We have all probably seen an elephant in a zoo or in pictures–they’re huge! Its astonishing how someone can chain such an enormous animal with such a tiny shackle. Obviously an elephant is strong enough to break free, but an elephant stays in his chains because it becomes all he knows. As a baby elephant he wasn’t strong enough to pry loose so as he grew and kept trying without success he finally believed that it was impossible and stopped trying. So here a gigantic animal that in seconds can be set free but stays put because he became convinced when he was little that his chains were stronger. You may have heard this illustration in a message at some point, but it still rings true, especially for us.
Live in the inner city long enough and functioning in survival mode becomes normal. What others would consider life-threatening is just another day. Stay in an abusive relationship for any amount of time and you start doubting your own worth. Encounter sexual abuse through childhood and you start seeing yourself as tainted. We begin to see our circumstances and abuse as unbreakable chains we are bound to live with. No matter how many times we try, we become convinced that it’s impossible to walk free.
But Christ came to give liberty to the captives and release those who are oppressed. We serve a God who is bigger than the violence in our city. We serve a God who is able to bring healing from years of abuse. We serve a God who is fiercely in pursuit of making you whole, just like Him. You might not be able to see the full storyline and you might have a list of questions, but if we let go and allow God to re-envision our story we will be amazed at seeing His perspective. This is what God did for Elijah and He wants to do it for you.
Read 1 Kings 19:15-18 & Genesis 15:1-6
Elijah and Abraham had similar stories. They were both men of faith, but were struggling to see themselves the way God did.
What did God do to refresh Elijah’s perspective? What did he do to refresh Abraham’s perspective?
Abraham and Elijah both convinced themselves that they were doomed, but they both had to make a difficult choice to take what God was saying as truth. Can you empathize with Abraham and Elijah’s struggle? Is there something in your life you are having a hard time seeing from God’s standpoint?
What can we learn about God from the way He responded to both Elijah and Abraham?
Purpose: To give us a vision of the storyboard we are now seeing and begin to imagine what God might have for us in our future. Provide everyone with an unlined piece of paper and a stack of newspapers. Begin to cut out headlines, words or pictures that describe the storyboard of your life from your perspective. Share your collage with the group if you feel comfortable.
We all are living with a mental picture that can distort our God-given destiny. Now spend some time pasting headlines, words or pictures of the picture God has declared over you as we read in Scripture.
Elijah had drawn a mental picture of himself and his life story. In this storyboard every person in Israel had turned their backs on God and he was the only solitary faithful believer standing strong. He was convinced he stood with the world against him.
Dealing with distorted thinking is not simply a matter of rebooting our thinking, as we saw in the previous chapter. It’s also a matter of re-envisioning our personal storyboard from God’s perspective. That means we have to erase and repaint as God directs us. Notice how God masterfully begins to paint a whole new image in contrast to the image Elijah presented.
Re-read 1 Kings 19:15-18
In His response to Elijah, God addresses each distorted image Elijah has presented and carefully redrafts his storyboard.
Elijah: “I have done my part, but nothing is working out.”
God: “Go back the way you came. You can face your problems.”
Elijah: “I have reached out to people. They are all against me.”
God: “There are 7,000 who have not bowed their knee.”
Elijah: “I am all alone. No one is on my side.”
God: “I have appointed you partners and a successor.”
Elijah: “I have a dark future. Everyone is out to destroy me.”
God: “You will succeed at overcoming all your enemies.”
Read Isaiah 6:1-8, Exodus 33:12-23, Acts 9:1-9
We live in a God-shrinking culture where we reduce God to nothing more than a lucky charm. We pursue God only when we are in dire need or when its convenient for us, but as we read in the Scriptures above, our life and call come into perspective when we catch a clear vision of God and His mission. Exposure to God’s presence will stir within us a new awareness of who we are and what we need to do.
Francis Chan writes in his book Crazy Love, “The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He’s great and deserves to be the center of our lives.”
As Isaiah saw God more clearly what did he become aware of?
What did Moses desire? What did Moses know that gave him confidence to lead?
What are the questions that Paul (Saul) asked the Lord? Have you met Jesus Christ? If you have how has knowing Christ changed the vision for your life?
What are the similarities between these three experiences?
With which statement do you find yourself agreeing most:
I can picture the storyboard that God has written for me and I’m excited about the future.
I have no idea what God has in store for me, but I’m willing to let go and allow the Lord to paint a new picture for my life.
I have a hard time erasing the misleading images of my future built on the lies I have believed.
Pray for one another as you consider visually the images that are defining your life. Take a moment and allow the truth of God’s word to paint a new image for your life.
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but was is unseen is eternal.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.