If you had to pick one story in the Bible as a model of “ministry success,” which would you choose? Personally, I can’t think of anything more dynamic than Elijah’s victory over the false prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. In the space of one chapter, the prophet singlehandedly purifies the nation of idolatry, sparks a grassroots revival among God’s people, and brings the three-and-a-half year drought to an end. Not a bad day!
But we often forget Elijah’s ministry didn’t begin that day. Before he could summon fire from heaven at Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18, he had to pass through a painful season out in the wilderness in 1 Kings 17. In most of our ministries, as in Elijah’s, there will be no 1 Kings 18 power without 1 Kings 17 preparation. Of course, it’d be nice if ministry meant 1 Kings 18 fire-from-heaven power from start to finish! But most of our ministries can likely relate better to the metaphors of 1 Kings 17: hanging on until the ravens come again, trusting the jug and jar won’t run out tomorrow, scraping by until the drought finally ends, wondering why God hasn’t removed corrupt Ahab, and, all the while, waiting, waiting, waiting.
Wilderness seasons are brutal. But God is powerfully at work in the 1 Kings 17 seasons of our lives. The only question is, do we have eyes to see it?