How Bad Days Made Me a Missionary

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There are many lessons the Lord taught me as a teenager that helped prepare for ministry, but few were more important than the one I learned my Junior year of High School…there will always be bad days to go along with the good ones.

Two years before my junior year God had challenged me to give Him complete control of my life.  This was frightening since I didn’t feel like the Lord could use me (I didn’t have any ability) but on Easter Sunday Night 1992 a commitment was made that eventually led me to Australia as a Missionary fifteen years later.

In 1993 God proved once and for all I wasn’t worthless when a simple devotional shared in front of friends was sent to every classroom in the school a week later over the PA system.  Entering my junior year the transformation had been made from someone who had the social life of a large rock in the ninth grade, to an elected leader of the student body.

In my case this position (referred to as “Student Body Chaplain”) gave me the chance to share three five-minute devotionals a day.  This was an absolute dream for me since I enjoy teaching others the truths of Scripture, and am blessed with the ability to connect with people through speaking.  Some people hate speaking in front of large crowds but I absolutely love it, and looked forward to the opportunity.

That year was supposed to be an absolute dream…

So why did I want to quit a few months later?

The problem was with my expecting that year of leadership to go as smoothly as the year before.  When people stopped attending the Bible studies and began criticizing decisions I was taken completely by surprise.  Over time this turned into shock, frustration, and finally discouragement.

I can remember leaning against a locker two months after the year started and crying my eyes out while asking God why everybody hated me (of course they didn’t, but in my mind they did).

There is a story in the Old Testament that much like mine sees a strong confident man become overwhelmed by fear because things didn’t work out the way he expected.  It’s found in I Kings 19 after wicked Queen Jezebel learned that God’s prophet Elijah had done in killing her priests.

  1Kings 19:1   And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 

 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, so let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. 

 3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.

 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down  under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

Elijah was a very strong and courageous man who had just gotten finished confidently standing against four-hundred and fifty prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:25-36), killing all of them (18:39-40), and praying down rain for the first time in months (18:41-45).  Yet we see a very different man in 1 Kings 19:3.

We see a frightened man who instead of facing the queen runs away.

We see a man who flees all the way to Beersheba (traveling for days) for fear that a leader in another one of the cities may kill him.

We see a man who leaves his servant there (not trusting him) and travels for another day into the wilderness (19:4) then after reaching physical and emotional exhaustion asks God to take his life (19:4).

So how did Elijah go from victorious warrior to gutless coward in one day?  He didn’t expect any challenges in his life and ministry after the victory on Mount Bethel.

Elijah felt that it would all be smooth sailing from that point on, so the death threat of Jezebel made him forget the power and provision of God that had been so prominently displayed in chapter eighteen.

Thankfully the Lord was gracious to Elijah in his time or depression and instead of giving death provided much needed strength and rest…eventually revealing to him that there were others who had not bowed down to Baal, and leading Elijah to his follower Elisha.

The good news is God is faithful to give Grace and Peace in our darkest moments just like He did for Elijah.  But this doesn’t change the fact that painful experiences are a part of life, especially as we take the Gospel to those who don’t know Christ (this puts us on the front line of spiritual battle).

While the setbacks of my junior year were painful (I eventually got used to leadership challenges) I’m incredibly thankful for it, because that experience taught me to expect hardship.  That lesson came in very useful when arriving as a Missionary in Australia, so when the hard days came, with the Lord’s help I was ready for them.

Published by

John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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