Summary: Have you ever felt as if your efforts were in vain, and questioned if you were making a difference? We find ourselves questioning God, and tempted to abandon the work. We are not the first to feel this way. God is able to provide the strength we need.
Compelled to Continue
The life and ministry of Jeremiah was interesting to say the least. He is commonly known as the “Weeping Prophet,” and for good reason. His ministry spanned forty years in Judah, leading up to their captivity at the hands of the Babylonians. During his faithful ministry, Jeremiah was the lone voice of truth and righteousness among a people who had no desire for righteousness.
While Jeremiah remained faithful to his calling, his efforts appeared to be of little value or benefit. After forty years of ministry, he failed to secure one convert to truth and righteousness. (How many today would continue forty weeks, much less forty years with no tangible results to show for their efforts?) Rather than being encouraged and followed in righteousness, Jeremiah faced extreme opposition and difficulty. He was impoverished, imprisoned, ridiculed, and even cast into a muddy cistern to die, all at the hands of his countrymen. Such treatment was Judah’s response and compensation for their national pastor. (At the time of our text, Jeremiah had been faithfully proclaiming the truth of God to a rebellious people for approximately thirty years.)
While we are not prophets, called to warn a rebellious people of judgment to come, I am sure we have all experienced seasons in life when we could relate to Jeremiah’s feelings. As we strive to serve the Lord and live for Him, we face opposition, often from those we least expect. If you have served the Lord for any length of time, you have likely been tempted to abandon the work, questioning if the effort was really worth it. If you are walking in a valley of doubt and despair, I hope the message today will bring the comfort and encouragement you need to continue for the Lord. Let’s consider these particular aspects in the life of Jeremiah as we think on the thought: Compelled to Continue.
I. The Reflection of Jeremiah (9a) – Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. As Jeremiah reflected on nearly thirty years of ministry, faithfully serving the Lord, this is the attitude he possessed at that moment in life. He was at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, and felt as if he could not go on another day. This statement represents emotions that many of us have felt at one point or another. We may not have verbalized them as Jeremiah did, but we have felt the heaviness of despair and questioned our ability to move on. As we consider where Jeremiah was at this moment we discover:
A. He felt Deceived (7a) – O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: These are clearly strong words, but they are spoken from a heart of honesty before the Lord. God already knew how Jeremiah felt and he just verbalized his feelings unto the Lord. He honestly felt as if he had been deceived by the Lord. He revealed his displeasure with his current situation. He felt as if the Lord had not revealed unto him the great difficulty he would face. He had hoped for better success, and yet he faced one defeat after another. He was saying, “Lord, why have you brought me to this place; this is not what I expected when you spoke to me about preaching unto the people. This is not what I signed up for.”
The majority of us have been in a similar situation haven’t we? We have questioned why things turned out as they did. We may not like to admit it, but we have even blamed God and accused Him of failing to provide full disclosure about our situation. Had we known then what we know now, we may not have agreed to follow. We felt deceived and despondent.
B. He felt Discouraged (7b) – thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed. It appears Jeremiah viewed this as a test of his faith, an examination of his performance, and he hadn’t measured up. He felt as if he had struggled with the Lord, instead of those who refused to heed his message, and the Lord had prevailed. Jeremiah felt God had challenged him in a test of endurance and he was unable to meet the expectations. At this moment in his life, he was quite discouraged.
It is easy for us to look on this situation and question the response of Jeremiah. How could he possibly think such thoughts? How could he fail to see that his struggle was not with God, but with those who failed to listen to His message? This was a spiritual struggle for the hearts of men, not a problem created by God. That is one of the oldest tactics employed by the enemy. He loves to cause us to view our struggles from the wrong perspective. Just as it was with Jeremiah, God is never the problem, but Satan wants us to feel as if God takes pleasure in our defeats. He loves to create a heart of discouragement and discontentment in our lives. If the enemy can divert our attention from the real struggle we face, he can hinder our victory and keep us discouraged.