July 1, 2021
"You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived. You seized me and prevailed. I am a laughing stock all the time; everyone ridicules me."
“You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived. You seized me and prevailed. I am a laughing stock all the time; everyone ridicules me. For whenever I speak, I cry out – I proclaim: ‘Violence and destruction!’ - because the Word of the Lord has become for me constant disgrace and derision. If I say: ‘I won’t mention Him or speak any longer in His name,’ His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail. Jeremiah 20:7-9
There is a myth in the Church (by “myth,” I mean “lie”) that teaches: If a person accepts Jesus as Lord, and does everything He commands, then everything will go well for that person. This myth has wormed its way into the success paradigms of many ministries. As a result, there is very little room for “Jeremiahs” in our culture, people who do everything the Lord requires but whose preaching is categorically rejected.
Because the myth is so entangled into our vision of “success,” many believers become disenchanted when ministry gets challenging and positive results don’t seem to come as easy as for others. That was Jeremiah’s case. He did everything right, and yet he suffered. Jesus went as far as calling such rejection a “blessing.”
“Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11
The apostle Paul is a man who could relate to Jeremiah and Jesus’ rejection.
“For those who are perishing, the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved, it is God’s power. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-19
After his big “heroes of the faith” speech, where faithful believers were miraculously saved from various disasters, the writer of Hebrews reminds us of another group of “faithful” believers.
“Some men were tortured, not accepting release so that they might gain a better resurrection, and others experienced mocking and scourging, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, and they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground. All these were approved through their faith, but did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.” Hebrews 11:35b-40
There is a cost of discipleship. (Luke 14:26-28) But, in the words of Christian martyr Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to obtain what he cannot lose.” Success is weighed purely in our obedience to God.