What Are You Doing Here?
In 1 Kings 19:9 we find a question posed by God to the prophet Elijah: “What doest thou here, Elijah?” At the time, the prophet was in a state of deep discouragement. In fact, verse 4 says that he asked God to end his life. However, death was not God’s will for Elijah. God still had a mission for him to fulfill, but Elijah had lost sight of his purpose. God asked him this question to bring his attention back to where it should have been.
This question is a good one for us to consider as well. We can put our names in that verse and ask, “What doest thou here, _______?” The point is not to identify our current physical activity, but the purpose behind our actions. We could rephrase the question to be more specific: Why are you reading this article today? Why do you go to church? What is the end goal for what you are doing in life?
To succeed at anything, we must first have a clear objective, and then work toward it. Without that definite goal, our efforts can become misdirected and ineffective, and we may also lack the determination that is necessary to persevere through challenges. That results in frustration and discouragement, as Elijah experienced.
While God does not reveal to us all the details of how our lives will unfold, He has revealed through Scripture the wonderful purpose that He has for all of mankind. Once we understand His purpose for us, we can determine to pursue it wholeheartedly, and fulfill it.
Do you know God’s purpose for you?
Academic institutions have programs, or sets of requirements, for each of their majors. In order to qualify to receive a degree, students must complete the program. They cannot make up their own requirements and expect to receive a degree. They must follow the program established by the institution.
In a similar way, God has a program for mankind. It is revealed throughout His Word. His program is one of love (see John 3:16), and His core objective is for us is to have a relationship with Him (see 2 Corinthians 6:17-18), to honor Him with our lives (see Matthew 5:16), and be qualified to live with Him eternally in Heaven (see John 14:2). The details of each of our lives are unique, yet the fundamentals of God’s program are the same for us all. These are the first steps:
STEP 1: SALVATION. If we want to enjoy what God has planned for us in Heaven, we must be partakers of the power in Jesus’ Blood to forgive sins. The Bible says that to all who received Jesus, He gave power to become the sons of God (John 1:12). It also tells us that those who commit sin are of the devil, and it takes divine power to turn a child of the devil into a child of God. It is a miracle and a transformation! God gives power to live without committing sin—no lying, no stealing, no defrauding. There are no more evil acts, because God’s Spirit is working in us. This is the first step in God’s program.
If we have not had our sins forgiven, God is gracious and His arms are still open to those who will repent of their sins and choose to obey Him. It only takes a moment to receive the salvation God has made available to us through Christ. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9). There is no degree of sin that cannot be forgiven; Jesus died that He may save us from all iniquity.
STEP 2: SANCTIFICATION. God wants us all to be holy. Psalm 24:3-4 says that those who come near to God must have “clean hands, and a pure heart.” The “clean hands” alludes to what happens at salvation—sins are washed clean in the Blood of Jesus. The second step in God’s program is to have our hearts purified, which is the work of sanctification where our very nature is cleansed. Ephesians 5:25-27 says that Jesus gave Himself to sanctify the Church. The Blood of Jesus is able to make us pure on the inside.
STEP 3: BAPTISM OF THE HOLY GHOST. God promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide us in this world, to teach us, and to comfort us (John 14:26). Jesus told the disciples they needed the power for service that comes from the Holy Spirit, and we do too. If we have been saved from the old life of sin and our hearts have been cleansed and made holy, God’s Spirit will abide within us. It is a gift of God. Receiving the Holy Ghost is the third step in God’s spiritual program.
These three experiences are foundational to serving God. If it is our goal to succeed in God’s program but we are not seeking these things, we must consider the question: “What are you doing here?” May we never lose sight of God’s plan. We want to seek Him until we have received the provisions that He says are needful.
At university, there are always some students who are not serious about their academic career. They roam about with little passion and do not achieve anything meaningful. They do not seem to value their opportunity for education. In a spiritual sense, we want to be counted among those who are serious. If we have not been serious in the past about our service to God, may we change that today. We can evaluate what our life goals should be, and then choose to pursue them in earnest.
Beyond these three initial steps, God’s Word has much more to say about His plan for our lives. We must continue consecrating our lives (Romans 12:1-2), studying the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15), and sharing the Gospel with others (Mark 16:15). If we are ever unsure regarding where God wants us to be, the Scriptures will faithfully guide us through God’s program until we reach the final goal of Heaven.
In Heaven, our faithful obedience to God’s Word will be rewarded. Jesus advised us not to spend our lives chasing the temporary treasures of earth at the expense of eternal ones (Matthew 6:19-20). Our Heavenly “bank account” opens when we receive salvation, and after that, everything we do for God is recorded. He is storing our rewards for us in Heaven. Keeping that in mind will help us not to be distracted in our service to the Lord.
Are you willing to pay the price?
Succeeding in God’s program will cost us something. The prophet Elijah knew that very well—his service to God put his life at risk on multiple occasions. Like him, if we understand how marvelous God’s plan for us is, we will be willing to pay the price. What we gain is worth much more than anything we may give up.
In John 16:33, Jesus told His disciples they would face tribulation in this world, but not to be afraid because He overcame the world. We can expect to go through trials and even tragedy in this life. Yet, when the world around us is hostile, Jesus said that in Him we will have peace. If we draw close to Him, He will always draw close to us. If we abide in Him, He will abide in us. The love of God will keep us. This is something we cannot find anywhere else in this world.
We read in 2 Timothy 3:12 that all who will live godly will suffer persecution. We can expect that unbelievers will not love us because we stand in opposition to their master, the devil. We will not compromise with sin and those who serve Satan will be angry with us at times. When persecution comes, we must be prepared to respond like the three Hebrew children, who told King Nebuchadnezzar that they would rather die than disobey God (Daniel 13:16-18). If we have a clear goal and are determined to obtain it, no one can intimidate us. By God’s grace, we will hold our ground.
Whatever we go through in life, God wants us to keep our focus on Heaven. Though we will suffer, our suffering is not in vain. A glorious day is coming! In John 17:24, Jesus prayed that we would be with Him and behold His glory. Revelation 3:21 says they that overcome will sit with Jesus in His throne. When our focus is on Heaven, we find the needed resolve to pay the cost of serving Him. The devil himself will not be able to deter us.
Are you determined?
God’s purpose for our lives will not be accomplished accidentally. It will take determination to achieve. The Bible notes many individuals who were determined and who obtained their spiritual goals, including the prophet Elijah. Despite his setback recorded in 1 Kings 19, he did not give up. He continued his ministry as a faithful prophet to the Israelites, and then was escorted to Heaven in a chariot of fire! Here are a few more inspiring accounts of determination.
ZACCHAEUS. When Zacchaeus found out that Jesus was coming to his town, his goal was to see Jesus. He must have heard about the good works Jesus was doing and had hope that something good would happen to him too. Since he was short, it was not easy for him to see Jesus in the crowds around Him. However, he was resolved in his pursuit so he found a solution—he climbed a tree! Jesus knew the desire of Zacchaeus’ heart and also saw his faith, and He provided Zacchaeus’ needs that day.
RUTH. Naomi told her widowed daughters-in-law that she could not offer them a house, food, or husbands—nothing. One daughter-in-law heard that and kissed her mother-in-law goodbye. Evidently, she wanted those temporal things more than she wanted God. However, Ruth chose to cling to her mother-in-law and to serve the one true God, even if doing so would not bring material blessings. Ruth was committed to the truth and God rewarded her faith—not only did she marry again and have children, but Christ was counted among her descendants.
ELISHA. Elisha was a faithful servant to Elijah. When it was time for Elijah to depart this world, he made an offer to Elisha: “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee” (2 Kings 2:9). Elisha was ready with an answer—he asked for a double portion of the Spirit of God that rested on Elijah. He had a clear goal! Then, when the condition was given that he must see Elijah depart in order to receive the double portion, he was single-minded in his commitment to fulfill that requirement. In some ways, this task may have seemed trivial; with simpler tasks, it can be especially challenging to not lose focus. It is notable that there were fifty “sons of the prophets” who also knew that Elijah would be leaving soon, but we do not read that any of them received a double portion. On the other hand, Elisha was diligent in pursuing a blessing from God, and he received what he desired.
THE WOMAN WITH THE ISSUE OF BLOOD. When Jesus was on the earth, crowds followed Him out of curiosity, but some in the multitudes had a purpose to receive something from Him. The woman with the issue of blood from Matthew 9 was one such person. She believed Jesus would heal her, and she determined to touch the hem of His garment. That goal drove her to push through physical pain and obstacles in her way. Though it was not easy, she left rejoicing in her healing.
PAUL. As soon as Jesus transformed Paul’s life, he was committed to following Christ all the way. He left behind everything for Jesus. Paul saw visions of Heaven, and His goal was to be there for eternity. At one point, he was warned that he might be killed for his testimony and he answered, “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). A person who is set on going to Heaven cannot feel threatened with death.
The key question
When the prophet Elijah lost focus in his service to the Lord, God got his attention and directed him back to what he should have been doing. God will do that for us too. If we are not achieving our spiritual goals, rather than becoming discouraged about it, let us ask ourselves the question: “What doest thou here?” May God show us His purpose for our lives and help us to be fully dedicated to it, that we may be counted among those who obtain and receive.