Monthly Archives: June 2022

I Alone am Left

I have often heard preachers speak disdainfully about Elijah’s depression when he felt that he was the only one left of those who were faithful to the Lord. (1Kings 19:14). Most of these preachers seem to have great difficulty having any sympathy for a man who, a few days before, had called fire down from heaven and who was now fleeing from a woman. Those who look down their noses at this discouraged and dejected prophet seem to pride themselves in their self-sufficiency and popularity. They have obviously never been in the hole where this great man of God found himself. They think that that makes them superior to a man who so acutely felt the hurt of rejection and loneliness.

What they seem to forget is that Elijah was not unique in his despair and loneliness. Almost every man of God in the Bible found themselves in a similar situation. Moses fled to the back side of the desert and spent 40 years looking after a bunch of wayward sheep until all his hopes and dreams of greatness and destiny had died. Can you imagine the fears, doubts and frustrations that Moses had to cope with as he had to come to terms with his lost privilege, and the apparent purposelessness of his existence as a nomad after having lived in the palaces of Egypt?

Job openly vented his frustrations in chapter after chapter of complaint after losing everything except a wife who berated him for his misfortune and three “friends” who accused him of all sorts of imaginary sins. As you read through the prophets of the Old Testament, you will find that every single one of them felt the pain of loneliness and of hopelessness as they watched everyone around them forsake the Living God for dumb idols. Not one of these men was popular and many of them were imprisoned by the kings and falsely accused by the hordes of false prophets of the time. Many of them were forbidden to preach and thus resorted to writing their prophecies down.

The New Testament opens with the account of John the Baptist who boldly announced Jesus as the Messiah. Yet, soon after, he is thrown into prison where his hope and faith slowly ebbed away until he even questioned whether Jesus was indeed the Promised One. (Matthew 11:3). At the end of Paul’s ministry he looked around and discovered that he and Timothy were the only ones of the many preachers who were likeminded and that all the rest were seeking their own interests. (Philippians 2:21). After one of his hearings in Rome he seems to feel the same as Elijah did when he said: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.” (2Timothy 4:16). The last prophets in the Bible are no different. John was banished and alone on Patmos and the final two prophets will be rejected and killed on the streets of Jerusalem.

Even Jesus was not immune to the pain of rejection. One day thousands were following Him and enjoying the free meals he was providing. A few days later he was preaching in Capernaum when people began to turn their backs on Him and forsake Him until He seemed to be left with only the Twelve. I can imagine the discouragement in His voice as He turned to them and asked “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:68). Can you begin to understand the disappointment and abandonment in His eye as He turned to look at Peter who three times denied that he even knew Jesus? As He hung on the Cross, almost everyone forsook Him and finally, even His Father turned His back on Him.

Elijah’s experience was not unique; it was common to every man of God throughout the Bible. And it is no different today. Those who will stand for, and speak, the truth are not popular but are often slandered, rejected and pitied. Jesus said it would be so. “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:20,21)

So when preachers try to make light of the despondency and despair that many of us feel, they are simply declaring that they are not following in the footsteps of the One Who was “despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” (Isaiah 53:3). Don’t allow them to get to you. When the accuser of the brethren tries to discourage you because you are not popular and lays a guilt trip on you, rejoice because you are found worthy to be made a partaker of His sufferings. (1Peter 4:13).

It is in the darkness and emptiness of discouragement, disappointment and abandonment, that we truly discover that Friend Who sticks closer than a brother. When we look around and see people falling away and turning aside one by one, may we be encouraged by His promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

True Christians and true Christian leaders are not politicians whose success is measured by their popularity. We should never allow this worldly mindset to cause us to feel that we have failed just because the crowds don’t embrace us. Our success is measured by One alone and He is not looking for those who are most popular but for those who are most faithful. One of the curses that has come upon the church today, is the view that a preacher or a church can be measured by its size and popularity. This was never God’s measure. Noah was one in a whole world. Only two out of 600,000 Israelites entered the Promised Land. Of the thousands of Judah who were in Babylon, only three did not bow before the golden image. Jesus’ ministry in Judea produced only 120 in the upper room and Paul and Timothy were the only two of that generation whose ministry did not center on themselves. It is no different today. Do you want everyone to think you are wonderful and thus be rejected by Him who called you, or do you want to discover intimate fellowship with the Fourth Man in the furnace?

I know it is not easy and it is never comfortable when for the umpteenth time someone turns away from you. But the Lord is faithful and as Elijah cried to the Lord, the Lord met with Him. The Lord also assured Elijah, as He does us, that there are others who have also remained faithful and that there will be those who will carry the work forward after we pass on. (1Kings 19:16).

Be strong and of good courage… for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Anton Bosch
March 2010
Updated June 2022

Stop The Preaching!

I often hear it said that the greatest need of the church today is the need for sound Bible teaching and preaching. There is no doubt that there is a tremendous shortage of sound teaching and we are indeed living in the time of the famine of the Word as predicted by the prophet (Amos 8:11). Even though we have dozens of “christian” television stations, millions of “christian” books and sermons on YouTube, and thousands of preachers in the world, there is not a lot of good, sound and orthodox teaching. But is that the greatest need in the church today? I don’t think so.

The greatest need among Christians is not for more teaching, even though good teaching is necessary. It is also not for more churches, more fire in the pulpit, or for more programs. What the church needs today, more than ever, is simple obedience. Yes, that’s what you, I, and every Christian, needs more of. If all teaching and all preaching stopped today and we all began to put into practice the things we already know, we would be busy until the Lord comes and the church would be revolutionized. I am absolutely convinced that every Christian in the Western World, could probably compile a list of at least 100 scriptures that he has not yet been obedient to. While some of those things could take only a few minutes to implement, a lot of them will keep us busy for a very long time.

What percentage of folk who sit in the average congregation leave the meeting with the firm intention of doing what they have heard? Ten percent, five percent or one percent? Of those who actually intend to do what they heard on Sunday, how many have obeyed or still intend to be obedient by Monday lunch time? One, five or ten percent? And by the next Saturday how many have been doers? I guess that the percentage is a small fraction of one percent! As a preacher I wish I had the courage to not preach another message until at least half the assembly actually put into practice what was last preached! Recently I heard that parents are now suing schools when the school will not advance a child to the next grade, even if the child has not even attended class during that year! How ridiculous. Yet, as Christians we expect to advance to the next class every Sunday even though we failed every test from the previous week!

So why do we want more teaching and preaching when we have not applied a fraction of what we already know? There are two reasons. The first is pride. No student wants to be held back or be failed when his friends advance. We all want to sit with the big boys, as though we belong there, and we especially don’t like to be seen to not be making the grade. So, we simply act as though we are learning and progressing when in reality we are way behind God’s schedule for our lives. Thus we come to the meetings week by week like Saul and say: “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1Samuel 15:13). I wish I had the courage of Samuel to reply: “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear” (1Samuel 15:14). Can you imagine what would happen if your leaders were to stand at the entrance next Sunday and ask each one whether they did what the Lord had commanded? I can indeed imagine. That will be the fastest a church either closed its doors or the fastest a church experienced revival. But why do I suspect that the first is more likely? Another thing I wish I had the courage to do, is to preach the same message every week until folk begin to obey the Word! Yes, it is pointless for preachers to keep preparing a new message every week when the previous one was simply ignored.

The second reason why we want ever more teaching and preaching is because each new message helps us forget our disobedience, and we hope that each new message will bring some kind of absolution for our previous disobedience. So we flip the channels of the repertoire of messages, hoping to find a message we really like. Often that message is the one which is least searching and contains just comfort and encouragement.

One of the reasons why many preachers are popular today is because they only preach the “easy” messages. Preachers who preach non-threatening, non-demanding, ear-tickling messages that make people feel good and make them feel there is no need for change, fill their churches with thousands of spectators who come to be entertained. But Christianity is not a spectator thing, it is a participation thing. Real Christianity is about doing not just listening. How many of us would be believers today if it were not for someone actually doing something about their faith and thus impacting our lives? Each of us is the product of a number of others who were faithful and actually did what the Lord told them – praying, preaching, witnessing, inviting and so on.

James says that those who only hear and do not do, deceive themselves. (James 1:22). We are not deceiving the Lord, because He knows exactly what is not going on. Neither do we deceive those around us because they can clearly see the lack of change and the barrenness that comes from our disobedience. The only one who thinks that everything is wonderful is the disobedient one. Off course some feel very comforted by the fact that there are many others like him. And yet others will even erect monuments to their disobedience – just like Saul (1Samuel 15:12). Saul had become so hardened in his disobedience that he could no longer see the difference between obedience and disobedience.

Some may contend that it is unbiblical to call for a stop to preaching. Is it really? Do you know that the Lord once cried out for a man who would have the courage to close the temple down! He said He was tired of Israel’s half-hearted attempt at worshiping Him and said it were better that there be no sacrifice to Him than the people continue to worship Him with their dregs! (Malachi 1:7-11) I am sure that if Malachi lived today he would call for church meetings to be closed down since what we are doing is not different to what Israel was doing when they brought the Lord their cripple and diseased animals as a sacrifice.

There may be some who disregard this message because it sounds like the writer is frustrated. Well, wouldn’t you be frustrated if you had to preach the same message week after week while everyone ignored you? But I am not frustrated. I have long ago learned that I am not preaching to the whole congregation but I preach to the one or two who have ears to hear! Are you one of those who will hear and who will do what He requires today?

He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25)