In life there will be times when you could stop forward movement but you know you have to finish the task at hand. It may be a large event and there are many things that need to be completed before the next day when everyone will show up. It may be at summer camp and you are tired and exhausted and you still have three days left to go. Whatever it may be, you are forcing yourself to put one foot in front of another â€“ you have to finish. If you do ministry any length of time you willÂ eventually find yourself in this position.
Yes, I know, you type â€˜Aâ€™ people out there are thinking, â€œyou should have planned better, trained more thouroughly, recruited more people, rested before hand, etc. but here you are â€œwith miles to go before you sleep, with miles to go before you sleep.â€ No matter how well you may have planned, people will back out on you, and plans will go â€œsideways.â€ It’s just part of the game.
Here are some things to consider as you are heading into more exhaustion.
- Watch Your Step. When you are tired and your tank is empty, this is when you are more likely to stumble (metaphorically and physically) and hurt yourself. You are far more likely to say something you will regret or do something that otherwise you never would have done had you been rested.
This is not the time to jump around and act goofy. Your mind and body are tired and you are far more likely to injure yourself (so that you wonâ€™t be able to finish). Just stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Finish the race. Keep moving forward. Focus on each step.
- Just Keep Moving. If you stop and sit down, then there is a good chance that you wonâ€™t get back up. The finish line is up there somewhere, you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
â€œJust keep swimming, just swimming, just keep swimming.â€ Dorey in Finding Nemo
- Tell yourself, â€œI will finish.â€ In your mindâ€™s deep recesses, tell yourself I will finish this. This is when you review why you are doing this in the first place. Picture the childrenâ€™s faces, review the story, and think back on all the days of preparing. Why are you doing this? Who is it going to impact?
1)Â Â Be humble and realize that you donâ€™t have all the answers. Proverbs 17:28 says, â€œa fool is thought wise until he opens his mouthâ€ (or presses keys on his keyboard). Wisdom is to realize that you are not â€œall thatâ€ and to add a thankfully forgotten 90â€™s reference â€œand a bag of chips.â€ You have been called to be a leader, and Christ is to receive all the glory. Many times in order for that to happen, you need to keep your mouth shut.
If there is one thing that children do that aggravates me is when one will say, â€œactually, . . .â€ after an adult has just made a statement. They at the age of nine are correcting an adult of forty. They have a fourth grade education, and the adult they correct has a lifetime of experience and various degrees. What aggravates me is that the child assumes his equality (even to point out perceived mistakes) in the adultâ€™s speech.Â The adult has learned, forgotten, remembered, and forgotten again more things than the child has ever even experienced. One essential lesson we can teach children (and model in our own lives) is humility. This is a difficult task because you are toÂ walk the razor’s edge ofÂ not crushing the spirit of the child, but at the same time pointing out their lacking.
2)Â Â Just stop talking. You do not need to fill the void of silence in the conversation with constant empty talking. Sit back and watch, listen, and learn. Philippians 2:3 says, â€œDo nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.â€
When you talk with other people, seek out their interests, ask them questions about their passions, and express a genuine concern for their lives. Most people can tell if you are asking them questions to try and get on their “good side,” instead be genuine.
3)Â Â Itâ€™s not your story to tell. You are on a journey with other people and they will tell you parts of their story to you; they will express their heartache, their pain, their struggles, their doubts, their ambitions, their weaknesses â€“ and these things are not for you to tell others. If at some point God works in their lives and they desire to tell others of their story in a public setting, then let them â€“ you do not have the right to tell their story for them.
As a leader you will lose credibility and trust if you betray otherâ€™s stories. Most of the men that I have little respect for are those that simply canâ€™t keep a secret â€“ they donâ€™t seem to be able to keep their mouths shut. Is a laugh from one really worth the betrayal of another?
4)Â Â If you can keep your mouth shut, you will gain trust. People naturally distrust those that speak without thinking. If people trust you, then you will gain credibility. If you gain credibility then you can expand your circle of influence. You will know that you have gained trust, when “they” ask what you think. If you are always saying what you think before you are asked, then you will be perceived as a know it all, and of â€œsticking your noseâ€ in otherâ€™s business.
5)Â Â Friends do not come into our lives everyday. In ministry, it is hard to find someone that you can bear your heart to and trust that they will never tell a soul. Proverbs 17:17 â€œA friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.â€ Donâ€™t betray that trust, you may not get another chance at a really close friendship.
Final Note: Yes of course you should tell the proper authorities if someone is hurting someone else (affair, abuse, illegal or immoral behavior, etc.) We are talking about the everyday struggles of men and those in leadership, not secrets that do damage to other people.
As apart of our vision trip to Guatemala we visited various small villages that the local pastor was trying to do a gospel work. On the last of these trips/tours we parked our vans at what can only be described by this Alabama country boy at the beginning of a trail. The people who lived down this dense forest trail walked in and out at considerable distances. We handed out hygiene kits (including toothbrushes, tooth paste, soap, wash rag, comb, deodorant, etc.), gave a demonstration on how to use them, and used colored beads and bracelets in order to share the gospel.
My job was to haul in camera gear and try to document our journey so that the folks back home can get a glimpse of the work we are trying to begin there. After a walk down a wooded trail following children and elderly women (who had to wait for us) we arrived at the wealthiest home in the area (which included some cinder block). The owner of the home expressed her interest of wanting her home to be used for the work of the Lord.Â We were flanked by children, animals (pigs, dogs, yipping puppies, chickens, and things that you saw scurrying only out of the corner of your eye), elderly ladies, and breastfeeding women. I guess all the men were away at work, for there were none, not a single one.
There amongst the confusion of white English speaking wealthy Americans and impoverished Spanish speaking Guatemalans exchanging a convoluted conversation of loveÂ I saw a young girl out of the lens of my camera. I looked up and realized that I had seen this girl before, I knew this girl. I could not imagine how. We were in a poor community that was only accessible by foot. It was only on the bus on the ride home that I remembered her name. As I lay between the seats, half asleep and exhausted, I remembered, â€œHaley!â€ She had been at the medical clinic that we held the previous winter (which was their dry season). It was over thirty minutes by van, I have no idea how long it took them to walk there.
She did not recognize me, but as I clicked the shutter my heart melted. It is possible to grow hardened to poverty. It is possible to see an entire city that needs help, and cry out â€œhow can I help all these people?â€ You can feel yourself becoming emotionally numb.
But when you see a face, and the face has a name, and you know the â€œstory,â€ then the emotions begin to change. You begin to not think about an entire country, an entire city, or even an entire village â€“ instead you begin to think, â€œI will help Haley.â€ And â€œItâ€™s not right for Haley to live like this, when I can do something about it.â€
I believe that the reason that Jesus said, â€œGo therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .â€ (Matthew 28:19) was that as our Creator He knows how our hearts work. When we connect a face, name, and actual person to our hearts then we will much more motivated to share the gospel with them. When we actually hug a child, make them smile, and share life together (even for a short time) as you are going, your heart becomes bonded together with another. God uses these face-to-face and heart-to heart encounters to change us (and those we seek to minister to.) Sometimes there are even areas of our lives that we donâ€™t realize that we have closed off to God. Also, Jesus uses our “going” to encourage our faith.
Hidden Doors in the Mind
2 Kings 4:8-37Â
I.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â A Giving Heart (vv. 8-17) Â Â
8 One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. 9 She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.” 11 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’ ” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” 14 “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Â Gehazi said, “Well, she has no son and her husband is old.” 15 Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord,” she objected. “Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God!” 17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.
In this passage we see a well-to-do woman who does not have a need herself but sees a need and desires to fill it.Â The woman while she is wealthy, doesnâ€™t seem to desire to raise her portfolio, but instead seeks to help people with what she has.Â She is actively looking for ways to help people out of how she has been blessed.Â She sees that Elisha needs something to eat, so she offers him food.
The problem was that Elisha, as he traveled performing his ministry as a prophet, had to go through the hassle of finding a place to stay every time he came to this town.Â It was often enough, that it would cause this woman to desire to construct and addition to her home.Â After construction is finished, and Elisha has enjoyed the room, he desires to give back to the woman.Â The woman appreciated the prophetâ€™s ministry and service to God, and he appreciates her gift â€“ out of what has been given to them, they desire to give back.Â â€œhe [Elisha] went up to his room and lay down thereâ€
James 2:14-17 â€œWhat good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.â€
Elisha as a prophet could ask for anything, talk to anyone â€“ â€œcan we speak on behalf to the king, the commander of the army?â€Â When she looks at her life, she feels so blessed, â€œI have a home, among my own people.â€ But there was one thing, even with all the money, that she could not have.Â Even with her giving heart to help people, there was a place in her heart where she did not want to allow her emotions and mind to go.Â I believe that this woman had always wanted a child â€“ even after many years â€œfor her husband was oldâ€
At some point she has resolved and dealt with the emotions that she will never have a child.Â This doesnâ€™t seem to have affected her faith, she is still giving, she is still desiring to be apart of Godâ€™s service.Â But there is a place in her heart that is closed.Â The sign on the outside of this door reads â€œmommy.â€ In her mind she has walked past it, but it has been years since she has gone in, fluffed the blanket, sat it the rocker, and thought â€œone day maybe.â€Â That room in her mind was too hurtful to go in anymore.Â So she locked it. Had the room where Elisha stayed originally been planned as a nursery?
â€œAbout this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” Whatâ€™s her response? She doesnâ€™t run to tell her husband, she doesnâ€™t thank God.Â No, her gut response is “No, my lordâ€ I have already dealt with not having a child, I can manage the pain â€“ no my lord.Â â€œDon’t mislead your servant, O man of God!” You are supposed to be a holy man, who doesnâ€™t lie â€“ â€œO man of God.â€Â Donâ€™t go there.Â I have been your servant, donâ€™t raise my hopes.Â Â Donâ€™t ask me to unlock the door and open it.
Is there an area of your life that in your mind you walk past, but have stopped going into that room.Â You have even locked it because to enter it just causes too much pain.Â To hope for it, is just too draining.Â Whatâ€™s the sign thatâ€™s on the door?Â â€œfriendshipâ€ is there anyone who would genuinely be my friend? â€œhusband/wifeâ€ Is there anyone out there left for me? â€œa different lifeâ€ will my whole life be like this?Â Is it really possible for me to change?
II.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â A Gut Wrenching Loss (vv. 18-28)
18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 “My head! My head!” he said to his father.Â His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. 22 She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.” Â 23 “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.” “It’s all right,” she said. 24 She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’ ” “Everything is all right,” she said.Â 27 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why.” 28 “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”
It was harvest time, the crops were ready for reapers to come along and gather it together.Â This was the time of the year when the father was focused on making sure that the crops were well managed â€“ this is what made them well-to-do.Â The reapers would have piled the crop into piles, and then carried them to the threshing floor, where animals would walk across them, crushing the grain and then the debris would have been throw up into the air, and the heavy grain would fall to the earth and the wind would blow away the extra.
So in this fever pitch of activity the fatherâ€™s son comes to him and tells him, his head hurts.Â But it seems to be more than just a headache, he canâ€™t even stand up.Â The boy is yelling, â€œMy head! My head!â€ So he turns to a servant, â€œCarry him to his mother.â€ In other words, â€œI donâ€™t have time to deal with this right now.Â This father will quickly regret this callousness, but . .
Todayâ€™s story is a story of second chances.Â The woman gets a second chance at motherhood, and in a few moments, this father is going to get a second chance.Â There is a realigning of priorities that he needs to make.Â See if you tell where.
â€œAfter the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died.â€ Â Mommy has opened that part of her heart, and now the child has died â€“ she felt him draw his last breath.Â And held his head as it fell forward.Â How long did she hold him, before she took any action?
What do we do when God asks us to open that part of lives and trust him, then it seems only that he takes it back again?Â How do we move through that?
This scenario is a familiar one if we have read through the Bible.Â A childless couple endure the shame and pain of not having a son, but through a work of God they are able to conceive.Â Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah, Manoah and his wife, Zechariah and Elizabeth â€“ as in nearly all these cases, although the boy was cherished, his life was endangered.
God snuffed out the boyâ€™s life and she goes to find the prophet, why at this stage of his life, why at this moment during the day?Â God seems to have done this because of where she finds him.Â Elisha is at Mt. Carmel.Â The God who sent fire from heaven and burned up the alter there was a powerful God, and was the only God.Â Power and sovereignty are His, and His alone.
At Mt. Carmel God had moved. Remember 1 Kings 19:38-39 â€œThen the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.Â 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!â€
The nation was still heavily into idol worship, Elijahâ€™s show down at Mt. Carmel really had not changed the nationsâ€™ heart, they still were involved in the worship of other gods.Â The fire that came from heaven has become a distant and faded memory.Â I believe that Elisha was there looking over the ruins of the famous showdown.
Was Elisha kicking the burnt embers around, thinking that there was something the Lord was keeping from him?Â He knew that Elijah had done this, but there had been no Mt. Carmel in his ministry.Â At this time the woman comes to him, and tells him what happened and he says â€œthe LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why.â€
â€œWhen she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feetâ€ Even though the womanâ€™s years with this boy had been few, there would be nothing that would keep her from getting to the prophet, who she knew had the power to raise the dead just like Elijah.Â She took hold of his feet at hugged as tight as she could for â€œShe is in bitter distress.â€
She said to her husband, â€œIt’s all right,â€ and she had said to Elishaâ€™s servant, â€œEverything is all right,” but everything was not alright.Â Faith is not the ability to ignore the dead son laying the bed back home.Â Everything was not all right.Â She went to the one who made her the promise of a son, â€œDid I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” Â Why have you given me this gift that has opened that door in my heart, only to rip it out again?
There is a struggle within the woman.Â She knows she is supposed to show faith â€œitâ€™s all right,â€ while at the same time â€œshe is in bitter distress.” Â How do you balance faith in God with the fear of the loss and pain of losing a loved one?
III.Â Â Â Â Â Â A God-given Restoration (vv. 29-37) Â Â
29 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.” 30 But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her. 31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.” 32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.Â 36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” 37 She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.â€
For this miracle to happen, Elisha (by himself) would have to make physical contact.Â His staff from afar would not do it.Â Â His staff in the hands of another would not do it.Â God wanted to personally show Elisha something.Â God would be with him, just has he had been with Elijah, and just has he had been with all the other men of God described in Scripture â€“ He would be with him, â€œwith a double portion.â€
Elisha even followed Elijahâ€™s example of laying â€œupon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to handsâ€ When we donâ€™t know what to do, or how to handle lifeâ€™s blows we can look to the saints of old found within the pages of this book for answers.
Elijah goes to the boy, he seeks privacy, he prays, he knows that close proximity to the situation is necessary.Â He perseveres in what he is doing, he prays, and then prays again.Â Then he pronounces â€œtake your son.â€Â Elisha moves from kicking burnt embers on Mt. Carmel and doubting to seeing God work through him to raise the dead.Â The woman moves from bitter distress to â€œreceiving her son.â€
God uses the womanâ€™s gift of food and shelter to His prophet. First she gives her a son.Â Second, was that this womanâ€™s son would be raised back to life (or born again).Â Third, She was warned of a coming drought (2 Kings 8:1ff.)Â So Drew, if I am faithful, when I lose someone or open myself up for pain â€“ God will bring my loved one back from the dead?Â Is that what you are saying?Â No, thatâ€™s not the point of the passage.
When the fire fell on Mt. Carmel it burned up the whole thing â€“ when we throw ourselves upon God, he will heal us completely.Â He will be with us completely.Â You have to give him that room, no matter how painful, even if you feel like you have dealt with it.Â Itâ€™s still not in Godâ€™s hands.Â We must give Him our whole selves in order to experience healing.
When the boy sneezes, he sneezes seven times.Â Seven in the Bible is a number meaning or indication completion or perfection.Â The boy was healed, perfectly and completely.Â When the healing of the boy comes it is only at a personal touch.Â Â Jesus came as the means of salvation, God became flesh and came to touch us, hug us, heal us.Â He did not do it from afar â€“ he came amongst us.
When we open the closed doors of our minds, God will give you complete healing, it will be a perfect healing a complete healing, and we will feel His touch. When the woman left the room what do you think she did?Â When you are healed what do you do?Â Do you seek out someone to bless or do you cower in fear that God may take what He has given you?Â How you answer that question defines your faith in Christ. If you jump to Him, he will catch you.Â He will heal you, and he will give you a life of abundance and joy.
As you seek to minister to others, He will change your heart. For me, it was through the lens of a camera, but I had to look up and engage.