People can be downright frustrating.

  • Our kids can frustrate us. How many times do I have to tell them not to feed Gummy Bears to the dog??
  • Co-workers can frustrate us with their annoying habits—like never taking their empty K-cups out of the office Keurig.
  • That guy driving next you with his music so loud that your car vibrates? Yeah, he’s annoying too.

It’s no different for church leaders.

  • You encourage their involvement in a group Bible study, but they only attend when they feel like it.
  • You preach and preach and they are completely unreceptive to the Word.
  • You sense the call of God to move in a certain direction, but the congregation votes it down.

We can relate to Jesus’ disciples. As Jesus and company were traveling to Jerusalem, they planned to pass through a Samaritan village. He sent word ahead that He would be coming through, and the Samaritans’ response was, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Hoo boy. Talk about being unreceptive. James and John stepped up and knew right what to do.

“When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?‘” (Luke 9:54).

We all have those moments when we’d like to call down fire from heaven. Those seriously frustrating people in our lives could really use a “divine touch”—a zap of fire to show just how wrong they are. That’ll show ‘em.

James and John surely felt justified in their plan. If you don’t want to honor God, well, fine—ZAP! In the same way, if others don’t want to join us in serving and pleasing God, they can get zapped too.

That’s a natural human response—but it’s wrong. I think the wrongness of that attitude really came home to John later on. Let’s fast forward a bit. Jesus had ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit came on all the believers, and the church grew. People were coming to Christ right and left—including some of the unreceptive Samaritans!

“When the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. After they went down there, they prayed for them so the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit because he had not yet come down on any of them” (Acts 8:14-15).

Prejudice was rampant between the Jews and Samaritans, which certainly fueled some of James and John’s feelings about the Samaritans. But now John saw them as receptive and hungry for the gospel. Thankfully, Jesus did not answer John’s earlier request to call down fire from heaven, and John now saw they desired a different fire from heaven: the fire of God’s Holy Spirit in their lives.

Had John gotten his way in the earlier incident, he would’ve missed the blessing of seeing them come to faith.

What do we take from this? Simply this: stay the course. Don’t quit or burn any bridges in your relationships with those frustrating people. Keep doing what God wants you to do, even if that means making the same invitation again and again, preaching the same message repeatedly, or standing your ground faithfully. Let’s trust Him to work. In His timing. That’s all God asks us to do.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

And lay off the requests for fire from heaven.

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