As disciples of Jesus, we’re called to participate in the great spiritual battle of soul reconciliation, called “The Great Commission.” The Bible reminds us our battle is not against a flesh and blood opponent, but against the spiritual forces of evil (Galatians 6:12).
Elijah, in I Kings 18, had been diligent to engage in a spiritual battle. He was outnumbered 450 to 1. God sent fire on a water-soaked altar, and Elijah slaughtered all the prophets of Baal by his own hand! Elijah experienced a tremendous victory won by God, right in front of his own eyes.
Then came the taunt, “BY THIS TIME TOMORROW… (1 Kings 19:2).” Like Goliath in the Valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17) who came out every day to shout and defy the armies of the Living God, Jezebel unloaded on Elijah. She said, “I’ll make sure you’re dead by this time tomorrow.”
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. He cries out, “Enough already! It’s too much, Lord! I would be better off dead. I am insignificant, no better than my ancestors (1 Kings 19:4).” In the same way, in the battle with Goliath, the Israelites had been shaken, and paralyzed with fear, and they had run away (1 Samuel 17:24). And so it continues, one generation after another, century after century, Satan and his mouthpieces do their best to intimidate God’s children.
I’m noticing a pattern in my own life. I’m watching God win big victories: I see a man repenting of pornography addiction. I watch a couple take steps to reconcile after adultery. I sit with another leader who shares a struggle and invites God to help him overcome. These are significant spiritual victories that hit the enemy where it hurts.
And then I hear it… the intimidation, the taunt. “BY THIS TIME TOMORROW….” I experience a dark cloud of emotions following God’s biggest wins. I used to think it was physical fatigue, and I’m sure that’s part of it. But I have become more systematic to journal this experience, and this darkness seems to come about exactly 24 hours after a spiritual victory, or after a discipleship battle, like seeing someone delivered from sexual sin, or overcoming a stronghold of resentment in leadership.
When this happens I feel all alone, exhausted, overwhelmed with fear, battling despair, like I’m trapped and there’s no way out. It feels like this must be the end. When I try to sleep I am restless. It’s a feeling of being vexed. Sometimes it’s not until I find myself praying like Elijah, “It’s impossible Lord. It’s too much… I can’t do this anymore. I want to run away…” that I realize this is more than fatigue.
“BY THIS TIME TOMORROW…” is a spiritual taunt whispered by the enemy of souls. He is communicating in every way he can, “Back off the intentional relational transformational discipleship, OR ELSE.”
When young David heard the taunting, he said in 1 Samuel 17, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight.” He recalled victories God had previously won and declared, “This uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God…This day the Lord will deliver (him) into my hand…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, For the battle is the Lord’s.”
My fellow disciples of Jesus, we have to wise up and remember this message is a spiritual trick. The Blood of Jesus is greater! We will see the enemy run in Jesus’ name. The Bible says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” So I’m not running, I’m standing right here (Ephesians 6:13). And I’m not backing off the intentional relational transformational discipleship, either. By God’s grace, I intend to see the captives set free in Jesus name (Isaiah 61:1). Who’s with me?!