By any standards, Elijah was a remarkable character, an abrasive character, a man of passion, no time for small talk or the niceties of protocol.
He reminds me of Tony Campolo. I well remember on one occasion having lunch with Tony on one of his frequent visits to Ireland.
I was asking him to endorse a book I was about to publish, but during the couple of hours we spent together, when I was a bit waffley, he looked sternly at me and said: ‘Look, we’re either going to do this, or we’re not. There’s a hundred other places I could be right now.’
On another occasion, he was talking about his nine years as a Baptist pastor, which he appears not to have enjoyed too much.
An old lady came to shake his hand after the Sunday service one morning and she complained: ‘Nice service Pastor Campolo, but when you were praying at the end, I couldn’t hear a word you were saying.’
To which Tony replied: ‘Actually madam, I wasn’t speaking to you.’
Perhaps the most notable of all Elijah’s adventures was the day he single-handedly faced down the dreaded Queen Jezebel and 450 prophets of Baal.
‘If God be God,’ challenged Elijah, ‘then serve Him,’ and he set about proving beyond doubt that the God of Israel was the one true God.
You can sense his confidence mounting as the pagan prophets cut themselves with stones and cried out in the vain hope that their imaginary gods would send down fire from their non-existent heaven.
‘Shout louder, he might have gone to sleep,’ taunted the crusty old prophet.
‘Maybe he’s hard-of-hearing, or he might have gone for a walk.’
And when, bloodied and dispirited, they finally gave up, he raised his eyes and his hands aloft and said: ‘Lord, that these people might know… send the fire,.’
And the deed was done.
Such confidence he had in his God.
However, where do you find him just hours after he defeated the prophets of Baal? He was running scared, hiding, afraid for his life.
There’s a number of lessons for us here.
Firstly, it’s OK for us to feel alone, isolated and past our sell-by date, but it helps if we’re honest with God and ourselves about how we feel. Then he’ll show us that there are vast armies of his chosen people all across the world – even on our own doorstep, and none of them any different from us.
The fact is that the church of Christ is growing faster today than at any time in the history of the world, despite the fact over 100,000 Christians are martyred annually, according to the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity.
Also, it’s OK to feel scared at times, to want to run as far away as we can from whatever it is we’re facing.
For such a time, that beautiful and invigorating scripture comes to mind: ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Elijah was indeed a mighty man, but let’s not forget: we serve the same God as he did.