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Elijah: One Voice to Ignore!

Reading time: two minutes. We all know Elijah’s last name: “Prophet.” (I guess that makes his middle name “The”). God had a Word for the nation. Elijah heard and then delivered. He was a prophet. It’s what he did best. He was lousy at thinking up a Word of his own. In his time of high anxiety, when the Lord asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” he responded, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” Twice. He repeated the exact same litany to the Lord in 1 Kings 19 verse 1o and verse 14. He listened to himself instead of listening to the Lord. We’re all susceptible to negative self-talk; for some reason clergy are particularly prone to conjuring up worst-case scenarios in our heads and repeating them to ourselves over and over. It’s an occupational hazard for which we need to be vigilant. Maybe it’s because an unusually large percentage of us are introverts by nature. We tend to be reflective, pondering the nature of our reality, sometimes to excess. It could be spiritual warfare. Who knows what kinds of negative thoughts about mission, ministry and our fitness for the overwhelming task the enemy might try to stick in our brains. We’re also people-pleasers by nature, which makes us hyper-sensitive to criticism, and as targets of more than our fair share of criticism, we take it to heart, it rumbles around in our heads, and we develop Elijah-like litanies of doubt and discouragement. Luther talked about his battles with the devil and the thoughts of his own failure and inadequacy. He talked about learning not to listen to himself, but to learn to listen only to the promises of hope, grace and calling from the Lord.  Elijah faced terrifically challenging circumstances, way beyond his own capacity. So did Luther. So do you. In times of challenge, we need courage, not discouragement and friends more than enemies. Carefully analyze your own thoughts and try to determine what your loving Lord Jesus would be saying to you that might be significantly different. The Lord told Elijah to remember that his enemies would suffer defeat, not he, and that he was not alone, but his new partner Elisha and 7,000 faithful were on his side. No matter how discouraging your situation may be at times, the Lord has a Word of victory, promise and hope for you, too. Be completely honest to yourself and to the Lord, confessing your weakness and negativity, then believing his assurance of forgiveness and grace, the promise of his abiding presence, and the hand of blessing upon all that you do in his name, even when results are hard to identify. Trust his Word, not your own. Next week we’ll look closer at new beginnings in ministry. Thanks for reading. Do you serve in a multiple staff setting in a church, Lutheran school, university or social service ministry?  Discover how a Ministry Team Wellness Workshop can help enhance your team ministry by building the unity, spiritual life and communication essential to partnership in ministry.  Contact Program Director Darrell Zimmerman for more information.