Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mantles

"Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away."  I Kings 19:19

     I think the character I identify most with in scripture is the prophet Elijah. He was a man who had a very unique ministry. In the Lord's name, he defeated the prophets of Baal, brought the dead back to life, and miraculously increased the widow's flour and oil in time of drought. But like me, the one area Elijah failed in was the effects of a wicked woman's harsh words on his spirit. After performing a great work in destroying the prophets of Baal, the threatening words of Jezebel crushed his spirit and sent him into hiding.

     Elijah's response to her death threat was to disappear in the wilderness, at which time he told God, "
I have had enough, Lord...take my life..." God provided for him in that wilderness with bread and water -- exactly what he needed to survive this wilderness experience. No more; no less. Then forty days later he found himself in alone, in a cave, on Mount Sinai.  And it was during this experience that he heard God. And from the LORD, he got both a question and an answer. The question was, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah had a very humanistic answer and spoke bluntly to God about how he felt about his situation. But the answer he got from God was not one he had foreseen. God basically told him that he was not as alone as he thought he was. In fact, there were 7000 people in Israel who had not bowed down to worship Baal and who were, in fact, still useful to God in supporting Elijah in his prophetic ministry. 

     In the end, we see Elijah passing his mantle onto a man of God's own choice, to carry on the prophetic ministry in Israel.  This man was Elisha, who would go on to do great works in the Lord's name also, carrying on the ministry of the one who went before him.  

     In the same way Elijah felt alone, I too have felt very alone. I have longed for a partner in ministry and a friend with whom to share my experiences and grow with where I am at here in the North.  But it never happened. Five years and it never happened. I have questioned God much on what he was doing in my life by having me alone for this time.  But in thinking about this issue recently, I conclude that after this time, God has fed me with exactly what I needed to survive so he could prepare me (and those around me) for the next step in time.  I have survived by the grace of God, and now it is time to pass the mantle onto someone else.  But whom???

     In God's sovereignty, there has been an eternal plan at work.  God is active in building his Kingdom in ways man cannot see. He does not haphazardly throw the dice and let the chips fall where they want.  He is so involved and his perfect plan unfolds in exactly the right way.  

     I must state here that after many months of anticipation, I have been approved a year leave of absence from my job and will, if God permits, be spending my year in Hampton, New Brunswick.  There were many things which could have potentially put a stop to my request for leave.  But one by one they all were moved to the wayside and God opened the pathway for me to leave my northern home, for at least one year.  So in 26 days, I will leave this place and potentially never return again. I am sad to leave, as I have formed friendships with the children and my coworkers that I will surely miss.

     I was reminded by the Spirit yesterday of the scripture in I Corinthians 3 where Paul states, "
I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow." And I was shown that in my strong desire for fellowship, I was only thinking of myself.  Does God want his children in fellowship? Yes, without a doubt. But sometimes there are wildernesses or mountain caves where we find ourselves alone, but in which God will sustain us until it is time to pass the mantle, as Elijah did to Elisha.  God formed a ministry team where Elijah once saw none possible.  

     I ask whom I will pass my 'mantle' onto.  I don't profess to have a perfect record of living these five years. As I wrote in an earlier blog, I have failed in many areas. Yet God has sustained me and brought me through.  In the past week, many things I consider to be nothing short of miracles have happened in my immediate life.  First, I was approved to leave Akulivik. This is miracle number one.  Second, in the same week that this has happened, another teacher has come to our village to replace a teacher who is unable to finish the year.  There's one month of school remaining, remember? And as I have learned about this young woman, I find she is a believer in Jesus Christ and has a love for the Lord and a desire for ministry. This is miracle number two.  

     "Really, God? You couldn't have brought her along before now? I mean, in five years, and to the best of my knowledge, there has not been one non-Inuit believer in my village. I've been alone. And you wait until NOW to bring this person here?" Yeah, that was my initial response. But in thinking about this, I came to see that for my time, God has used me to do some planting. But now its time for someone else to take over and do some watering.  And in the end, it is God who will bring about the real spiritual fruit in someone's life.

     I am not responsible for carrying the weight of the spiritual needs of all people of all time. But I am called to be faithful in the place and time I find myself for the duration God has me there. And when the time comes, I must believe that God is active in building his Kingdom and that he will not leave his name unrepresented.  I will pray for my 'Elisha' that she will be filled with the Holy Spirit and that she will stand for truth and live the righteousness of Christ before her students and coworkers and that when she is alone in the wilderness and feels she can't go on that the Lord will then meet her and feed her with bread and water as he has for me.

     God is a powerful God who works in very strange ways. I don't need to understand these ways, but rejoice that I have been able to have some small part in the lives of people and that through intercessory prayer from thousands of kilometers away, I will continue to have a part in the lives of my friends and be a supporter of the ministry of my new found sister in Christ. God be praised. 

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