“You may never know that JESUS is all you need until JESUS is all you have.”
Corrie ten Boom
In our current church culture and climate, strength is often perceived as a desirable attribute. Whether it be standing up amidst a culture war or exhibiting fortitude in the face of strong headwinds, there is no denying that all of us would love to be as strong as many of the figures we see in the Bible. We read stories of Peter and John being imprisoned (Acts 4) for preaching the gospel and, when confronted with the government telling them to stop preaching, they took a bold stand and said, “We must obey God and not man.” When Paul was brought before Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa, he boldly proclaimed the gospel without fear or hesitation.
We can often read stories like this in the Bible and ask God to give us the same boldness in the face of uncertainty or even death. But may I posit to you that the reason Paul, Peter, John, and others, were seemingly so strong is that they had come face to face with their own frailty.
I am reminded of the story of Elijah. Elijah’s story is one that most of us are familiar with. Elijah was the prophet that God had called to turn his people back from the worship of Baal to the one true God of Israel. In arguably his most famous moment, Elijah is pitted against the priests and those who worship the false pagan idol of Baal. This scene of epic proportions is rife with majesty and the power of the one true God of Israel. In a demonstration of God’s power, Elijah douses his altar with a flood of water and then prays to God, saying,
“‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.’” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.’”
1 Kings 18:36-39
While this scene is one of great conquest and a palpable demonstration of God’s strength and power through Elijah, we must not forget how Elijah’s ministry began and where his power came from.
In 1 Kings 17, we see the beginnings of Elijah’s prophetic ministry. It is not one of great fanfare or strength. In fact, it is just the opposite. In verses 2-7, we read,
“And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’ So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. And after a while, the brook dried up because there was no rain in the land.”
Elijah’s ministry begins with being stripped of every earthly desire. He was to depend upon God alone for even his basic needs. In essence, God stripped Elijah of anything that he could use to rely upon himself and his own strength. God purposefully took away from Elijah self-reliance and personal strength in order to call Elijah to a fully surrendered life.
In fact, the word Cherith in Hebrew literally means “to cut off or to cut down.” In essence, God was telling Elijah that in order to use him the way that God had in store, he had to make sure that Elijah was well aware of where his power and strength would come from. Elijah needed to be cut off from everything so he was trusting in God alone for everything.
We see this same pattern with the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. He describes how his ‘thorn’ was used to make him totally reliant upon Christ.
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
It was Paul’s weakness that made him strong. However, the strength wasn’t found in himself. but in Christ.
I am not sure what you are going through at this time. I know that if we are serving Christ with our whole heart, we are going to be wrestling with the trials and tribulations of life. As I write this, I am conducting a memorial service this morning for a sweet 23-year-old woman in our church who tragically lost her life two weeks ago. I am broken for this beautiful family. I am broken for her husband of two years. I am broken for her parents who lost their baby girl. At this moment, they are fully reliant upon the grace and promises of the Lord Jesus. They are banking upon his promise to never leave us or forsake us. They are standing upon the knowledge that their baby girl is in the presence of her Creator. I am leaning upon the knowledge that, although I have never been through the loss of a child, the Lord will grant me his heart of compassion to see them through this difficult season.
We may know that with God all things are possible, yet we fail to realize sometimes that in order to see God do the impossible we need to disappear and rely upon him fully. He must increase, we must decrease.
I pray today that you are encouraged to disappear. I pray today that you will see the Lord more clearly in your life. Most of all, I pray that everyone who sees you recognizes Jesus in you. May the God of all creation be seen clearly in all of us.
This post originally appeared at: Total Dependence (like Elijah) — The Bonhoeffer Project
Because of the importance of intentionality in disciple making, we at Discipleship.org are going to emphasize this skill set and mindset over the next four months. Please join with us and seek to share understanding, insight, and practical tools so that you can become skilled at intentionality in relational disciple making and you can help those on your team or in your leadership group to do the same. There are four ways in which we are emphasizing intentionality to help you in the next four months.
- Discipleship.org City Tour Forums – our four City Tour Forums are designed to help you and your team both understand and develop an intentionality posture. The tour is comprised of one day, high impact forums where there will be teaching and round table discussions. Every attendee also gets a copy of Brandon Guindon’s new book, Intentional: Living Out the Eight Principles of Disciple Making.
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- Read Brandon Guindon’s book, Intentional: Living Out the Eight Principles of Disciple Making – Brandon wrote this Discipleship.org book and Zondervan is publishing, because the understanding and practice of disciple making is so crucial. Every attendee at each of our City Tour events (Nashville, Houston, Dallas and Raleigh), as mentioned above, will receive a FREE copy of Brandon Guindon’s book.
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Please join with us in this quest to better understand and practice intentionality. It will help us all to become more and more like Jesus, the world greatest disciple maker.