The Burden of Expectations
Are you weary that you are not seeing any fruit from your ministry or Christian life? Read this encouraging article by Pastor Eugene on why it need not be so.
In Romans 11, which we heard from this past Sunday, Paul mentions Elijah. Now Elijah is well known to many of us as a hero of the faith. But surprisingly, Paul does not focus on one of the Old Testament prophet’s miraculous exploits. Instead, the apostle highlights a particularly low point in Elijah’s life. On his own and on the run from the murderous Jezebel, Elijah retreated to the wilderness and lamented: “I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Ki 19:10b)
Elijah’s fall into fear is a far cry from his triumph over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The events that followed seemed to point to a hollow victory. There was no dramatic overthrow of the wicked king Ahab. Neither was there much of a revival of true worship in Israel. Elijah must have been severely disappointed and discouraged.
The weight of life and ministry can become impossible to bear when saddled with the burden of wrong expectations. Like Elijah, we also want good outcomes, but are our expectations of success too narrowly defined? Elijah expected success to look a certain way, and when he did not get what he wanted, his passion burned out. Had God failed? Was He no longer working for the sake of His people?
God then appears to Elijah, but in an unexpected way. God is not in the wind, earthquake or fire. Instead the Lord speaks to Elijah with the faint sound of a low whisper. God does not always work in visible, dramatic ways. His plans and actions are not always obvious to us; but this does not mean He is absent.
God is God and we are not. Unlike us, He is absolutely sovereign. His ways and works are perfect and His purposes cannot be thwarted. He is all wise, powerful and sufficient. Without a right view of God and of ourselves, we can take on more responsibility than we should bear. And this can leave us feeling crushed when our plans fall through.
So it is important for us to know our weakness and insufficiency. For instance, I am powerless to change hearts or to convert souls; but God can! I am therefore able to completely trust him to grant fruit. Unless I see my need for God’s empowering grace, I will keep trying to accomplish things in my own, ever-depleting strength. And one day, I will burn out when my finite resources run out.
In 1 Kings 19, God gently and graciously reminds Elijah of his frail humanity by doing a simple thing: providing the prophet with food and drink. God tells His weary servant: “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” So it is with us—the journey is too much for us. We cannot faithfully run the race of the Christian life on our own. It is not a bad thing to feel our own lack, for how else will we realise our need for God? If we are to serve Christ, He must first serve us. Jesus graciously came to save us through His life, death and resurrection. Because of this, we can draw near to God with our weakness and sin—warts and all—and receive mercy. Through the merits of Christ, we are assured of help from God’s throne of grace. In Christ, we are empowered by His Spirit.
One of my favourite portions of Scripture is 2 Corinthians 3:5. Shortly after acknowledging his inadequacy for the ministry of the gospel, Paul says: “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.” As I prepare to be ordained as a minister of the gospel this Saturday, I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve Christ with my fellow members at GBC. Please pray for me to always rely on Jesus Christ, who is supreme and sufficient. My weakness is an opportunity for Christ to display His power and strength. May God also deepen our dependence on Him! He has entrusted the treasure of His gospel to jars of clay like us, “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7b)!
This Sunday, we will be hearing from Romans 11:13-36 about God’s faithfulness in accomplishing His purposes. May God make us attentive to His truth, so that our hearts and lives are aligned with His purposes!
Do also watch out for these events over the next few weeks:
- Our monthly prayer meeting will take place next Friday (Sept 27) at 8pm.
- The Young Adults will hold an evangelistic event next Saturday (Sept 28, 630pm) addressing the topic of identity. Do pray for fruit as invited friends hear the gospel.
- Our newcomers’ lunch will take place next Sunday (Sept 29) at 1130am. Do come along if you’re new to GBC or would like to meet someone who is new to our community.
- The Church Matters class will take place the following Saturday (Oct 5) from 9am-12pm. Come hear about what the Bible says concerning the church and membership. Do attend this class, if you are considering becoming a member of GBC.