If you have seen any of the Rocky movies, you are familiar with the formula. Same basic plot, just with different antagonists each time.
Rocky is slated to box a seemingly unbeatable opponent. So he trains by curling small farm animals, running up the side of buildings, and knocking over brick walls with his fists.
Then when the fight begins, the opponent whoops up on him for eight or nine rounds. Rocky is knocked down over and over again. But each time, he gets back up.
And that right there is what draws us to Rocky. We love his heart. He never gives up. Every time he is knocked down, he musters the strength and courage to get back up and keep going.
Eventually, he turns the tide on the opponent and ends up winning the match, shouting “Yo, Adrian,” and hoisting a championship belt in the air as Survivor music plays and the credits begin to roll.
The Rocky movies have made hundreds of millions of dollars and are loved by so many people because the formula connects so deeply with us. We value winning and we value perseverance. Basically, we want to be Rocky. We live vicariously through him.
And that is why the Bible story Elijah Ran from Jezebel (Unit 13, Session 2) is so shocking to us—because we don’t see a persevering winner. We see a man who is the polar opposite—we see a man who wins and then quits and runs in fear.
Remember what happened in the last Bible story. Elijah stood boldly on Mount Carmel and challenged hundreds of false prophets in front of God’s people, and God gave him a great victory. God sent fire from heaven to completely destroy the soaking wet offering and stones. If ever Elijah had a “Yo, Adrian” moment, it was that one.
But what did Elijah do with that moment? He ran in fear when word got back to Jezebel what had happened and she threatened to take his life within 24 hours. Now, that threat certainly was serious, but what had Elijah just witnessed? That’s right—the amazing power of God! God had just sent fire from heaven to completely burn up a soaking wet offering and rocks. Rocks!
But instead of standing boldly under God’s providence, love, and power, Elijah ran for his life and wished he could just die (which makes no sense—he was afraid for his life so he wanted to die). Instead of hoisting the championship belt, Elijah took a dive onto the ring’s mat.
I love God’s kindness that we see in this story though. First, God provided food for Elijah. Then He met with Elijah and spoke to him gently through a whisper and promised him that he was not alone. I would have expected God to lift up Elijah by the collar and rebuke him for his cowardice and failure to trust in God. But God has infinite more patience, love, and kindness than me. And we should all be glad for that.
And that is a great lesson for us—that God is so kind to us even in the midst of our failures. But that is not the main takeaway for us. As always, Jesus is.
When we think about Elijah, we see God’s prophet who faced overwhelming opposition, showed God’s power before the people, and was threatened with death because of his faithfulness to God. But Elijah gave in to fear.
Now think about Jesus. We see God’s Son who faced overwhelming opposition, showed God’s power before the people, and was threatened with death because of His faithfulness to God. But Jesus didn’t give in to fear. Jesus remained faithful and obedient, died, and rose again.
Elijah was a good prophet, but Jesus was the better prophet—the perfect prophet—who brings us to God. Jesus is the perfect and great champion!
How does the persevering faithfulness of Jesus give you hope in tough times? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the September 11, 2016 session (Unit 13, Session 2) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.