Patting Ourselves on the Back

by Nan Corbitt Allen

I’m preparing to substitute teach a Sunday-school class, and the lesson is from 1 Kings 18 and 19. I’ll admit that it isn’t one I learned as a child, though it is a great Bible story with a profound lesson.

Elijah was a prophet and one of God’s favorites, it seems. Elijah, apparently, was also highly revered by the Israelites throughout their long history since he was the topic of conversation many years later in both Old and New Testament times. Some even thought that Jesus was Elijah coming down from heaven. Yet, Elijah himself showed up in a heavenly body at the Transfiguration—he and Moses joined Jesus on the mountain.

In the time of the ancient kings of Israel, many had started worshipping a pagan god—Baal. In chapter 18 of 1 Kings, Elijah is incensed over their idolatry and sets out to prove that Yahweh is the one true God. He instructs the prophets of Baal to build an altar to their god and offer a burnt sacrifice without benefit of external fire.

The idolaters cannot get Baal to light their altar, no matter how hard they beg. Therefore, their demonstration shows that Baal is not the Living God. When Elijah offers the same kind of sacrifice to Yahweh, he has it doused with water—three times. And God answers, sending down fire from heaven that consumes the sacrifice, the wood, stones, and dust around it, and even the water in the trench, proving that He is in control.

What a spectacle that must have been! Many Israelites switched teams after the show-down, going back to worshipping the one true God. Elijah’s mission was accomplished.

However, in chapter 19, after that incredible display of God’s power and Elijah’s faith, Queen Jezebel (a faithful worshipper of Baal) vows to kill Elijah because he not only made a mockery of Baal’s power but had the prophets of this false god slaughtered. Interestingly, Elijah fears this woman so much that he runs and hides—like a Rottweiler cowering to a Chihuahua. Elijah whines to God that he’s the only one left in Israel who is faithful (which isn’t true), and he wants to give up.

What had happened to Elijah’s faith? From revered representative of God to a scaredy cat? The story ends well, but only when God challenges Elijah to listen for His “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 NKJV).

What can we learn from this story of Elijah? After a victory, the highs are often followed with lows. Why is this? Perhaps, in Elijah’s case, success had fostered a sense of pride, and he began to take his importance and power too seriously. Perhaps he was looking for another high, and when it didn’t happen, he sank so low that he even asked God to let him die.

Success can sometimes be more damaging to our lives than failure. Let’s be careful to recognize that our successes are only due to God’s providence and power.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books. Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with the highs and lows? Why do you think that is?


3 thoughts on “Patting Ourselves on the Back

  1. Nan, this is such a timely message. I have experienced the low after the high, but only after looking back did I recognize my pride during the high. That caused my low. Thanks for reminding us that any success we have is due to God’s grace and provision. Blessings, Fran


  2. Great message, Nan. I worked for an USAF colonel who used to say, “He’s flying so high he could hit a cloud with stick.” Eventually, we all have to land. The question is why kind of landing? 😉


  3. Nan, I love your words of “Success can sometimes be more damaging to our lives than failure. Let’s be careful to recognize that our successes are only due to God’s providence and power.” Thank you!


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