Permit me to share with you what the Lord reminded me, (as it were), when I came to a point in ministry that it appeared as if I could no longer continue. There was much labor but little fruit. I was all over for the Lord, doing this and organizing that; zealous for the Lord in letting people know the difference between Faith and Religion and wanting them to know that God is interested in us becoming more of a disciple than a bishop, and how the Lord has discipled me, leading me away from religion and man-led vision to a personal relationship with the person of Jesus.
He directed me to the story of Prophet Elijah in the book of First Kings 18. After prophet Elijah did great exploits FOR THE LORD, He came face to face with an institution of man, personified in a woman called Jezebel. But he had so much dissipated strength and energy on his zeal for the Lord that he could not withstand her. The Bible says; when he saw her, he arose and went for his life, until he got to Judah, where he abandoned his servant.
He went farther into wilderness and for a man like Elijah, who had just did great exploit for the Lord; whose story was still making headlines in the newspaper; and many 'men of God' and ministries were envious of, and many saints were encouraged by his ministry and boldness; he broke down and requested that he might die, saying, it is enough, Lord take my life, I am no better than my father. He abandoned his calling and ministry and slept off under a tree.
Imagine if the public should hear this! Jezebel would surely be happy. But the fact is that the man had dissipated too much energy. If he stayed, He wouldn’t make it with Jezebel. He needed to refuel and re-fire and that is a wilderness experience.
But God understands. Elijah fell asleep, because he was spiritually, physically and perhaps financially exhausted. God came through (He sure will; He knows that we are human). An angel came to the rescue; gave him angelic food to eat. That was what he needed, but still the food was not sufficient to sustain him. The greater the virtue released, the greater the vaccum created. The victory he did for the Lord was so much that it drained so much from him that a mere push from Jezebel would have swept him away.
The Angel had to come the second time to give him yet another food. It was after this that the angel announced to him that he had not reached his destination. God was still far away to where he was, and he needed to still proceed.
He then journeyed for 40 days, to HOREB, THE MOUNT OF GOD. He got there and forgot to worship God. Rather, he started telling God about the exploit he did for him. He said ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars and slain thy prophets with the sword and I even I only am left and they seek my life to take it away” (1Kg.19:10).
The Lord simply reminded him of what he was supposed to do and not to front his great achievement. The Lord told him: “Go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord’ (vs.11). That was his reasonable service, but his zeal for the Lord had beclouded him to knowing what to do in the presence of the Lord.
As he obeyed, the Lord passed by in the most contrasting way he had expected Him to pass. Elijah was a man of fire. He just called down fire and the experience was fresh. He believed the Lord answered by fire. He does, but not all the times.
Elijah waited for the Lord as the sound of earthquake deafened him; but God was not there. He was not in the fire; he was not in the great winds that rented the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord. He must have doubted if God was in the fire that consumed the prophets. Sure, God was there to honour the word of his prophet. The zeal for God brought the fire more than hand of God. Zeal consumes, it always does! But God understands!
We have been so disappointed when we expect God to come through in a particular time of our challenges in ministry and he doesn’t. Surely, God suppose to have seen all our toil, labor, selflessness, commitment, etc that, at our slightest cry, he should jump at us to rescue us.
Remember the story of Mary and Martha. Martha asked the Lord with so much confidence and even a little bit of indictment that he should tell her sister to come and join her; after all, the food was for him.
What Martha was doing was good, very good. But Jesus told her what Mary was doing was better. To be with Jesus and receive instructions. Martha was doing great exploit. The smell and aroma of what she was doing was evidenced by people in the neighborhood and they must have commended her as a good cook. All the labor, toil, etc.
God appreciates and loves what we are doing, but many times, His ways are not our ways. And we don’t know why. He sees what we don’t see. He is a patient God. If He could wait for 4,000 years to bring a promise to pass, no time is too long for him to wait to bring his promise to pass in our lives.
Elijah was disappointed as Martha was. Like we are, sometimes. It could lead to offence. The Lord did not come in fire, thunder, earthquake, wind etc. If Elijah was not careful, he could have missed the still small voice. If he had been so dogmatic about the way God had been appearing to him by fire, he would not look at any other way but fire.
When we expect God to speak to us in a particular situation in a particular way. If we are patient enough, we would hear him still speaking, but in a still small voice, barely audible. We could miss it if we allow the great things the lord has done in our ministry to becloud us.
The still small voice challenged Elijah again and asked him what he was doing. Elijah repeated the same thing of how people had broken down his altar and how he had been involved and the great things he did, how he killed the guys and the people knew that he was God.
Apparently, perhaps, that was not what God expected him to do. But all the same, it was good enough. It created a public awareness and fear of God in the city. But many times God is more concerned in building people. He showed Moses His ways but showed his acts to the children of Israel.
God, many times wants to show us His ways and patterns, and not his acts. But we believe that it is the act of God that attracts people. Some times the acts attract to distract us from God and we become spent, used and dissipated of energy.
Elijah might have been disappointed with God because God never spoke anything on his complaints except to refute his claim that he was the only one that remained. He told him he had seven thousand remnant in Israel. That must have come to him as a shock. He simply advised him to return and anoint Hazael to be King over Syria.
How humbled and little Elijah must have been! How disappointed Martha must have been. Does this mean that God did not recognize or acknowledge the work of Elijah? Does it mean that Jesus did not acknowledge the good work of Martha? No! But many times, God is more concerned with the future than with the present. God was concerned with future of Israel. Jesus was concerned with Mary getting the gospel right.
Look at Paul. If God did not arrest him and put him behind bars, the man would be moving from one city to another city encouraging the saints (good job), but God is more concerned with the future; how the epistles would be written for saints several thousands of years to come to read!
Could we say God did not come through to Paul when Paul needed him most; at his trial time? Elijah needed to go to Horeb to anoint Hazael and fulfill the plan of God for Israel, but he was still demonstrating in Israel. It was in Horeb that instructions on what Elijah would do was. He had dissipated all the energy to use to get to Horeb on creating awareness of the God of fire. Now, he couldn’t get to Horeb. He even abandoned his servant somewhere. But God sent the angel to replenish the lost energy. It took two rations of angelic food to strengthen him and bring him back to shape. He wanted to die. He forgot all the miracles God did.
In our zeal to work for God through many crusades, revivals, publications and many other wonderful things, we get dissipated of the energy we supposed to use to climb mount Horeb, where God is waiting to do an eternal work in our lives.
When we pass through the wilderness, God is surely with us. But still, its time to replenish our lost energy. Lets look for Horeb. God is about to pass an eternal information to us. He is about to do something eternal through us. We need strength to proceed. We must forget about everything God had done in our lives, in our ministry or through us in the past. Our focus must be Horeb.
Prison experience of Paul paid of. Years later, if we murmur not about our wilderness experience, we will see what God has used it to do.
We have dissipated too much energy. We need strength. We need stamina. We need replenishment. We need angelic food. God is about to do something more permanent in our lives. Let us not faint.
I know that when we are weak, He is strong. We may not understand what God is doing or why, but I have come to realize that he has taken us too far to abandon us. He can’t, by His nature.