11:1: Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
Faith is seeing something happening before anything is happening. Faith is seeing something in your soul before you see it in your situation. Faith isn’t believing because you see but seeing because you believe.
This brings me back to when Jena and I came out to SF to start Canvas. We didn’t move out to San Francisco because SF had proven to be an easy place to start a church. We didn’t move out here because there was so much evidence that a new church would succeed here. If anything, everywhere we looked and everyone we talked to reminded us that if there was a place a church couldn’t succeed it would be San Francisco. We were constantly reminded that the landscape for churches here was a dry one. If there was a city that was in the midst of a drought when it came to the church, San Francisco would be that city.
But we could see something that no one was seeing and we decided to doubt the drought. While others saw a city where faith had dried up, we believed that San Francisco was a city that was full of some of the most passionate and innovative people and that God could shape this City to shape the world for good and for God. We believed rain was coming. While others saw a city in the midst of a drought of faith, we believed SF was a city made up of people who are ready to experience God in a new, real, and profound way. The rain is coming. We didn’t move here because we saw something first, but because we believed something first and the more we have believed it the more we have seen it. The more we learned to doubt the drought, the more ready we were for rain.
I wonder what drought you need to doubt today? Are you ready for the rain of God’s favor on your life? The rain of God’s provision? God’s healing? A fresh rain of faith? It starts by having the strength of faith to doubt the drought and see something in your soul before you see it in your situation. For some of you, the reason you have yet to see breakthrough in your life is because, if you’re honest, you have more confidence in your drought than you have in your God. You talk more about what you don’t have than what you do have. You talk more about what you lost than what God has provided. You talk more about the struggle you’ve faced than the strength that you’ve gained over the past 2 years.
But if you’re going to see God bring the rain you’re going to need to have the faith to doubt the drought and see the rain before there’s a cloud in the sky.
And what does Elijah do next? This is key for us if you’re going to doubt the drought but you might miss it if you’re not paying attention:
a. Elijah goes back to the place where God was victorious.
42So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel...
BTW - one thing to note here is that Elijah sent Ahab away. Ahab, go get yourself a sandwich, because I got work to do. Remember, Ahab was the one who had brought the drought on Israel in the first place. It was because of his lack of faith that Israel found themselves in this situation. While I won’t spend much time on this, sometimes you need to get some people of out your orbit because they will try and get you to focus on your drought more than your destiny.
But Mount Carmel is significant and I don’t think it’s an accident that Elijah goes there after declaring that rain was coming in the middle of a 3-year drought. If you read earlier in 1 Kings 18, Mount Carmel would be the location of when God showed up in an undeniable way in the life of Elijah. Explain 1 Kings 18 and Mt. Carmel story.
So it makes sense to me that if Elijah was going to stand firm in his faith for Gods provision in his future that he would first need to go back to a moment of God’s provision in his past. He would need to go back to that moment God showed up because when he reminded himself that God showed up then, it fueled his faith to see that God can do it again.
Have you noticed that people have the deepest faith have walked through the darkest moments? They’ve walked through some stuff and God was with them then and because of that they are convinced God can do it again. It’s like, they live their lives with all of the badges that remind them of God’s past provision.
Have you ever seen people at Disneyland that have tons of pins on their lanyard or something? Disneyland pin collectors are a different breed of human. There is one part of Disneyland where I’ve seen someone with a suitcase full of Disney pins and they’re like selling them on the corner of FrontierLand at Disney. It’s like drug dealing but with pins. But if you ever talk to one of these interesting Disney-pin collecting humans they all have a story behind each pin. When they got it. Where they got it. Why it’s significant. And they’ll gladly tell you all about it because they don’t really have many friends.
I’m telling you this because if you are going to doubt the drought you got to start collecting the pins of God’s past provision and reminding yourself of them often. I don’t know about you but I want to die with a life full of pins of God’s provision. I want to tell stories to my daughter and maybe one day to grandkids about all the stories about God’s past provision. And I know when I find myself in the midst of a drought, I’m going to need to remember when God provided the rain in my past. And you will too and so did Elijah. Mt. Carmel was his pin and he goes back there to remember if God did it then, he could do it again. How did Elijah doubt the drought? He understood that God’s past provision is the best predictor of his future faithfulness.
b. Elijah falls down in prayer and dependence.
But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees.
Now, I typically like to give you a visual of the scriptures. But I can’t pull this off. He prayed with his face between his knees. My man Elijah must have done some hot yoga because I’m not that flexible. So you’re all just going to have to visualize that on your own.
Not only does Elijah go back to God’s past provision but he falls down in prayer and dependence. Which makes sense. Elijah just told the King of Israel that he heard rain coming amid a 3-year drought. Have you ever said something and quickly realized you might have bit off more than you can chew? Maybe Elijah is feeling that way. I don’t know. Maybe he’s like, “Hey God, so, yeah, I sort of said you were going to end this drought. Can you help me out here?” I don’t know exactly what Elijah’s frame of mind was but I do know this much: Elijah knew that only God could do it.
When was the last time you put yourself in an “only God” position? When was the last time you took a risk that could only work out with only God? When was the last time you pursued a dream that could only happen with only God? When was the last time you felt this pressure because you had crossed that line from what only you can do to what only God can do? When was the last time that you fell down to your knees in prayer and dependence because you knew that only God could provide the way you need?
I have to believe that Elijah was fully aware of how foolish he would look if God didn’t bring the rain. But faith is often the willingness to look foolish in the eyes of others. Abraham looked foolish leaving the safety of his home to follow the voice of God. Noah looked foolish building the boat. Esther looked foolish to stand against the most powerful leader in the world. David looked foolish fighting Goliath. Elijah looked foolish saying it was going to rain in the middle of a drought. See, faith will often invite us to places where only God can provide and it’s in those moments we find ourselves, like Elijah, with our head in-between our knees praying for God’s provision.
When was the last time your faith was so strong that all you could do was pray because all you had was God?
I want people to look at Canvas and see what happens in this community and say that was “only God.”
I am currently praying that God would give us a specific building so we can permanently root ourselves here and serve SF in even greater ways. But only God can do this.
I am praying that we see a movement of God’s spirit in the lives of people that would cause people to pause and say “only God.”
I am praying that we as a church would be so generous and give away so much to our city and world that others looking at us would have to say, “Only God.”
And I want this for you as well.
I want you live a life of purpose and impact that your friends and family will see and say “Only God.”
I want you to overcome your wounds and find peace in your lives that can only be explained with “Only God.”
I want you to live a life that is so full of wonder, joy, and love that would cause others to say there must be a God because “only God” could do that.
But if you want to live an “only God” life you’ll need to get used to praying. Because one thing is clear from the story of Elijah and the heroes of the faith we read throughout the scriptures and that truth is that: When we work, we work. But when we pray, God works.
Psalm 46:10 (NLT) - 10“Be still, and know that I am God!”
This reminds me that every prayer is a confession. Because every time that I stop and am still and come to God in prayer, I am confessing something. And what I am confessing is that there is a God and I’m not it. There is a Creator and I’m not it. Every time I pray I am in that stillness confessing that I know that God is God and I am not. Every time we pray we are confessing that “only God” can intervene and “only God” can lead my life to where it was always meant to go.
When was the last time you made this confession? That God is God and you are not? What could be possible in your life if you lived an “only God” sort of life? I believe that maybe God is calling some of you out of a drought, but for others perhaps today God is actually calling the drought out of you. I love what Rabbi Abraham Heschel said:
"Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives, to let His will prevail in our affairs; it is the opening of a window to Him in our will, an effort to make Him the Lord of our soul.”
If 2022 is going to be the year you become your strongest self, God is calling the drought of complacency out of you. God is calling the drought of fear out of you. God is calling the drought of bitterness out of you. Because God wants to bring a fresh rain of faith in your life. A fresh rain of courage in your life. God wants to bring a downpour of freedom in your life. But whether God’s calling you out of a drought or God is calling the drought out of you, it all begins when we come to the end of ourselves and realize that there is a God and we’re not it and decide to live in such a way that only God can get the credit for it.
A stronger future is the byproduct of a stronger faith. And faith will invite you to see the invisible and doubt the drought. And when we decide to doubt the drought, we must go back to that place when God provided and remember God’s past provision is the best predictor of his future faithfulness. And above all else, may we remember that when we fall to our knees in prayer, we rise up in strength so at the end of your life the two words that will best describe the story you leave behind are “only God.”
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