Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought – I just want to go back to sleep.
Do I have to get up?
As we move into the depths of winter it is very easy to feel that way.
And as the nights get dark and cold if you’re on a committee it’s very comforting to hear that we don’t have much to discuss on the agenda so let’s cancel the meeting.
It’s easy to become discouraged when things around you aren’t exactly inspiring.
I have to say also that I find it difficult like many people to stay encouraged in Ministry at times when you look around and wonder sometimes why.
When you put a lot of effort into things and very little happens.
I know when I talk to volunteers in our churches that it’s very easy to get discouraged when you put a lot of work into something and you don’t see any results.
No one turns up or there’s very little encouragement.
Or you work your backside off and only get criticisms of what you did wrong.
It can make you feel a little bit like Elijah in today’s Old Testament reading?
He sits down under a tree and asked God that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”
What got Elijah to that point?
After all this is just after he has had spectacular success against the false god of Baal.
On Mt Carmel Elijah invited all the prophets of Baal to a challenge to see whose God was more powerful.
Elijah won that battle and had all the prophets of Baal put to death.
So he must have been quite proud and confident.
But what Elijah discovers is that ministry for God is relentless.
And what I mean by that is that it is constant and it is draining both physically, mentally and especially spiritually.
And so often I see people in ministry – volunteers, paid layworkers and Pastors who are just fatigued spiritually and mentally.
And that’s what Elijah discovers here – that you win one battle and the next battle begins.
Satan never takes a break.
As St Peter says in his letter – Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
But like the devil who is constantly on the lookout so too is God.
Suddenly an angel touched Elijah and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat. He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.
What was it that saw Elijah so worn out – the same thing that affects us as we work for God:
Elijah said to God – I have been very enthusiastic for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.
Haven’t you felt like that at times?
That you’re working so hard and yet nothing happens.
In fact worse than nothing – there are people unappreciative for the work you do, as Elijah felt:
They killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.
And that’s how ministry for God can seem at times no matter what type you do.
Whether it’s full time, part time, a couple times a year – voluntary or paid.
Working for God is not so much physically draining but spiritually exhausting.
Because when we are working for God we have Satan and the spiritual forces working against us.
As St Paul reminds us – For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
What we need to be aware of is that God is always there with us even if we feel like we’re all alone, like Elijah.
But sometimes God’s communication with us is very subtle – through water – through Bread and Wine.
Maybe we are looking for huge results for all the hours of work we put in and all the sacrifices we make – but sometimes we don’t see the results of what we do in such clear ways.
For Elijah he heard the voice of God speaking to him in the most unexpected way.
Maybe Elijah expected to hear God’s response to his concerns in the great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
Don’t underestimate the results of your work for God just because you don’t see or hear it in huge spectacular ways.
Working for God is not like other work.
Ministry for God is not about a win/loss ratio.
Ministry for God is not about a profit/loss statement.
Ministry for God is about souls that are saved – souls that we don’t always see as numbers in the pew.
As much as we would love to see our churches overflowing and our budgets in surplus it is about seeing heaven overflowing and that we don’t see in physical ways at time.
And don’t underestimate the ministry work that God is doing in your everyday ordinary life.
When Jesus healed the demon possessed man he wanted to go with Jesus and do ministry with him.
But Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and tell everyone how much God has done for you.”
Ministry is not just the work we do here in the church.
It is just as important ministry in the work we do in our daily lives – in our work, in our schools, in our sports, in our day to day running around
It’s how we treat people on the roads, in the supermarkets, walking down the street, at the footy – as St Paul says – We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us..
It’s about telling others how much God has done in your life.
And telling others about how much God has done in your life may be simply living out your faith in a way that examples the Christian faith.
Loving one another as Jesus loves you.
Forgiving as you have been forgiven.
Treating one another equally as St Paul says in our 2nd reading –
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes it feels as if we are fighting a losing battle but God reassures Elijah that although he feels like he is doing it alone God has in fact reserved for himself 7,000 faithful people.
Sadly, because the church lives “in the world” we are often influenced by worldly success targets.
We rate success on numbers and dollars – and realistically we do have to pay our way like other organisations.
But we are first and foremost citizens of heaven and we exist solely to be the body of Christ in the world.
And that’s where we have to trust God in all we do and not become disheartened like Elijah but listen to the small quiet voice of God encouraging us.
Though sometimes that small quiet voice of God is heard in sheer silence.
So continue to be encouraged as you serve our Lord and tell everyone how much God has done for you and make time each day to listen to the voice of God in sheer silence.