Jeremiah 20:9 (ESV) If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
I think everyone in ministry should be able to identify with the call of prophet Jeremiah. There is something incredibly vulnerable and sincere about his honesty. He was called, but felt inadequate. He was called, but was a constant target of attacks. Many times he finds himself downright arguing with God. He had to labor for the salvation of people, many of whom did not even like him. The tone of Jeremiah’s life ministry is set: judgment, disaster, danger, defeat, and impending death for the nation. (1). Sounds an awful lot like the life of a people called into ministry.
Ok, I seriously doubt any of us have it as bad a Jeremiah. Although it can feel, at times, like your taking as many steps back as forward. It can be an up and down experience. The most exhilarating times of my life have been in ministry, but some of my greatest heartbreaks have been in ministry. But regardless of the obstacles there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
God warned Jeremiah of the type of calling He was receiving. In Jeremiah 12:5 (ESV) we read: If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? Often we start complaining before we have even begun to experience hardship. How will we ever be able to do all the things we are called to do? And if you think only pastors are called, well I hate to break it you but…every Christian has a calling on their life. Whether we are paid, or not,(both examples are found in the bible) if we are in Christ we are called to labor in love for others. However, beyond that, our salvation is wrapped up in our calling. Not that our salvation is dependent on us. It is solely dependent on Christ. However, as I heard one pastor say: God calling you into ministry was the only way to save you. Just like Jeremiah.
What Jeremiah’s ministry was doing for the nation was important, but even more important was what Jeremiah’s ministry was doing for Jeremiah. As we serve the Lord, our capacity for ministry should increase and enable us to do much more than we ever thought we could do. (2) Our calling, which is not necessarily what we do to make money, is what shapes us, breaks us, recreates us. Your calling from God, in relation to the church, is important. However, even more important is what God’s calling is doing for you.
Sometimes we forget that our calling, our ministry, our life is not a destination. It is a way of life. Jesus is the destination. It isn’t a journey to God, but a journey with Him. Our life is one big process. Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) says For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. The word for workmanship in the original greek is poìēma which is where we get our english word poem from. You are an expression of God’s creative, redemptive, and restorative love. Your calling is a the living prose that points people to God. It’s what King David proclaimed in Psalm 100:3 (ESV) Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
The reason we can lose sight of our calling, (Peter) or feel overwhelmed by our calling, (Jeremiah) run from our calling, (Jonah) is that we fail to see that it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13 ESV). We like Jeremiah say I’m too young, I’m too old, I’m too tired, I’m too sinful, I’m to…and the list continues. We forget that the call doesn’t come to us because we are qualified, it came to us and therefore we are qualified. You are His poem. He is not yours. The pressure is on Him, not you. He responds to you just as he did to Jeremiah: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. (Jeremiah 1:7–9 ESV). God never calls a man to any work without securing to him the means for performing it. (3). God doesn’t call you because of your gifts, he has gifted you because of the Call.
Throughout his life God tells Jeremiah numerous times that He will deliver him. However, he never seems to be delivered. This man, often called the weeping prophet because of the personal anguish he knew in his ministry, witnessed the utter destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple that he, like other godly Jews, loved. (4). God said that He would deliver Jeremiah, but he never seems to be delivered. God has promised to bless our calling and deliver us. However, sometimes it feels like for very step forward we take two back. How can we ever fulfill our calling. Has He really removed the pressure? Will he deliver us?
Time and time God tells Jeremiah He will deliver Him and in Jeremiah 33 He shows him how. Our real deliverance has been secured. Maybe not from day to day tribulation, but secured for the day when all things will be made new. Jeremiah 33:31-34 says “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD . “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD . “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah saw the temple fall, but then God points him to the true Temple. Jeremiah might have seen the destruction of Jerusalem, but then God points Him to the New Jerusalem.
Because Jesus answered the ultimate call. A calling we couldn’t fulfill. Because He lived the life we failed to live and died the death we all deserved, we have all been delivered. We have been saved, not because of our performance, but because of His. Therefore we fulfill our calling not by what we do, but by pointing people to what He has done. John 14:23 (ESV) says Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. This verse tells us that when we are adopted into the family of God through faith in Christ, Jesus actually lives in us. The Word, who was in the beginning, who was with God and who is God, lives in you.
God says to each of those He has called: “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” Jesus died so that He could close the gap between the created and their creator. He is the Word and He is living in you. No wonder If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. Because I realize It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV). When we experience that we realize the pressure is off. Jesus is at the right hand of God and He is in our hearts. The King of Kings is going to fulfill your calling in you, if you will let Him. Allow Him to live out His life of victory in you today. See how he gave Himself for you…now you can give yourself to Him.
Copyright 2013 Richie Halversen
(1) Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (1110). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
(2) Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Decisive. “Be” Commentary Series (92). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
(3) Jeremiah Vol. I. 1909 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.). The Pulpit Commentary (6). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
(4) Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (402). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.