What phenomenal days we are living in — days full of opportunity, challenge and adventure — and all of this in the midst of international turmoil and economic chaos.
We can draw rich encouragement from Acts 17:26 that this is God’s perfect time for us: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”
It’s easy to see ourselves as the victim of circumstance, wishing we were born in another place or another time, but knowing God is at powerfully and mysteriously at work in our lives we do well to frame ourselves as those, “running to the sound of thunder.”
Seeing ourselves as those, Running to the sound of thunder
I’m using the phrase “running to the sound of thunder” as a metaphor for seeking God’s presence and power in our lives, even when it feels intimidating or overwhelming and few verses demonstrate it better than 1 Kings 18:44-45, which describes the prophet Elijah running ahead of Ahab’s chariot as a great rainstorm approaches, a colossal demonstration of faith in God’s power to bring rain after a long drought. And the Church is in that place. Rumours of revival are rife despite the culture that surrounds the church with open hostility.
In the story, Elijah had challenged the prophets of the false god Baal to a test of their gods’ power versus the authentic power of the one true God. After the prophets of Baal were unable to call down fire from their god, and after mocking them somewhat, Elijah prayed to God and fire fell from heaven, consuming the sacrifice on the altar even after it had been soaked in water. The church needs to gather around the big screen and look at this event that happened as an example to us upon whom the end of ages has come. God is a God of the impossible, even if our own actions (throwing water on the sacrifice and its tinder) may seem to hinder God’s powerful intervention.
After years of drought a prophet was praying
Elijah barely sounds excited, perhaps he was used to God doing “God things” but he clearly recognized this as a sign of answered prayer and urged Ahab to prepare his chariot and go down the mountain before the rain stopped him. I can imagine (it doesn’t say so in the text) that the wind started to pick up, dark clouds assembled and thunder rumbled as the rain began falling. Elijah then ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel, a distance of about 17 miles.
It’s an encouragement for us looking in at this event to trust in God’s faithfulness for the Church today, and to run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I want to be intentional with this. The formidable challenge in the story of Elijah and the drought is the test of faith that God’s people faced in the midst of a prolonged period of hardship and scarcity.We are also in that place – we can find ourselves in that narrative. The drought had lasted for three and a half years, and the people were likely feeling discouraged and hopeless. Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal and his subsequent prayer for rain were bold acts of faith in God’s power and provision. We are not to look and be impressed, but look and be engaged. This is prime time life. The days are not far off for Elijah when another prophet would pick up Elijah’s hairy, worn and damp mantle, strike the water of Jordan and ask the pertinent question that will sound like thunder in our generation, “where now, is the God of Elijah?”
The answer to this challenge is found in God’s faithfulness and power to provide for his people. Through the dramatic display of fire from heaven and the subsequent rain that fell after Elijah’s prayer, God demonstrated his power and sovereignty over nature and his care for his people. Encourage yourself in God; trust in God’s faithfulness and provision, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. God is sovereign over all of creation and that he is able to provide for our needs, even when it seems impossible.
There are things we can’t fix. There are things that only God can fix.
The takeaway for this as you run in the thunder of God’s visitation, grace, mercy provision and kindness is that all of this points to the ultimate expression of God’s power and provision in the gospel, where he provides a way of salvation for all people through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are things we can’t fix. There are things that only God can fix. That is humbling, but a blessing.
Elijah’s bold acts of faith, including his prayer for rain and his running ahead of Ahab’s chariot, demonstrate what it means to live by faith and trust in God’s power and provision. It’s the central theme of the gospel message, where we are called to put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord and to rely on his power and grace to transform our lives.
The audacious message of grace and the cross of Christ is also reflected in Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal and his willingness to stand up for the one true God, even in the face of persecution and opposition. The often counter-cultural message requires us to be bold and courageous in sharing it with others, just as Elijah was bold in proclaiming the truth about God.
Despite every challenge that we face today, with faith in God we can, like Elijah, anticipate an audacious, outrageous outcome that goes beyond our wildest dreams and expectations. We can also expect to see God working in and through us to bring about positive change in the world, as we seek to live out our faith through acts of love, service, and justice.
Let’s be an entire tribe of God’s people running in the thunder, and expect to see rain. Lot’s of it.