Occupational hazard is a very common expression in our society that refers to potential risks, dangers, or perils associated with one’s job or profession.  For example, people who work with asbestos run the risk of developing lung cancer later on in life; roofers run the risk of falls and injuries. In general, most professions, if not all, have associated risks. 

 So are there associated risks with Christian Service (Ministry)?  The answer is a resounding yes! There are associated risks for just being a Christian; Jesus warned, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV). The early Church was bitterly persecuted, and the hymn writer captured it this way, “Mocked, imprisoned, stoned, tormented, sawn asunder, slain with sword.” The Church today still faces persecution in horrible ways, including isolation and being disowned by loved ones. Persecution and the like, in themselves, as harsh as they sound are really not the worse hazard associated with Christian Ministry.

 The worst I believe, is DISCOURAGEMENT, which can happen to any Christian, no matter how spiritually maturedBut how does one arrive at discouragement? Discouragement creeps into our lives for various reasons and at different times. Discouragement can result when there’s not enough support or cheering on (encouragement), not enough supplies to work with, obstacles and threats in the way, and the absence of fruit. Discouragement, if not appropriately addressed can lead to despondency and throwing in the towel.      

 First Kings 18 recaps for us the contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah challenged those prophets to call on Baal to send down fire to consume their sacrifice, which of course didn’t happen. On the other hand, God answered Elijah’s prayer! When he called, fire came down from heaven, burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. After demonstrating that, “The Lord--He is God! The Lord--He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39 NIV), Elijah had Baal’s prophets killed. King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel swore to kill Elijah in revenge. So what did Elijah do? He ran for his life; he went into hiding! He was so discouraged, he wanted to die. This was his prayer, “I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4 NIV).

 Elijah was exhausted, persecuted, and afraid, which then led to discouragement, to the point of wishing he were dead. Could it be that he had no prayer support? Maybe! Before Elijah was discouraged, he was fine.  He had challenged the people, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21 NIV). He had also  challenged the king without fear of punishment, telling him, he and his father’s house had made trouble for Israel (see 1 Kings 18:18), and then taunted the prophets of Baal about their god who could be asleep, deep in thought, busy, or travelling (see 1 Kings 18:27). Discouragement however, changed everything for him; he threw in the towel!

 Discouragement can be a serious occupational hazard in Christian Ministry.  Let us remember to pray for one another, for our Missionaries, and for our pastors. Let us cheer them on, and if at all possible, make sure they have all they need to get job done!