Saturday, October 20, 2012

Epic Showdown

In 1 Kings 18 Elijah is being called to an epic showdown between good and evil, with the true God answering the duel by sending fire from heaven…now that’s a pretty big deal!

As I’m reading the passage, my twisted brain keeps having flashbacks to epic showdowns I’ve seen in movies over the years, and I’m wondering if Elijah experienced the same feelings and thoughts as He stood there toe to toe with 850 real, living and breathing, passionate God haters who wanted to see His representative dead on the spot.

I’m having fun wondering what it may have looked like, and showdowns like Neo and Smith, Gandalf and the Dragon, Yoda & Dooku and even Rocky & Mr. T made a brief appearance in my mind, as I try to wrap myself around what it might have been like for Elijah to stand up for what He believed in the face of utter evil!

The showdown that I keep coming back to though is from one of my favorite showdowns in the movie Gladiator, and it is between Maximus and Commodus in the center of the coliseum after Commodus had Maximus’s family murdered and he believed that Maximus was killed as well.

If you haven't seen the movie, Maximus escapes his initial execution only to arrive too late to save his family, and then is captured and made a slave, and forced to fight as a Gladiator.

His fame starts to spread as a fierce fighter and he and his crew are invited to take part in Commodus’ revival of the Gladiator games in Rome at the Coliseum.

The following dialogue between Maximus & Commodus at the end of one of the fights is one that I keep thinking about as I try to process what it might have been like for Elijah as he faced down the enemy…

“Gladiator, the emperor has asked for you." “ I am at the emperor's service.”  “Your fame is well deserved, Spaniard. I don't think there's ever been a gladiator to match you.  As for this young man, he insists you are Hector reborn. Or was it Hercules?

Why doesn't the hero reveal himself and tell us all your real name? You do have a name?”

“My name is Gladiator.”

“How dare you show your back to me? Slave! You will remove your helmet and tell me your name.”

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius... commander of the armies of the north... general of the Felix Legions... loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius... father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife... and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

What happens next sets off a series of situations where Maximus begins to get more famous than the Emperor and it forces Commodus to figure out what to do because He is losing face and power with each day that Maximus is alive.

You see, as Elijah is standing in front of the evil prophets He is standing there because He has had it with the fact that they along with their King have made a mockery of all that the True God stands for and have been instrumental in turning the hearts of the people away from God.

Another flashback…I believe that Elijah has a “Popeye moment”. You know what I mean right? He is tired of seeing God’s people follow after false gods. He’s tired of seeing God’s people live their lives after a belief system that is empty. He’s tired of seeing the name of the True God get trashed in his society, and just like Popeye finally has enough, and Brutus does something that crosses the line. I can see Elijah saying “I can’t stands no more” and grabbing his can of spinach then going to town on the bad guys.

The only difference is that the whooping is going to come in the form of fire from heaven in response to a faith filled confrontation for the right reasons, with the ultimate purpose of God’s name and God’s fame being spread.

You know in Elijah’s life and ministry this was the Super Bowl. Good vs. Evil, everyone watching, God sending fire from heaven, it doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

The thing that I keep thinking about though is the preparation that it took to get Elijah to the point where He was ready to stand up, and just like Maximus in Gladiator, Neo in the Matrix, Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and even Rocky in all 10 of his movies (it seemed like that many at least), there was a long period of painful preparation prior to the showdown.

This painful preparation is what made each of these characters so powerful and it’s what made each of these characters really shine when it came time for them to triumph.

Elijah went through the same thing in his life, and it makes me wonder if one of the reasons why God allows us to go through some tough and trying times is because He’s getting us ready for some epic showdown in defense of His Name and in Honor of His fame…just curious.

What kinds of things are you going through these days that seem like if there was a soundtrack playing in the background in real time, it would be like the training montage from Rocky IV, or the incredibly moving battle scores from The Lord of the Rings or Gladiator?

I’m learning all the time that God wants me to stand up for what is right, but He wants me to do it in a way that is powered by His hand using a well prepared servant who is ready to shoot all praise and honor and glory back to its rightful owner when He shows up and does what He does best.

So, what are you going through? What is He teaching you? How do you think He’s going to use you? What are you prepared to do when He does? What showdown is He calling you to confront and is it about His fame, His name or something else?

After the Evil Prophets dramatically danced and put on a show trying to get their god’s attention all day, Elijah steps forward and prays a simple prayer that I believe holds the key to what our showdowns should be all about.

In 1 Kings 18:36, 37 He prayed…

"O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."

Notice in his prayer that he acted in obedience to God, and his purpose was for God’s fame to spread and that His people would come back to Him again.

Now, I don’t see myself being called by God to stand in front of a multitude of God haters any time soon, but you never know.

I think the thing I’m pulling out of this passage that I need to recognize the things I’m going through every day as opportunities that God is using to prepare me for the showdowns that He does bring my way.

Elijah was ready, He stepped forward in faith, and God showed Himself to be The One True God!

God is Holy, Powerful, Just and He has an extensive repertoire when it comes to preparing me for the showdowns He has scheduled for me…I need to be ready, step forward in faith and give honor and praise to Him when He shows Himself to be the One True God in my life!


  1. God's name just really stood out to me near the end of this post, Brent. He actually takes on the Name of three very imperfect, sinful human beings that he bought by grace - Abraham, Isaac and Israel !! Wow - they each had their showdown too...

  2. Great insight Sharon...I'm so thankful for Grace! As always thanks for your encouraging comments...I hope you and Ron are doing great, tell him I said hello.

  3. Hi Brent,
    Good article. I'm not much into the movies you talked about but I can see where you are coming from. I especially liked your reference to Popeye (I always put him in with Brian: I yam what I yam!) You may not think you are going before a bunch of evil doers BUT we are ALL sinners. And as we pray for you and when you pray for yourself we are asking God to guide your words that HE may be seen. You know, less of you and more of Him. You may never know in this lifetime how many you have brought closer to God, but I KNOW it is just about everyone you have ever encouraged in Christ.
    Brian and I love you very much. Keep up the good work!