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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is Your Pastor Depressed?

1 Kings 19:10 (NIV) 10 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken 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."

Does it ever seem like you are alone in your endeavors to serve the Lord?

Elijah is having a "woe is me" time. He has prayed that it would not rain and it did not rain. He has challenged the king, his wife and all the prophets of Baal and won. He has called for rain and the rain has come. He has ordered the people to execute the prophets of Baal and they have done so. But Jezebel, the kings wife, has sent a messenger saying that he has twenty-four hours to live and he has taken off running. Now, he thinks he is alone.

I have always wondered why Elijah would feel this way. Did he believe that God had abandoned him? Did he believe that all these things he had prayed, called forth and commanded were done at his own word? Surely, he had to know that God was with him or none of these things would have happened.

My wife has often told me, "You have lots of people tell you good things but when one person complains, you focus on that one person and that complaint. You forget all the good things because you just don't believe them." Is it natural to focus on the negative like I do? Is this what Elijah was doing?

God had a plan for bringing new faith to His people. He had Elijah come against incredible odds to do what He prescribed. Elijah, himself, said that he did all that he did at the word of the Lord. (1 Kings 18:36) How could Elijah believe that the God who had brought fire and rain from the sky at just the right moments would now abandon him to the evil of Jezebel?

Elijah believed the word of Jezebel's messenger over the power of the Lord. This seems strange but he says words to that effect. He said negative words to himself which reflect his depression. He asks for the Lord to take his life. (Sometime your own pastor has probably said these words to the Lord. I know I have.) His words reflected his faith in the words of Jezebel's messenger.

Elijah was worn out. It takes a lot of energy to oppose others even if you are doing so because God has commanded it. Physical weariness is a prescription for negativism. Elijah needed rest. So, he slept.

He needed to eat. God provided food for him. He ate before he could take another step for the Lord. It seems normal to go without eating when nothing is going right. Extreme stress inhibits the desire and even the ability to eat.

Elijah had no purpose left. He had done everything that the Lord had commanded him. There was nothing else he knew to do. There was no need to continue. Why not die?

But God was not through with Elijah. Elijah was not the last prophet left. He had not completed all that he would do. God would speak to Elijah in a way that Elijah had not expected. Elijah had heard God speak through the spectacular; now he would hear God from a gentle breeze. It was just as awesome.

Elijah had to pass the "mantle" to his successor, Elisha. He had to anoint new kings. He had to confront the present king of Israel. Elijah had much more to do. He set about his tasks and no longer spoke as one depressed.

Isn't this so like many people who serve the Lord. They obey and get opposition. The opposition may only come from one powerful person but they believe the ones opposing them more than they believe the Lord. They say words of defeat to themselves and become depressed. They fail to eat and get proper rest. They do not know what to do next. They feel all alone.

But they have never been alone. Just because they haven't seen God speak in a spectacular way doesn't mean that He isn't speaking. It may come from the most unassuming member of the church or even from a child but God speaks to bring new meaning into the ones who serve Him.

The God of the spectacular is the God of the gentle breeze. The God who is with you in the greatest challenge you face is the God who is with you when you are opposed. The God who has given you His instructions is the One who is still instructing.

At any given time, many godly men and women who serve the Lord are facing opposition which threatens to remove them from their places of ministry. Sometimes it is there own faults but most of the time they are being opposed because they have done what the Lord has asked of them. They need to hear what God is saying through who God is. They need to be given encouragement to face their oppositions. They need someone who will pray for them and send them encouraging words.

Take a few moments and think of your own pastor or someone you know who is serving the Lord. Is this person facing opposition? Do you need to give him or her a message of encouragement? Do you need to remind him or her that God is the Almighty who loves with an everlasting love? Will God ever leave or forsake the persons He loves?

Good intentions don't accomplish very much when they are delayed. Delayed good intentions are frequently forgotten. Contact that person right now.

You may be the gentle breeze he needs to hear.

6 comments:

high-expressions said...

What happened to Elijah?! Or what happened to Moses?

It is interesting that God allows His mighty men (of God)’s lapses be recorded for us all to read about. For those who correctly understand the fallen-ness of men, the issue of men of God is with lapses is NOT something strange. However, even, today, there are of course, people who still choose to be self-deluded and claim perfection and full righteousness, but I really hope you are NOT one.

Even the mighty men of God are with lapses, for they were/are NOT perfect and fully righteous, volitionally, and are NOT having the full mind of Christ, despite they being used by God or have entered into salvation. God’s Word NEVER said that or claimed that; it is people choosing to misinterpret the Word. But God saves, despite our fallen-ness. God saves us when we are yet sinners. Jesus came to save those who need saving; and it is everyone needs saving. But of course, there are those who choose NOT to be saved.

But God’s salvation is NOT, the moment you entered into salvation, you become perfect, fully righteous volitionally, and posses the full mind of Christ; if it were so, the problems of the world would be a lot easier to solve – just pop this “goody” pill (entry into salvation) into one’s mouth, and instantly you have one “problem person” less, and presumably the perfect will reproduce the perfect, over time, we get more and more perfect people. It is quite obvious; it is NOT like that, although still stubbornly, there are preachers said it in different words, but effectively misleading believers into thinking and carrying the mindsets that they are perfect.

What is the relevance here, of the above? The relevance is that whether we are with salvation or serving God, even as a pastor, it is NOT necessary that we are in perfect state! If you entered into salvation, you are NOT perfect. If God uses you, you too, are still NOT perfect. And the Word recorded for us even the mighty men of God are NOT perfect – Moses was NOT perfected even after he was called and delivered the Israelites from the hands of the Pharaoh of Egypt; and neither is the great prophet Elijah, perfect, despite God did great and mighty miracles through him. All servants of God better know this well, and it is that we are NOT exceptional of our own; if at all there is any exceptionality in any one of us, that exceptionality is the exceptionality rendered to us, by grace, by God; and the very same exceptionality, God can stop the flow or stop it in its track. Having said that; of course, there is no denial of the love and the faithfulness of God. But still, profanity of that same love and faithfulness of God is to be avoided.

People just fail to understand that God gave men, in the first place, volition; and that same volition is still with a man, whether or NOT he has entered into salvation. In other words, Moses had volition; Elijah had volition; Jesus when He was on earth, He, too, had volition, and every believer has volition. When a man enters into salvation, his volition is NOT removed from him, even when he is said to be a new creation. Hardly any man can claim he is fully given unto the Lord; if he is, he is practically without his own volition; God’s volition is fully and continuously taking hold of him. Jesus as a man is about the only exception!

Cont...

high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

Our volition determines how we live our lives. With volition, we choose to become an engineer, for example; we choose to get married, choose to have family, choose to become a believer, choose to go or NOT go to church, choose to love or NOT love our neighbour, and choose to give in or NOT give in to our emotion, and choose or NOT choose to be of self-control. We can even choose to give our volition away! So, even such thing as to be angry or NOT, to be over-working ourselves, are matter of choices. Life is like that, life is all about making choices. Often times, we choose to have ourselves caught in situations of extreme stresses, or we allow ourselves to be overworked, we allow ourselves to be angry with people and even with God. Of course, many of us will protest, and said that we are forced by others, by circumstances, by pressure of family, society and the world, etc. While that is true, but a lot of the time, when we are NOT working with God or having God on our side, the situations are like that, and we tell ourselves we have no choice. The Word of God declared that there is a way – When God is for us, who can be against us!

God can only be for us, individually, as long as our volition is in line with His; God does NOT follow your volition; He follows His own! This simply means God does NOT follow our prescription for our lives, and for us to claim “When God is for us, who can be against us!”, we have to follow God’s prescription for our lives. When we are NOT in synchronization with God; we can falter; the “exceptionality” that we have had, just seem NOT to “hold water” anymore.

How can one be in synchronization with God? It is impossible, right? Yes, continuously, it is rather difficult. But still it is NOT that we are NOT to do that. We are to try; and when we try, and when our heart condition is right, God will aid us. It is NEVER God has to bear all responsibility and do everything. When we hold out that it is all God’s part and all God’s work; easily we will succumb to suggestion that we sin, it is NOT our fault! Then whose fault? God’s? Forget all those teachings that are nothing but easy-believism. It is our responsibility to get right with God, to understanding His ways for our lives, and to live according to His prescription.

When you, as a believer, cannot control your temper, and on provocation, pick up a knife, and thrust it into the tummy of another person, killing him in the process, it is NOT God’s fault. When we let our emotion gets the better of us, it is NOT God’s fault; it is plainly our responsibility; and it more likely a result of our failure to fully subscribe to the ways of God prescribed for us; or we have NOT learned the things we are to learn when refining processes were working in our lives; it is we fail God rather than the other way round.

So what happened in the cases of Elijah and Moses? Elijah’s situation was already highlighted by Ps Prentis, i.e. Elijah was overwhelmed by the emotion of “defeatedness”. What about Moses? He was found to be NOT upholding the holiness of God before God’s people, and He was barred from entering into the Promised Land. For the case of Elijah, he was restored in His earthly life, but for Moses, from pure humanistic perspective, Moses did NOT get to reach his desired pinnacle of his career! However, we know that Moses was forgiven and restored by God posthumous; in the New Testament we read of the account of Transfiguration; and there Moses came together with Elijah to meet with Jesus; even though Moses did NOT enter the earthly Promised Land of the Israelites, then, he entered the Heavenly Promised Land of a follower of God (or a believer); we know that Elijah was taken to Heaven, and in the New Testament, that Moses came with Elijah, we can reasonably conclude that Moses entered Heaven just as Elijah did; and God did NOT omit to honor Moses even as He honored Elijah, and sent them both, on the same mission, to meet with Jesus, at the Transfiguration.

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high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

I called such situations that Elijah and Moses got themselves into, as the “off-state” of a servant of God. All servants of God must, using this metaphor or terminology, aim to be at the “on-state”, as often, if NOT all the time. To be on or at the “on-state”, means one is in agreement with God. Other ways of saying the same, is that one is righteous in the eyes of God or righteous according to His righteousness. One fully righteous would be doing what God wants done, and at the right time He desires. In other words, we say, again, “you are insync. with God”. If we represent this as “1” and “0”, then we ought to have, pictorially, “1” running, and then, occasionally, a dip down to “0”, but we quickly spring back to “1” and continue with it.

As servants of God, we know what general sins (sins, commonly understood) can do to our state; and many of us, refrain from sinning (I must, too). But from the situations of Elijah and Moses, I believe, we are to learn of 2 quite insidious conditions that can rob us of our “on-state”.

I will touch on Moses’ condition first: Moses got too casual/familiar with God, to the extent that he failed to hold up the holiness of God. There is nothing wrong with getting close to God, after all God is father, too. But still father must be shown the due respect in the case of men-father, and reverence in the case of the God-father. Moses got so familiar with God that, he entertained attitude of being “upset with God”. When did Moses get upset with God? He got upset with God when his sister, Miriam died. Moses, I believed, was upset that God did NOT let Miriam live. Probably, just before Miriam died, there were only a couple of “adult-generation” left, namely, Moses, Aaron, Miriam (together they formed the leadership team which led the Israelites out of Egypt. Miriam was the prophetess), Joshua and Caleb.

None of us has the right to be upset with God. Moses was the go-in-between, between the Israelites and God. In other words, God revealed through Moses. When God was angry, the people would know of it, from Moses’ mouth, and when God wanted something done, Moses would be the one to pass on, the message; in other words, Moses was God’s mouth-piece, and “executor”. But when Miriam died and the Israelites came to be without water to drink, Moses let the “upset with God” got the better of him, and spoke (and he was representing God) harshness to the people when God did NOT, and he acted in a manner, God did NOT intend for the occasion (this was despite that God had previously acted in such manner as striking the rock for water). For the role that Moses held, it was a serious wrong, especially in view of how he (Moses) had acted all the time, holding out the holiness of God. The lesson to glean from Moses’ case is this: We must NOT let ourselves to be upset with God from any situation, any situation at all. Note that I am NOT against people getting close to God; on the contrary, we are to (get close). However, usually, it is the case, that when we are close, that we can easily think we are entitled to be upset, you simply cannot do that to God.

I know Ps Prentis’ intent is to encourage Pastors who are “down”, and the case cited was only that of Elijah; however, how a pastor come to be “down”, can differ; it is NOT just because of weariness which is the main culprit for Elijah’s case. In the case of Moses, being old or being tired was NOT the reason leading to God’s censure. At 120, Moses was still fit and strong, and Scripture said his eyes were NOT dimmed; and we also know at 120, Joshua and Caleb were strong enough to enter the Promised Land and fight.

Cont...

high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

Although it is NOT that one cannot have a “catch all” “clause” in asking God for forgiveness, the attitude of the heart is important, and one should (as far as possible) know what one did wrong and confess it specifically before the Lord to ask for forgiveness; and so, with that in mind, I expounded on the Moses’ case, so that if there is any pastor, who finds himself in such as a scenario of he being upset with God, they can know what to do. I am also NOT saying that they would face the same consequence as Moses, won’t be restored now, but, it is better to know we are wrong, and to ask for forgiveness and receive restoration as soon as possible.

As another example, I will share that I could have been upset with God some 4 years ago, when my then wife, filed for divorce against me; yes, I was divorced by my ex-wife, and the legal proceeding which went all the way up to the High Court, ended only a couple months ago. I used to serve God (not full-time), and in the capacity that I served, I was once doing pretty well. I got hit by this divorce, and could NOT accept it; but I was NOT upset with God; I just could NOT accept my marriage of 18 years would be no more. The knowledge of Moses’ case helped. I was down, and it was the most difficult period of my life, but God finally came through, and He revealed that He has accepted the divorce, and so, I should no longer NOT accept what God has already accepted (I am by no means saying that God easily accept frivolous desires of people putting the marriage institution of God asunder. In fact, I struggled because of this commandment that we are NOT to put asunder the marriage institution). In the last 4 years God raised me, from the bottom of the pit of disappointment; used me, worked through me, including signs and wonders following, and in the short 4 years I touched more lives, than in the 18 years prior, as a Christian and servant of God. Had I been upset with God, I would NOT have been able to rise from that pit. I can say I served God in midst of great affliction, and those who know of my circumstance, cannot help but praise God and have their hearts opened to several important messages for life, including this one that we cannot be upset or angry with God.

Ps Prentis cited weariness, and “plateau-ing” for the case of Elijah. Of the 2, my own inclination is that it was more of the former. The “more than one time”, “eating and sleeping”, recorded of Elijah after he ran and God directed him to a place, can be taken to signify that there was exhaustion; and exhaustion can be of 2 aspects, physical exhaustion or weariness or spiritual exhaustion.

For the case of Moses it was clearly written in Scripture why Moses was censured and had his “career” cut-short at the tail-end, but for Elijah, it was NOT clearly written, except the “eating and sleeping” can be taken to point to weariness. When we are tired physically, mentally or spiritually, singular event at times, is all it takes to give the “fatalistic” blow. In the case, of Elijah, it was Queen Jezebel’s threat that crumbled Elijah into the defeated-ness state, despite his most recent gigantic victory. Don’t over-analyse Queen Jezebel’s threat, the point is NOT that; the point is that weariness affects our latching onto the righteousness of God, many (any) singular event can possibly trigger off the collapse.

Overworked and over-stressed are NEVER good for a person whether he is engaged in spiritual work or secular work. All servants of God must learn to feed and rest, both physically, and spiritually. In terms of spiritual, we must feed on the Word, and we got to be refreshed in being still in His presence. Being still in His presence serves to condition us to “know He is God” and we do NOT humanly work things too hard, so to speak.

Cont...

high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

Although we can appreciate “He is God” from the “bing, bing, bang, bang”, i.e. in the all the actions like signs and wonders, Scripture said that in stillness before Him, we can know He is God. I don’t discourage signs and wonders, yet, for signs and wonders, most commonly we perceive through our sight while perception we get when in stillness before God, of God, we get it through our deep recesses or spirit. The impact of the later does NOT fade easily.

”Then, there is the exhortation in Scripture that we are to operate within the measure of faith we have, in the Lord.

No matter you are spiritually high, ultimately because we are still in a physical body, spiritual and physical feed on each other, too. Meaning when we are too tired physically, we cannot be spiritual for long; or if we are spiritually tired or dried up, sooner or later physical lethargy still set in. That is why breaks are important too, that is why recreation is important too. Don’t underestimate breaks and recreation, don’t say, there is nothing spiritual about them; for mileage, we need them, after all, we are neither just physical or spirit; we are both.

I frequently remind myself NOT to work too hard, both at my secular job, as well as in service for the Lord. Now, it does NOT mean that I am casual; that is NOT I mean. I mean when I work, I work hard, and when I play, I play, and it is NOT all work and no play or rest. If I work too hard on my secular job, I will be too exhausted for my work I do for the Lord. In fact, I might get too tired even to feed spiritually by reading and studying his Word, and putting them into practice.

If I work too hard at the service for the Lord, like I get involved in so many ministries and events, my secular work may suffer, and that would NOT be a good testimony too, or my time for my children becomes insufficient. I don’t know about you, I do find, from time to time, that even when I praise and worship God, I can get physically tired, and I will have to take a nap to recover; spiritually, I am good, though.

So, pastors must learn to balance their lives, too; and Senior Pastor has to be realistic, too; if it is time to add staff, including pastoral ones, then add; don’t exhaust yourself or those under you, spiritually or physically. Years ago, we have had a shocking event for the church; we will never forget. We had a youth grew and became a youth pastor and then, into a full-fledged pastor, and he married another pastor in the church. Both husband and wife were greatly used by the Lord and anointed too, the man was a great help to the Senior Pastor, and the Senior Pastor treated the man as his son. The tragedy was that, that young man over-worked and died; he took on too much, and had occasions worked long hours, in ministering deliverance and wholeness to members, so much so, that one day, at dawn, tired from ministry, on his way back from ministry, he met with an accident while driving (couldn’t keep awake). The wife was left widowed with a few young children to bring up. Incidentally, that woman also did NOT get upset with God for the death of his husband, but has continued to serve God in the church, and God continued to grant her favor and anointing for ministry, and personally have had benefited from her giving of her time, despite her needing to single-handedly to bring up a few kids.

Many do NOT know or appreciate that piecemeal obeying the commandments of God is only the beginning; yes, loving God calls for obedience to His Word; the higher plane that we are to take, as we mature, is to maintain ourselves such that we do NOT crash out; that we be a consistent vessel that the Lord could use.

COnt..

high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

It is therefore, our responsibility to care for our body, care for our spiritual health, live our lives in such a way that is, as fully given unto the Lord as possible; our way of life or the way we live our life must be such that we can be effective vessels for the Lord at all times. It does NOT matter if the Lord does NOT use you and I, all the time; that is His prerogative, our part is that we have to be ever-ready.

This is NOT an easy thing, and we got to work on our whole life, or on the whole thing, so to speak. In other words, we need to grow in wholeness; it does NOT matter if you are a just a member, or a Christian of 2 years or 20 years, or you are a full-time staff or a part-time preacher, or you are the Senior Pastor of the church, there is still lots of stuff to grow in, in terms of our wholeness, and a lot of stuff to maintain. I put it very bluntly, as a Christian, we have pledged and we are live out our pledges, and our pledges are that we are to subscribe to His ways, and one of the ways of God is faithfulness.

Jesus showed us faithfulness that is to the very end, and we are to imitate Jesus, and we will use our entire lifetime to do just that; you and I will know if we are faithful to the very end, when we come to the very end. So, until then, let us encourage one another to be faithful to be ever operational-ready for the Lord’s use. I know the overly grace believers particularly do NOT like to hear this type of exposition, but we are created for good works (Eph 2:10), and we exist to please God.

I do injustice to Ps Prentis’ entry if I don’t end with a word of encouragement. If you are down, as a pastor (and it can apply to any other), do a reflection, and then go before the Lord. That was the life attitude of the Apostle Paul; and he even had it recorded for us, generally, in 2 Cor 13:5 - Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?. Most obviously, Paul did NOT advocate upon salvation, one becomes perfect or fully righteous, and have no need to grow! If you are a pastor, it is of course, NOT a “whether or not you are in the faith”, but rather it is your way of life, including attitudes thereof; are they in line with the Word and desires of God. While it is true that righteousness and justice is the foundation of God’s throne, God also had it put in Ps 89:14, that love and faithfulness goes before Him; in other words, God administers with love and faithfulness. Have your heart turned back to Him, and you will see His hand of restoration coming through, if NOT now, then in His time.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions