By Keith Boyette
November 24, 2021
Have you ever felt alone in standing resolutely for the Lord? That somehow God has focused His attention on some other part of creation, abandoning you to your circumstances? Certainly, the prophet Elijah felt that way. In 1 Kings 19, having defeated the prophets of Baal, Elijah is forced to flee because Queen Jezebel commanded he be killed. Alone in the desert, Elijah despairs because he believes he is the only faithful person left among God’s people. You know the rest of the story. God reveals that there are 7,000 others raised up by God who are standing faithfully in the gap. God is working in ways hidden to Elijah’s perception.
God is at work in creation in ways hidden to you and me. Before we are aware of a challenge, God is already at work accomplishing His will and making a way for us to be overcomers. His often unseen work continues until His plan is achieved. He defines what is victory and often He brings blessing out of what others perceived as defeat.
When we see circumstances only from our perspective, we depend too often on our resources alone. And when we believe the circumstance must be engaged with only our resources, sometimes we become anxious, discouraged, and defeated. In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul speaks to us in such times: “Don’t worry about anything: instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done” (4:6 NLT). God is already at work even before we become aware of the challenge. As we engage God in prayer and thank Him for what He has already done and is doing, our eyes are opened to acknowledge the God who works in the hidden places, who is always at work to advance His kingdom.
Here in the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving this week. Many cultures have special thanksgiving celebrations during their harvest seasons. Having been blessed with the bounty of the harvest, our thoughts naturally are filled with gratitude. Harvests, however, never happen unless seeds are planted. While the farmer labors in the field, it takes more than the investment of the farmer to produce a bountiful crop. God is at work in the soil which will nurture the seed before the seed is sown. He continues in unseen and often unacknowledged ways to labor as the seed matures to bring abundance from each little seed planted.
This reality encourages us in these days. God is at work in each of our lives and in the Methodist movement. We know the future is beyond our control. We can do our part to cultivate seeds we have planted. We have a choice. Weighed down with worry about every twist and turn in the journey, we can become paralyzed with anxiety. Or, we can be people of faith, trusting the God who is at work in unseen ways. Our prayers can declare our utter dependence on Him to meet our needs. We can give thanks for what God has already done and is doing. We can evidence our trust in God by living hopeful lives of joyful obedience.
Near the end of the Book of Isaiah, God delivers this word through the prophet, “[My people] will not work in vain, and their children will not be doomed to misfortune. For they are people blessed by the Lord, and their children, too, will be blessed. I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers” (65:23-24)!
Let us give thanks for the God who is always at work accomplishing His purposes even before we call on Him. Let us give thanks for the God who does not always clue us in to what He is doing just over the horizon of our perception. Let us give thanks for the God who understands the course of history and labors in and through us to establish the Kingdom of God. Let us give thanks for the God who, while we are still talking about our needs, goes ahead and answers our prayers. May we humbly align ourselves with what God is doing.
Let us “pray that God, the source of hope, will fill [us] completely with joy and peace because [we] trust in Him. Then [we] will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NLT).
The Rev. Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chairperson of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church (in formation). He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.