This past Sunday, I went in front of my church and shared publicly what I was going to be doing in Japan and how I feel God has called me specifically for this ministry, and that He has supernaturally stepped in to show me that this is His will in my life. Almost immediately after making that declaration, though I had already made it through email and in prayer requests, I began to freak. I started to worry about not receiving recent communication from the team in Japan. I started to worry about my visa being approved. I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to raise enough money. I started to worry that God really hadn’t called me and that it was just wishful thinking.
At first, it was just an internal ache, and then a frenzy, and then it started to show itself to others. And at that point, I decided that I needed to investigate what was going on. All the signs pointed to my own lack of faith. Yeah, even though I have surrendered to serve God for a year in Japan – I was showing that my faith isn’t exactly what I profess it to be. I was, essentially, saying, “God, I’m going to do this for you, but I’m afraid that after I make that stand, You’re going to show me to be a fool for believing You.”
I’ve been continuing to listen to the many sermons available online by Francis Chan and some other pastors at his congregation in Simi Valley, California. Right now, Francis is going through a series on Grace. It’s beautiful, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to them. I’ve been learning so much too, and it’s all pointed and directed towards this time in my life. In one of the sermons, Francis distinguishes a verse in James 5:
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.” (vs 17, ESV)
The version that Francis read stated that “Elijah was a man like us.” When he said that, it hit me a little, and made me stop enough to think that it might be important. But I didn’t have much of an application for it, so I went on with the sermon and then on with my day. It left enough of an impression on me to make me think God had something to tell me that I decided to read through Elijah’s life, as shown in 1 Kings 17- 2 Kings 2. Elijah comes out of nowhere, from a town that isn’t worth being mentioned before this time called Tishbe. But he comes right out and calls down a judgment for no rain to fall in the land until he gives the word. He fed by ravens near a brook in the wilderness sent by God. When the brook dries up, God tells him to go find a widow in Zarephath. The woman is about to make the last meal for her and her son before they die of hunger, but Elijah tells her to first bring food to him and then her flour and oil will never run out. And so she does, and so they never run out. He then raises her son from the dead after he becomes sick. All he does is stretch himself out three times over the boy and cry out to God, and God hears him and raises the boy back to life. After this, Elijah confronts the king Ahab and challenges the prophets of Baal which have been given free run of the nation of Israel. After a miraculous showdown (found in 1 Kings 18:20-40), we then see Elijah running away, fleeing from Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, and hiding in a cave. At this point, God draws Elijah out of the cave to give him a little lesson in the nature of God and the humility of man.
I’ve read this story dozens of times. I’ve always found it interesting how the showdown of 450 prophets of Baal and Elijah actually happens, and then the subsequent, “Woe is me!” attitude of Elijah afterwards. But with the statement by James, “Elijah was man just like us” and my own current state of being, it takes on a different light. Elijah, even after God has done great and wonderful things in his life, doubts God’s ability, or even will, to preserve him from the wrath of Jezebel. He took that great step and acted as God’s judgment on the prophets of Baal, but then feared that God would leave him out in the open and unprotected, and alone. It seems to be only a little struggle for Elijah, but enough that it was documented for our benefit all these years later.
There’s always the fear, when dealing with the wild God of ours, that He’s going to ask us to do something that will lead to our ruin. But does He really? I have heard that He has the best in mind for us, I know that He has the best in mind for us, but do I believe that He has the best in mind for me? It’s one thing to say, “Yes God, I’ll go to Japan for you for a year.” It’s quite another to say, “God, I’ll let you work in me as well and increase my faith and walk in You.” How dare I offer myself to God for service and then not allow Him to work in me? Please pray with me for this.