While ruling the northern kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam created his own religion, taking the people away from God. Subsequent kings followed his example with King Ahab, the sixth king after Jeroboam, introducing Baal worship. Elijah, the prophet of God, showed great courage and faith by standing alone against 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, proving the identity of the one true God and, in the process, making a mockery of Baal’s prophets. Consequently, King Ahab’s wife Jezebel swore revenge on Elijah, who in turn fled to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 18:16-19:4).
God also reminded Elijah that his work does not rely on one individual. By focusing on his own service Elijah has missed the big picture, overlooking the thousands of faithful people God had reserved for himself. It’s easy to focus on ourselves and trivialise, or completely miss, the service of others.
Elijah arrived at Horeb, despondent. Perceiving himself as God’s only faithful servant, he felt that it was up to him to turn the nation back to God. Despite his best efforts, a lack of response had made him feel like he had failed. (1 Kings 19:1-10) We too can sometimes find ourselves in a similar state of discouragement in our service for God.
Elijah was invited to stand before God. He must have trembled, as a powerful wind tore the mountain apart – followed by an earthquake and a raging fire. Although these were great displays of his power, God was not present in any of them. Then, through a faint, gentle whisper, God illustrated that he is not always revealed through dramatic events (1 Kings 19:11-13). Although our efforts may at the time appear fruitless, God uses them, gently whispering to the hearts of individuals in the aftermath. As Isaiah reminds us, God’s word will always accomplish what he intends it to (Isaiah 55:11).
God also reminded Elijah that his work does not rely on one individual. By focusing on his own service Elijah has missed the big picture, overlooking the thousands of faithful people God had reserved for himself. It’s easy to focus on ourselves and trivialise, or completely miss, the service of others. Despite what others think, God has chosen us individually and, if we serve wholeheartedly, he will not overlook our efforts.
Sam Jones, The Church of God in Aberkenfig
Elijah, although he was unique in many ways, discovered that he was not on his own.
What do you do in your church? Whatever it is, it won’t be quite the same as anybody else. Paul notes in Romans 12:4–8 that as Christians we are one body in Christ, but we each have different gifts.
This means we have a unique role to play and it also means that it’s useless to compare ourselves to others. Your gift might be one/some of the things Paul lists here (e.g. serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading), or it might be something different.
It’s important to remember that what we do is only ever going to be a small part of a whole. We are like the parts of a body, and we work together in a church of God to fulfil God’s purpose.
You might feel a bit useless and worry that everyone else seems to have a role except you. A reassuring verse is 2 Timothy 2:21, where Paul teaches us that the important thing is to make ourselves ready: ‘If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work‘ – good works being what Christ intends us for (Eph. 2:10). If we are ready and waiting for opportunities, God will use us.
You might have found something you can do, but still feel useless because you see someone else doing it better. But if we again listen to Paul, we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others, because our gifts differ ‘according to the grace given us‘ (Rom. 12:6). And, with continued service, this gift becomes more effective. Timothy was told to ‘fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…’ (2 Tim. 1:6).
Finally, it’s important to remember that what we do is only ever going to be a small part of a whole. We are like the parts of a body, and we work together in a church of God to fulfil God’s purpose – not our own, and not any other person’s. If we each focus on Christ as our head, he can lead and coordinate us to build up that body. (Eph. 4:13)