Recently I’ve had several conversations about the state of our country that have ended with a bewildered shrug. We clearly see a problem or concern, but the answer seems impossible. No one knows what to do about it. The conversation stalls. Finally, a shrug and a change of subject.
That’s when I realize that we need to look up instead of looking around, and I remind my conversation partners that God has more people following him than we realize, that he is in control and that in his Kingdom work goes on without regard for news headlines. Each time they responded with comments that said, in essence, Thanks. I needed that.
The few who make the headlines are not as powerful as the many who follow God.
That may be hard for you to believe, but it’s true. I know this because of Elijah.
Elijah was once convinced that he was all alone, that everyone else had rejected God and that it was hopeless. He had just pulled off one of the greatest testaments to God’s power when he prayed for fire to burn a thoroughly drenched sacrifice (1 Kings 18:16-46), but from his perspective nothing had changed. He must have thought this display would make the king pay attention. It hadn’t. The king and his wife, Jezebel, had vowed to kill Elijah leading an exhausted, lonely and discouraged Elijah to sit under a broom tree and pray that he would die.
In a beautiful scene, an angel made him dinner. Twice. Then Elijah ran to Horeb, the mountain of God, and went to sleep in a cave. The Lord asked him what he was doing there, and Elijah responded,
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. (I Kings 19:10)
The Lord told him to go out and watch for the Lord to pass by. Elijah didn’t find him in the wind, an earthquake or a fire. The Lord spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper.
Then the Lord said,
I reserve seven thousand in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:18)
Elijah thought he was the only one faithfully serving God and that his three year drought and fiery show down were fruitless, but God wasn’t phased at all. He had a plan, he was, and is, always working, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. We don’t.
When I read the newspaper, I just shake my head. It gets more bizarre every day. I constantly need the reminder that God has millions of people who love and follow him.
What if there were seven thousand people serving the Lord for every one of us who is tempted to give up with a shrug? Jesus said that his Kingdom is like a mustard seed; it starts small and grows. He said that it’s like yeast working its way into dough affecting the whole batch. Jesus told us that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is one who has become like a little child. We’re also told that it’s difficult for someone who is rich to enter God’s kingdom.
Nowhere does he say that movers and shakers are the only ones through whom he works. Of course, he can and does as he wills, but in general I believe he works slowly, quietly, and through average folks like you and me.
It’s difficult to get our heads around that, but I believe just like yeast influences the entire batch of dough that when we take Jesus into our work, interactions and relationships the consequences may not be seen as obviously as headlines, but he is raising the hearts and actions of people.
Elijah was a mover and a shaker, but there were seven thousand other believers through whom God was just as active. God can and does use every individual, by faith and according to the gifts he has given them, in his Kingdom work.
Never forget that. Next time you’re in a conversation that ends with a shrug, remind your partners that God is busy leading millions of believers for his glory.