Summary: Serving is about what is, not what should be. It involves giving and receiving, blooming where you are planted, and seeing both the individual trees and the forest. Ministry is a stretch!

Ministry is A Stretch!

(Jeremiah 37-45)

1. Life has a way of socking us between the eyes. I remember my teen and young adult years and the feelings of broken relationships, disappointment, uncertainty about future direction, and all the stresses of that stage of life.

2. As I aged, I found out that life had other stresses, heartaches, let-downs, and attacks that damaged my self-esteem.

3. Fortunately for me, I turned my life over to Jesus Christ at the age of 17. Some of those experiences were rough, but my faith did make a big difference.

4. Although most of us wisely try to avoid unpleasant or painful situations, we also need to try to develop the Life Skill of adjusting to things we cannot change. We might call this an ability to flex that comes by faith.

5. Once we have surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ and become serious about serving Him, we find it possible to stretch in ways we never thought we could stretch, to adapt to situations which we never thought we could adapt to, to confront issues when it is our nature to be passive, to exercise faith when fear traps us, to bloom where we are planted.

6. But it may be rough. Real rough. I have a friend who has been laid off. I graduated with him; he announced his lay-off to friends on Facebook about 3 weeks ago. Since then, he has not written anything. I am worried about his well being. He might be busy…or despondent.

7. We only know what is recorded about Jeremiah, but he is called the weeping prophet for good reason. He excelled in being faithful in the worst of circumstances, but that does not mean he did not struggle.

8. But he was part of something bigger than himself, a cause that spans the Millennia, the Kingdom of God. And, like all the citizens of the Kingdom, the King had given him a ministry. God has called all believers to a ministry of some sort.

9. Some of us serve the Lord gladly; others evade the sacrifices and commitments of service and let other people do the work. Serving God is not like doing housework or clocking in at the office. It can lead in all sorts of directions, and often requires you to do what needs to be done, whether it is in your area of preference or not.

MAIN IDEA: Serving is about what is, not what should be. It involves giving and receiving, blooming where you are planted, and seeing both the individual trees and the forest. Ministry is a stretch!

I. Foreigners Treated Jeremiah Better Than His OWN People (37-39)

The siege of Jerusalem lasted about 18 months. Many viewed Jeremiah as an obstacle, a demoralizer of their troops and less than patriotic; nothing was further from the truth; Jeremiah loved the people of Judah and wanted to see them spared disaster. Many would flee the area, thousands would die, and 10,000 would be carried off to exile.

A. Jeremiah in PRISON (37:11-16)

This prison was a basement next to the dungeon. It was a great place to contract a disease and die.

Zedekiah repeatedly calls him for prison for advice. He keeps interacting with Jeremiah and even asks Jeremiah to pray for him, asks what the Lord says about matters, but then completely ignores what God has said. He is a vacillator, a king who knows better but refused to follow the path of wisdom.

If people want to make a foolish choice, and if the wise people they know advise them against it, they keep asking until someone goes along with them. I’ve seen it dozens of times, whether it be in the realm of moral choices, child-rearing, marriage, finances, or health.

So although Jeremiah was occasionally consulted, life for him was depressing, monotonous, bleak, and boring. Was he waiting to die, or would better times come?

Does this, in some way, describe your life?

B. Jeremiah in a CISTERN (38:4-6)

Things went from bad to worse. Jeremiah would have longed to get out of prison, and now his hopes were dashed and his morale probably devastated.

C. Who helps him? Ebed-Melech, a FOREIGNER (38:7-10)

A former president of a Christian college talked about the kind of students that usually do not make trouble. Christian kids from Christian homes where the parents lived their faith consistently -- though not perfectly, gave them no trouble. Kids who were saved but raised in unsaved families did not give them trouble; almost all their problems came from kids who were raised in homes where the parents claimed to be Christians but did not consistently live out their faith.

Ebed-Melech had come to know the true God probably from a pagan background. Yet many of those who were born Jews hated Jeremiah and had no use for God’s Word.

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