Issue avoidance has become a common theme for us. If it is difficult, painful, or demanding, we avoid it as long as we can. Countless couples avoid dealing with the root issues of their marriage problems and end up in divorce court. Governments avoid dealing with real issues of debt until it becomes an economic crisis. Millions of Americans avoid dealing with the issues that lead to addictions until they need to go into rehab.
Elijah was tired of dealing with the stress and tension of his calling and hit a breaking point where he just ran. He reached a point of exhaustion and told himself, “All this work and sacrifice has not made a difference, and I will end up one more dead prophet.” He became gripped with the fear of failure. Instead of facing his issues he ran and hid. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed, “I have had enough, Lord...Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4).
A fresh encounter with God spun Elijah around. His back had been toward his problem but his encounter with the presence of God sent him head first toward his unresolved issue.
Read 1 Kings 19:15-18, Genesis 16:1-16
Do you remember what happened in the Desert of Damascus? This is the place where Elijah, on his way to the cave, spiraled into his suicidal, pity-induced depression. The Desert of Damascus represented the worst point of Elijah’s life. It was his lowest moment and most desperate hour. Beyond the desert was Jezebel, the woman who had triggered his run to the cave in the first place. God sent Elijah back to the very same difficult circumstances from which he had run.
What is your “Desert of Damascus?” What fears do you sense God calling you to face once again? Are you avoiding the painful journey back to deal with some past issues?
The plan God had set for Elijah was a political coup that would finally destroy Jezebel’s reign. This plan would plant him face to face with his worst nightmare. Who is the “Jezebel” in your life? Are there family members or friends you are avoiding?
Hagar found herself in a similar situation as Elijah. What are some of the similarities? In Hagar’s encounter, who does God reveal Himself to be? How does this give you the courage to deal with the unfinished business in your life?
Purpose: To help us identify the areas in our life we are avoiding to confront. As a group read this prayer found in Psalm 139:23-24 out loud:
Search me, God, and know my heart: test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Next take a sheet of paper and begin to write down the areas in your life you sense the Lord revealing are issues you need to confront. Maybe it’s an area of compromise, a lack of discipline in a specific area or a root of sin that has taken a strong hold of you. Being sensitive to the Spirit begin to evaluate your spiritual walk with God and identify any resistance or delayed obedience. When the group is finished assign a “sin bin” and crumble that sheet of paper. Begin to worship and allow God access to restore those areas in your life.
Read Exodus 4:18-31
Life consists of a continual series of transitions from one season to the next. Every new season is marked by borders that we must cross. Its at those transition times that unfinished issues surface the most. This is what happened to Moses in this passage. Moses had been reawakened by the call at the burning bush. He had been reluctant, insecure, and unconvinced, but with some divine prodding, Moses said yes to God. After a forty-year detour Moses was finally back on mission to fulfill his life’s call and liberate the people of Israel from four hundred years of slavery. Moses was on the brink of walking into his calling when he was confronted with some unfinished business.
What issue of disobedience did God have to confront in Moses? Who ended up suffering from Moses’s avoidance?
Delayed obedience is another form of disobedience. Are there steps of obedience you are resisting? Is it confessing a past sin that keeps you feeling stuck? Is it releasing forgiveness?
Are you stuck at the border of a new season like Moses was? What are you afraid of? What is stopping you from stepping forward?
Anyone who gets serious about welcoming the presence of God will have a renewed passion for obedience and a clean slate. When we postpone obedience because it seems uncomfortable, we are only postponing the pain and increasing the problem. Eventually all of our unfinished business will surface. Maybe today is the day you can decide to deal with what’s keeping you stuck.
With which statement do you find yourself agreeing most:
I have found freedom in pursuing holiness and I am ready for the new season God is calling me towards.
I have delayed obedience and avoided the areas in my life that God wants to confront but I’m choosing today to take some difficult steps of obedience.
I am reluctant to “go back” and deal with my past issues but I realize they are hindering me from moving forward.
Pray that the Lord will show you if there are any issues or people you are avoiding and pray that God will give you strength to boldly deal with them as you move to your new season.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.