TOCCOA — Richard Blackaby is a much-beloved preacher and teacher. He is the president of Blackaby Ministries International and travels all over the world speaking on spiritual leadership, spiritual awakening, experiencing God, and the Christian life.
Although Blackaby had just returned from a preaching mission in Brazil, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board was fortunate enough to have him as one of the featured speakers for their annual retreat at the Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa April 18-20.
Blackaby used the Old Testament prophet Elijah to deliver the message God had placed on his heart. He began by boasting of his role as a grandfather. He claimed that he and his wife, Lisa, had prayed and longed for grandchildren for years. Finally, the Blackabys were blessed with three grandchildren, including twins, within a period of 15 days.
His explanation of his fumbling, bungling efforts to get him and his wife to the hospital to see the grandchildren for the first time was hilarious. Once he had gone back into the house several times to get the things he had forgotten – wallet, eyeglasses, car keys – he finally got to the hospital, let Lisa out at the door, and proceeded to look for a parking place, but none seemed to be available. As he was making his second trip around the parking lot, he saw Lisa coming out of the hospital frantically waving her arms.
When he drove up to where she was motioning hysterically, he asked, “What is the matter?”
She responded, “This is the wrong hospital.”
Once he got to the right hospital, rather than being sent directly to the room where the grandchild could be seen, Richard was relegated to a waiting room. He sat there for about 25 minutes, settled down, and began to watch cable news programming. All he saw was the report of Christians being beheaded, terrorist activity, news of political corruption, rioting in the streets, and statistical information on the increasing rate of crimes and murders.
And he thought, “This is the kind of world my grandchildren will encounter. They will face pornography that is so prevalent on the Internet. They will face professors in college who will try to steal their faith. They will face a world that is set against people of faith.”
Then Blackaby said, “God spoke to my heart and said, ‘The man you were as a parent will not be sufficient for you to be as a grandparent. Will you be the kind of grandfather this little boy will need?’”
Bringing an intolerable message
Then Blackaby turned to his audience and asked, “Will there be enough Christian substance in your life to make your grandchildren know there is a God?”
Blackaby turned the focus on Elijah and told about his contest with the 850 prophets of Baal and the risk he took when he prayed for the fire to fall on the altar and consume the sacrifice. He stated, “Elijah knew he would be a dead man if God didn’t answer his prayer.
“We do many mundane things in our ministries,” Blackaby exclaimed, “I have stacked chairs, listened to people talk about their ailments, attended committee meetings – all necessary things, but I would like to see a time in my life when the fire falls.”
Blackaby then went to I Kings 17 to give some background information on Elijah’s obedience to the call of God. He declared, “Elijah was a Tishbite (I Kings 18:1), which probably signifies very little about him. Primarily he was qualified not because of his place of origin or background or education, but because he stood before the Lord as indicated in verse 1.
“But Elijah was asked to preach a very unpopular message. He was asked to proclaim a message indicating that there would be no rain on the earth. This was devastating for an agrarian society. That message was even more intolerable for the people who embraced Baal, the god of storms and rain.”
Blackaby illustrated his point by saying, “When I was called to my first church I decided to preach through the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. I knew the Beatitudes all began with ‘blessed’ and I was convinced that my congregation would be pleased with such positive, affirming messages from the Sermon on the Mount.
“However, it wasn’t long until I got to the passages on divorce and I knew we had three divorced couples in our small church. I thought about skipping over those verses, but I had promised to preach through those chapters verse by verse. I introduced those verses with many loving, reassuring comments, but I addressed those verses as honestly as I possible could.”
Blackaby then asserted, “Preachers need to ask themselves, ‘Am I going to tell the truth or am I going to deceive my people by telling them what they want to hear?’”
Where God sometimes works best
“Prior to Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal he was told by God to go to the Brook Cherith – to a wilderness area,” Blackaby continued. “And the Bible says in I Kings 17:5: ‘So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord.’ Notice that word ‘so.’
“Elijah obeyed God perfectly, faithfully, and according to the letter of the law and ended up in the wilderness. Sometimes God does His best work in the wilderness.”
Blackaby told about a young pastor who went to a church in a small town where God richly blessed his ministry. They added a second worship service to accommodate the growing attendance and ultimately a third service, because of the expanding congregation. They had a wild game dinner and had 2,000 men to come to the event in a town of only 1,100 people. God was blessing and people were being saved.
“However, two weeks later a couple of deacons came to see the pastor and told him that his work at the church had ended. They gave no explanation, but simply told him to pack up his belongings and his family and leave. In essence the young preacher was sent into the wilderness.”
Blackaby exclaimed, “Don’t be discouraged if you are in the wilderness, but find out why God has you there. Your wilderness experience may result in God granting you the power to fulfill his purpose in your life. What is the big ‘so’ in your life? What are you attempting right now that requires the power of God?
That is a good question for every Christian and every church.