Do you feel like you’ve nothing more to give, like you’ve come to the end of yourself? Maybe you’ve felt like that in the past, maybe you feel that way now. There’s a good chance that you are going to know that feeling at some point in the future.
It’s that feeling that you can’t go on. You’ve put all your energies into something and there’s nothing left. You are emotionally and physically exhausted. You’ve nothing more to give to work, ministry or family.
I want to suggest that this may actually be a good place to be even though it feels anything but that. Why?
Before becoming a pastor, I worked in the Engineering and Manufacturing sector. One of my responsibilities was delivering Business Improvement programmes. The part of the business where I worked needed to change, there were significant underlying issues but these were masked because at that time we were making good margins and everyone thought we were doing okay. Some of us could see that this would not last but it was hard to persuade people that we needed change. At one point, I visited a factory up in Edinburgh. It was an amazing model of efficiency and effectiveness. The manager explained that a couple of years earlier they were nearly closed down. He had stood up on a workbench and said to the workforce “We have a choice, we either change or die.” They could see the reality and so responded willingly.
Human nature means that we will keep going, we will keep trying to find our own solutions, we will hope that something turns up. We don’t like to admit defeat, we don’t like to ask for help. This is true for individuals and for churches too. A church can keep going and ignore the fact it is dying. Individually and together we can put our trust in our own abilities to find solutions.
When you reach the end of yourself, you realise that you can’t sort things out. You need help from outside.
In the Old Testament there are two accounts of people that had come to the end of themselves. In 1 Kings 17:7-16, Elijah goes to stay with a woman who is down to her last jar of oil and last portion of flour. In 2 Kings 4, Elisha meets a widow. The creditors are at the door, she is about to sell her sons into slavery. She has nothing else left to give, just some olive oil. In both situations, we see God work an incredible miracle, for the one continuing to provide so that the oil and flour do not run out, for the other providing oil that fills lots and lots of containers that she can sell on.
They were at the end of their resources and that pushed them to total dependence on God. That’s where we need to be. When I’ve got nothing left to give, it pushes me to the point where I have to be completely dependent on God. When I realise that the task is far greater than what I have to give, it pushes me to prayer. When a local church realises that it is far too small in the fce of the great mission task in its community, it pushes the church to prayer.