For 21 years I was a paramedic.
I’d put on the uniform, get in the road ambulance or medical helicopter, and respond to emergency calls for help, ranging from the most minor of falls to the most unspeakable of disasters. And despite extensive on-going training, and exposure to almost any situation you could conjure in your mind, that sense of heading to the scene and feeling unprepared for what lay ahead never went away.
As we journey through this global pandemic, the feeling of being unprepared as a pastor is very real and is very present.
From providing counselling sessions via Zoom, to preaching in empty halls or even your own living rooms, to passing worship teams in the hallway of make-shift recording studios at acceptable distances . . . pastors have suddenly found themselves positioned on the very frontline of a community that is crying out for help, and doing it without some of the tools of the trade we’ve used for so long.
In 1 Kings 17, we read where Elijah responds to a call from God, sent to help a widow in the village of Zarephath. The call is firm, yet also vague and unusual. In a time of drought, Elijah is to ask a widow to feed him: counter-cultural for the times, and counter-cultural for a minister of God.
As a paramedic working on the frontline, I rarely received clarity in the initial call for help. In fact, often the information received added more confusion, building up that feeling that I was unprepared for what I was about to step into.
Elijah does exactly what God tells him to do, and then is thrust into a situation that he neither asked for nor had the natural skills to deal with. The widow’s son would get sick, very sick, and we read in v17, “he grew worse and worse, and finally he died.” Elijah was not a doctor, a nurse or a paramedic; in fact I’m not sure he expected to be thrust onto the frontline of this kind of crisis. Yet here he was – faced with the dead son of a widow. In a desperate call to God, Elijah cries out to save the boy’s life, and God moves. The boy is raised back to life, as God responds to Elijah’s obedience and faith, even though he was unprepared on the frontline of a crisis.
You may not have signed up to be pastoring on the front line of a global pandemic, yet God chose you, and will use your obedience as healing for His people.
Elijah didn’t have the skills or training to deal with his situation either, but he responded to the call, and he had faith in God.
On so many occasions, I would fly into a situation feeling unsure of what to do next… but I knew then, and I know now, that God is on the throne, and He is always in control.