Sermon Starters

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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

Option 1: "One Depressed Prophet"
I Kings 19:9-18
Rev. Wayne Dobratz

I. He has a lot of company

       A. A common Bible word for depression is "downcast"--Gen 4:5-6; Ps 42:5 passim; Lam 3:1-25

       B. Note the negative self-talk in Ps 31:1-13

II. The nature of the problem

       A. Anger turned inward--text, vv9-10; 1 John 3:18-24; Rom 7:24- 25

       B. Anger against God--Lam 3, especially vv1-18

       C. Anger against seemingly impossible circumstances--1 Kings 18:4 & 22, 19:2 & 14

III. How God helps--Ps 43:5

       A. Internal circumstances: we must take comfort in God’s Word--text, vv11ff, Ex 34:6-7; Zech 4:6; Lk 24:27; Acts 3:18-26, 10:43

       B. External circumstances: we must trust God to take action in His own way and time--text, vv15-18; Ps 31:14ff, Lk 24:7 passim; 2 Cor 7:6

The Holman Bible Handbook describes Elijah’s depression and the Lord’s answer for it: Elijah’s victory, however, turned into fear and depression. Jezebel was not intimidated by Ahab’s report of Elijah’s deeds. She vowed to kill the prophet, who ran again but this time away from Jezebel to the desert. In despair the prophet prayed to die (compare Num 11:11-15; Job 6:8-9; Jonah 4:8). The angel of the LORD strengthened him with food, and he journeyed forty days and nights to a cave at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:1-9a). It was upon the same Mount Horeb, another name for Mount Sinai, that the LORD had revealed Himself to Moses (compare Ex 3; 19). Elijah complained that the Israelites had abandoned God and that he was the last prophet of the LORD. But Elijah was mistaken. God brought in succession a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire to ravage the mountain. But the prophet did not hear God in these events. Instead, Elijah heard the LORD in a small whisper. By this the prophet learned that sometimes God works in quiet ways (19:9b-14). There were in fact seven thousand who had not worshiped Baal. God sent Elijah to anoint three men who would ultimately destroy Ahab’s house: Hazael of Aram, Jehu of Israel, and the prophet Elisha (19:15-18). The call of Elisha was the beginning of a large school of prophets (19:19-21; compare 2 Kings 6:1-2).

The Disciples Study Bible adds this thought: The prophet, having just won a battle with Jezebel’s gods, feared for his safety. God sought him out, apparently while he slept. God did not reveal Himself in expected supernatural events, appearing instead in the quiet reflection of a silent whisper. Like Elijah, many expect God’s manifestation in spectacular occurrences, while God seeks the private road of faith and openness of heart. God’s whisper was heard again in the stable of a small village inn centuries later when Jesus was born. Coming out of the cave, Elijah heard God’s voice giving Him directions for personal action. The word may be one to communicate to God’s people or to direct one’s personal life.

+  +  +

Option #2: "Principles Of Christian Suffering: Part II"
Romans 9:1-5
Rev. Thomas F. Fischer

(This is the second of a two-part sermon outline on suffering based, in part, on the above text and also Romans 8:35-39)

14. We need not--and should not--blame God for suffering, which is a result of our own foolish, intentional sinful actions. Such actions ought direct us to the unlimited forgiveness and grace of God.

15. Suffering, for the Christian, is not punishment. It is discipline, specifically the discipline of Christian character. It is the way God demonstrates that we are His children. (Hebrews 12:7)

What shall we then say to these things? 
If God be for us, who can be against us?
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,
how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?
It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?
It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who 
is even at the right hand of God,
who also maketh intercession for us.
Romans 8:31ff (KJV)

16. Christians are never alone in their testing, even when we feel we have left God or He has left us. As Jesus prayed for Peter while being "sifted like wheat" and as the Father continued praying for the return of his lost son (Luke 15), so God never takes His loving attention from us. He is always praying on our behalf.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long;
we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35ff (NIV)

17. Suffering is not a means of grace. It is, however, a gracious and careful preparation of God for greater exaltation in His grace.

18. Thus, whatever suffering we endure as a testing of our faith is cause for joy, not despair.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
James 1:2-3 (KJV)

19. The Christian's final response to the suffering and testing of God is always to bless God.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."
Job 1:21 (NIV)

20. "Why" questions are an important part of the Christian's grieving process in that they acknowledge God's power and our weakness before Him. The answers may be received, as part of the testing, at a later time or, more often, in the eternal courts of God. During our pilgrimage on earth, one of the most useful purposes of "why" questions is to shape patient, hopeful, and persevering Christian character. Such questions are so painful precisely because they deal with the essence and core of our being-our character.

21. A Christian's trial is not completed until such time that we have used the promises of God in Word and Sacrament to deal effectively with grief. Christians who continue attitudes of anger, self-pity, confusion, tears, etc. will continue experiencing the overwhelm of these emotions until such time that God's will has been accepted and assimilated into the Christian's heart and life. Only at such time will Christians learn how to consider such sufferings "pure joy." (James 1)

22. Death, at God's time, is the final blessed deliverance from suffering. Until that time, life will be full of difficulties as we walk in the valley of the "shadow of death" (Psalm 23). For the Christian, death from an eternal perspective is never a "tragedy"; instead, it is the blessed deliverance from an evil, pain-filled world.

For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.
Job 19:25-27 (KJV)

23. The most powerful testimony of our trust and faith in God is patient endurance which trusts that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. Painful learning of our weakness in trial makes for easier, day-by-day application of God's power in our everyday living during-and after-trial.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [thorn in the flesh] away from me.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my 
power is made perfect in weakness."
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ's power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NIV)

24. After trial, we are never the same. Trial, as God intends, exposes and deepens our weaknesses even as it uncovers and develops new strengths and opportunities for ministry. The tears of trial, therefore, are the chisel God uses to change the Christian's heart painfully-but skillfully-to enliven our hope in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, 
character; and character, hope.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love 
into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:1-5ff (NIV)

25. Those whom-or the things which-God graciously provided to sustain the Christian in trial may also be painfully removed, as part of the trial, at such time God deems necessary. As The Lone Ranger was only present to assist in and resolve the crisis at hand, so also those in trial will experience their own "lone rangers" who, having been present in the crisis, may (like the man with the white hat) also leave us asking, "Who was that masked man?"

26. God ultimately uses suffering as an act not of Law, but of Gospel, to draw us and renew us in the suffering, death, resurrection and forgiveness of Christ into which we have been baptized. Thus, the ultimate focus of trial is to highlight God's gracious and undeserved love for us in Christ.

My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint 
when thou art rebuked of him:
For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.
Hebrews 12:5-6 (KJV)

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