It does not matter what your profession may be, at some point you have found yourself frustrated and hurt because you have put everything you have into something and it did not turn out the way you planned; you worked hard on a project and it fell through, or you presented the truth to someone who would not listen. Many people give up and quit because things do not go their way in a given setting; but we must understand that quitting when we have done what is right is the greatest failure of all.
The prophet Elijah felt these exact emotions in 1 Kings 19. On the heels of the great showdown on Mount Carmel where 450 prophets of Baal were defeated in their upholding of idolatry, Elijah realizes nothing has changed. Jezebel is actively seeking to have him killed, and there are still many more Baal worshipers in Israel. He feels defeated and flees into the wilderness asking God to kill him (Vs. 4). When God asks why, Elijah responds that he is the only one left trying to do what is right and when he stands for what is right they try to kill him (Vs. 9-10). Elijah has reached the end of his rope. He feels like a failure. He believes that he is the only one left who is struggling to do what is right and he is tired of, as he perceives it, fighting alone.
Oftentimes we fall into the same boat. Preachers often get tired and frustrated when they have worked all week on a sermon they believe will be of great benefit for the congregation, or that is of dire need within the congregation as a matter of teaching, only to have it fall on deaf ears. Many preachers have quit because of fatigue and frustration, feeling that nothing they do has an impact and nobody appreciates their efforts.
This feeling is not unique to preachers either. There are many members who face the same frustrations and dilemmas. When an individual is striving to do what is right and seems to always fall just short of their desired goals, there is often the feeling of failure. Sometimes someone is striving to do their best, improve their service to God, and be what God would have him be, and it is then when one who is supposed to be their brother or sister in Christ comes and puts a stumbling-block in the individual’s way by telling them they shouldn’t be so ambitious, or they have no business trying to live their life in that manner; after all, nobody else in the congregation does it that way. Often that member just gives up and quits because it is felt that, no matter what is accomplished or how much is done, it will never be good enough.
In 1 Kings 19, God responds to Elijah in two ways. First, he sends Elijah to find Elisha, who will become his protégé (Vs. 16). Elijah will no longer be working by himself, but will have someone else with him along the way. Second, God makes sure Elijah understands that he is not the only one who loves and respects God in Israel. In fact, God tells Elijah that he still has 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed their knees to Baal (Vs. 18).
There are times in each of our lives where we feel we have failed. The failure may be because we have sinned and fallen short of what is expected of us by God. The failure may be one of perception, having done what was right to the best of our ability but not receiving the response or reception expected. In either case, the greatest failure is not sin, or perceived failure, but the unwillingness to, on the one hand correct the sin and continue the course; or, on the other hand, to give up because it is believed nobody cares and we have no impact.
Preachers: don’t ever give up. Proclaim the truth with all boldness and simplicity, working with all your might to lead others to Christ and to strengthen and encourage those who are already there to greater and more effective service. Always remember that, if we remain with truth, God is always with us, and there are still many preachers who have not bowed the knee to materialism, denominationalism, and false doctrine.
Servants of God: don’t ever give up. Live your lives in ever growing dedication to the standard of Scripture. The greatest stumbling-block lain before the Christian is often his own brethren. Remember that there are many others who are striving to do all that God has said, and only what God has said. They desire to be separate and distinct from the world, not assimilated into it. Keep your integrity and loyalty. Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you.
Don’t ever give up.