LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF JEREMIAH
Are You Willing To Surrender?
Jeremiah learned to surrender to God even when God’s plans seemed to lead repeatedly to disaster.
We often say that Christianity is good, positive, attractive and rewarding. We preach that Christ gives hope, joy and abundant life, and He does. But we often forget another aspect of following Christ. The Bible teaches that there is a cost in following Jesus – a price to pay, discipline to endure and continual training. There is endurance and hardship: “Endure hardship … like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3 NIV). This takes a considerable amount of effort, or, as Paul wrote, “straining toward what is ahead” (Phil. 3:13).
Today some preach a popular message of prosperity, healing and success through faith in God. There is some truth in this, as faith is a key to receiving God’s blessing. However, this can lead to a self-centered rather than a God-centered life. There is a need to surrender to God and that is not easy. Let’s look at what this meant for Jeremiah.
When he is seeking to motivate his team, a football coach will never tell his players to “surrender” or give up. Likewise, an army officer will never display a defeatist attitude to his soldiers by mentioning the word “surrender.”
I have visited Masada in Israel where the Jewish zealots refused to surrender to the Romans. Masada is a mountain some 440 meters above the Dead Sea where the zealots built a fortress. After the Roman army besieged Masada for several months in 72 AD, the zealots decided to take their own lives rather than surrender to the Romans and go back to slavery.
Unfortunately, we can also adopt this attitude and refuse to surrender to Christ. We generally don’t want to give up what we believe is rightfully ours – our will, desires, possessions, family. We want to do things our way – to build up our kingdom instead of God’s. But God wants us to surrender ourselves to Him, which is difficult and costly.
Jeremiah Surrendered …
Jeremiah was not popular. Instead, he was beaten, put in prison and left to starve. He was even rejected by his family. This happened because he spoke the truth about God’s judgment on the people of Judah. They didn’t want to hear a message that was so harsh.
Jeremiah learned to surrender to God even when God’s plans seemed to lead repeatedly to disaster. Imagine that God instructs you to go to your neighbors and tell them to repent and turn from their wicked ways. Imagine that He wants you to tell them this continually, even though you know they are not going to repent and turn to God. Instead, they will laugh at you, deride you and even beat you. You will have no affect on them for more than 40 years until you die. How would you react to such a call? Few of us would accept. Instead, we would more likely wonder if God knew what He was doing. Many of us would refuse to obey such a call.
But Jeremiah accepted that challenge. In 627 BC, Judah was not an easy land in which to proclaim God’s Word. The people were idolatrous, with great faith in themselves – their strength and self-righteousness – but without any faith in God. These were the people Jeremiah was to call back to God. He would fail. Yet from that failure sprang a success of faith based on God’s promises, purposes and love.
The task to which God called Jeremiah required total submission of some key areas of his life. Let’s at four of them.
. . . His Future
Initially, Jeremiah was not a willing prophet. God had some great assurances for him: “Before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). Jeremiah was chosen for a purpose: “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you” (Jer. 1:7). Jeremiah’s first lesson in faith was to let go of his own plans and receive God’s plans without fear. At first he protested: “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child” (Jer. 1:6). God does not despise his fear and find another person for the job, but reassures him: “Do not be afraid of them … I am with you and will rescue you” (Jer. 1:8). How comforting these words are when we know that God wants us to do a difficult thing.
As God reveals His plan, Jeremiah learns that God has had a purpose for him to fulfill since before he was born. The God of the universe is concerned with his life! Similarly, when God calls us to do something, He gives us the resources to do the job.
God reaches out to him and puts His words in Jeremiah’s mouth: “Now, I have put My words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:9-10). Whereas before he could only focus on his limitations, once he sees God’s place for him in the scheme of eternity, he can relinquish all his plans and ideas without fear.
Jeremiah also learns, however, that his calling is not going to be easy. He knows that he will be one of the most hated prophets of his time. God warns him: “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer” (Jer. 7:27). God also instructs him not to pray for these people because his prayers will go unanswered (Jer. 7;16; 11:14; 14:11). So Jeremiah entrusted his future to God. What about your future, your plans? What has God chosen for you to do? Have you surrendered and allowed Him to take control of your future?
It is difficult to imagine entering a career that we know will fail. In our society, career success is a primary measure of our worth and often our greatest source of fulfillment. Yet Jeremiah, knowing that his pleas to his people would not alter their behavior or their future, accepted God’s command to speak anyway. He agreed to fail, in the eyes of the world, and learned that success in God’s eyes is quite a different thing.
When Jesus called His first disciples, He said to Peter and Andrew, “Come, follow Me … and I will make you fishers of men.” Here’s what happened: “At once they left their nets and followed Him” (Mt. 4:19-20). They left their careers and followed the Lord.
. . . His Family
Jeremiah’s family opposed him in all he tried to do. God told him, “Your brothers, your own family – even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you. Do not trust them” (Jer. 12:6). What pain he must have endured when his family not only ignored his message, leading to their own destruction, but turned and attacked him as well, to capture and silence him.
Perhaps an even greater blow to Jeremiah must have been God’s command, “You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place” (Jer. 16:2). This not only meant a lonely life, but also a life with no future. For the Jews, a man without children was a disgrace. Yet despite this, Jeremiah turned repeatedly to God, his only source of hope and strength, and remained the only prophet of God’s truth. Jeremiah surrendered his family.
When Jesus called James and John to follow Him, “immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him” (Mt. 4:21-22). So besides leaving their career, they left their family and followed the Lord. This occurs today when some leave family and country to serve the Lord in another place. How difficult it must be to surrender your family to God.
On the other hand, when Jesus asked another man to follow Him, the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:59-60). The man wanted to wait until his father’s death, which might have been years away. Have we surrendered our families to the Lord?
. . . His Reputation
Jeremiah was persistently mocked as the “prophet of doom,” and his method of preaching made him a laughing stock. God instructed him to use all sorts of odd visual aids to help the people understand his message more clearly. Once he appeared before the king’s court wearing a yoke upon his shoulders – a symbol of Judah’s coming bondage to Babylon. Though his message was serious, the men could only see how ridiculous he appeared (Jer. 27-28).
In every generation, those who bring God’s message to an unbelieving world face ridicule. Yet we read that “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Jeremiah was not afraid to appear foolish before others if he could uphold the Word of God.
We too can face ridicule and be accused of being “religious.” Yet we usually want to maintain a good reputation with others. Are we willing to surrender our reputation in order to serve the Lord and speak for Him?
. . . His Life
After Jeremiah gave up his plans for his life, he was asked to risk his life to fulfill his calling. He was beaten and imprisoned several times, and left to starve in a well. He was labeled a traitor for his advice to surrender to the Babylonians, since defeat was imminent (Jer. 11:19-20; 18:18; 20:2, 26). But he had learned long before that his life was not in his own hands. He had come to trust his existence to a God who “made the earth by His power … founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding” (Jer. 10:12).
Paul wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10). He faced constant hardships, persecutions and sufferings for the sake of the gospel (2 Tim. 3:10-14). He also wrote, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:7). Will we surrender our life for the Lord?
What Will We Surrender?
Jeremiah surrendered his future, his family, his reputation and ultimately his life to God. We should submit these areas of our life to God as well. How do we surrender our lives to Christ? How do we acknowledge His Lordship? All will some day acknowledge Him as Lord, but the privilege of acknowledging His lordship is possible now. We need to allow Christ to be the Lord of our life, by a decision and many daily practices.
Good intentions don’t guarantee good results. A good start does not ensure a strong finish. The decision is only the beginning. Once you have decided to acknowledge the lordship of Christ in your life, you will prove He is Lord by submitting to Him moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. Jesus said “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Lk. 9:23).
So it is a decision that we make: “Lord, I want You to be in control of my life. I want to surrender my life to You.” Then we follow through on this decision in our daily lives by saying, “Lord, I want You to be in control of my possessions. I surrender them to You. Use them for Your glory.” We learn to grow in our faith by submitting day by day in different areas of our life. What areas of your life do you need to submit to Him today? Your relationships? Your family? Your career? Your hobbies and interests?
It has been said that, “In all Christians Christ is present. In some Christians Christ is prominent. But only in a few Christians is Christ pre-eminent.” Is Christ Lord of your life? The question to settle is not what you would do for the Lord if you had more money, time, or education, but what you will do with the things you have. It’s not who you are or what you have that matters, but whether Christ controls you.”
By Paul Mylonas
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.