Sometimes we won, sometimes we lost, but we all showed up again Monday morning, bleary-eyed and less than thrilled to be in our first classes of the day, a long week ahead of us and all thought of football and “Our Great School!” a distant memory. Pep rallies have their place, but if emotion is all that keeps the spirit going, it isn’t much of a heart is it?
Elijah found that out on Mt Carmel. Everyone pictures this great contest as his ultimate victory, perhaps the biggest in the prophet’s life. They forget to turn the page in their Bibles.
Yes, the crowd saw an amazing miracle. The prophets of Baal called all day to a deaf god made of metal, calling his name over and over and over. They tried to get his attention with loud cries, with dancing and with self-mutilation. No one answered.
Elijah on the other hand, made the request as difficult as possible, soaking the sacrifice and the wood and filling up a trench with water till it overflowed. Did you ever wonder what those poor three-year-drought-stricken people thought as all that water ran off onto the ground? But none of it mattered when Jehovah sent fire from Heaven that licked it all up in a flash, and consumed the sacrifice—after just one call from Elijah.
Then the pep rally began in earnest. The people fell on their faces and said, The Lord, he is God. The Lord he is God, 1 Kgs 18:39. Can’t you hear it now? The chant probably continued on, over and over and over, louder and louder, as Elijah called for the prophets of Baal and slew them all. The exhilaration he felt must have been amazing. “We did it, Lord!” he must have thought. “Finally your people realize there is no God like Jehovah, and they will worship you again.”
Turn the page.
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow." Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life...1 Kings 19:1-3.
Our assemblies have a small element of the pep rally in them. It is good to cheer one another on, in the same way the men of Antioch laid their hands on Saul and Barnabas, prayed, and sent them on their first preaching trip, Acts 13:1-3. It is wonderful to encourage a weak soul who has come to us for help. It fills the heart to sing praises to God and to commune with one another around the Lord’s Table.
Yet Paul does not spend much time on that emotional aspect of our assemblies in 1 Cor 14, about the clearest picture we have of a first century assembly. Instead, his constant reminder is “Let all things be done unto edifying,” v 26. It is, he said, the only thing truly profitable, v 6. Paul understood that the pep rally aspect of an assembly wouldn’t last beyond the echo of the amen, but good solid teaching would carry one through life.
If your idea of “getting something out of the services” is that excited, heart-pounding feeling that comes with emotion instead of deeper insight into the Word of God through good teaching and hard study, you are stuck in high school. Mature people can remain motivated without the hype. The understanding wrought by hours spent with God in quiet runs deep in their hearts. It keeps them encouraged when times are rough, wise when Satan does his best to deceive, and controlled when temptation pulls every string and pushes every button.
Pep rally religion doesn’t last, but the Word of God in one’s heart abides forever.
Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth." What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away...For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings...If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, Hosea 6:3-6; John 8:31.