Elijah and Ministry Expectations
Fire from heaven, check!
Restoring Yahweh’s people back to Him, check!
Executing 450 prophets who have deceived Yahweh’s people, check!
Ending a three-year famine by simply praying, check!
Elijah’s ministry was on fire in I Kings 18! Well… at least the altar was. So, why in the world do we find Elijah, in I Kings 19, isolated, fearful and ready to throw in the towel as a prophet?
1. His Expectations Were Not Met
Surely, Ahab and Jezebel would give it up right? I mean, Elijah had turned the hearts of hundreds, if not thousands of Israelites by asking God to send fire from heaven. In addition, he had killed all of the prophets of Baal that were within reach. Ahab and Jezebel would have no other choice but to repent and confess Yahweh as God, or at the very least, sign a truce with Elijah to let him do his prophesying in peace.
However, Elijah’s ministry dreams were soon dashed when Jezebel sent a messenger to announce his death warrant. His faithfulness and ministry “successes” only reinforced Ahab and Jezebel’s commitment to wickedness and Elijah’s demise. This threat shook Elijah to the core with fear, and pushing him to cry out to God to put him out of his misery.
You’ve been there right? You’ve prayed repeatedly for an individual(s), gone out of your way to minister to them, and been consistent in your communication with them. Yet, there seems to be no movement in their spiritual growth and possibly even hostility returned for your outreach. You can relate to the discouragement that Elijah experienced and the fear that maybe your ministry is ineffective or worse, pointless.
When we face these times of discouragement, it is important that we ask ourselves, “Who am I trusting in?” If I am trusting God to deliver the outcome, then I am more likely to be content with whatever he chooses to do. If I am trusting God to be my protection, then I am less likely to fear when things seem to get out of control. And, if I am trusting God and His Word to be effective, then I will leave it to Him to turn the hearts of the people that I am ministering to (just like Elijah was doing in 18:37)
2. He Was Distracted By Those Who Did Not Respond
There were many who had turned their hearts from Baal back to Yahweh in chapter 18, and we find out that Yahweh had preserved a remnant of 7000 faithful believers in chapter 19. Yet Elijah only focused on those who chose to continue their worship of Baal and those who hurled threats at him. Based on this, he came to the conclusion that, “I alone am left.” This pushed him to run away from his calling and isolate himself.
We must diligent in recognizing the fruit that has taken place (as great or little as it might be) and consistently praise God for it. It is easy to ignore the many who are growing in Christ, experiencing heart change, and remaining faithful. Many times we only focus on the people who aren’t disengaged, don’t seem to care, and who always have something better to do than to come to church, small groups, or activities. When this happens, our hearts are more prone to echo Elijah’s cry, “I have had enough!”
Take heart, our God is still in control. We have seen his power, grace, and faithfulness in the past. Even when expectations in ministry are not met and individuals do not respond how we’d hope, God is still good, He is still with us, and He still desires to use us. He is responsible for the outcomes, not us, and we can trust Him!