The way we serve proclaims who we serve. (part 2)
Yesterday I started this post looking at the life of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. If you didn’t read that, you might want to start there as this is a continuation of it. I left at the part of the story where Elijah had just had his “Now what God” moment with the death and subsequent resurrection of the widow’s son. The hard work involved with a life of service was far from over.
BACK TO THE LORD’S WORK
It would appear that Elijah does not skip a beat in his mission. He was a worshipper of the true God and the people were worshipping false gods. During this period of time, the prophets of God had been mainly killed by Jezebel. This meant that he would have to confront the false prophets because that is what God would have him do. This cultural clash is similar to what we are dealing with today with religious pluralism, bending of God’s Word and flat-out distortion of the truth. Someone has to stand up for what is right. Elijah did not back down.
In one of the funniest stories in the Bible, Elijah sets up an altar to God and invites the prophets of Baal to do the same. The challenge was to call down fire to prove that either God or Baal was real. The scene is set up with 450 prophets of Baal and only 1 Elijah. The prophets of Baal start first with their wailing and dancing around the altar. Elijah added fuel to the fire by taunting them.
“Shout louder! Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” – 1 Kings 18:27
So, naturally they did what Elijah recommended. But there was no response. They worked all day and nothing happened. Now it was Elijah’s turn. He was not content with just calling down fire, he had to make it unmistakably clear that this was real. He takes jars of water and has them poured over the altar until there was water all over the place. And God showed up!
“Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” 1 Kings 18:38
This was an obvious act of God, as the people then worshiped God. But in a turn of events,the prophets of Baal were killed. But, just like when we confront the culture and stand for what is true, there will be conflict.
If you work with people at all, you will have conflict. Elijah experienced a cultural conflict because He was standing up for God. As soon as Jezebel found out about all the prophets of Baal, she wanted him dead. Elijah responds in a very human way; he runs.
I don’t think I blame him for this. He has just spent all his energy proclaiming the Word of the Lord and yet he is still running for his life. He is likely tired and weary. We know he was afraid.
“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” 1 Kings 19:3
We also know that Elijah has hit the end of his strength. This is also a reality for all of us as we try to minister in the name of Jesus Christ, hit constant resistance and then have that moment of crisis where we wonder why we do this.
“I have had enough Lord.” – 1 Kings 19:4
I know for me I have had those days in youth ministry. It is easy to get there when you pour your life into something, spend hours preparing and then things don’t go well or you get criticized. But, what is interesting to me was what happened here. God does not just let him wallow in his pity or exhaustion. God meets him there and gives him just what he needs.
Elijah then falls asleep and he is awakened by an angel who feeds him. In fact, this happened twice and we know then that he is strengthened for his journey.
“Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” 1 Kings 19:8
God was now going to speak to Elijah and give to him what he needs. He does not understand why he has worked so hard for these people and all he gets is a death sentence. God gives him the support he needs and he is able to carry on.
How many times do I feel like giving up and God meets me? I know it happens enough. Yet, every single time God is there to speak encouragement and provide strength for the journey. Of course it is not going to be easy. We know it will not always be fun. However, we do know that we need not struggle in only our strength, but in His energy. (Colossians 1:29)
We serve a God who doesn’t just throw us in without directions. He tells us how to do things through His Word and the Holy Spirit and then walks with us along the way. We serve Him by serving others with whatever they need, regardless of how popular it is. Some of the most effective times of ministry I have had with people are not planned and I think God plans it that way.