Dr. Ben Carson is a world-famous surgeon, performing more than 400 operations a year, mostly brain and spinal surgeries. At age 33, he was named as the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the youngest in the nation at the time. The Library of Congress named him one of 89 living legends. He says that besides his faith, his mother is one of the main reasons he is the man he is today. He says of his Mom, “She was one of 24 children, got married at age 13, found out that her husband was a bigamist. She only had a third-grade education, but the thing about my mother is that she never adopted a victim’s mentality. She prayed, she asked God to give her wisdom because my brother and I were terrible students….” His brother, by the way, became an engineer. His mother refused to adopt a victim mentality. She refused to lay blame for her problems on other people, and give up hope of making any changes in her own behavior. She refused to become bitter and suspicious of people around her. Instead, she prayed. Through prayer and God’s grace, Ben’s mother and Ben himself went from victims to victors. A victim mentality is rampant in our society today. If we are in a marriage that isn’t working well, we can view ourselves as the victim of an inconsiderate spouse, even though there are many things we could do to make the relationship better. If we are struggling with our grades in school, we can become a victim of a poor educational system or an incompetent teacher, despite the fact we haven’t been studying. If we are having a tough time making ends meet, we can become victims of an oppressive American system that needs to do even more for the less fortunate. If we are struggling with our weight or poor eating habits, we can become victims of the habits our parents ingrained in us and a world in which food is everywhere we turn. Can you see the idea? Whenever we are hurting, we resign ourselves to being victims. Well, in our passage for this morning Elijah could have resigned himself to being a victim of King Ahab, Queen Jezebel and a nation that was determined to worship Baal. The king and queen were powerful, and he was outnumbered by all the idol worship in the land. Instead, Elijah chose to pray, and as a result he was transformed from a potential victim to a prominent victor. In our passage we see at least three ways that transformation occurs when we follow his example.
First, prayer transforms us from victims to victors over Satan. Verse 36 says, “And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.” Another god had taken the place of the one true God in the hearts and minds of the people. Whenever there is this kind of widespread delusion, Satan is behind it. Another god was being exalted as the source of salvation and deliverance for the people. Today Satan encourages this kind of thinking, so that the lost will not look to the one place where they can find true salvation, Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” When we encounter this kind of blindness, we cannot prevail by argument or debate alone. We must have the intervention of the Holy Spirit – He must open their eyes. As we pray, God changes things. Satan also encourages this kind of thinking among believers. We are tempted to turn our focus away from Jesus and to other people and things. Rather than rising above our challenges with God’s grace, we are lured to look to other people, things and circumstances to cast blame. Paul warns us in Ephesians 6:11-13, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Again he says in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Several years ago a young man was working with an ordination committee as a part of the process of becoming a minister. He had to give a description of what he believed and didn’t believe about the Bible. One of the things he didn’t believe was that there is a personal Satan. He believed in the existence of evil in the world, but he didn’t believe that a being named Satan actually existed. Satan was just a metaphor used in the Bible to represent evil. All of the seasoned ministers working with him disagreed strongly. They were wondering whether or not to recommend that his church continue with his ordination. Finally one of the men said, “Let’s go ahead and recommend he be ordained. Six weeks after pastoring his first church he’ll change his mind!” Satan seeks to make a victim of us, to get us to adopt a victim mindset, a “woe is me” mentality. He wants to destroy our lives. Jesus says of him in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” He seeks to ravage your life. The only way to escape his devices is to draw close to Jesus in prayer. Prayer transforms us from victims of Satan to victors over Satan. Through prayer our outlook changes, our disposition changes.
Then, prayer transforms us from victims to victors over secularism. Again our passage says in verse 36, And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.” The people of Israel had drifted far from God, and placed other things in His place. They had abandoned their relationship with Him and had broken His commandments. As we heard a couple of weeks ago, Baal worship was characterized by the killing of young children, perverting God’s plan for sexual activity, and focusing more upon the earth that God had created rather than upon God Himself. God had been removed from many of the areas of their lives where He once had been prominent and honored. Today we see a similar trend in the secularism that is rampant in our nation as well as Western Europe. Webster’s online dictionary defines secularism as, “indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations.” Indifference, rejection or exclusion. We don’t need to look far to see the effects of it. Morality is declining, church attendance is plummeting, and the Bible is becoming for many people just another ancient book. We can respond to this trend in one of two ways, we can sit back and lament it, and long for the good ole days when things were different. If we choose that response, we choose not to be a part of a solution. Or we can respond by praying, and for asking for God’s leadership and empowering in the midst of a rapidly changing society. If we make this choice, then God will be faithful to use us as salt and light for the world around us. This last week Christianity Today ran an article about Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. She was a highly educated professor of English and Women’s Studies. She was not only skeptical of Jesus and Christianity, she attacked them through her writing and her keen intellect. Her mind is razor sharp. She was in a lesbian relationship, and was proud of it. In 1997 she wrote a scathing critique of Promise Keepers. She received many responses to her critique, some positive, some negative. One of the responses however, was from a Presbyterian minister who was asking her intellectually probing questions, such as how did she arrive at her conclusions, what was the basis for her viewpoint, etc. The questions were not attacking her, they were trying to understand what she was saying and thinking. Rosaria wrote back, and soon she developed a friendship with the minister and his wife. Eventually she was in their home for dinner, and had many discussions about life, faith and Jesus. This pastor and his wife were praying for her, and at least one church was praying. After some time had passed, she surrendered her life to the very Christ she had attacked. She left the lesbian relationship, and a few years later met and married the man who is now her husband. She is now a Christian author and mother. Now the choice could have been made to surrender, to say this woman was just another casualty of changing times. Instead, believers prayed, reached out, and Rosaria was transformed. Prayer transforms us from victims to victors over secularism.
Third, prayer transforms us from victims to victors over sin. Verses 37-39 say, Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” Many people came from the darkness of Baal worship to light of serving the one true God, because Elijah prayed. In the previous chapter of 1 Kings, 1 Kings 17, we read of another time when Elijah prayed. On this occasion a widow who had taken care of Elijah lost her son to a severe illness. Elijah took the body of the dead boy in his arms, and prayed that God would breathe life into him. After he prayed, the child came to life. That incident can serve as a symbol for us as to what happens when we pray for someone who is lost in sin. The Bible says we are not only lost in our sin, we are dead in our sin. Through Christ however, we experience life, the kind of life that God gives. We cease to be victims to sin and begin to be victors over it. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then even after we experience new life in Christ, sin will still tempt us and sometimes ensnare us. Even then, when we pray to God, he will enable us to experience freedom. In Philippians 1:6 Paul tells, “…I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Will you pray to God, and experience the transformation from a victim to a victor? Over Satan, over secularism, over sin?