Tim Johnson, editor
May 25, 2008
Godly Man in Wicked Surroundings
Is School Out For You?
School is out for the summer, or soon will be in most places. As I write this, many children are thankful to be free from books, lectures, tests and term papers. They are looking forward to a summer of play, rest or even work -- anything but school!
Teachers will notice next fall how much knowledge has been lost over the summer. During the first few days of the next school year, many fundamentals will have to be reviewed and relearned. Certainly there will have been little or no educational advancement over the summer.
Many who are Christians suffer from a sort of permanent "school's out" mentality. At some point, early on in their spiritual education, they learned the spiritual fundamentals. But they did not stay in school (so to speak). They've ceased growing in knowledge. They've stopped using or reviewing much of the knowledge they have. For them, school is out permanently.
The recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews had this problem. After having been Christians a good long while, they had failed to progress in their spiritual education. The Lord was not pleased. Through inspiration He told them, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food." (Hebrews 5:12).
God expects His children to stay in school. It doesn't matter how much one knows or thinks he knows. "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (Proverbs 9:9).
If you don't think you are suffering from "school's out" syndrome, take this test. Ask yourself, "Have I LEARNED anything new about God's will in the last six months?" Have I advanced? Have I gained a better understanding of some things I already knew? Do I study my Bible regularly? Do I prepare for Bible classes? Do I often engage in stimulating Bible discussions with friends, family or co-workers? If your answer to any of these questions is "NO," you need to go back to school. If you answered with all "yes" answers, make sure you stay in school!
Elijah was a man who reached true greatness in the Lord's service. He was always ready to go where God would send him (I Kings 18:1; 19:15); to pray whenever prayer was needed (I Kings 17:20, 21; 18:36, 37), and to confront evil whenever confrontation was necessary (I Kings 18:17-24; 21:17-19). He was translated without seeing death, and he, along with Moses, was chosen to appear with the Lord on the mount of transfiguration.
The remarkable thing about Elijah is that he attained this greatness while living in a wicked and hostile environment. Had he lived in Judah during the righteous reign of Hezekiah or Josiah, we might not be surprised at Elijah's attainments. But he lived instead in Israel during the wicked reign of Ahab. He was subjected to the cruel intents of Jezebel. He was under constant harassment and threat of death. He became so discouraged at one point that he asked to die, but he never denied his God.
In this wicked environment Elijah was able to influence others. The widow of Zarephath was blessed through Elijah (I Kings 17:8-24). The multitudes on Mount Carmel were led to cry, "The Lord, He is God!" through his courageous efforts (I Kings 18:39). Elisha, his successor, must have been greatly influenced by him. And even Ahab was brought to humility on one occasion, clothing himself in sackcloth as a result of Elijah's rebuke (I Kings 21:27-29). The message of Elijah is clear. You can live a godly life and influence others for good in a wicked and hostile environment.
When one hears the excuses people make today, it is obvious that Elijah's message is badly needed in this generation. People excuse their failure to teach others the gospel with, "People are so prejudiced around here they just won't listen"; when the truth is, little effort has been made. If they are approached about their ungodly conduct, they explain that "You just don't know how terrible the people are that I have to work around every day". If their children go astray their explanation is, "Our children are faced with pressures that we didn't have growing up". Such statements, repeated often enough, become to many a "license" to do wrong and a salve to soothe their troubled consciences.
We must throw aside our excuses and make up our minds to do right. Elijah could serve God in wicked surroundings. And so can we.