Something that often is overlooked in this passage is the fact that God pretty much encouraged Elijah to lay down and rest—sleep if you will. He did this twice—taking time to feed Elijah each time when he awakened. Now there is a view out there that says when we are serving the Lord, we should work to the point of utter exhaustion. Unfortunately, there are many who have taken that advice—and have worked themselves to that point of being exhausted. Such a view is contrary to God’s Word. Let’s take a look at what might have caused Elijah’s exhaustion (and possibly yours too).
Elijah said in his first statement to God, “I am no better than my fathers.” This statement revealed a little of Elijah’s mistaken reasoning that led to his exhaustion. It had to do with the expectations that Elijah was carrying. He was to be “better” than his fathers. Now granted, his fathers were the people of that generation whose actions and choices had led to a gutter-level low point in Israel’s spiritual history. But whether our fathers are awesome or awful spiritually the same Biblical principle holds on this issue. We are not to examine ourselves with ourselves. The standard to which Elijah was to adhere was God’s—not one that was compared to the failings or the excelling of his fathers. This can be a burden that is unbearably heavy. For Elijah this burden was most likely one where he could not make even one mistake. He had to be absolutely faultless and perfect to best his fathers. What is amazing is that until Jezebel threatened him—he was doing awesome. But HAVING to do awesome every moment of your life, winds up not being so awesome. Mess up once—and your house of cards comes tumbling down. You tried so hard to keep them up, and now they’ve fallen. You might say, Elijah? Building a house of cards? Look at where he wound up after all his efforts. He is under a tree wanting to die. The problem with doing “better than your fathers” is that when you do—you become proud. But that pride goes before a fall, because one slip—and suddenly you are “no better than your fathers.”
Here is a little secret for you. God expects you to do what He says, in the strength He provides, and according to the Word He uses to instruct you. There is no hidden agenda of you being better than anybody else. There are no charts where you are trying to be number one by out-doing, out-serving, out-sharing, out-witnessing, out-loving—or for that matter out-anything-elseing any other person who knows the Lord. God simply wants you to know Him, love Him, and serve Him as He directs you. He knows your frame—and He knows that you are human (which means you are prone to goofing up in life). You might find that once you’ve taken the ‘got-to-out-do’ everyone else monkey off your back that you begin to learn to serve God in peace—rather than serve Him in one-upping your fathers constantly. Who knows, you might find that loving God this way becomes much less overwhelming and exhausting?