Push Me, Pull Me
From Victor to Victim and Back
August 28, 2016
I want to talk to you today about something that is depressing… depression. I want to talk to you about the very depressing subject called depression. What is depression? Depression is an intense feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that leads to sadness. That’s what depression is. And I know in a crowd this size with thousands of people we have people going through depression. There’s no doubt about it. Some are in the midst of it. Maybe you don’t look like it, you don’t smell like it, you don’t act like it, but down deep you’re depressed. Others might be on the edge and the ledge of depression. You’re about to go into it and there are some trigger points that you must realize that will lead you into this. Depression, though, is real. It’s not something phony and fake. It’s not something that just the hyperemotional people deal with, it’s real. And it’s so real it’s talked about in Scripture a lot. Isn’t that interesting? Some of the great people in Scripture went through depression.
If you’re going through depression you have something in common with Moses. He’s a pretty major player. If you’re going through depression you have something in common with Jonah. If you’re going through depression you have something in common with the Apostle Paul, Simon Peter. If you’re going through depression you have something in common with today’s character we’re going to look at again, Elijah. Elijah. We’ve been talking about Elijah because I’m in a series called Push Me, Pull Me. It’s the double-minded life. Dr. Doolittle introduces the Push Me, Pull Me creature. A llama’s body with two heads, one head going one way and another head going the other. Push Me, Pull Me. Push Me, Pull Me. Push Me, Pull Me. The back and forth life.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, talked about being double-minded. He said watch out if you’re double-minded. If you’re double-minded you’re unstable in all of your ways. The word double-minded comes from the Greek term dipsuchos, which means you’re twice sold. You’re sitting on the fence. You’re back and forth. And it’s so sexy these days to just sit on the fence, isn’t it? Just to… that thing was falling. Let’s see if I can use my incredible balance to sit on the fence without it falling. If I do I want a standing ovation, OK? I’m 55 years old. Gimme some love! If I can do it without falling over. If I don’t just go, whoa, he’s 55, honey. Yes!!! I did it! Whoa!!! Wow. I work out with a friend of mine named Ryan. Do not show him that video, please. He will be embarrassed. Hope he’s not here. He could be here.
Anyway, too many people in our culture today sit on the fence. We straddle the fence. We go back and forth. Our boy, Elijah, you won’t believe this. Elijah, he was on an absolute roll. Secured one of the greatest victories ever, yet after that he goes into depression. I’m like, what? We need to watch out for the after. The after. What do you mean the after? After the windfall. After the honeymoon. After the spiritual high point. After the victory. What happens after? You remember our Savior, Jesus? Jesus, after his baptism, was driven out into the wilderness and faced the temptation. So the Bible not only paints the strong parts of characters, it also paints the tough parts. The Bible not only paints the dynamic aspect of people but also the depressing aspects of people. I have dealt with depression. And if you’re honest, so have you. Whenever I meet someone who goes, “Oh, no. I’ve never dealt with depression.” I know I’m talking to someone who’s probably dealing with it right now. They’re just totally self-unaware.
James 5:17, you know what James said? He said “Elijah was a man subject to passions like unto ours.” So one minute he’s a hero, the toast of the town! The next minute, a complete zero who threw a black tie invitational pity party, and he only invited himself. Elijah, Elijah, God’s spokesperson.
Think about Israel during this time. 1 Kings 18-19 talks about it. Israel was in a faith funk. They had the wrong king, King Ahab. King Ahab married the wrong woman. She was gorgeous but mean as a pit viper, Jezebel. Her name rhymes with Hell and she was Hell. Never name your daughters Jezebel. They’re cursed if you do. Don’t name them that! She hated Elijah. She got the whole nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, into Baal worship.
What was Baal worship? In essence, worshipping power, possessions, and pleasure. It was really cool to sit on the fence if you were in Israel during that time because you could go to Baal worship and have all the sex you wanted. You could go to the Baal temple and they would bless you with fertility and the sun god and this person would do this and that person would do that. So they wanted a little bit of Baal worship but a little bit of God. A little bit of Jehovah and a little bit of craziness, one foot in, one foot out, push me, pull me, sitting on the fence. These are God’s people, God’s chosen people. So Elijah was like, “you know, you guys are in trouble.” He pointed out Ahab and Jezebel. He said, “It’s not going to rain for 42 months and it’s because of your sin.”
Then Elijah got really bold. He looked at them and he said, “You talk about Baal, you talk about all this stuff. Power, possessions, and pleasure, let’s have a God contest. I’ll play against your god on Baal Field, Mount Carmel.” Elijah versus 850 prophets of Baal. Elijah basically said, on Baal Field, “I’ll give you guys the first run at it. You can be on the receiving team. You won the coin toss. You build an alter and you pray, and after that I’ll build an alter and I’ll pray. Whichever God answers by fire is the God that wins.”
So these people, these prophets, they start freaking out, jumping around, cutting themselves for nine hours, for nine hours! Silence. Baal was silent.
Baal worship is, in effect, in our world today, wouldn’t you say? Power, possessions, pleasure. I meet so many people. “Power, answer me! Power!” Silence. “Possessions, one more million will do it! This opportunity will do it! This client will do it. This car will do it. This house will do it.” Silence. “Oh, pleasure. OK, this one person, this one call girl, this one liaison. Surely pleasure will do it. Answer me!!”
And we’re trying to get lower-case g-gods to only answer what only upper-case G-God can give us. Baal will put you in jail. What seems like freedom will actually incarcerate you.
So for nine hours it didn’t work. And Elijah was talking trash to them. Then, after they tried and Baal was silent, what do you think Elijah did? Threw up a quick prayer, whom! And God – woom! Answers by fire. Consumes the alter, everything. Jehovah wins.
But I want you to notice something in 1 Kings 18:21, look what Elijah said to the people. Elijah challenged the people. “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him. If it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!” And the Bible says in verse 21, “nobody said a word.” Push me, pull me. Back and forth.
So after this, I set this whole depression thing up. Elijah goes into depression. Come on, Elijah. You just secured this incredible victory, now you’re going into depression? What is up with that?
Here’s how we go into depression. First of all, we’re double-minded and double-mindedness can kick us into depression. The first stage is the freak-out stage. He just freaked. Freaked! You know why Elijah freaked? A text message. You’re like, Ed, get out of town. There’s a text message in the Bible? I’m going to show you. Elijah looked at his iPhone. Oh, wow!
The Bible says in 1 Kings 19:2-3, “She sent a message… (it’s a text!) to Elijah. You killed my prophets, now I’m going to kill you.” You’re gone. Elijah looked at his Rolex sundial watch and he’s like, “whoa! In 24 hours I’m done! I’ve got to do something!” This is amazing.
What happens when you receive the text? What happens when someone posts something negative about you? What happens when you have that look or that comment? How do you process that? Because so often that can send you and me into double-mindedness, it can send us into depression.
Elijah, consider the source! This woman was Crazy McCray! A pit viper! Furthermore, he should have thought through the whole situation because Jezebel wasn’t going to kill him. There were 7,000 believers in Israel. Had she killed him there would have been a revolt and they would have taken out she and Ahab. So come on, man! Come on, man! Elijah, what are you doing?
But we exaggerate, don’t we? “Oh, she said this. He said that. Oh-oh-oh.” And we just feel, and we just feel. Elijah was emotionally exhausted. He was toast. Adrenaline, fatigue.
ILLUS: Every weekend I go through a mini depression. It’s hard to explain but after I speak so much, Sunday night and Monday, I tell myself, Ed, don’t ever make a major decision on Sunday evening or Monday. I’m telling you, I’m in a state kind of depression. I call it the holy hangover.
Every job has its stressors, whether you are a homemaker, whether you teach school, whether you’re a coach, whatever you do, all of us have unique drains. And we need to watch that and we can’t overreact. Feelings can get freaky.
ILLUS: I was out of town a couple days ago doing a round table for some leaders. Our children’s pastor, our global children’s pastor, Mike Johnson, went along as well and he taught some children’s pastors and volunteers about what we’re doing in our incredible children’s ministry. And let me just say something. We have the best children’s ministry on the planet. On the planet. I was asking Mike, I said, “Mike, why do you think our culture is so feelings-driven?”
He thought about it and he said something very wise. He said, “You know, so many parents have not taken their kids to church for age-appropriate teaching. They don’t have the truth in their lives, and because they don’t have the truth of Scripture in their lives, all they have is feelings. And feelings are much easier to deal with and to manipulation compared to the truth.”
You see, truth always trumps feelings. Faith always trumps feelings. Feelings are great. I’m thankful to God – God has feelings, too – that we have them but we can’t allow them to infiltrate and dominate our thinking. Because our culture, man, we’re all about feelings. “I just don’t feel like I should stay in the marriage. I just don’t feel like she loves me. I’m just not feeling it at work.” I mean, I don’t feel like going to church all the time and I’m the pastor! Feelings?
ILLUS: I want you to read this verse. I don’t know if Jesus said this, it’s out of the NEV. “You will know your feelings and your feelings will set you free.” That’s out of the New Emotional Version of the Bible that I just wrote. No, Jesus didn’t say those words. Some are going, whoa! I love that! It’s not in the Bible.
Here is what it says. Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
You will know the what? Truth. Say it again, you will know the what? Truth! And the truth will set you free. So, when I base my life on truth, yeah you’re going to have feelings off of truth, my feelings, though, will lie to me. When you’re exhausted.
I love what a Christian counselor told me one time. “Ed, always halt.” If you’re ever too hungry, too angry, too lonely, or too tired, watch out because your feelings can dominate and they’ll cause you to do things you normally wouldn’t do. Watch out for your feelings. But it’s so true.
I mean, poor Jezebel. This girl was mean, she was rugged, she was evil. And guys, when a woman is made at you it does seem like everybody in the world is mad at you. I’m just going to say that. That’s how powerful women are. You can clap. It’s true. Guys are like, I’m scared to clap… I’m not sure if I… it’s OK! Women are awesome. They’re amazing!
The freak out stage! Maybe you’re about there now. “I’m feeling this… I’m feeling that.” You know what these leadership seminars I do around the country, so many pastors come up to me and they go, “Man, it’s like I’m doing ministry to a parade now. People just filing through, filing through. They always say, ‘I just don’t feel it anymore.’ My feelings got hurt at the church or my feelings at this small group didn’t work out, and they go somewhere else.”
You’ve got to allow truth and commitment to trump your feelings. And Elijah should have said, “God, I know who I am because of you.” I know your plan, and I know there are a lot of believers out there, but he lost it because he turned inward. So he freaked out.
Here’s a next phase, and we all do this. The fleeing stage. He was running… he was getting out of there, running from Jezebel. And the Bible says he ran all the way to a place called Beersheba. And if you study the geography, his movement geographically showed that he was giving up. “God, I’m done.” You’re like, “Elijah, you’re one of the great men of God, ever!”
“I’ve had enough. I’m the only one. And I’m out.” He went to Beersheba. The name Beersheba means well of an oath. Elijah, with his fleeing, was saying to God, “God, I’m making an oath. I quit. I’m not going to do this anymore. The price is too high.” And he did something really stupid, too. And I’ve done this before, we all have.
When he got to Beersheba he dropped off his close friend, one of the members of his squad, his team, his group. Dropped him off, the Bible says. Isolation. So you could say the first stage is exaggeration, the second stage is isolation. “I’m just going to be by myself. I know what’s right for me and if I feel what’s right for me, that must be true.” No, you could have eaten a bad pizza, because what you feel like and what I feel like has nothing to do with whether something is true or not. I hope you realize that.
So 1 Kings 19:3-6, “When he came to Beersheba in Judah he left his servant there (stupid – come on, man!) while he, himself, went into the desert.”
And he came to this thing called a broom tree, 14 feet tall, only room for one. Party of one, my name is Bitter. Just enough room for one under the broom tree. When we get under a broom tree we take out our broom, don’t we? And we sweep. That’s what he did. He swept all of his problems in this big old pile under the broom tree. As I said earlier, a black tie invitation to a pity party. “I’m the only one. I’m the man. God, I tried, but this is just horrible.” Under a broom tree. Wow.
Then he was suicidal. “God, I want to die. I pray that you would take my life. I’m done. I’m done.” Hmm… mm-mmm. Then, if you look at the last part of verse 4, I cannot believe Elijah is saying this. I mean, I just can’t believe it. “I’m no better than my ancestors.”
Now think about that. This is Elijah. Playing the comparison game? Elijah? Who brought up your ancestors? “I’m no better than my ancestors.” He’s just under the broom tree, looking at his pile or problems, saying “God, take my life. I’m no better than my ancestors.”
I love social media. I hope you follow me, follow Fellowship. We do a great job. Our social media team is ridiculous. I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter, I do this thing called Instagram, on that, and Instagram Story. I love that, it’s cool. Social media, you know? There’s a great side to social media but there is a sinister side to social media.
The sinister side, the evil side, is this comparison game. We look at Facebook, we read Twitter, Instagram. “Wow, you get to drive this and I’m just stuck under the broom tree! You get to marry him and I’m just stuck under the broom tree! You travel to the British Virgin Islands and I’m just stuck under the broom tree! You get to meet that celebrity and I’m just stuck under the broom tree! God, just take my life. I’m the only one. I’m worthless, I don’t even pale in comparison. I mean, look at her figure, and I’m under the broom tree!”
Woommmm-nananananana <engine sound effect> Those envy engines in your life and mine. We go to social media. “Oh, they’re living this superstar life. They’re an A-lister.”
It’s smoke and mirrors, baby! That stuff is ESPN highlight reel living! That’s not the real deal!
So who are you to compare yourself? I mean, I fall into that. Every time I compare myself to someone I’m making a mockery of God’s creative genius. Every time I compare myself with someone I’m wasting my time! You be you! Elijah, there’s only one of you! You’ve got 7,000 brothers here in Israel. What’s wrong with you, man? What’s wrong with you? Under a broom tree. Started comparing himself.
And then, you know what happens? This is supernatural. He goes to sleep. And sometimes one of the best things we can do when it comes to depression is just sleep. And then an angel, let me read this to you. I love it, it says, “Then he laid down under the tree and fell asleep (verse 5). All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’” Elijah, there’s an IHOP! I’m serious. Israelite House of Pancakes. “He looked around (let’s keep reading, verse 6) and there by his head was a cake of bread (I told you) over hot coals and a jar of water. He ate and drank.” I love those harvest nut pancakes at IHOP. I had them a couple days ago. Carbs are good. Maple syrup, I love it, I love it. “He ate and drank and then laid down again.” Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is just sleep and eat. That’s OK.
Then we go to the third stage. The freak out stage or the feeling stage, the fleeing stage, you isolate yourself, which is stupid, which we all have a tendency to do. Then we have the fragmented stage, the push me, pull me stage. And this will lead us into depression. The fragmented stage. He then… and God never tells him to do this. God never told him to go to Beersheba. God never told him to drop off his homie. God never told him to go to the broom tree. God never told him to take – are you ready for this? – a 200-mile journey into the desert by himself. What are you doing, Elijah? Depression. It messes us up.
1 Kings 19:8, “So Elijah sat up and ate and drank (of course he had so many carbs he had all this energy) and the food and water made him strong enough to walk 40 more days to Mount Sinai.”
Mount Sinai, 10 commandments. In this area that’s where God’s chosen people were fed manna burgers from Heaven. “And he spent the night there in a cave.” Everything was caving in. I mean, come on, Elijah. You’re in a cave? Really?
And then while he was there God asked him a question. Now we know that God doesn’t have to ask us questions. He knows everything. He’s sovereign, he’s omniscient. But he asks questions so we’ll assess our situation. Self aware.
I’m going to do a series on being self aware. Wouldn’t that be a fun series? It’s throughout the Bible.
“Elijah,” this is what God said, “why are you here?” Because Elijah has always been a “there man.” I’m there. I’m ready! God’s like, “why are you here? On Mount Sinai, really? Really? You’re that far away from my will and power and purpose? Really? You’re that caught up in being double-minded? Really? Back and forth, back and forth. You, Elijah? Really!? In depression, really?”
Maybe God’s asking you and me that same question. Why are you here? Why are you here? And here’s the beautiful thing about Elijah. Elijah listened. He didn’t just hear, he listened. Listening is active. It’s like, OK, I hear you. Now I’m going to do something about it. But I love his answer. He said, “I’ve always done by best to obey you. You’re powerful. But your people have broken their solemn promise to you (blaming, which happens all the time). They’ve torn down your alters and killed all your prophets except me (he still doesn’t get it, does he?) and now they’re even trying to kill me.” Well, God asks him this question again. You know what God says?
“E-man. Hey E-train. Go back the way you came and while you’re going back I want you to appoint some leaders to open up a can on these Baal worshippers because when we get the Baal out we’ll get the Hell out. So I want you to do something.” Elijah obeyed. He listened.
ILLUS: Have you ever driven a bus before? Do we have any bus drivers? You’ve driven the yellow dog? The yellow dragon? School bus, anybody? Yeah, thank you for being honest. I love it. Growing up I rode the bus a lot, especially when I was junior high and high school. And I learned something from bus drivers.
Every time you cross a train track and we had to cross a lot of them in the dirty south, stop, look, and listen. Because if you didn’t you could become a casualty in a train wreck.
That’s what Elijah did. That’s what I need to do and you need to do. We may start becoming double-minded. When we start fighting depression, when we start sitting on the fence, stop, look and listen.
You know what God did? And this is old school. God played some Earth, Wind and Fire. He said, “Elijah, put that on your playlist.” Some of you are like, Earth, Wind, and Fire? Oh yeah, they’re an incredible band. Just Google them. They’ll bless you. Earth, Wind, and Fire. <singing> Get away… it’s unbelievable… with me today! <more singing> That was real music. I know I’m sounding old. I am old. And Earth, Wind and Fire is great. I bet those guys couldn’t jump on the fence like I did, though. Could they? OK. That was pitiful.
OK, stop, look, and listen. God says, “Elijah, I’m passing by.” Was God in the earthquake? Nope. Was God in the wind? Nope. Was God in the fire (Earth, Wind, and Fire)? Nope. The Bible says a still, small voice and Elijah bowed and looked to God, woke up and smelled the espresso, went back and did what God wanted him to do. Stop, look, and listen.
Maybe, just maybe you’re in depression. Maybe for you, you need to walk into a Christian counselor’s office. Get a physical from a great doctor. I don’t know, maybe that’s your step. Maybe you find yourself on the edge of it. You need to stop, look, and listen. Maybe you need to sleep. Maybe you need to eat. Maybe you need to find something to replenish your soul. I would challenge you, too, to become a part of the only thing that Jesus built, the church. Because the great psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger, they asked him one day, “Dr. Menninger, what is the cure for depression?” and everyone was expecting him to give this super detailed answer, this deep answer.
He said, “Depression? Go home, lock your doors, get outside of your house, find someone, and help them.”
Jesus said, if you want to be great become a servant. Friends, we need to understand the power of faith and the power of truth and the power of our emotions and feelings. We need to understand that when we share with others in a small group in church, that they are dealing with the same stuff we are. Elijah thought he was the only one.
Maybe you feel like you’re the only mom going through this. Maybe you feel like you’re the only spouse going through this. Maybe you feel like you’re the only student facing this. Maybe you feel like you’re the only pastor dealing with this. Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing. That’s why we’re to do life together. And that’s why God wants us to live this single-minded life. How long will you sit on the fence? If God is God, follow him. If it’s Baal, follow him. Double-minded or single-minded? That’s the question we all have to answer. Let’s pray together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]