• johned@aibi.ph

Jeremiah - When Service and
Success Seem Separated

(Jeremiah 20:1-2 NKJV) Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. {2} Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.

Jeremiah was not honored or tangibly rewarded for serving God. He was in fact constantly persecuted. This was not Jeremiah's fault. It was part of his calling from the very beginning.

(Jeremiah 1:17-19 NKJV) "Therefore prepare yourself and arise, And speak to them all that I command you. Do not be dismayed before their faces, Lest I dismay you before them. {18} For behold, I have made you this day A fortified city and an iron pillar, And bronze walls against the whole land; Against the kings of Judah, Against its princes, Against its priests, And against the people of the land. {19} They will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you," says the LORD, "to deliver you."

Jeremiah was called to a conflict ridden life. It was also a lonely life in that God said that Jeremiah was not to marry.

(Jeremiah 16:2 NKJV) "You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place."

Jeremiah also knew that his ministry was doomed to failure - that the people were too deeply into sin and would not repent. He was not even to pray for them!

(Jeremiah 7:16 NKJV) "Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you.

Jeremiah shows us the importance of faithful perseverance. He is now billed as a "great prophet" but in his own day Jeremiah must have seemed a woeful figure. Any faithful and godly ministry which is persisted in will eventually achieve glory and have lasting results.

Did Jeremiah enjoy his lot in life? It seems he often hated it. He was far from a happy prophet. Much of the time he was miserable and his complaints to God are vivid and frequent

.(Jeremiah 20:14-18 NKJV) {14} Cursed be the day in which I was born! Let the day not be blessed in which my mother bore me! {15} Let the man be cursed Who brought news to my father, saying, "A male child has been born to you!" Making him very glad. {16} And let that man be like the cities Which the LORD overthrew, and did not relent; Let him hear the cry in the morning And the shouting at noon, {17} Because he did not kill me from the womb, That my mother might have been my grave, And her womb always enlarged with me. {18} Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow, That my days should be consumed with shame?

Jeremiah does not seem to be a robust over-achiever like Nehemiah or Paul but a sensitive person who had a keen sense of the injustices of life. He struggled to keep going in a calling that had chosen him and which he entered most reluctantly.

(Jeremiah 1:5-10 NKJV) "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." {6} Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth." {7} But the LORD said to me: "Do not say, 'I am a youth,'..."Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. {10} See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant."

Often he complained to God about the unfairness of life.

(Jeremiah 12:1-6 NKJV) Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? {2} You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; They grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth But far from their mind.

He generally got little or no sympathy. God's reply to Jeremiah was "toughen up its going to get worse".

(Jeremiah 12:5 NKJV) "If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?

Yet Jeremiah kept on going without ever giving up. He was faithful to his agonizing call.

Other prophets had results. Moses led the people out of bondage, Elijah and Elisha saw miracles, Haggai and Zechariah helped build the temple. Jonah saw a revival. Daniel was the confident of royalty. At the end of 40 years ministry Jeremiah had a people being taken into captivity, no miracles, a demolished temple, an unrepentant nation, and was persecuted by the nobles of Judah. Was Jeremiah a failure then? Would you employ a pastor with a track record like that? Jeremiah was not a failure because of one thing - he always spoke the truth. His words came true and were valued by those who were godly. It appears that Daniel had a copy of Jeremiah's prophecies with him in Babylon

(Daniel 9:2 NIV) in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.

In Chronicles Jeremiah is remembered as "speaking the words of the Lord"

(2 Chronicles 36:11-12 NIV) Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. {12} He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD.

Results are from God

Campus Crusade For Christ did a lot of evangelism at the university I attended and their saying went something like "Witnessing is declaring the good news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God." That impressed me then and it impresses me now. Jeremiah was a faithful witness who declared God's word in the power of the Holy Spirit and left the results to God. Results go up and down with the seasons and the spiritual condition of the place you minister. There have been times when the spiritual conditions where I have ministered have been at "boiling point" and I have seen results that came almost without effort. At other times I have gone into areas so hardened with unbelief that very little was possible. I don't think that I was particularly better at one place than the other but the results were radically different. Even Jesus was limited to some extent by the unbelief of His home town.

(Matthew 13:58 NIV) And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Jeremiah ministered under appalling spiritual conditions. He was faced with an apostate and unbelieving nation that God had decided to judge. They were to be the "generation of His wrath".

(Jeremiah 7:29 NKJV) 'Cut off your hair and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath.

'This idolatrous, violent and wicked generation would be the one that He ran out of patience with. They were to receive exactly what they deserved. If Jeremiah had used a better program or speaking technique it would not have made any difference. They were doomed.

Results are God's business. Faithfulness, love , sound doctrine and good character are our business. They are things we can control and diligently perfect. God will not judge us for other people's unbelief or approve us for other people's receptivity. That is entirely out of our control. He calls us to do what He has commanded with diligence and perseverance. When you read Paul's instructions to Timothy and compare them with recent books on ministry one is impressed with the lack of emphasis on factors such as success and techniques and the constant emphasis on the big four mentioned above - faithfulness, love , sound doctrine and good character.

(1 Timothy 4:12-16 NKJV) Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. {13} Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. {14} Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. {15} Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. {16} Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

When results are mentioned in Scripture they flow out of Christian character grounded in right relationship with God and His word.

(John 15:4-7 NRSV) Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. {5} I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. {6} Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. {7} If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

This attitude was reinforced by Peter when he wrote to suffering and persecuted Christians about how to be fruitful for God.

(2 Peter 1:5-8 NKJV) But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, {6} to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, {7} to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. {8} For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally we cannot judge results in our own lifetime. The dismal results in Jeremiah's own lifetime were reversed later on. In his lifetime the temple was demolished and the nation demolished. Seventy years later Jeremiah's prophecies caused the nation to return and the temple to be rebuilt..

(Ezra 1:1-2 NIV) In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: {2} "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.

The prophecies of Jeremiah which seemed so ineffective at the time and which did not change the hearts of his generation have changed the hearts of countless generations since.

In Jeremiah's day the people were unrepentant idol worshippers. Today the Jews have nothing to do with idols. This change in attitude is believed to be largely due to the accurate fulfillment of the prophecies of Jeremiah and their power in explaining their spiritual and material condition. It has changed his own people. It has also changed millions of lives in hundreds of countries. Jeremiah's ministry has born much fruit for over 2500 years! That is fantastic success! Because it was a ministry based on God's word proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit it has not been without eventual success.

What can we take from this into the hurly-burly of our own calling and ministry for Jesus Christ? Simply that any faithful calling carried out diligently in the power of the Holy Spirit will eventually achieve glory and have lasting results.

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.