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The Cave: Every Pastors Nightmare

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I pastored over 8 years.  From my recollection, that’s over 400+ sermons, not including ten years of Bible Studies approximately 45 weeks of the year.  All this while newly married, raising a new born son, attending seminary and working full-time in the secular world.  I thought I was made of iron, flexing my spiritual muscles when necessary in front of my congregation, leaders and family and then I hit my cave.  The cave is the place a pastor visits when he has just experienced a ministerial high and feels too depressed to continue or go on.

When I read the story of Elijah in the Bible, I am intrigued by his “cave” moment in 1Kings 19.  The prophet of God has just experienced one of his most victorious ministry moments, when the Lord heard his cry to send fire from heaven and burn the sacrifice on the altar (1Kings 18:38).  In front of the false prophets of Baal, Elijah had surely proven that his God was all-powerful and all-sufficient. He immediately requests these false prophets to be seized and executed. But when the man of God finds out Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, had gotten word of his valiant action and seeks to execute him, he runs for his life, ending up in Horeb, the mountain of God (1Kings 19:8).  It is in this place where Elijah enters a cave, depressed and in anguish.  He cries out to the Lord, claiming he alone is left. Then the Lord speaks to his servant, calling Elijah out of the cave.  The Bible says in 1Kings 19:13, the Lord called out to Elijah and asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?

When I first read this Scripture, my spirit jumped.  I felt the Holy Spirit immediately remind me that leaders in God’s kingdom will eventually face a cave.  These caves are meant to bring fear upon the shepherd, doubting his ministry, church and even calling.  It is in these caves that God shows up, revealing His power to us (wind, earthquake and fire) but eventually reminding us that it is His “still small voice” that brings inner peace to every cave moment. 

I have been victim of crippling fear in my pastoral ministry.  Every pastor has probably faced a moment of fear at one point or another.  We run to our caves, sometimes places that distance ourselves from His presence.  Jesus reminds us the enemy comes to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).  He comes to steal our joy, kill our vision and destroy our ministries.  But Jesus then says in that same verse, “But I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” Immediately exiting the cave, Elijah was told to visit a prophet-to-be, Elisha in the fields.  This apprentice followed his mentor until it was his time to take his mantle and become the next great prophet of Israel.  You are never alone; there is always an Elisha nearby doing the work of God in the fields.

Pastor, if you are in a cave right now, I encourage you to do the following:

1. Are you listening to the voices of fear or the still small voice that can only be found in intimacy with the Father?  When that voice comes, be ready to leave the cave.

2. Do you think you are the only pastor left to do the work of God?  Remember, God reminded Elijah there were 7,000 other prophets in Israel that had not bowed down to Baal.

3.Who are you mentoring?  Part of your precious calling is passing down the anointing upon your life to those around you.  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal dedicated and humble people around you to learn and grow from your ministry.

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