Legacy: What is My Purpose?
Rachel Billups | 1 Kings 18:2-24
Deep down we all want to live with passion and purpose. Sometimes we get tired, confused or unsure of what we were actually created to do. Legacy is what we’re looking for – living a life that matters.
Often, we learn best from someone who’s been there, done that, so let’s look at the lives of two Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha, each uniquely living out their legacy.
Let’s start with Elijah. Elijah is a prophet with a wide-swinging emotional pendulum – thriving in his purpose one day and huddling in the fetal position the next.
In 1 Kings chapter 18, Elijah is attempting to help God’s people stay in love with God and one another. But the people have decided they are more interested in being ruled by an actual king, just like every other neighboring nation, rather than depending on God for guidance and direction. And this king, King Ahab, is kind of terrible, along with his wife Queen Jezebel. They partner together to turn God’s people away from God and towards the worship of other gods like Baal.
“So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God (1 Kings 18: 20-24 NIV).
This whole “people of God” experiment has gone sideways. Folks are taking their cues from the kings and cultures around them, rather than the God who chose them in the first place. And things were about to get interesting…
ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!
Life kind of feels that way these days, doesn’t it? Pandemic problems, family sickness, broken relationships, harmful habits, war, people crying, nations dying… it can feel like a real mess.
This entire section of the Bible is the story of how God’s people turn away from God and hold on to idols instead.
Here in the story idols equate to foreign gods like Baal. But don’t be fooled, in 2022 modern-day idols have been spotted. Objects, people, habits, addictions – anything that we focus on.
Idols are not our friends. They suck the life right out of you.
What’s become an idol for you? The idols plaguing God’s people had names like Asherah and Baal, and maybe naming our idols isn’t such a bad idea.
Is your idol a toxic relationship, the title you hold at work, the amount of money in your bank account, your appearance, your deep need to stay comfortable and secure?
“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18: 21 NIV).
It’s really difficult to divide your heart, particularly when it comes to God.
Elijah’s invitation is to live a whole-hearted life. Not to give a piece of my heart to any one idol but to live in alignment with God, the creator of the universe, the maker of our heart.
“Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” -Brené Brown
Knowing you are worthy only happens when you lean into your identity in Christ. If every human on the planet could embrace their identity, their worthiness, all heaven would break loose.
Our purpose – your purpose – is to believe who God says you are and share that love and conviction with those around you.
POINT PEOPLE TO GOD
Friends, that’s Elijah’s purpose—to point people to God.
That’s our purpose, too.
I’m inspired by the raw boldness of Elijah and his challenge to the prophets of Baal. Let’s continue the story:
“Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18: 26b-29 NIV).
These prophets were attempting to manipulate their idol. Maybe if we just shout louder. Maybe if we get ourselves caught up in a frenzy. Maybe if we start to self-mutilate then Baal will pay attention. But it didn’t work.
How often do we attempt to manipulate God?
If I just do enough, say enough, pray enough, cry enough, beg enough, plead enough, then maybe just maybe God will answer.
How many times in our desperation for God to do something for us do we throw a fit, scream and stomp or even threaten to harm ourselves in the process? Is it possible that we are carrying around an idol understanding of God?
God you are our genie in a bottle. God you will just have to give me want I want—then my path and purpose will be clear.
Our God cannot be manipulated.
“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” (1 Kings 18: 36-39 NIV).
Elijah did not dance, beg, or cut himself. No – instead he centered himself on his identity that was imbedded deep within.
Lord, The God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel—you are our God, and we are your people.
It’s in calm, quiet reverence that Elijah prayed, and the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the whole thing.
In our attempts to figure it all out, have we failed to realize that our first step is to look within.
“Your vocation – or purpose in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” -Fredrick Buchner
When we, like Elijah, live fully alive, we become the bridge by which people are invited to experience God for themselves.
LIVE FULLY ALIVE
Are you actually living fully alive? Operating out of your God-given purpose?
We get one shot. We are all going to die. The question isn’t will we die; the question is will we live fully alive?
Watch the full message here, including a purpose-minded interview with Cheryl Bender, the legacy director of Clubhouse ministries: