Under the Broom Tree

What are you doing here?” – 1 Kings 19:9 (NIV)

“I have had enough, LORD,” Elijah whined as he dropped under the broom tree, “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4).

What was it that reduced a powerful man of God to a sniveling wimp cowering in the caves of the Mid-Eastern wilderness? He’d just come off an astounding victory against 850 false prophets in a daylong mountaintop duel, then ran 16 miles, on supernatural strength, preceding the thundercloud that would end a three-and-a-half-year drought.

Why, after such a dazzling display of God’s power, was he ready to throw in the mantle?

An evil queen threatened to kill him.

So why didn’t he trust God to take care of this situation, as he had all the other times?

Because Elijah was human. Because he was discouraged and depressed. The Mount Carmel victory wasn’t a shutout. Queen Jezebel, although she lost all her prophet puppets, still spewed evil from the throne. The source of the nation’s corruption was still alive and threatening.

Discouragement and depression can weaken the strongest—even those who count on God to provide victory against a world of sin. Elijah was in the midst of an effective, powerful ministry when he fled.

Perhaps he thought the Mount Carmel episode would put an end to the depravity that blighted Israel. Perhaps he thought he’d finally “arrived”—and was, by his own words, “better than my ancestors.” Perhaps he forgot that the miracles wrought and the triumphs won were not achieved through his own power. He was but a conduit of El Shaddai.

What he didn’t see was that his ministry wasn’t an end in itself—it was a link in a chain.

God, in His mercy and compassion, was gentle with his overwrought servant. First He sent an angel to nourish Elijah’s worn-out body. Then, after Elijah plodded hundreds of wilderness miles on foot, after 40 days and 40 nights with no food, as he huddled in a dark, damp cave on Mount Horeb, God asked him a simple question: “What are you doing here?”

The omniscient God didn’t ask because He needed an answer. When God asks a question, it’s because He wants to point something out to us.

Elijah had abandoned the ministry field and was in full retreat. Rather than chastise the discouraged prophet, God reminded him that, contrary to what he thought, he was not alone: seven thousand Israelites remained faithful.

“Go back,” God commanded Elijah. Then He gave him a vision for the future: two others would provide political leadership in the next generation, and Elijah would be given an assistant, a prophet-in-training to take over when the time came to pass on the mantle of ministry.

I, too, can get so discouraged at times I want to quit— quit teaching Bible study, quit writing, quit the ministries God has called me to. I don’t see the results I expect for all my efforts, and it seems I’m expending precious time and energy for nothing.

Ministry is a heavy mantle, and God has called us all to be His ministers in one way or another (Matthew 25:35–40; 28:18–20). Times of deep discouragement and despair will come, and our wilderness caves invite us to retreat in self-imposed solitary confinement.

But the One who called us will not leave us there alone. He will nourish us, comfort us, encourage us, and, when we are ready, send us back to the ministry He has called us to.

Thank You, Lord, for the wilderness experiences that remind me that You and You alone are the source of the power I need to serve You. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Kings 19.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Unfinished Projects

 

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“Be strong, all you people of the land,” declares the LORD, “and work. For I am with you.” –Haggai 2:4 (NIV)

Have you ever started a project with gusto, then quit when it became too hard to complete? Or perhaps you ran into unexpected roadblocks and got tired of fighting. Or maybe the task was too tedious. Or became more expensive than you’d originally thought it would be.

But for whatever reason, the project was abandoned. Our attics, garages, and spare rooms are filled with unfinished projects.

Take my study, for instance. It’s amazing how quickly it becomes disorganized, overrun with paper, books, documents, and other stuff I plan to look at “sometime.” It’s not a hard job—sorting through the papers and documents—just tedious.

13935132_10209085730013242_8476825238055730622_nAt the beginning of August I couldn’t take it any longer and delved into the stacks, boxes, and drawers. I spent an entire Saturday going through a large box of files, some dated as far back as 1993—most of which were pitched. By the end of the day, a stack of garbage waited by the door to be hauled away.

Sad to say, but it’s mid-November and I’ve only gotten back to it. Maybe by the end of the year I can cross this project off my to-do list.

I don’t know about you, but an unfinished project bothers me. It may be out of sight, but it’s definitely not out of my mind. I can avoid it so long then I have to get back to it.

Some of my projects are ones God has called me to. Like writing. I began the second book in a mystery series earlier this year, ran into roadblock after roadblock, lost my enthusiasm for the story, and quit. I’ve started two other stories I haven’t finished. Lately I sense God nudging me to get back to them.

Unfinished projects—even the ones God gives us—aren’t anything new.

The Jews returning to Jerusalem after the exile in 538 B.C. also had an unfinished project they were forced to deal with. They were supposed to rebuild the temple but worked on it only two years, setting the foundation, before they ran into opposition, became discouraged, and quit. After giving them 14 years to get back to it, God finally sent the prophet Haggai to stir them up again. They heeded God’s message, got back to work, and finally finished the temple five years later.

As I read this short Old Testament book, I saw three things we can expect when God gives us a project.

First, expect sacrifice and hard work. Sometimes what God calls us to do isn’t easy or convenient. But obedience isn’t an option for the believer.

Second, expect opposition. When you’re obeying God, His infernal enemy will do all he can to thwart you, discourage you, frustrate you, make you inefficient and your efforts ineffective. Just remember: The battle is not yours, but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). So don’t be discouraged or afraid. Do what you were called to do. You work. Let God fight.

And finally, expect a blessing. Especially the blessings of His presence and His Spirit, who will give you the strength and courage to complete the task.

Forgive me, Father, for abandoning the work You’ve called me to do. Give me the strength and courage to get back into it so You can fulfill Your purpose through me (Psalm 138: 8). Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on the book of Haggai