• Matt Beaney

#517 (4/1/22) OVERCOMING SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION THROUGH RENEWAL



On Sunday, we saw how Elijah, a great man of God, got so spiritually depressed that he didn’t want to go on living! This is included in the Bible so as to encourage us as we, and most of us do to different degrees, go through such dark times.


RENEWAL

Renewal is about doing things that restore us. There are different ways of looking at the human constitution, but I think that it’s best to divide us into body and spirit. What we do to either of these two facets, will affect the health of the other. Our spiritual wellbeing: good thinking, hopeful outlook, sense of security etc. will be damaged or enhanced by the way that we use our body. If, for example, you decided to take up marathon running without adequate rest and nourishment, your sense of God loving you would be very shaky! If, as is more common, you fail to rest and sleep consistently, again, your sense of the joy of being God’s child would be challenged.

Elijah, in our account, is spiritually depressed and God refreshes him. We read,

Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.’ (1 Kings 19:5-8)

EAT AND DRINK WHAT IS GOOD

Renewal comes to us in many ways: Nourishment and physical care, spiritual nourishment, friendship, community and service, rest and sleep etc. Elijah is exhausted. He only wants to sleep. God, however, knows that he also needs to eat and drink. Sometimes our physical and spiritual exhaustion is due to poor eating and drinking habits. Many of us after Christmas feel spiritually lethargic and this is often due to overeating and drinking. I’m not qualified to give you dietary advice, but I do recommend that you keep a mindful check on the kinds of food and drink that energise you and the kinds that make you lethargic or even destroy your mood. Too much sugar, for example, often has a very bad effect upon ones energy and sense of wellbeing. Here are a few thoughts for you:


Q - Do you take a daily lunch break in which you stop working and eat and drink what is good for you?

Q - Are your eating and drinking habits supporting physical health and energy?

Q - If you were to give yourself some good advice on your current eating and drinking, what would you say?


EAT AND DRINK SPIRITUALLY

Physical eating and drinking is often used as an illustration of spiritual eating and drinking. God gives Elijah real bread and water, but this can be seen as illustrative of the spiritual nourishment that we need to eat and drink in order to be renewed.


In this account of Elijah in 1 Kings 19, we see him go from spiritual depression to energetically and purposefully serving God. The key to his transformation was not just the literal bread and drink that God gave him; Elijah is restored through God’s word, we read,

‘There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him…’ (1 Kings 19:9)

God listens to Elijah, corrects him and recommissions him. Elijah meets with God and is restored, we read,

‘The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

God’s ‘gentle whisper’ is enough to renew us! God renews us through meeting with Him in His word and prayer (in which I include worship). Without a daily well-considered method of Bible intake, our spiritual health will not be good. We will be weak and vulnerable to spiritual attack. Sometimes, coming to the end of ourselves is the best thing that can happen to us! We learn humility. Jesus will refresh anyone who will go to Him.


EAT AND DRINK THROUGH MEDITATION

’Attention is the beginning of devotion.’ wrote, Poet Mary Oliver. Worship and joy start with the capacity to turn our minds’ attention toward the God who is always with us in the now.’ (Comer, John Mark. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry)


There is much talk of meditation these days. Many successful people talk of having a morning meditation practice. Even non-believers are seeing the importance of giving morning attention to more important things than work, phones, and rush! Christian meditation is the slow, repeated reflection on scripture. It’s something that I do every morning. Meditation on God’s truth is the most important thing that you could do for your spiritual health. It’s a practice that will improve every aspect of your life. Just listen to what Psalm 1 promises those who meditate,

'Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.' (Psalm 1:1-3)

There’s too much to say here, but one approach that I often use is to choose a very short text of scripture and use the Lord’s Prayer Structure in order to - normally silently - reflect and pray out of the passage:


1. Praise - What does this text teach me about God? What can I praise Him for?

2. Petitions - What does this teach me about His will for me and others? What could I pray for from this text? This is a good time to pray for our non-believing friends. It’s good to ask, Is the Holy Spirit leading me in any specific response?

3. Peace-making - Is the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin for which I need forgiveness? Do I need to forgive others?

4. Protection - Ask for God’s protection generally and for any specific areas of vulnerability. Am I believing lies regarding the truths in this text?


The act of active purposeful reflection has many benefits. It will improve your ability to think more generally. Will improve attention. Will improve your ability to focus on solving problems. Will fill you with wisdom with which to help others. will make you 'yield fruit and not wither'. Like Elijah, you must learn that ‘the journey is too much for you’. You cannot thrive without physical and spiritual renewal. If you have crashed, be assured, God can raise you up again so that you can ‘travel forty days and forty nights until (you) reached Horeb, the mountain of God.’


OVER TO YOU - PRAY AND WORSHIP OUT OF THE BIBLE

I’ve made a few comments. However, it’s more important that you engage with the text yourself. Take a moment to pray and listen to God’s voice out of today’s text.

'Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.' (Psalm 1:1-3)

I find it helpful to use the following questions which are based upon The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13).


1. Praise - What does this text teach me about God? What can I praise Him for?

2. Petitions - What does this teach me about His will for me and others? What could I pray for from this text? This is a good time to pray for our non-believing. friends. It’s good to ask, Is the Holy Spirit leading me in any specific response?

3. Peace-making - Is the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin for which I need forgiveness? Do I need to forgive others?

4. Protection - Ask for God’s protection generally and for any specific areas of vulnerability. Am I believing lies regarding the truths in this text?

 

COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY

1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

Important - this Sunday, our service is both live in the building and on Zoom from 10:30. Please go to the website for the Zoom link.

 

2. Icebreaker

What have been your high's and low's over the last few weeks?

Secondly, do you have anything encouraging to share on how God spoken to you from the Bible recently?

 

3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group


On Sunday, we saw how Elijah, a great man of God, got so spiritually depressed that he didn’t want to go on living! This is included in the Bible so as to encourage us as we, and most of us do to different degrees, go through such dark times.


Elijah had just had an amazing, miraculous victory. He had seen fire fall from heaven and had defeated the prophets of Baal. He should be on top of the world. Instead, Elijah was in despair. We read,

‘Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.’ (1 Kings 19:1-5)

God wants to renew and revive us. Elijah is illustrative of this. We read,

‘Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.’ (1 Kings 19:5-8)

MEAN S OF SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

God keeps and renews us from spiritual depression in many ways. Here are some examples:

i) Eat and drink what is good - Do we eat and drink in ways that promote health?

ii) Eat and drink spiritually - Elijah's story of illustrative of how we need to feed on Jesus by the word and prayer. He tell us,

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35)

iii) Rest - Sleep and rest are God's gifts for our physical and spiritual health.

iv) Resting in Christ (resting in grace) - Knowing that our salvation (justification) is a gift through faith alone. Knowing that our fruitfulness rests on the Spirit rather than our overworking.

v) Friendship - We need friends who will strengthen us in God. Christopher Ash in his book, ‘Zeal Without Burnout’ wrote about this,

‘One of the best things I did during my year of nervous exhaustion was to restart a prayer triplet with two other men. I should have done this years before, but somehow it had been postponed until the crisis came.’

Discussion questions

i) Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?

ii) Out of 10 (0 being really bad) how spiritually excited are you and what are the reasons for your answer?

iii) Out of the 5 means of spiritual renewal that I've included above, what do you most need to work on and how could you do that?



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