Unnecessary Martyrdom

 In Blog, Daniel Cavanaugh

It’s the middle of the week, and I am right in the middle of all the mounds of details and to-do’s for the ministry. Things are not going as I would like or planned.  The design project is running a bit behind, there is a mound of paperwork that needs to be done, emails to be answered, and, though I am organized, it just doesn’t feel like its going to happen.  I am completely overwhelmed.  Then it kicks in: the pity party. NO one has it as hard as I do. NO one realizes the sacrifices that I make in order to keep this ministry going. NO one really cares. I am the only one out there slaving for the kingdom.


Does this sound like someone else you know?


I call this the “Elijah syndrome”. In the book of 1 Kings, we read the account of the prophet Elijah and his defeat of the prophets of Bail on Mount Carmel. He is then runs because the wicked queen Jezebel is less than happy with his conquest. Even though God has just shown himself strong at Mount Carmel, Elijah is overcome with fear and depression and pulls away to sulk and whine. Then the Lord comes to Elijah and says, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” His response is classic.


“I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”


This is so me sometimes. How many times has my response been exactly like Elijah?  I am sure you could say the same. However, we serve an amazing God who with grace and mercy reveals to us the truth we have missed.  By His Spirit, He reveals that we are not alone, He is still all-powerful, His purposes will be accomplished, and we need to get off our preverbal behinds. God wants to use us, and He will do so for His ultimate glory.


Now what?


Spiritual leaders fall prey to this trap way more than they should and understandably so. Working and engaging, as a leader on the front lines, can be intense and lonely. The mundane can render the call of leadership hopeless. However, scripture tells us not to grow weary in well doing. If this is a command to us, then how are we to fight against “Elijah syndrome”? Lessons can be drawn from the text of 1 Kings, but today I just want to share some personal application God has been teaching me.


1.    Don’t go at it alone.


I know the leadership can be lonely but in reality a good leader develops others – biblically, it’s called discipleship.  We need the body of Christ and more importantly; we need to develop that body. Don’t be afraid to develop other leaders, to empower them, and let them grow and make an impact for the gospel. If you are alone, it can be a sure sign you are not connected with the body of Christ, as you should. It’s a gift. Use it and develop it. The Lord gave us the local church for a reason – our sanctification and His glory.


2.    Know the truth


A leader knows the truth. He knows the truth about the God he serves and how he works. He is a student of the word.  Learn from others. Seek out those in the body who can mentor you. Pursue and have accountability. A leader cannot afford to be void of the truth.


3.    Take time to rest


Before the Lord rebuked Elijah for His own syndrome, He sent an angel to comfort and feed him. He encouraged him to rest. The Lord knows the work is hard. He knows that we will be tired, and He gives gifts to meet those needs. He gives his beloved sleep. He gives fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. He gives His word to renew us. Business only suggest a life filled with purpose. Many times, God wants us to be still and know that he is God.




When you boil it down to its simplest from: don’t be an unnecessary martyr.  There are true martyrs for Christ and then there are those who think they are.  Yes, the Christian life is a war. Yes, we wrestle against the principalities of this world.  Yes, Leadership is a high calling. But, our God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness and it is found in the person of Jesus Christ.


Daniel Cavanaugh



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Showing 4 comments
  • Stephen Minter

    Awesome post! Exactly what I needed today thanks! Praying for you brother.

  • Daniel Cavanaugh

    Thanks Stephen! So glad that it spoke to you. Just sharing what God is doing in my life. Blessing to you bro as you serve Him!

  • Laurie Jalbert

    Wow Daniel! I was struggling with this very thing today. Thank you so much for the reminder!

  • Daniel Cavanaugh

    Your welcome, Laurie! It is an all to common thing for leaders. So, I figured, if I struggle with it other do as well. Be encouraged and keep up the good work. You are not alone.

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