It is often good to look back at our past and rejoice in God's blessings. It is equally important to have a firm grasp on the present and be what we need to be for the Lord. However, it is also necessary for us to consider the future…where are we going, and how will we get there. This requires faith on our part. We have a great example in our text tonight. Read: 1 Kings 18:21-40 This passage is one of the most familiar in all the O.T. It is exciting for a number of reasons. We love competition, but more than that we love to be on the winning side! Here is the culmination of a great contest between God and Baal. Now notice that there was never any doubt in Elijah's mind as to who would win this contest. He was a man of great faith and obedience. God had called him to take a message to the wicked King Ahab. He was to say that because of the wickedness of the people, there would be no more rain. When it didn't rain, Ahab blamed Elijah and put a price on his head. God protected his prophet by hiding him and providing food for him by sending ravens and giving him shelter and miraculous provision in a poor widow's house. After three years of drought (imagine that devastation), God sent Elijah back to Ahab. In v. 17, Ahab calls him the "troubler of Israel." Notice Elijah's reply in v. 18. In v. 19, he points his finger at Ahab and calls for a showdown, a duel between himself and the prophets of the false god Baal.
In v. 21, He calls for people to make a choice. God still calls for us to make a choice. He will ask some of us to make a choice today. He laid down the odds (note in v. 22 that 400 false prophets didn't even show up) and announced the rules in vv. 22-24. We know the story, the Baal prophets called out to their "god" "from morning even till noon." They jumped and shouted and even cut themselves. Elijah mocked them in v. 27. They cried out until "evening" but "there was no voice; not one answered, no one paid attention." Then Elijah repaired the broken altar to the Lord. He dug a trench about it and made ready the wood and animal sacrifice. He took precious water and poured it over the animal, the wood and the altar three times so that it filled the trench. If the Lord didn't show up, he would absolutely fail. Elijah began to pray. I want us to see three things that are important about that prayer tonight. How this account is applicable to us tonight at Grace Baptist Temple.
1Ki 18:36-37 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
Whatever God does in our church, we will need faith. Someone said it this way, "We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are." I want to issue four challenges for our church that require faith but will dramatically affect our future.
I. We must be Visionaries not Victims.
A. It's Easy to be a Victim.
1. Our society rewards victims.
a. Most of the time, people who think of themselves as victims shift responsibility for their lives to someone else.
b. Lord, if we had this or that…
c. If this person hadn't done this or that…
d. We need to get off that…
2. Churches can buy into being victims.
a. "Were are just a little church so we can't do much…"
b. "We are living in the last days and we can't expect to be successful…"
c. "People just don't want to hear the truth anymore…"
3. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be a part of a "can't do" church, I want a "can do church!"
4. We don't serve a "can't do" God!
5. Let's not make excuses but take God at His word.
B. It Takes Faith to be Visionary.
1. We must learn to dream big dreams for God.
2. We need a vision that is so big that if God doesn't show up it will fail.
3. We need to move out of our comfort zone and into the arena of faith!
4. What dreams do you have for our church?
5. Is it "Us four and no more."?
6. Whatever our goals or dreams if we fail to act, none of them will come true.
Pr 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish…"
II. We must have an Outward Focus not an Inward Focus.
A. It is easy to slip into focusing inwardly, on ourselves.
1. We have had a number of families visit who are looking for a church home.
2. It is good to hear that most find us to be a friendly group of folks.
3. But that doesn't just happen, we must take time to learn their names, and try to get to know them.
4. Yes, we love to fellowship with one another, but let's be careful not to forget that we must keep our focus outward.
5. If you see anyone you don't know, introduce yourselves; don't be afraid to reach out.
B. If We are to be what God wants us to be, our focus must be Outward, on Other People.
1. There is a city around us filled with people who are without peace and without hope because they are without Christ!
2. When is the last time you invited someone to church?
3. When did you last talk with someone about Jesus?
4. When did you last reach out to someone who is new?
5. We'll not reach others if we don't care about them.
6. Growing churches are always caring churches and caring churches are always growing churches.
Pr 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
III. We must make Eternal Investments not Temporary Investments.
A. Temporary pays only Temporary Dividends.
1. We constantly invest. We invest time, energy, money and other resources in things that interest us.
2. Far too many of us invest too much of our resources in things that will all burn away.
3. Materialism can become a god; there are only three things you can take to heaven: your knowledge of the Word, your works for the Lord and the people you lead to Christ.
Mt 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
B. Eternal Investments pay Eternal Dividends.
1. Sometimes pastors hesitate to mention finances.
2. I don't want you to think that our finances depend solely upon you, because they don't.
3. However, the Lord wants to use you and bless you through your giving to Him.
4. There are always some who leave the financial responsibilities of the church to others.
5. They only give now as the mood strikes them.
2Co 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
6. I am not just asking you to give, you can turn on the TV and hear that.
7. I am asking you to invest in your local church and through it the Kingdom of God.
8. Let God show you how he can bless a "cheerful giver."
IV. We must exhibit Faith not Fear.
A. I am not afraid of the future. On the contrary, I have a peace and confidence from the Lord!
1Jo 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
B. Faith is seeing the invisible and believing the impossible.
C. After the sacrifice, Elijah said to Ahab, "Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain."
D. Notice, Elijah had not seen it, nor had he heard it…but he believed it!
E. That is faith… we must be people of faith not fear!
As we consider the future of this ministry, we each need to remember these thoughts. We must be visionaries, with great dreams for we serve a great God! We must turn our focus outward, for there is a world that must hear about that great God. We must invest in that which is eternal, the souls of men, women, boys, and girls. And we must operate by faith! "…Without faith it is impossible to please Him…" Hebrews 11:6