Many years ago, during the Boxer Rebellion in China, there was a young girl who made a difference. She stayed at a mission station and the insurgents had just captured the little station where she was staying. The men blocked all of the gates but one. The captors placed a large wooden cross on the ground in the walkway of the mission station. The men passed the word that any of the 100 students who would trample the cross under their feet would be set free. For those who refused to trample the cross there would be a firing squad awaiting them.
Terribly frightened, the students lined up and the first seven gained their freedom by trampling under foot the cross of their Lord. The eighth student in line, a young girl, approached the cross, knelt and prayed for strength and then arose and moved carefully around the cross. She walked slowly and made her way to meet the firing squad. The remaining 92 students, strengthened by the young girl’s example made their way around the cross and followed her to meet the savage firing squad.
One girl, one day, decided that she wouldn’t go along with the crowd. She decided that she wouldn’t take the easy road ? she decided to make a difference for Christ. Her decision strengthened the other students so that they had the courage to make the same decision instead of denying their faith in the One who suffered the pain and agony of the cross that lay before them. God is calling you and me today, like the little girl so long ago, to make the difference.
Our Scripture from 1 Kings gives us some clear insight into how important it is to for individuals to stand up and make the difference for our King. In this portion of Scripture we get a glimpse of the craziness that was so prevalent in Elijah’s day. The people had killed all of the prophets of God and were serving Baal. They were engaged in all kinds of evil activities and some very strange philosophies about life were circulating.
16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’ 18 ‘I have not made trouble for Israel,’ Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’S commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.’ 20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, ‘I am the only one of the LORD’S prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire?he is God.’ Then all the people said, ‘What you say is good.’ 25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.’ 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’ 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel.’ 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, ‘Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.’ 34 ‘Do it again,’ he said, and they did it again. ‘Do it a third time,’ he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’ 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD?he is God! The LORD?he is God!’ (1 Kings 18:16-39 NIV)
There was an insanity that was present in Elijah’s day that I see present in our own day. The people of Elijah’s day were serving whatever god they thought could bring them what they wanted most in life. At the reins of the insanity was King Ahab, his wife Jezebel, and 450 false prophets of Baal. This insanity was leading the people away from God, but there was one who decided to make the difference. The Scriptures tells us that Ahab had done more to provoke God than all of the other kings before him and Elijah was the prophet of God who was living a faithful life in the midst of a people who were living according to the passions of their desires.
Just as the worship of Baal in Elijah’s day was leading the people away from God and into a lifestyle of self-indulgence in all the worldly pleasures of the day, we can look around us and see how the worship of self, money, erotic thrills, education, social status, and all the other pleasures of the world that people place great emphasis upon are turning the people of our day away from God.
We are living in a sick society in which the sickness is affecting the lives of our citizens and eroding the very foundation of our nation. I believe with all of my heart that America’s worst enemy is not Iraq or Osama Bin Laden, but our greatest enemy is ourselves. We, as a country, have lost our sense of integrity, decency, and the fear of God. These factors have led to the sickness that is killing us. Drug and alcohol abuse, sexual perversion, crumbling marriages, and overcrowded prisons are all symptoms of this deep sickness. Let me share a couple of statistics with you. The Bureau of Justice Statistics website reports,
? 1,962,220 prisoners were held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails — the total increased 1.3% from year end 2000, less than the average annual growth of 3.6% since yearend 1995.
? Between 1990 and 2000, the increasing number of violent offenders accounted for 53% of the total growth of the State prison population; 20% of the total growth was attributable to the increasing number of drug offenders. (December 31, 2001)
? Annual rentals and sales of adult videos and DVDs top $4 billion, and the industry churns out 11,000 titles each year ? more than 20 times as many as Hollywood, according to Adult Video News, an adult industry trade magazine. (Source: Frammolino, Ralph and P.J. Huffstutter. ‘The Actress, the Producer and Their Porn Revolution.’ Los Angeles Times Magazine. 1/6/02)
? “In fiscal year 1998, the FBI opened up roughly 700 cases dealing with online pedophilia, most of them for posting child pornography, and about a quarter dealing with online predators trying to get children under 18 to meet with them. By 2000 that figure had quadrupled to 2,856 cases.” (Source: “The Web’s Dark Secret” Newsweek. 3/19/01)
Along with these startling statistics we are still watching about one out of every two marriages fail. We are still witnessing about 1.37 million babies aborted every year. That is about 3,700 lives lost every day. To demonstrate our fixation upon convenience let me share with you that 1% of abortions occur because of rape or incest, 6 % occur because of potential health problems for either the mother or child, and 93 % of all abortions occur for ‘social reasons.’ ‘Social reasons’ include the child being unwanted or the pregnancy being inconvenient. An estimated 43% of all women will have at least 1 abortion by the time they are 45 years old. 47% of all abortions are performed on women who have had at least one previous abortion.
Our senses have become so dulled as we have grown apathetic to statistics like these. We are not moved, we are not grieved, we are not shaken?we who are followers of Jesus, listen to the facts and don’t even flinch. Even worse, some of us shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Oh, it has always been this way and nothing will ever change so why worry about it.’ What a crazy, irresponsible attitude to have about life and the thorns that affect us all. Does anybody want to make a difference?
Many today write jokes for late night TV shows about the problems that plague us. We see hit TV shows starring ‘stupor stars’ like Anna Nicole Smith and Ozzy Osbourne and his foul mouthed family. It is ludicrous for us to make light of the sick society in which we live. We are living in an insane society that is turning away from the life saving power of Jesus Christ so that we can fulfill our immediate desires. Our society suffers from the immediate gratification syndrome. Does anybody want to make the difference?
Elijah was a man who wanted to make a difference for the Kingdom of God in an insane society. You see folks this sickness that our society suffers from is nothing new. Elijah was suffering from its wrath in his day. I am so glad that Elijah didn’t take a seat in his Lazy Boy, turn on ESPN, order a pizza and say, ‘Oh, this has been going on forever. I’m just thankful that God has shown me its wrong so that I never got involved in that mess.’ No, Elijah didn’t shrug his shoulders and say, ‘What’s the difference?’ Elijah said, ‘I’ll make the difference! Use me Lord!’ Elijah looked around at the thousands of people that were being led away from the love, grace, mercy, and peace of God and realized that he was already involved.
Elijah sent the word to the king to gather up all of the false prophets and have them meet him at Mount Carmel for a little contest. After he set up the challenge he told the people, ‘If the Lord is God, serve Him; but if Baal is God then serve him.’ The time was now. It was time to put up or shut up.
Elijah tells us that he was the only prophet of God left because the people had killed the rest of God’s spokesmen. I’m sure that to the people present the starting line-up for this big event appeared quite lopsided, but Elijah knew that if God was for him no one could come against him. Elijah knew that with God ? he could make a difference!
Elijah laid down the rules. The prophets of Baal would place an offering on the altar as would Elijah. The God that answered by fire ? He is the true God. The prophets of Baal went first. They placed their bull upon the altar and began to shout and dance as they called upon the name of their god to answer them, but no answer came. The prophets had been carrying on now for quite some time with no answer from Baal so Elijah decided to rib them a little. He said, ‘Hey, shout a little louder. Surely he is a god. He is probably just in deep thought or maybe he is traveling.’ I’m sure the prophets appreciated Elijah’s advice in the midst of their most embarrassing moment. The prophets then began to shout louder and they started slashing themselves with knives and swords as they danced frantically around the altar. They continued with their insanity until evening came and at that time Elijah called the people to himself.
Elijah took 12 stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel, and rebuilt the altar with the stones. He then told the people to fill four big jars with water. He instructed them to pour the water over the offering. They did as they were told. The water ran down off of the offering and filled the trench that surrounded the altar. Then Elijah looked to Heaven and said,
‘O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’ 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD?he is God! The LORD?he is God!’
One man, who was committed to God, could not sit back and watch thousands of people miss the love, grace, mercy, and peace of God. One man, who had a heart for God, was willing to stand alone in order that he could make a difference for the Kingdom of God. I stand before you today encouraging you to stand up when the truths of God’s Kingdom are being shadowed by the deceptions of insanity that are so prevalent in our day.
This kind of faith, courage, and concern are not just given to people like Elijah, but they are available to all followers of Jesus. To witness these fruits in your life you must do three things:
Commit your life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
2) Rely upon the Holy Spirit to give you the boldness to stand when no one else will.
3) Ingrain in your mind and believe that, ‘If God be for me, who can be against me.’ (Romans 8:31 NIV)
It is impossible to stand tall for the Kingdom of God and His ways apart from a relationship to His Son as Lord and Savior. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and revealed to them that the ‘god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.’ Listen to these powerful words.
1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Corinthians 4:1-5 NIV)
Those who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior of their life are blinded by the things of the world and can not perceive the ways of the Lord.
Secondly, we must rely upon the Holy Spirit for the boldness shown by those who were merely wandering as sheep without a shepherd before the indwelling of the Spirit of God. The same Simon Peter who denied he knew the Lord three times after his arrest, at the time of Pentecost stood before the crowd and preached boldly the saving power of the One they had crucified. In Acts 1:8, Jesus told the Disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they would be His witnesses. If you are a follower of Jesus then He has already provided everything you need to be His witness, His change agent, His representative in this world.
Last of all, we must fix in our minds and constantly remind ourselves that ‘If God be for us who can be against us.’ One believer and the Lord constitutes a majority. So often when there are many people in agreement on an issue and their stance is not biblically sound, and we know that, then we merely remain silent. I know this by experience as I have kept silent when I should have spoken. This is wrong because we are called to stand and speak boldly for the truth’s of God’s Word. When we can come to the point of living Romans 8:31 then it will become much easier not to be silenced by the crowd.
These are three keys to making the difference for Christ in a world that is starving to know what is right and how they can live a fulfilled life.
I want to close by sharing with you a story of another difference maker. Telemechus was a fourth century Asiatic monk who spent most of his life in a remove community of prayer, study, and raising vegetables for the monastic kitchen. One day he felt the Lord leading him to go to Rome that was the political center of the world. Rome was the busiest, wealthiest, and biggest city in the world at the time. Telemechus wondered why he was being drawn to Rome because he sure didn’t fit the Roman lifestyle. He was at home at his quiet little place, tending the garden, studying God’s Word, praying, and strengthening his relationship with God. He would not fight God’s direction so he left for Rome. He journeyed to Rome and found himself on the busy streets observing the people. They were preoccupied, busy, angry, and violent people. He was swept up in a crowd and pushed along the streets until he found himself in a place he didn’t even know existed ? the Coliseum, where animalistic gladiators fought and killed one another for little reason other than the amusement of the thousands that gathered in Rome’s public stadium.
He watched as one gladiator after another stood before the emperor and said, ‘We who are about to die salute thee.’ He covered his ears as he heard the clashing of swords and shields as one man after another fought to their death.
He couldn’t stand it anymore but what was he to do? He was nothing. He proceeded to climb up on the perimeter wall and cried out, ‘In the name of Christ, forbear!’ He couldn’t take it anymore, ‘Stop this now!’
The people ignored the little man so he jumped to the Coliseum floor and ran between the two gladiators and yelled, ‘In the name of Christ, forbear!’ The crowd saw him and laughed and one of the gladiators bumped him aside with his shield. After this carried on for awhile the crowd became annoyed and one of them shouted, ‘Run him through, kill him!’ The same gladiator who bumped Telemechus aside with his shield came down with his sword and opened the stomach of Telemechus. As the little monk slumped in the crimson sand he gasped once more, ‘In the name of Christ?forbear!’
Then a strange occurrence happened as silence filled the Coliseum and the two gladiators stood in awe peering at the little monk knelt in the blood covered sand. In the silence, someone at the top of the Coliseum got up and walked out. Another followed. All over the arena, spectators began to leave, until the huge stadium was empty.
Never again did men senselessly kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd in these gladiatorial bouts, for this one little monk knew that he alone with the power, courage, and strength of God could make the difference.
1 Kings 18:16-30