I want to begin this morning with a profound quote from a book titled, ‘God is Not Yet Dead’.‘The terrible threat against life is not death, nor pain, nor any variations on the disasters that we so obsessively try to protect ourselves against with our social systems and personal stratagems. The terrible threat is that we might die earlier than we really do die – that is before death has become a natural necessity. The real horror lies in just sucha “premature death” – a death after which we go on living for many years.’
Pretty profound words, would you not agree? But to the author of them they were far more than just words. He was a Czech philosopher who was martyred for his position in 1978. And what makes this even more penetrating is the fact that he never professed to be Christian. He was in fact an atheist. But he was an atheist who strongly believed there would always be a place for Christianity in a Communist State, and that Christianity brought certain realities into the life of a community that Communism never could. It is interesting that the Bible character he referenced most (as being the person who most lived out the true reality of what it means to be human) was Jeremiah.
Jeremiah, early on in his ministry, came to a critical place of choice. He faced the reality of what you just read in that second slide. Would he go on living out the full potential and possibility of his purpose, his calling, his destiny – or would he choose to die to all that, and while continuing to live physically, remain absolutely dead on the inside?
He was worn down by the opposition. He was bending under the oppressive weight of resistance. He was filling up with self-pity. He was not very far from slipping into that fearful aforementioned state of premature death. At that point he could have left the city, walked 5 kilometres to the town he grew up in – a town predominately made up of priests. He could have settled into his father’s priestly ministry and no one would have known the difference nor have faulted him. And if he had done that he would have become just another ministerial statistic.
It was at this point that God spoke this critically important word to him: “So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?”
The context reveals what was going on in Jeremiah’s life that led up to this strong correction. He was stumbling over the ways of the Lord. There is a vital lesson in how Jeremiah handled his stumbling: He came directly to God and with transparent boldness laid his complaint squarely before Him. This is what all people of true faith do. They talk to God – and not in religious clichés but out of the deep realities of what is going on in their soul at that moment.
There were two aspects to his complaint. The first was the prosperity of the wicked. They put down roots, they flourish and bear fruit. In the meantime the whole land including nature itself is withering as a direct consequence of their wickedness.
Jeremiah sees all this, and his problem is what he views as being God’s tolerance and patience with the wicked. The appearance is that they just go on getting away with anything they choose to do. And in all of this they actually speak the name of the Lord and boast of His blessing:They talk as if they’re old friends with you, but they couldn’t care less about You. It was that in particular that drove Jeremiah to distraction.
T The second aspect of his complaint had to do with how God dealt with him. Basically he felt that God let the wicked away with everything but when it came to his life nothing escaped God’s attention and scrutiny – everything was judged, and the policy was zero tolerance: “Meanwhile, you know me inside and out. You don’t let me get by with a thing!”
If we are honest I think we can all identify with Jeremiah’s feelings; it is not a comfortable happy feeling when it appears that God demands of you what He seems to allow in those around you. That’s where Jeremiah was – and in that place he was filling up with self-pity.
When we get to the end of this event we make a horrific discovery; we find out who thewicked actually are. Fasten your seatbelt! They were not the strangers on the streets of the big city of Jerusalem. They were the people of his hometown – the civic and religious leaders. But it gets much worse: it involves the members of his own family – his own brothers and cousins.
The first opposition to his ministry came from within his own house. And what began as mild misunderstanding escaladed to hostility and open and active resistance. But believe it or not it even reached a place where his own brothers plotted with the town officials to take Jeremiah’s life. Perhaps that helps us understand his complaint to the Lord.
It may appear that in God’s response to Jeremiah there is a lack of sensitivity. Based upon other events in the book of Jeremiah it is clear that God was never insensitive of Jeremiah’s sensitivities. But right here is a vital lesson: God never indulged Jeremiah’s self-pity; and He will not indulge ours. There is a vast difference between honest questions, things we don’t understand, things we stumble over and self-pity. God is not impatient with our legitimate questions and concerns. But self-pity He will never play into.
Now that we know the issue Jeremiah was dealing with it is absolutely correct to interpret what God was saying in this way: If you can’t even deal with your own family then how can I stand you before political leaders, before national governments and apostate religious leaders?
Please do not misunderstand this, but the larger and deeper reality of family for the people of the Kingdom of God is not our flesh and blood families; it is the community of believers God has set us into. So to personalize this corrective word God spoke to Jeremiah it would look like this: So (put your name in the blank) if you stumble over and cannot work out the relational issues and stresses that come within the corporate community life of KCF, then how do you expect to face and deal with the increasing oppressive weight of the emerging culture of the last days?
In closing this out let me express where I strongly feel we are. I will use an event from the life of the poet William Stafford to illustrate my point. In an interview Stafford was asked, “When did you decide to be a poet?” He responded – “That is not the correct question. Everyone is born a poet. By that I mean a person exploring and discovering the wonder of words – how they sound, how they work. Everyone begins caring for and delighting in words. I just kept on doing what everyone starts out doing. The real question then is, Why did the other people quit?”
In this challenge that God set before His prophet He was essentially bringing him to a choice as to how he was going to live his life. That same choice is before us this day – in fact each and every day. The choice is between living life minimally or maximally. The minimum is that I am a mere featherless biped without potential, possibility, hope, dream and expectation beyond whatever is required to merely survive – no vision beyond my next meal. Or I can live life to its maximum as defined by God Himself is the eighth Psalm – ‘You have made him (man) just a little less then God.’
For us the time has come to stop crawling around on all fours and grovelling to a culture that is constantly trying to redefine us and reduce us to their common base standard of littleness and mediocrity. It is time to get up and stand up and be the people God designed us to be. It is time to face that culture, walk through that culture and live in the presence of that culture as one who is just slightly — just a tiny pinch less than the almighty God.
To one living out of this identity it’s the horses who will be exhausted trying to keep up with you and as for the Jordan in flood stage – you’ll simply grab a surfboard.