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Reason 2: Lack of Focus
The next thing that has the potential to limit your interaction with God to a whisper is a lack of focus. This is something that we sometimes do not consider. The voice of God is clear to those who learn the value of focus. Elijah’s experience with the still small voice is symptomatic of his depression and self-absorption—he became self-centered.
The good attribute of the still small voice is that it calls us to a deeper focus. It was the still small voice that made Elijah explore and look deeper into what the whisper was actually saying. For it reads, “…and when he heard it he wrapped his face in his mantle and came out”.
So many times we miss God because we are not willing to take the necessary steps to get closer to His voice. We have become satisfied with a whisper. The whisper is a call to keep looking deeper. You will find that this truth also applies to our spiritual eyes. Many prophetic people can attest to the reality of God using a faint image that became clearer and more focused as they kept looking. You will likewise see this in many visionary experiences in the Bible. Many of the prophets said such things as “as I was looking” or “I kept looking”. What they were saying was that as they gave more attention to what they were seeing they were able to see more revelation. This truth likewise applies to hearing God’s voice.
Elijah recognized the prompting of God, got up from his place, and dared to walk closer to God’s voice. Moses did the same. He saw a bush burning with fire but it did not burn. Then it says that he turned aside to see why the bush was not burning. As he got closer to what God used to get his attention. He heard a clear voice speak to him.
The key to hearing the clear voice of God can be summed up in Colossians 3:20, set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth. In other words, tune into the right channel. Focus!
Being in focus also means being in the will of God. One thing we see in the story is that Elijah allowed fear and intimidation to deter him from the will of God. For God says to him in 1 Kings 19:9, “What are you doing here Elijah?” The question implies that Elijah is in a place in life other than where God intended.
In fact, it seems like a strange question for God to ask a man who was discouraged and suicidal. Nonetheless, God had a legitimate reason for asking the question. In 1 Kings 19:7 an angel appeared to Elijah and said to him “Arise and eat for the journey is great.” The word journey is a key word in the verse. It tells us that Elijah had an appointment elsewhere—one that God had obviously appointed. Therefore, God asked him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” Elijah had been deterred from the plan of God.
Determent is different than disobedience. In the last chapter, we discussed how Elijah’s disobedience to God’s instructions positioned him to hear God whisper. Determent, however, differs because it can be very unintentional. Sometimes we miss God and that’s okay. The story teaches us that God’s question is an attempt to guide Elijah back into the place He intended. God recognized that Elijah had a life hiccup that detoured his life and He wanted to get him back on track.
We do, however, have to acknowledge that it was Elijah’s life detour that led to the whisper in the first place. You should know that just as God sought to readjust Elijah’s destiny, He will likewise readjust yours. You only need to come closer to the voice when God whispers to get your attention. This is what Elijah did and God put his life back on the proper course.
As we consider the possible meanings for being out of focus, we can narrow it down to one word—distraction! Overall, a lack of focus simply means we are distracted. It is being distracted in prayer— distracted with life—and sometimes distractions can lead to a distracted sense of purpose.
Causes of Distractions
When we look at Elijah’s story we see that a distracted lifestyle has a cause. 1 Kings 19 presents us with these causes. They are:
- Circumstantial position changes
- Emotional position changes
- Physical position changes
- Geographical position changes
The first position change occurs in Elijah’s circumstance. In chapter 18 he is seen challenging the false prophets of Baal and calling down fire from heaven. From the standpoint of life, he is at the apex of his ministry, anointing, and life. He is triumphantly handling life and just reading about his life in this chapter is very inspiring.
Then something happens. On the heels of this great victory, a letter soon follows. In the letter, the king’s wife threatens the great man of God with death as an exchange for the life of her prophets. All of a sudden he goes from being the victor to being the victim. His circumstances have changed!
Upon the receipt of the threatening letter, the man of God became fearful. So get the picture. Just one chapter previous he was on top of the world. He had challenged 400 prophets by himself, challenged the king, and won the hearts of the people. He was brave just one chapter ago. Now he is afraid for his life.
All of this leads to another type of change in the passage. The change in his circumstances led the changes in his emotions. These changes led to physical changes in his position. 1 King 19:2-3 says that upon receiving the letter from the queen that he experienced three physical changes. It says that he 1) ran in fear, 2) sat under a broom tree, 3) lay under a broom tree, and 4) slept under a broom tree. Each position change was a sign of a declining emotional and mental state. He went from running to sitting, to lying, finally to sleeping! With each step, he got lower and slower! He was declining physically and it is our first sign that something is really wrong. It is a picture of the cycle of depression! As you can see there is something happening in this text that leads to the still small voice.
The last thing that I will point out in the passage is that Elijah experiences geographical position changes. He starts in the high place of Mount Carmel, then moves to the wilderness, then finally into a dark cave.
All of these were the foundation of what caused Elijah to become distracted. This all leads to a vital truth. We must be careful in how we handle stressful situations. It was one stressful event that started a process that caused Elijah to change his position. It was his response to the circumstance that led to the emotions of fear. It was the fear that inspired him to run, sit, lie, and sleep. And it was the physical changes that repositioned him from the light into a deep place in a dark cave.
So let’s be careful in how we handle the circumstances and challenges in our life. The last thing that I want you to know is that even though Elijah allowed life to drive him into a dark place. It did not drive him to a place beyond the reach of God. He may have heard an unclear voice, but he heard it well enough that it led him into the light where the clear voice of God was speaking. And if you have found yourself in this kind of place, God will get his voice to you too!