WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? – ADDICTION
A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinMarch 13, 1994
So when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And suddenly a voice came to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ (I Kings 19:13)
Every person faces some type of addiction. Some dependencies are obvious. Others are more discreet. The Writings explain that when we confirm an evil intention, we are under the control of that desire. There are basically two ways in which we confirm evil desires. First by justifying corrupt intentions. Rationally, we may recognize that we should not indulge in a wrongful deed, but we tend to minimize our give an explanation that makes the indulgence allowable. Secondly, we may admit to ourselves that the desire is wrong and should not be catered to, but the pleasure it gives is so gratifying that we just have to engage in it. In some form, every person must face selfish desires that will not be easy to put away.
There may come a time that we recognize that we need to make a fundamental change. Yet, change seems so elusive. We still find great pleasure in the practice or the fantasy, even though we know it is against the Lord’s teachings. The pleasure we feel is like a powerful magnet that pulls us towards the sensual enjoyment. The attraction is so powerful that any attempt to withdraw from it is extremely strenuous.
Is there a way in which we can make the necessary changes, even though the attraction towards what is harmful is so alluring? We can develop a perception of what is good even while we may have strong tendencies towards that which is opposed to the Lord’s Word. This is particularly shown in the story of Elijah and his escape from Jezebel. This story can illustrate how the Word can lead us to a perception of how we should conduct ourselves, even when powerful desires are trying to coerce us into a life of selfish pleasures.
Elijah had just defeated the prophets of Baal. In this great victory, Baal was now regarded as a false god. Baal was no longer worshiped. This is the first step we take in making the necessary changes in our lives. We recognize that what we have been doing and allowing to control us are false. We now recognize that the Lord’s ways are the only means to living a life of order and satisfaction.
However, Jezebel was still very much alive and in a powerful position. She depicts the attraction of the pleasures that merely effect our physical senses. Jezebel made a vow that she would kill Elijah. The physical delights we enjoy are so powerful and alluring that they seem to destroy any attempts to change our ways. The delights in evil seem to intensify the more we try not to indulge in them.
Elijah ran to Beersheba, when he heard about Jezebel’s vow to kill him. In the Hebrew, Beersheba means “well of oath”. Beersheba has the representation of what the Word does for us. The Word gives us Divine teachings that are accommodated to our understanding. It reveals the well of water that nourishes our understanding of truth. We must run to Beersheba to break free from evil pleasures. The more we develop the discipline of reading and reflecting upon what the Word teaches, the more we can be receptive of the Lord’s guidance.
As important as it is to read and study the Word, that is not enough to fully break free from our compulsions. We must also have private moments with God. This is pictured by Elijah leaving his servant and going alone into the wilderness. We must take time to reflect upon ourselves. We must put aside all our natural cares and responsibilities and analyze our tendencies from a spiritual perspective. If we are able to have a regular practice of meditation along with a constant study and reflection of the Word, we are developing the means to eventually break any craving that seeks to enslave us. Knowing what the Word teaches is vital, but so is having times of mediation, when we are alone with the Lord. It was absolutely necessary for Elijah to be alone in the wilderness so he would not be destroyed by Jezebel.
While Elijah was in the wilderness, he slept under a broom tree. There he prayed that he would die. It seemed hopeless that he could institute the worship of Jehovah in Israel. The forces of evil were just too great and powerful. He felt like giving up. This does not describe a pleasant setting, but there is a great deal of healing within it. Here Elijah is pouring out his troubles before the Lord. Likewise, when we are having secluded times with the Lord, we have the opportunity to pour out our soul before Him. We can lay before Him all that is troubling us and causing us great pain. There is a great value in placing all our distresses to the Lord. We can have the utmost confidence that the Lord will listen and will deliver us.
The Lord’s response and deliverance is seen with the angel who came to Elijah and gave him nourishment for his journey. When we are able to sincerely open ourselves before the Lord, the steps of deliverance will emerge. One of the benefits of laying our troubles before the Lord is a better perspective and understanding of that which is controlling us. The avenues that we can take will become manifest as we have a clearer definition of our problems and see them in a more rational light. Prayer allows us to detach ourselves from our troubles, whereby we are able to look at them more objectively. The more we are able to separate ourselves from our addictions, the less hopeless they will appear to be.
However, Elijah’s troubles did not end just when he ate the cakes and drank the water. He still had to make a very difficult journey to Mt. Horeb that would last forty days and nights. In fact, he had to eat and drink twice, once was not enough. The angel coming the first time with food and water represents knowing what we need to do to live according to Divine order. The second time he came represents actually making a commitment to it. The journey illustrates the temptations we must endure while we seek to replace our obsessions with orderly delights and habits. When we actually start applying the corrective measures that are necessary to live a new life, temptations will come. Just knowing what to do will not sustain us. We must also have a genuine commitment to do whatever it takes to accomplish this transformation. When we have the dedication to make a real change and the knowledge of the steps that we must take, the Lord will provide us with the nourishment and the strength to make the journey. In the New Testament, we read of the young man who came before the Lord and asked Him what he must do to have eternal life. The Lord told him to keep the commandments. The young man said he had always kept them, yet, something was still missing. The Lord told him to give all he had to the poor. The man went away sorrowful. He knew the commandments but he did not have them as a part of his convictions. Therefore, when the Lord told him to do something which required a great personal sacrifice, he could not do it. It takes both a knowledge of what we must do and a firm dedication to actually do it to make a successful journey that eventually leads to freedom.
When Elijah ended his journey, he was at Mt. Horeb, the same place where Moses saw the burning bush and where the Lord gave the Ten Commandments. After we have gone through the struggles of taking the steps to no longer be under the control of our yearnings, the Lord will make Himself known. When the Lord becomes known, we are like Elijah, at the mountain of God
Still, Elijah’s troubles were not over. He was still in great fear and confusion because of Jezebel. This fear is represented by Elijah spending the night in a cave. This pictures the obscurity that we face when our temptations are nearing the end. We would think that when we reach our destination, the enticements to do evil would subside. But temptations are the most difficult when they are reaching their conclusion. It is during this time that we are in our greatest fear and confusion.
Nevertheless, while Elijah was on the mountain, the word of the Lord came to him. When we endure the struggles of temptations and the pain and sacrifice they cause, the Word becomes more personal. It seems to speak directly to our lives. It then seems to ask the same question as to Elijah, “What are you doing here”? What is your state of life? Like Elijah, we will answer with what is causing us great fear. The delights of self life are seeking to overcome us and destroy us. We see the hurt and the harm they can cause to ourselves and to our loved ones, yet they are so powerful that they almost seem invincible. We recognize that we are powerless to remove them. When the Word speaks to us personally, it seems to bring out our fears and despairs.
But eventually Elijah heard the voice of the Lord as a still small voice. Elijah, after all the difficulties he had to endure, was finally able to hear the Lord’s voice. His journey prepared him to be able to hear the Lord’s quiet voice. This is the perception from within. When Elijah heard the Lord’s voice, it asked him the same question that was asked earlier by the word of the Lord. And the response was exactly the same as was given before. On the surface, this may seem to be redundant. Yet, there is something deeper that is very important. Now Elijah was asked about his state from conviction, from the Lord Himself. Even though the same words were given in response, yet now they were spoken from Elijah’s very soul. When we have a clear dictate from within that speaks from a genuine commitment to follow the Lord, it will ask what our state of life is. It will bring out our fears of those delights that can hinder us from doing our part for the Lord’s kingdom.
Elijah was told to anoint Hazael king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as a prophet. Elijah was also told that whatever Hazael could not destroy, Jehu would, and whoever Jehu could not destroy, Elisha would. These three picture the three degrees of life that we are to anoint, or put into compliance with the Lord’s teachings. Hazael is our civil manner of life. This is the attitude we have in complying with the laws and responsibilities of our country. Jehu is our sense of morality. The attempt to live a life that respects and honors other’s rights and freedoms. And Elisha is the spiritual degree of our lives. This is where our true motives and attitudes are. When these three degrees are committed to be ordered by the Lord according to the Word, they will collectively be able to prevent our attractions from having complete control over our lives.
We all have the capacity to have complete victory over our addictions. They will be difficult to overcome. We can have a voice from within that can guide us to live an orderly and productive life. This perception can exist even though we may have a strong tendency towards what is wrong. Jezebel was still alive while Elijah heard the Lord’s still small voice. But Elijah had the means that gave him the assurance that he was protected. This perception is what the written Word guides us to. This perception may not completely put away our attraction towards an evil pleasure. We may have to fight it everyday for the rest of our natural lives. Some attractions may go away. Most will not. But we are promised that if we are faithful in trying as best as we can to follow the Lord’s teaching, we will eventually regard our former attractions as disgusting and despicable. We will no longer have any attraction towards them. When we reach this state, we are like Elijah in a whirlwind carried into heaven, where Jezebel had no influence over him. We can reach that point either in this life or when we enter our place in heaven. And we will rejoice in this promise, “With men this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26)