Philip the Evangelist (Part 1)

There are two Philip’s mentioned in the New Testament. The apostle is mentioned for the last time in Acts 1:13. In Acts 6:5 we are introduced to another Philip, often called Philip the Evangelist. The Bible is filled with wonderful, great men of God. Philip the Evangelist was one of them. Consider …

1) Philip as a man.

Ac 6:5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

He is mentioned in the text after Stephen together with a few others who were chosen for the diaconal role. Look at that small word before “Philip” … ‘also’. Used here it means that like Stephen was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”, so were the others. When examining Stephen and his life, we saw that faith addressed salvation and being Born Again means to be filled with the Holy Spirit and His power to serve. Philip was in this category. Remember the people chose these men because their character and personality oozed the Fruits of the Spirit. People were witnesses to the living testimony these men lived out for Jesus. Beloved, this is the type of men and women we need to be looking out for as leadership material for our churches. It is a noble thing to aspire to leadership in God’s Kingdom, but the qualifications need to be there. These are addressed in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, Acts 20 and other places.

2) Philip was a man on the move. To provide the context, please read:

Ac 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

Thus Saul is the man who became the great Apostle Paul! Once Stephen was martyred, under Saul’s command, a great onslaught broke out against the Church. The magnitude was immense … picture a house to house search for Christians! This drove many to flee to other places for safety, yet wherever they went they preached Christ!

Ac 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

Philip was one … preaching to Samaritans (non-Jews). The power of the Spirit was with him … there were crowds, there were miracles, there were exorcisms and there were healings. Remember the purpose for these wonders? To authenticate the message. He preached to Gentiles … to people who had no prior knowledge of the Old Testament like the Jews had. They were total pagans. So, the preaching of the Gospel was accompanied by various signs and wonders in dramatic fashion. It was God proving to the hearers that what they were hearing was indeed form the true God. Notice the response of the people in verse 8. I don’t want to be a parrot, but in our day, God anoints the Gospel preached truthfully by holy men. Strangely, yet gloriously the Spirit applies the preached Word to hearts, convicting consciences of personal sin and God’s holiness coupled to the truth of Jesus’ substitutional death. We really need to be in prayer for pastors, preachers, missionaries and evangelists to know the holiness of God as they preached to sinful hearts!

3) Philip was a man sensitive to heavens leading.

Ac 8:26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.

This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship. Heaven had plans for Philip. He was already an evangelist to the pagans in Samaria, now his new assignment was an African. The instruction from God was through an angel. The target was an Ethiopian Eunuch … but who was this man? He was the Minister of Finances in the Treasury of Candace, queen of Ethiopia! Not only was he a key member in the cabinet, he had the queen’s ear! He was a Jewish proselyte … a convert to Judaism who had been to Jerusalem to worship. God choses a man for salvation and He sends an angel to tell Philip to move south from where he is to the Desert Road. It’s fascinating how God sets up divine appointments! This is what we need to be praying for and once we have prayed we ought to be looking for those divine appointments God makes for us to serve Him. Just think of this man returning to Ethiopia as one Born Again! Philip will win him for Jesus but he will go and win souls in his home country in Africa! Just think–the Gospel reaches Africa before it reached Europe!

For today, there are three take-a-ways …

(a) Pray for sensitivity to heaven’s leading. Too often today we plan and strategize God’s nudging out of our gospel calculations. Maybe we need to learn the art of what Eli said to young Samuel … “speak Lord, thy servant listens.”

(b) Pray for a willing spirit to be where God wants you to be. So few these days want to move to wherever God wants and needs them. The safest place on earth is where God wants you to serve Him.

(c) Pray for Divine Appointments. When you are sensitive to heavens leading and when you are willing to go where God wants you to go, He will provide you with willing attentive listeners, eager to hear the gospel as this Eunuch was.

Dear God, shape our evangelism skills. Set a spiritual fire under us so that we burn to go and share the wonderful news that Jesus saves. O God, here I am. Use me for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Stephen, the First Martyr (Part 2)

Yesterday we started looking at Stephen, the first Christian Martyr. Today we continue looking at this remarkable man who stood steadfast for the Lord Jesus in the face of immense persecution.

1) People saw Stephen’s life in action. The Greek for Stephen is “crown”. He certainly seems to be crowned with God’s best gifts.

Ac 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power

God’s grace and power! Quite an impressive combination! Grace depicts love, gentleness, kindness and mercy where power reveals strength, determination and fearlessness. These were virtues the Lord Jesus had … and for Stephen, these exposed his life to those he ministered too. Although these qualities ought to be part of all believers, pastors and evangelists need them because a gracious gospel approach filled with gospel power is what convinces people of the truth of Jesus.

2) People saw Stephen’s labors in action.

Ac 6:8 Now Stephen did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.

Remember this was a time where few scrolls of Holy Scripture were available and the production of the New Testament through the agency of the Holy Spirit had not yet started. Due to this God used signs, wonders and miracles through the apostles and a few other men like Stephen. The purpose of these was to authenticate the gospel message. Remember Jesus’ ministry was generally in a small area around the Sea of Galilee. His crucifixion was in Jerusalem and although many knew it was happening, yet not everyone. Another important matter is that although the gospel is seen throughout the Old Testament, the religious leaders rejected Jesus because He was not the Messiah they wanted. Therefore, they refused the gospel with their synagogue members generally not being exposed to it. God used dramatic means to arrest people’s attention to focus on and think about the message they were hearing. Stephen was one such man God used. Now that we have the full Bible, God has withdrawn the signs, wonders and miracles He used in the First Century. We don’t need them now but we do need faithful Bible teaching and Gospel preaching accompanied by the Holy Spirit’s anointing!

3) People saw how the opposition loathed Stephen with passion. We saw this yesterday but we need context.

Ac 6:9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia.

These men began to argue with Stephen. Wherever there is good, honest Gospel preaching there will be opposition. Some small church pastors might think they preach as best they can yet the unsaved fight the message and hate the preacher. The reality is that this happens in big churches as well. Where Truth is proclaimed there will always be opposition!

4) People saw Stephen’s learning in action.

Ac 6:10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.

Here we find another set of twins … “wisdom and the Spirit’s empowerment”. Many preachers have lots of knowledge and education (numbers of degrees), but these don’t add up to wisdom. Biblical wisdom is a spiritual thing and it’s only acquired through many hours in the Word of God, reading, studying, meditating and praying through each phrase and verse to understand Biblical morality and ethics. Over the years spiritual wisdom is acquired. That was Stephen and that is what is needed today in pulpits and pastoral ministry. Wisdom obtained from the Bible leads to godly discernment … to discern Truth from error, to discern motives and hearts, to discern false teaching and to discern what guidance and counsel in required in different situations. Like with Stephen, once one is saturated in the Bible and prayer, God’s Spirit speaks through that person. O how we need to pray for this today!

5) People saw Stephen’s looks. These people mostly were the opposition but I would think there were onlookers as well.

Ac 6:15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

As we know from other passages, especially to do with the Lord Jesus, angels were radiant in appearance because they came from the presence of the One radiating all the glory of heaven itself. Not only because Stephen spent lots of time in God’s presence … but in times of persecution and suffering God visit’s His faithful servants, to support, uplift and encourage. The people saw Stephen’s face shining like an angel. This is what we need today. Not expensive suits, flashy cars, catchy slogans or fancy hair styles, neatly trimmed beards and flashy gold rings. What we need today is men dressed with the Fruits of the Spirit

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

Once again, this appearance is learned on the knee before the Throne.

6) People saw Stephen’s love. We have considered this but what is noteworthy and important is that those who stoned him to death were aware of his love for them.

Ac 7:60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Such love is love in action. Even though they were the cause of his death, he knew that death was the door to heaven. He knew he was in the Savior’s will and hands. His eternal safety was secured. He: had preached to them. He had revealed the true Gospel … see Acts 72-53. He wanted them saved and as Jesus set the example at Calvary

Lu 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”

so did Stephen. His life, labor, learning, looks and love … even the way he was loathed are great examples for all Christians, especially pastors and Christian workers to copy.

O Lord our God, thank you for Stephen and his life’s example. Please raise up many pastors and Christian workers, gifted like him to be a blessing to the Church and Kingdom of God. Mercifully send Your Spirit upon all Your workers ploughing in Your harvest field. Lord we do so need solid workers like Stephen … and we pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Stephen, the First Martyr (Part 1)

Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been martyred because of their love and service for Jesus Christ. “In Christianity, a martyr is a person considered to have died because of their testimony for Jesus or faith in Jesus. In the early church, stories depict this often occurring through death by sawing, stoning, crucifixion, burning at the stake or other forms of torture and capital punishment.” Consider:

Heb 11:37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword.

So many have died for their faith in the True God in the Old and New Testaments and throughout the Christian Church up to this very day. But where did it start? Who was the first Christian martyr? His name was Stephen and we learn about him in Acts 6 and 7. Let’s start by considering …

1) Stephen’s spiritual pedigree. He was one of the men chosen to serve tables in Acts 6:2 and 5. Unlike many chosen for diaconal duties these days, Stephen was

Ac 6:5 … a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit

He was indwelt with the inseparable twins … “faith and the Holy Spirit.” Unless there is true faith in Jesus there is no Holy Spirit present! Ephesians 1:3-14 is filled with glorious doctrine. Paul expounds some of these later in the Book … for example:

Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. See that?

Salvation is by grace (free gift) through faith. That was Stephen. When God dispenses grace He gives faith as well! But He also gives the Holy Spirit!

Eph 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

That was Stephen. Another way of explaining “faith and the Holy Spirit” is being Born Again. That was Stephen and that is every real Christian! Because of this …

2) Stephen was fearless in witness, even in the face of fierce opposition.

Ac 6:9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke

Stephen, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit was not only full of spiritual wisdom, he was fearless in faith … he stood up against all opposition to the gospel. He was what we call an apologist! Apologetics is the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse. Early Christian writers who defended their beliefs against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called Christian apologists. Once a person is full of faith and the Spirit, then one is able to be fearless for Jesus. You might not be able to learn the craft of apologetics, but you do know what happened to you … what you were and what you are now. Tell that! Perhaps let me add that not many people know how to share the gospel properly. It’s not that they are afraid to speak for Jesus … the problem is they don’t know what to say … but they can be taught. One of the best ways is to learn “Two ways to live” by Matthias Media.

3) Stephen was faithful in serving the Lord Jesus. The following verses show “false witnesses and charges” against him.

Ac 6:12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

Yet the one thing that these verses unequivocally reveal is Stephen’s absolute faithfulness in serving Jesus as His Lord. This is more than faith and the Holy Spirit. Faithful service to Jesus contains those two ingredients but it also contains real love and commitment to Jesus. This point is the outworking and proof of genuine salvation! I like to say … “In Christian service, do whatever your hands find to do for Jesus”. This is where you will determine real love and commitment to your Lord.

4) Stephen knew what sacrificial love was. As he was becoming the first Christian Martyr, we read:

Ac 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

As he was being murdered for his faith and testimony to Jesus, he could plead with God not to hold his murder against the account of his murderers. You might think this was in vain … but if this was for none other, there was one present:

Ac 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.

I will suggest that the Lord Jesus used this experience as part of him being convicted of sin … but also it set the example of giving his life totally to Jesus in Christian Service. The great lesson for us today is that we need to be ready and eager to forgive those who harm us seeking to destroy our Christian witness. However painful, harmful and evil Gospel enemies might be, largely they don’t know what they are doing. At times they might even think they are doing good but they just don’t know and understand their wickedness. Think of Saul who became Paul. He gave his approval to Stephen’s murder! If God can forgive and save Saul and use him for great Gospel Service, He could do this to any enemy of the Faith … and if He forgives, we too need to forgive too. Although forgiveness is hard, Stephen stands tall as our example. We too can pray … “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Lord our God, thank You for providing such great giants of the faith in Scripture as our examples of true Biblical Christianity. Help us to model Stephen for the Lord Jesus sake. Amen.

Ahab, Jehoshaphat, and Micaiah (Part 3)

Christian ministry, be it full time or part time, can be very dangerous. Allow me to share two incidents with you to prove what I am saying.

(1) Outside the church where I pastored for many years I saw two beaten up VW Beetle’s parked for weeks. On either side of each car at the backseat rear windows was a sign … “For Sale” with a cellphone number, different for each one. Not only was this unsightly, I smelt a rat. After doing some investigation, including taking pictures, I realized these were drug decoy numbers. The kingpin became aware I was researching these vehicles and came into the church property and in front of a witness threatened to kill me, but leave the church and congregation alone. I immediately took a picture of him and sent all pictures with descriptions to the then Minister of Police who actioned immediate raids. This man was on bail for murder, theft and dealing in drugs. He was re-arrested.

(2) On another occasion, tow truck drivers were making a noise in their drunken state outside the church property disturbing our ministry. When I asked them to quiet down a little they became unruly with one driving right through the closed gate trying to ride me over and kill me. Once the police arrived and arrested him he was repentant, especially at court. We ended the case with him doing necessary repairs and apologizing in writing.

Others have had far worse experiences … but the fact remains, ministry could be dangerous, not just preaching about heaven and hell but standing firm in society for Gospel morality. In our studying about the prophet Micaiah and even Elijah before that, we have seen how dangerous serving God can be if one is going to stand firm on God’s Word without compromising to please society and especially leaders, be it kings, presidents or political leaders. Now we already know what happened to the wicked king Ahab. He dies the way God said He would.

1Ki 22:34 But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” 35 All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died.

Naturally this was not a random arrow. It was God-directed. Now let’s go backwards a little and return to prophet Micaiah, God’s man.

Micaiah Was Persecuted For His Courage by Telling the Truth

It’s rather phenomenal how the wicked stand with the wicked because they live in an evil pocket.

1Ki 22:24 Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Miciah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked.

Although the slap in the face is serious showing danger, there is something far worse here … blasphemy! He assumed the evil spirit putting lies into their mouths was the Holy Spirit. Look what he had said and done

1Ki 22:11 Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what the LORD says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’

Remember what happened? The Arameans killed Ahab. How do we test a prophet to be true or false? We see whether what they say comes true or not! Failure proves falsehood! He was one with all the others. This is a real issue today with many believing their words are from God’s Spirit but in reality are from the evil one and when challenged with the Truth they became dangerous enemies for not only are they a threat to the Truth, they blaspheme God!

Micaiah Was Imprisoned For His Faithfulness in Telling the Truth

1Ki 22:26 The king of Israel then ordered, “Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king’s son 27 and say, ‘This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison …”

The city ruler and the king’s son … they would insure Micaiah would be locked away deep in the prison … by the order of the wicked king. Once again, this is quite common in our day … many precious children of God doing faithful mission work in “closed” countries, when caught are locked up because they preach Christ crucified! As God’s people we ought to pray regularly for missionaries, especially those in the 10 / 40 window.

Micaiah Was Afflicted for Displeasing a Wicked King

1Ki 22:27 “… and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.”

Prison was one thing … a measly diet of bread and water was another thing! Often missionaries in prison for the gospel are treated like this. In some countries no food or toiletries are provided. I recall praying for Christians in prison where the church, which was permitted under strict conditions, would collect food and toiletries for them. This is another important prayer item for us.

Micaiah Remained Faithful to God to the Very End

1Ki 22:28 Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!” Micaiah believed God spoke through him because God had!

This is where the true prophet comes to the fore! He says to Ahab that if he returns from the war safely God never spoke through him! That is what trusting the Lord and His Word is all about. To everyone present he literally says … “judge my words!” That is faith in God’s Word and that is what we need today. We need men and women who love and trust God’s Word to the point that they will give their lives for the Gospel. What is the use of a preacher or missionary who does not believe what they preach? Jesus said:

Jn 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

The greatest asset any pastor, preacher, evangelist or missionary has is believing the Bible to be God’s inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word because once you believe this, you have all the power for the Holy Spirit to use you in ministry.

Our Glorious Lord and Father thank You for all pastors, evangelists and missionaries. Mercifully protect them from harm, danger, persecution and death. For those in prison, graciously help them as they suffer for the gospel. Instill within all Christians the absolute Truth of Your Word, we pray in Jesus Name. Amen.

Ahab, Jehoshaphat, and Micaiah (Part 2)

We have been discussing people refusing to hear the Truth of God from a man of God, be it the wicked king Ahab or a local church congregant. In reading through 1 Kings 22:1-28 we have seen so far that…

1) Ahab hated Micaiah because he told the truth, that

2) Jehoshaphat seems to be more cautious, maybe godly, and that

3) Ahab’s hatred for Micaiah was demonstrated publically.

Now we see that…

The Truth Hurts

Micaiah continued to speak from the Lord:

1Ki 22:19 “Therefore hear the word of the LORD! I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 ‘By what means?’ the LORD asked. ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’

“His prophets” refers to Ahab’s wicked prophets. Here we see the LORD sitting in council as opposed to Ahab and Jehoshaphat sitting on their thrones at the city gate! As strange as it might seem, God uses an evil spirit to reach Ahab. Look at that word “entice” … entice the wicked prophets to speak lies! So Micaiah continues

1Ki 22:23 “So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.”

This disaster confirms the words … “going to his death there”. Truth hurts because once God pronounces it will happen! 5) Never forget that vengeance is the Lord’s. Ahab’s evilness had gone on for very long and to us it might seem God overlooks things but He does not! Ahab’s wickedness is yet again revealed when he tricks the king of Judah

1Ki 22:29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. 30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.”

So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle. Jehoshaphat should expose his kingship by wearing royal robes yet Ahab disguises himself. How wicked can one be? He wants to use a willing helper as a decoy! But God is on the true Throne of Glory and reigns.

1Ki 22:31 Now the king of Aram had ordered his thirty-two chariot commanders, “Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel.” 32 When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, “Surely this is the king of Israel.” So they turned to attack him, but when Jehoshaphat cried out, 33 the chariot commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel and stopped pursuing him. The true prophecy through Micaiah was that Ahab dies at Ramoth Gilead. God will not fail His Word … nor will he fail Ahab! 34 But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” 35 All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died.

Does all this seems so common today? I may be getting ahead of myself but let’s leave the rest of Micaiah until tomorrow, and deal with a few things now.

First, let’s deal with false prophets in the Twenty-First Century. I am aware how often I speak out against what I call false prophets. Not only does the New Testament warn us against false prophets and false teachers, we experience these menaces in reality throughout all countries where Christianity is to be found. How do you detect and identify a false prophet or teacher? You measure what they say against the Word of God. This is where you need to be extremely careful because some twist the Bible to say what they want it to mean. They superimpose their thoughts or persuasions onto God’s Word and gullible people believe it is the Word of God. Today we need to pray for discernment and listen to any message with the Bible in hand. When we are confused about what we hear let us talk to a more mature believer for clarity to understand the Scriptures better.

Second, let’s deal with true prophets in the Twenty-First Century. There are men like Micaiah today. They are not prophets but when they study the Word correctly … when they dig into their commentaries and do word studies in the original languages, they are then able to expound the Word and you may trust that you are hearing the Word of God being preached and taught. We need to pray for gifted men, called by God to study for the Gospel Ministry at proper evangelical institutions. The last thing we need is entertainment and side shows. We desperately needs God’s True Word to flow throughout our world and especially our country. This beloved is our greatest need! Please pray for it!

Third, let’s deal with deceit in the Twenty-First Century. There are various forces today like in Micaiah’s day that seek to deceive masses of people. Evil spirits were not only active in Micaiah’s day. The lead comes from their master the devil. Remember what he did in the Garden of Eden? Remember how the evil one deceived and lied to our fore-parents? He and his demons are still doing the same today. Like one needs wisdom to avoid the teaching of false prophets and teachers, so we need wisdom to avoid any prompting of evil spirits. Further, Ahab lied to and deceived an ally king. It is one of the saddest stories of Christianity where colleagues in Christian ministry can lie to and deceive each other. This is one of the enemy’s greatest achievements to create havoc in the visible Church. It disrupts the working of the Spirit, reduces spiritual maturity and lessens Gospel impact. Pray for unity in the Church of God. Pray that the Church will return to being robust, spiritually powerful and see the Spirit working in dynamic power.

Fourth, let’s deal with God remaining true in the Twentieth- First Century. He never fails His true Word for He is LORD of all Truth.

Thank You, our God, that You are the Sovereign I AM. Help us to trust You alone always. Amen.

Ahab, Jehoshaphat, and Micaiah (Part 1)

Have you ever heard someone saying to a pastor after a Church Service … “You preached at me” or “You betrayed a confidence” or “How did you know that about me?” Some may say this in jest but some say it in anger. Mostly the preacher does not know what is going on in the life of the hearers and when he expounds the Bible faithfully, but the Holy Spirit targets something in a person’s heart and life and they think the preacher targeted them personally. This is definitely not the case … but God knows!

Then, often people come for counseling but do not put into practice what the pastor or counselor advisers. I have had people leave in anger, swear at and insult me … but to be Biblical a pastor, counselor or preacher, he needs to say what the Bible says. There is another prophet who experienced the same problem. You remember king Ahab, the wicked king of Israel? (Please read through 1 Kings 22:1-28.) The chapter starts with him speaking to Jehoshaphat king of Judah and his own officials about a piece of territory he felt belonged to Israel and not Aram. He asks Jehoshaphat for help … who agrees but requires they

1Ki 22:5 “First seek the counsel of the LORD.”

Once again this evil king calls false prophets together for advice. Remember, everyone is afraid of the king because he was known for putting people and prophets to death who did not support him and his wicked ways.

1Ki 22:6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”

Notice their expected response … “Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” Naturally as king this is exactly what he wanted to hear … however, Jehoshaphat asked:

1Ki 22:7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?”

Did you see that? He wanted to consult a prophet of the LORD (YAHWEH). Ahab remember there is one left … he was not aware of chapter 19:18 because he was an earthly king, yet the King of kings reserved 7000 prophets for Himself. Look at Ahab’s response:

1Ki 22:8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Once again the true colors of this king comes to the fore.

1) Ahab hated Micaiah because he told the truth. This is the issue I spoke of above! The king admitted Micaiah could “inquire of the LORD”. He saw him as a true man of the true God but he could never understand why the prophecies were always against him. The reason was his evilness. He did not want to hear the truth from God just as many people today don’t want to hear what God has to say to them through a sermon or a counseling session. One of the fundamental aspects of real Christianity is to be able to hear and accept what God is saying to you. Many fight against it, leave the church or switch off during the message. God knows about that though and He will constantly remind the person of it.

2) Jehoshaphat seems to be more cautious, maybe godly. “The king should not say that,” Jehoshaphat replied. Whether Ahab listened to Jehoshaphat in agreement or to please him, he called for Micaiah the prophet. (v9). The picture we see from a human perspective is quite illustrious!

1Ki 22:10 Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria.

All the pomp and authority of two kings from two states. Around them were

1Ki 22:10 … all the prophets prophesying before them. 11 Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what the LORD says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’ ” 12 All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.”

The one who went to call Micaiah pleaded that he say exactly what the other “prophets” were saying to please the king. (v13). Yet Micaiah is God’s man and responds:

1Ki 22:14 But Micaiah said, “As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.”

He will not be bullied or coerced into what man wants to hear, even if that man is a king! This is the type of pastors and preachers we need today. God’s men staying true to God’s Word. The sad thing today is that many pastors and preachers play to the gallery. They tell the people what they want to hear and in turn the people give them what they want … popularity and money! Having heard what the king wanted to hear and knowing what God wanted him to say, he played the king.

1Ki 22:15 When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” “Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.”

3) Ahab’s hatred is demonstrated publically.

1Ki 22:16 The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” 17 Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’” 18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”

Here’s the point … whether he told the truth or a lie the king took it as a lie. The king preferred like so many today to hear lies and received them as truth. The result is that the people of God (sheep) scatter because they have no true pastor (shepherd). We will come back to Micaiah tomorrow, but what is God’s response to this?

Mt 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

When pastors and preachers are not true men of God they tell the people lies and the people scatter spiritually.

Dear God, please raise up godly men, doctrinally astute and gospel focused to fill our pulpits to teach Your Word faithfully to feed the flock, gathering them together and proclaiming the Gospel of the Risen Jesus truthfully to win souls for Your Cause and Kingdom. Father, souls are so precious and eternal, mercifully bring many to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour for Your glory. Amen.

Elijah, Man of God (Part 12)

We have been considering the call of Elisha. It almost seemed as though he was about to reject the call because he wanted to go and “kiss my father and mother goodbye.” As we saw yesterday with Jesus, this could mean a refusal to go into ministry until the parents have died! Elisha had in fact accepted the call for he said in chapter 19:20 … “and then will come with you.”

When a person is called into full time ministry in particular and also part time lay ministry, certain choices about the present and the future need to be made. These choices might indeed require far more sacrifices than one might think. In my case I got rid of tools like a Torque Wrench, Micrometers, Vernier and tools I would never use again unless I returned to the trade. Because I was so convinced that God had called me and confirmed this by giving me a Bible verse to hang onto getting rid of what could be a trapping to return to the old profession again. Now we return to Elisha and examine his call and his response …

Elisha Gave Unwavering Support and Confidence to the Call God Gave

1Ki 19:21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.

In his heart he was convinced that God called him, he therefore made certain that his life of farming was over and done with by doing three strategic things.

(1) He slaughtered his oxen. He “got rid of the engine” of his farming equipment. What is the use of a farmer having a plough and no a tractor? The first thing he did was remove the “motor – the power” to prepare his land for farming.

(2) He chopped up his plowing equipment. I was not uncommon to borrow an animal from a neighbor for farming purposes … so now he takes the next step to make certain the temptation to return to farming is impossible … he burns up the wooden farming equipment.

(3) He made a braai and gave “the people” a feast. Whether these people were part of the nearby town or fellow farmers and workers I don’t know, but the point is clear … he said goodbye to the people which would have included his parents and possibly siblings. This does not mean he would never return home but it did mean his life as a farmer and a layman was over. He sacrificed his entire livelihood to depend upon God as he served Him in a full time capacity.

Once all this was done … “Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.” He was released from all that attached him to his previous employment once removed. Now he had freedom because he was emancipated. Nothing would disturb or hinder his ministry now … and off he went to find Elijah and become his apprentice prophet.

Please understand that what he did was not easy. The way the text reads it seems as so cut and dried but the reality is that it is hard and for some it is a mixture between emotions and separating oneself from one’s family and profession. Personally, I feel that be it full time or lay ministry, if you are undecided about making sacrifices, be it regarding parents, family, friends, colleagues, property, town or province, career, finances, working equipment, etc. … don’t do ministry until you are ready and comfortable to do it, otherwise you might be an unhappy person and unsuccessful in ministry.

Please notice a few issues in this verse that are important.

(a) Elisha’s parents gave their unconditional support. Whether people are single or married when God calls, a vital confirmation of their call is parent support. When I was, my dad asked … “How will you care for your wife and children at Bible School?” After I assured him that I believed God would supply our needs he was comfortable and even supported us in a number of ways. One needs to watch out for conditional support! Some parents give their support with conditions … meaning that they give their support to the call as long as their child (son or daughter and their family) remain close by. Not always, but this could cause limited benefit to the Gospel’s expansion because maybe the person called could have been more effective where God wanted that person to be. Personally I was placed in a different province quite far from my parents’ home and later called to a further province. In all, we were away for almost 35 years until the last parent died. This sacrifice affects grandchildren as much as grandparents … but praise God, there are holidays.

(b) Elisha renounced the world to serve God’s Kingdom. He would not be the last!

Mt 4:18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. A clean break needs to be made when it comes to full time ministry workers.

Those who are called to lay ministry might need to make sacrifices but not to the same extent as full time workers. One serious handicap is that often churches cannot pay their staff (especially pastor) a proper salary. This might lead him to find an alternative income. This is noble but handicaps ministry. I know this from personal experience. Where churches need to enable the pastor to do ministry by receiving a living wage … more affluent churches ought to twin with poorer churches and help them financially. One last word … the greatest work ever is serving the Lord Jesus. Just think of leading just one soul to eternal salvation! There cannot be a greater joy!

Dear God, thank You that You chose ordinary people to do extraordinary work. Thank You that You empower people for serve and thank You that You provide their needs for Jesus’ Cause. Amen.

Elijah, Man of God (Part 11)

Some people love working, some don’t mind working and others hate working. This thing is that if you don’t work, you don’t earn money and you can’t survive. More than that, God created us to work and after the Genesis Chapter three’s fall into sin, work would be hard.

Ge 3:17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

The problem is that nowadays many people go to work for the cheque at the end of the month … without enjoying what they do. Some, like me, start out working doing what they might be good at but not cut out for, yet what I did was all part of God’s plan to shape me for what He called me into Christian Ministry to do, even though I was not aware of it at the time. He used the trade I entered plus working in the fishing industry to hone me for what lay ahead. The one thing I might say is that Christian Ministry is not for lazy people. You need to be good at your career and a hard worker because the work God has for His Gospel Workers is not a piece of cake! Now let’s return to Elisha.

1Ki 19:19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” 21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.

The context must be drawn from 1 Kings 19:16, which reads:

1Ki 19:16 “… and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.”

God instructed Elijah to find and anoint Elisha as his replacement prophet. Elisha was to be “an apprentice prophet” and to learn from the very best man of God available.

Elisha Was a Farmer

He was ploughing the land. He knew hard work, long hours and lots of dirt. That’s farming … and remember this was thousands of years before tractors and modern farming equipment. Rigging up twelve oxen required a strong man and equally so directing them to plough the field. God used an experience farmer to follow Elijah to plough God’s field. This reminds us of Jesus calling His disciples to pray for workers.

Mat 9:37 … “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

And don’t forget what the harvest field is all about:

Mt 4:18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. It does not matter the type of work you do

Just as Elisha was an apprentice to Elijah, so were the disciple to Jesus … but note they were hard workers, prepared to put in the hours and work during any weather. Whether it is full time or part time lay ministry, God requires men and women who are prepared to work hard, not be afraid to work long hours or get their “hands dirty” in any season of the year!

Elisha’s Call Was Confirmed

In his day there were no Bibles as we have them today. The scrolls were few and stored in the temple and guarded by the priests. He did not ask for a sign but he was given a sign … once Elijah found him … Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elijah’s cloak represented not just the authority of a prophet, it represented the authority of God. Personally today, because we have the Bible readily available to all Christians, I believe God confirms His call through His Word. Some might refer to a sign, but I feel a sign cannot be trusted where a Scripture verse holds steadfast for the duration of ministry. When the going gets tough, you are able to claim that Scripture! Literally you can say: “God you said this to me in … (Book, Chapter and Verse).” When God confirms a call through His Word it is the greatest comfort and promise you will ever have. You need it. Pray for it and look for it as you spent time in His Word daily!

Elisha Wrestled About This Call From God

1Ki 19:20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” …

He was reluctant to follow without greeting his parents. This happened with Jesus too!

Mt 8:21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

Jesus’ reaction was “Let the dead buried their dead”. Elijah’s was:

1Ki 19:20 … “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

But there was a difference–Elisha did follow Elijah.

We will get to that tomorrow, but for now, has God been prodding you about fulltime or lay ministry? It might be natural to panic and ask all sorts of questions and even challenge God. What would you say your greatest fear is? The work you do or the education you have? Maybe you’re very happy in your career or work long hours or earn a handsome salary. You might be married and have children, an aging parent or don’t want to leave the area you live in. Where these are legitimate concerns, through prayer, if God is calling you, He will address each giving you comfort and assurance that He is setting you apart for ministry … fulltime or lay ministry.

Our Heavenly Father, we are so aware that You need many of Your children to enter fulltime service and others to fulfil part time ministry. Amongst us there are dear brothers and sisters whom You are calling. Clarify Your call on their lives. Amen.

Elijah, Man of God (Part 10)

It’s one thing to be called to be a Christian, and another thing being called into Christian service or ministry. I’m very aware that many today do not believe in “a call to Christian Ministry”. That is their prerogative, though personally I believe in a call.

I had a good career, established as a family with our own house, running a small church we started with another family. Life was hectic but good when suddenly the pastor we fell under as a church visited and literally told me I needed to be at Bible School, studying for the ministry.

I was confused as this was so sudden. It’s not that I did not want to enter the full time ministry, but what did God want? I was given two weeks to decide as it was closing in on the new academic year. I spend those two weeks seeking God’s will and on the last day He gave me a Scripture that has carried me throughout my ministry … through the good, difficult and hard times. It is 1 Thessalonians 5:24, which reads:

1 Thess 5:24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

God has always been faithful and I can truthfully say that when God gave me that verse as I was doing my devotions … it sank deep and has proved my calling for around 40 years!

Today I want to turn to the Call of Elisha. Remember Elijah was thinking his ministry ought to end. He thought he had, had sufficient of a hard and challenging ministry … but God had other ideas:

1Ki 19:16 “… and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.”

1Ki 19:21 … Then he [Elisha] set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.

The word “attendant” is also translated as “servant”. You get the picture of an apprentice prophet … one who needs to learn from the experienced and seasoned Elijah. Now to Elisha’s call:

1Ki 19:19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” 21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.

There might be many things we could lift out of this short passage. However there are five things I would like to address about Elisha.

The Person Who Was Called

His name was Elisha, which means “God is my Saviour”. Although his name has a great meaning, it’s not the name because many people have names like Christian or Emmanuel or even a surname de Jesus and are total pagans. What we need to see in Elisha was his spiritual qualifications. He was part of the people of God and if God chose him, he was a spiritual man, filled with the Holy Spirit. When considering a call to ministry today, you need to be clear that you are Christian in the full sense of the word’s meaning. There needs to have been the experience of the New Birth because of confession of sin, receiving Jesus as Lord and proving the new life through a life of repentance. Many believed they are suited for Christian ministry of some sort, but they cannot testify to a genuine experience of salvation. They might enter ministry only to find pretty quickly that they are not Christian and not suited. Others could well be Christians but have not been called.

The Place Where Elisha Was Found

He was from Abel Meholah, located near the Jordan River south of Bethshean. In the Hebrew Abel Meholah means “meadow of dancing, dancing meadow”. This town seems quite impressive, especially being so close to a major river and if names are anything to go by … it was a place of happiness (meadow of dancing). Like the person called, the place he comes from is not important in Gospel Ministry. Some might think that coming from an affluent society and a prestigious family means “best candidate” for ministry. It might … but generally it does not! This does not mean education is not necessary. It is, but calling is more important. There are great full time people in ministry who have come from being well placed, yet many more have come from what might be called the lower echelons of society. God has this habit of using people of various cultures and places to reach people unreachable by people from other cultures and places.

1Co 1:26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

Tomorrow we will look at the other three matters, but for today I want you to consider a few things. In the face of the need for Gospel Workers throughout our world and especially in our country …

(1) Do you believe you are truly Born Again? Whether it is full time ministry or lay ministry, God needs spiritual people. People who know Jesus Christ as Lord and willingly to trust Him, apart from heaven … for this life and everything you will need for ministry.

(2) Are you concerned about who you are? Does your education or life before Christ or your family concern you?

(3) Are you worried about the town or village you originate from? God is concerned about you as a person … as a Child of God. Never forget that Mary and Joseph came from very poor and humble beginnings yet God used Mary to give birth to and Joseph to be the step-father of Messiah! God is interested in saved willing souls to be in His service. Are you one?

Our Glorious Father, thank You that You use people of Your choice and calling for ministry. Thank You that You do not gauge us as the world gauges people. You see our hearts and You know our minds, gifts, abilities and Gospel intentions. Thank You. Amen.

Elijah, Man of God (Part 9)

Yesterday we saw that in the midst of Elijah’s weakness God provided for all his needs. That being done … we see two interactions between God and Elijah where we find him still afraid of losing his life. Coupled to this he seems not to be where God wants him to be. He also feels he is the only prophet left serving the Cause of God. (1 Kings 19:9-16). Once you read those verses, stop and reflect on three things.

Being Afraid to Lose Your Life for the Cause of God

It’s phenomenal that a believer to would be afraid to lose their life, apart from a painful, long term suffering death. The reason I say this is because we Christians live here on earth for two main reasons. The first is to serve God and become more Christ-like. The second is a longing to go to heaven. When we are converted to Jesus, the first thing we grasp is that we are forgiven of all sin and promised heaven forever when we die. The Bible teaches us how awesome and glorious heaven is … so why would we be afraid to die? You might like to think through this issue seriously. It might influence your life’s choices and lifestyle.

Being Where God Does Not Want You to Be

This is a very difficult point because of how one determines where God wants us to be. So often we are influenced by where our parents live, perhaps by our friendship base, career opportunities or even by the climate of a particular region. Not that there is necessary anything wrong with these things, but is that where God wants me to live? So I would suggest this calls for much prayer. Maybe God wants you in an area you would not naturally chose. Perhaps He wants you in a small, struggling church where you may use your spiritual gifts and expertise to help the church grow spiritually and maybe numerically or financially. May I say that the safest place for you to be is where God wants you to be not necessary where you want to be.

Being Filled With Self-Pity

It’s so easy when you have worked hard for God and start to burn out that you feel you are the only one in the church working. It’s like people say the pastor works for 1 ½ hours on a Sunday morning and 1 ½ hours on a Sunday night. Add a Bible Study, some admin and a counseling session now and then. That’s one day of work. I have to work eight hours a day, five days a week and then attend church and do a ministry apart from Bible Study. I do all the work to make the church work! O … but I forgot how long it takes to craft a sermon … anything between 12 to 20 hours … so if the pastor has two sermons and a Bible Study to prepare, it could take him between 28 to 54 hours a week before visitation, counseling, prayer meeting preparation, leaders meetings, administration, etc. But then granted … pastors don’t tell their flock what they do because it would embarrass some of them. Let us not think we are the only ones serving God.

1Ki 19:14 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.”

See the self-pity? But then … Elijah is told by God that He had 7000 servants in Israel!

1Ki 19:18 “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

We might not see what others are doing, so let us be careful not to think we are the only ones serving God! However, God is not finished with Elijah. He has work for him to do.

1Ki 19:15 ‘The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.’

(1) He had to anoint a replacement king in Syria. King Ben-hadad has replaced by God who appointed Hazael king. (2) He had to anoint Jehu as king over Israel. Both these would only come into effect at a future time. (3) He needed to anoint a successor to himself in the shape of Elisha.

Tomorrow we will be looking at the call of Elisha, but for now:

1Ki 19:21 … Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.

The word “attendant” simply means “servant”. We’ll see that Elisha became an apprentice prophet learning under the older experienced prophet Elijah.

I want to end our Daily Note today by considering the act of retiring from ministry. There is a push in some church groups that pastors and other spiritual leaders retire when they reach 60 to 70 years old. Others permit ministry to continue until an individual decides he has had enough.

This can be an extremely emotional time for some people. I would suggest that if there is a healthy eldership (leadership) in a church, they would have the wisdom and discernment to know when one’s ministry has run its course. If it is the pastor who abilities are fading, then sensitively the elders would approach him and explain the situation lovingly. The same would apply to an elder or leaders, be they full time or a lay worker.

However, from personal experience, ministry does not need to end. There is always something an older person can do for the Lord Jesus. It might be a support ministry but it’s a ministry. At the same time, no one should leave any ministry they are doing unless they have confirmation in some way from God that they ought to “retire”. It was almost as if Elijah was saying to God in verse 14 that his ministry had ended. God was not interested in that. He had much work left for his faithful servant. The same is true for you and me!

Dear God, please help us to be people who look forward to heaven, yet at the same time help us to willingly serve You as faithfully as we can whilst we have the energy to do so. Perhaps our concern is what You want us to do and where you want us to be. We really need wisdom and discernment to know these things. Help us to be attentive as we read Your Word to obtain answers. Amen.