“Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” (I Kings 17:24).
I think it was Freud who said no one has ever answered the question “what does a woman want?”
What does a pastor want? I mean, other than a little appreciation, a day off without the phone ringing, and a staff made up of faithful ministers.
As much as anything ever, your pastor longs–has a deep burning desire–for people to acknowledge that he is a man of God and that when he stands to preach, the message is from God and is truth.
That’s what the widow of Zarephath testified concerning Elijah. Most of us would say, that’s as good as it gets.
This happened during a time of great apostasy in Israel and along with it, a devastating drought. For a time, God had the ravens feed Elijah–the man on the spot, hunted relentlessly by King Ahab–and the brook Cherith to supply him with drink. When the brook dried up, God sent His man to the area of Sidon (present day Lebanon) where a widow would provide for him.
The problem is God had not bothered to tell the widow.
Elijah arrived to discover this poor lady was at her wit’s end. She was outside in the yard gathering sticks for a last fire over which she would bake the last flour in her humble house. The plan, she told the prophet, was to “eat it and die.”
And this was the woman scheduled to provide for Elijah? God does have His unique ways, doesn’t He?
The story, which you may read and enjoy for yourself, is found here in the 17th chapter of I Kings. Elijah asked her to bake him some of the bread first, then provide for herself and her son. She did as he instructed, and thus saw God’s hand at work in providing for her family’s needs throughout the famine.
At a later time–we’re not given a time frame–the woman’s son became seriously ill and seems to have died. Elijah heard about it and came to her house. We’re puzzled by the woman’s attitude (v. 18), but the prophet ignored her complaints and went to work.
Soon, in answer to his prayer, Elijah presented the child back to his mother, alive and well.
That’s when she made that magnificent statement, affirming that Elijah was indeed a man of God and that his word was God’s word and thus was truth.
How can the congregation know this about the pastor?
Here are the principles–the answer–found in the Elijah story.
1) To know you are a man of God, pastor, people need to see your faith.
It was one thing for Elijah to make grand pronouncements about the God-ordained drought (see James 5:17-18), but when he experienced the hardship along with the rest of the population and did so in obedience to God, he made his point.
2) To know you are a man of God, people need to know your word is true.
“The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah” (I Kings 17:16).
When your word lines up with the word of God, you will win the respect of the godly crowd.
3) To know you are a man of God, people need to see your calm spirit.
When the woman accosted the prophet, demanding answers in a harsh tone, Elijah did not panic. He did not try to calm her or put her in her place or teach her a thing or two about faith. He knew what the woman needed was not arguments but action. She needed to see her child living.
4) To know you are a man of God, people need to know you are a man of prayer.
In the upper room, the prophet laid out the child and lifted up his voice to the Heavens: “O Lord my God, I pray Thee, let this child’s life return to him.” (17:21)
No congregation knows at first glance whether the new minister is solid and godly, but in time, as they behold the strength of his faith, the purity of his word, the sweetness of his spirit, and the force of his prayers, they will know.
A wise minister will not pull rank and insist on being respected because after all, “I am the God-sent shepherd.” He will give the flock time to learn him and know that he is trustworthy.
When they come to this conclusion, the minister has a great foundation from which to do a wonderful work for God.
Such a confidence from the congregation, pastor, is not a gift of their graciousness; it is an admission of the presence and power of God in your life. And it’s a wonderful thing.
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About Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever says he has written dozens of books, but has published none. That refers to the 1,000+ articles on various subjects (prayer, leadership, church, pastors) that can be found on his website -- joemckeever.com -- and which are reprinted by online publications everywhere. His articles appear in a number of textbooks and other collections. Retired from "official" ministry since the summer of 2009, Joe stays busy drawing a daily cartoon for Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net), as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, writing for Baptist MenOnline for the North American Mission Board, and preaching/drawing/etc for conventions and churches across America. Over a 42 year period, McKeever pastored 6 churches (the last three were the First Baptist Churches of Columbus, MS; Charlotte, NC; and Kenner, LA). Followed by 5 years as Director of Missions for the 135 SBC churches of metro New Orleans, during which hurricane katrina devastated the city and destroyed many churches. Joe is married to Margaret, the father of three adults, and the proud grandfather of eight terrific young people. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College (History, 1962), and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Masters in Church History, 1967, and Doctorate of Ministry in Evangelism, 1973). Joe's father was a coal miner who married a farmer's daughter. Carl and Lois McKeever, both of whom lived past 95 years of age, produced 6 children, with Joe and Ronnie being ministers. Joe grew up near Nauvoo, Alabama, and attended high school at Double Springs. Joe's life verse is Job 4:4, "Your words have stood men on their feet."
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