Last fall when we went to Oregon to help our son and family move into another house, we got to meet two young men, professional movers, whom they had hired for a day to help (and boy, were they a great help!). We suspected within a few minutes that they were both believers and when we had a chance to stop and chat with them, discovered that one was a youth pastor and the other a worship leader. Their faith definitely showed. We had some sweet fellowship with them as we worked.
A couple weeks ago we were in Seaside, Oregon for our grandson Luke’s basketball tournament. Our son’s in-laws had a time share condominium where we got to stay right on the beach. It had a big outdoor pool and hot tubs. It was quite an experience as it was quite cool and the wind was blowing anywhere from 30-45 mph. It is the first time I have seen whitecaps in a swimming pool! It was warm as long as you swam under water! In the hot tub, we engaged a middle-aged couple in conversation and again, sensed that common bond in Christ. Sure enough, he is an associate pastor in McMinnville, Oregon and we had a great visit with them too.
We try to go for a walk each day, but since it was very cold and windy this past week, we went to walk at the elementary school which opens its halls to walkers for a couple hours after school. We have done this a number of times this winter and had noticed one of the janitors who was always very friendly and joyous. We suspected that he too was a brother in Christ. This last week we got a chance to stop and talk with him and indeed, he is a growing Christian. He had been raised in a church but had dropped out since they live 45 miles out of town. But one of the local churches started up services at the fire station near where he lives. His wife started going and tried to get him to attend. He finally did, but with the intent to prove that the preacher was a phony as he felt most are. Well, he enjoyed his first experience and was impressed with how the pastor taught right out of the Bible, so he went back again, and again…and then met with the pastor, who was able to take him to Scripture and answer his questions about Christianity. God “got him.” Now he too is a brother in Christ, and it really shows!
It seems wherever you go you run into Christians. “They’re everywhere!” And the neat thing is, providing you are walking with the Lord at the time, you definitely sense the bond you share in Christ and enjoy the fellowship of talking with them about the Lord.
There are times when we feel we are all alone; that there is no one else around who is following the Lord. Ever feel that way? I’m sure you have. I know we have. But when that happens, God usually brings a growing Christian across our path to encourage us and to remind us we are not in this alone. Even though, as Jesus said, “The gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it,” (Mt. 7:14), He always has a remnant of believers. I’m reminded of the story of Elijah the prophet who burst onto the scene and faced King Ahab with this startling proclamation: “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (I Kg. 17:1). And keep in mind that Israel and its kings had succumbed to apostasy and Baal worship, and Baal was thought to be the “storm god,” who controlled rain and the weather, so Elijah was saying, “Not so, Jehovah, the God of Israel, the true God, is the one who controls the rain.” Well, we read in James 5:17 that “Elijah …prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months!” Then God told Elijah to flee to the Brook Cherith and hide there where God sent ravens to feed him. He also spent time in the home of the widow of Zarepath who fed him with the oil and flour that miraculously never ran out.
At just the right time, God told Elijah: “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth” (I Kg. 18:1). Following is the familiar story of Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, which ended with fire falling from heaven to consume Elijah’s offering and the altar after the prophets of Baal had failed to get a response from their god (I Kgs. 18:37,38). Then Elijah had the 450 prophets of Baal slain. When Ahab told his wife, Jezebel, what Elijah had done, she “sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time'” (I Kgs. 19:1,2). When Elijah got the message he ran for a day into the wilderness where he sat under a juniper or broom tree and requested that he might die (v. 4). But instead, God enabled him to sleep and then sent an angel to provide food and water. He rested again and after eating more, went in the strength of the “angel food” forty days and nights to Horeb (Sinai).
There he found a cave in which to lodge “and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away'” (I Kg. 19:9,10 cf v. 14). Notice God’s response: “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat…you shall anoint as prophet in your place. And it shall come about, that one who escapes from the sword…shall be put to death…Yet I leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (vv. 15-18).
Elijah was all depressed because he thought he was the only one left who was following Jehovah God and had not bowed a knee to Baal. God said, “Wrong, there are 7,000 others who have stayed true to Me.” It is easy to get depressed like Elijah thinking we are all alone, but God shows us He is at work all over the world, saving people by His grace. Today He is actively building His church, tearing down the strongholds of Satan and bringing people into His kingdom–all over the world. His people are everywhere! Have you met some of them lately? When you do, as in the illustrations I started with, it gives you a little foretaste of what heaven will be like.