Tag Archives: elijah

The Discouraged Pastor

I remember hearing in Bible college what many a student going into the ministry has heard. “Look around the room. In five years, half of you will quit the ministry; in 10 years 90% will have quit.” Why? Various reasons. Some would have moral failures. Some would realize that pastoring or the ministry wasn’t really what they were called to do. Some would either burn out or get so discouraged that they simply quit. As is often the case, many have come out of the seminary or Bible college gate running hard. Their plans, their hopes, their dreams, their conquering hell with the gospel spirit following fast behind. Soon though, reality happens. Ministry is hard, hard as a brick wall. People turn out to be stubborn–even Christian people! Preparing sermons week after week is more difficult than expected. Visitors come and go, never to return. Some come for a while, then disappear without a trace or explanation. Church members get angry and hurt. Soon those hopes and dreams turn to despair and discouragement. What does one do at that moment? In that moment, I would give the advice that the writer of Hebrews said, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith,” (13:7, ESV).

So let’s go back to certain leaders in the Bible. As I was studying Deuteronomy this past week, I was reminded about Moses’s not being allowed into the Promised Land. Except somehow I had missed this tiny bit of information: “And I pleaded with the LORD at that time saying, ‘O Lord GOD, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon,'” (Deut. 3:23-25, ESV).  Moses pleaded with God to let him go into the Promised Land. How have I missed that!? He had spent 40+ years with the Israelites and wasn’t able to enter into the land with them. God refused his plea. In fact, God told him never to ask again. The case was settled. His ministry would not turn out the way he wanted or planned.

But it wasn’t just Moses. David also could not do what he so longed and hoped to do. What did he desire? To build God a house, to build Him a temple like no other. And here is the thing. He received encouragement from a godly man, a prophet named Nathan. “And Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you,'” (1 Chron. 17:2, ESV). The problem is that Nathan spoke too soon. God was not with David in his plans. Nathan had to take a step back, going to the king with egg on his face so to speak. He had to report God’s message: “When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever,” (1 Chron. 17:11-12, ESV). While God honored David’s plans, thus there was nothing wrong with them, David was not the one to fulfill that dream.

But there is more. Elijah, the greatest prophet outside of Moses, was anxious to see revival in the land of Israel. He had proven that God is God and that Baal was a figment of the people’s imagination. God had consumed the altar, burning even the dust beneath. “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God,'” (1 Kings 18:39, ESV). Revival! Not so fast. Jezebel would have none of it. Her threats sent Elijah fleeing from the place, dejected and discouraged. Upon the Mt. Horeb (the very mountain Moses received the law), God came to Elijah displaying wind, fire, and an earthquake. This was a replication of Moses’s experience. Yet this time, God told him that He was not in those things. In other words, there would be no revival. My favorite sermon of all time is from Ligon Duncan on this passage. I am including it in this post. I would encourage you to watch it. If you’ve already watched or heard it before, watch it again.

Two of these men accepted what God had told them: Moses and David. Elijah did not. Moses continued on, though death was near to lead and to help Israel even though he could not take them all the way home. David continued, making plans for Solomon, leading the kingdom, and trusting in his God. Elijah was dejected and for all intents and purposes quit. Ministry is difficult. Yet, let us trust God and continue on. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his step,” (Prov. 16:9, ESV). It is good to plan within the ministry, but trust God to establish your ministry and plans as He sees fit. I do not pretend to never have been discouraged and downhearted. I absolutely have. I need to remember this just as much as anyone else.

Incidentally, this goes for life as well.

Ligon Duncan: 2012 Sermon from T4G.

God is Worth It All

The Psalmist tells us that God neither slumbers nor sleeps, but neither does God forget. God has an impeccable memory. He remembers everything perfectly. And yet, we often see that writers of biblical books tell us that God remembered people, whether it was Noah or the people of Israel or someone else.  It would seem as if God got busy doing something else in this universe, forgot about those whom He called to His work, and suddenly heard a faint crying, and realized that there were still people waiting on Him to do something.  But that isn’t what it means when we read that God remembered them. What it does mean is that God is about to act on their behalf for their good. In other words, God is about to bless them mightily. This typically happens after, what seems like to us and them, a long period where God seems quiet or inactive, as if He has forgotten them. Not only did it seem as if God had forgotten them, but that He had forgotten all they had done for Him.

Now, as we study this last portion of Malachi, I want us to see that these were the types of accusations Israel is making against God, but these accusations are simply unfounded.  The people in Malachi’s day tended to live by sight and not by faith. We probably can relate to them. It’s hard to ignore what we see and hope in what we don’t se. And yet that is what hope and faith are all about. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11.1, ESV).  Many of us know that verses, but one that may be less familiar comes out of Romans 8, where Paul wrote, “For in this hope we were saved, Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience,” (Romans 8.24-25, ESV).  Faith and hope are all about living by faith rather than by sight.

The people in Malachi’s day and the believers in our day often have the same issue: wanting to know God has not forgotten about them with real-time evidence. God wanted those in Malachi’s day and the believers in our day to trust His promises. He who was always faithful will always be faithful.

So as we finish Malachi, my hope is that we will see the lie that confronted them and us. Then my hope is that we will trust in the truth combatting the lies which have fortified themselves within our minds and souls. Finally, I hope we will take a look at the proof that supports the truth—mainly because we have something that the people of Israel did not have in their day.

Watch the video for full sermon.