The last two lessons I have delivered to our Sunday School class have focused on the ministry of Elijah.
In the first lesson, Elijah presided over what had to be at least among the pinnacles of the high points in his ministry. He had called on Yahweh to show Himself to be the true God of Israel by sending fire from Heaven to devour His sacrifice … and He did!
Then, immediately, in the second lesson [which was on the same day, by the way], He suffered what had to be the lowest of the low points of his life – an immediate meltdown in every way he could have melted down. He wilted, caved, panicked, tucked his tail between his legs, bolted, and ran for his life when Jezebel put out a hit on him.
In both of these lessons, I have repeatedly reminded our class that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” [James 5.17]. In addition to all the lessons we need to learn about God’s preparations for His coming Kingdom, the Christ, and the Gospel, James also gives us this personal commentary on Elijah’s human nature to reinforce our own personal faith, trust, and confidence in God, especially in matters of our praying.
He does so by opening this window into Elijah’s personal mind, feelings, and emotions [‘psyche,’ if you will]. [This word, homoipathees is used only one other time in the NT, Acts 14.15, where Paul pleads that he and Barnabas are of the same human nature as the Lystrans.] James takes us back to this whole Elijah story to show us that Elijah struggled with real life in real ways … just like we do. And, he didn’t always do so well – and neither do we.
When I have presented this aspect of Elijah’s human nature, I have turned it around to state the converse also: we, too, have a nature like Elijah’s. Which means: we, too, are subject to the fluctuations, vicissitudes, ebbs and flows, ups and downs in our own natures and experiences. And sometimes, they can turn from one polar point to the opposite just with thinking a thought or hearing a word or feeling an emotion.
Then, to take it one step further, given Elijah’s prominence of leadership in both these instances, my mind inevitably turns to our Pastors, and I think of them. We depend upon our Pastors to lead us and pray for us – like Elijah did for Israel.
But, do you pray for your Pastor[s]? And do you remember that your Pastor [or, in our case, Pastors] is “a man with a nature like ours,” too! Here was Elijah, pouring out his heart and life for Israel … even putting his life on the line for them. Wonder if any one of them even thought about praying for him.
Maybe you don’t think like that or that way. But he is. Maybe you’ve assumed too often and too much that your Pastor is ‘a man of steel,’ a man with a bullet-proof nature much different than yours, that he somehow lives above all the struggles that we struggle with day by day, impervious to all the weaknesses that plague us. That somehow, he is gifted with a “spiritual cruise control” that he can set on “mountain top experience speed” and maybe even on “auto steer” and just lean back in his driver’s seat and enjoy the scenery as he keeps going at maximum ministry speed.
Maybe we’ve forgotten or overlooked that your Pastor is just “a man with a nature like ours.” That he, too, has a life, and he has to live it every day just like we do … he lives in a house just like we do … he has a family just like we do … and many daily responsibilities just like we do other than his ministry to us … and he is subject to the same temptations, the same brokennesses, the same disorders, the same dysfunctions, the same messinesses of life, the same ups and downs, maybe even the same loneliness that we are subject to at times. Seasons of discouragement, physical weakness and exhaustion, mental stresses [many of them over us], overloaded and overwhelmed, spiritual dryness or ‘dark nights of the soul.’ We really don’t know what all…
You don’t know what your Pastor is dealing with today. And you don’t have to. But he knows – he’s right in the middle of it all. And his spouse knows also. And she’s struggling with her own.
So, right now – why don’t you think of your Pastor[s] and his wife – and pray for them, each one by name, just like you are expecting that he is praying for you?
And, as you are struggling with your own nature and all the deficiencies of it … just remember that your Pastor is “a man with a nature like ours.”