Sometimes I say to myself,
"I will forget about the Lord.
I will not speak anymore in his name."
But then his message becomes like a burning fire inside of me,
deep within my bones.
I get tried of trying to hold it inside of me,
and finally, I cannot hold it in."
READ Jeremiah 18:1--20:18
SITUATION God sent Jeremiah to a potter's shop. While there, God told him that Jerusalem would be destroyed as easily as a clay pot. The people persecuted Jeremiah for his unpopular message.
OBSERVATION God shapes our lives like a potter's shapes clay.
INSPIRATION The prophet was in the pits. Literally. Like Poe's fanciful character, he was "sick, sick unto death." Swamped with disillusionment and drowning in despair, he cursed the day he was born and wondered why an abortion wasn't performed, killing him prior to his birth...
An exaggeration? Not hardly. Read the record for yourself. Jeremiah's journal holds nothing back. In chapter 20 the chief officer in the temple had him beaten (forty lashes), then placed in stocks. That means his feet, hands and neck were secured in a torturous device that caused the body to be bent almost double. That happened after he was beaten! Why? Had he committed some crime? No. He had simply declared the truth. He had done was was right--and this is what he got in return. It hurt him deeply.
On top of all that, sarcastic whisperings swirled about. His once-trusted friends tagged him with a nick-name--MAGOR-MISSABIB--meaning "terror on every side." That also hurt. He must have felt like a limp rag doll in the mouth of a snarling Doberman...
The man is in anguish. Prophet or not, he is struggling with God's justice. His strange treatment. Deep down, he is questioning His presence. "Where is He? Why has Jehovah vanished at a time when I need him most?"...
What desperate feelings!
And one need not be...doubled over in stocks and beaten with rods. No, sometimes they come in the dark long tunnel of suffering when pain won't go away. Or when a marriage partner who promised to stay "for better or worst" breaks that vow. Or when a long-sought-after dream goes up in smoke. Or when we kiss a love one goodbye for the last time.
Not always...but sometimes (usually unmuttered and hidden away in the secret vaults of our minds) we question Jehovah's justice. We ask, "Is He absent today?"
At those time I'm tempted to say what the prophet said: "I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name....(20:9a)
"That's it! I'm tossing in my collar. No more sermons or devotionals for this preacher. Secular job here I come!" But right about the time I start to jump I experience what Jeremiah admitted:
...Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it (20:9b).
Directly sent from God is this surge of hope, this cleansing fire of confidence, this renewed sense of determination swelling up within me. And the disillusionment is quietly replaced with His reassurance as He reminds me of that glorious climax to the hymn I often sing back to Him in full volume:
"All is well, all is well!"
Thank God, it is. Recently, I doubted that --like Jeremiah. But not today. Reassurance has returned. Divine perspective has provided a fresh breeze of hope in the pits. I have determined that disillusionment must go.
Now...not later. (From Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life by Charles Swindoll)
APPLICATION Is your minister close to being burned out? Does he every feel like throwing in the towel? Look for ways to encourage him. After church or on Sunday, tell what you learned from the message. During the week, call, write, or stop by the church office to share what makes his ministry helpful to you.
EXPLORATION Trusting God in Difficult Times -- Psalm 27:5; Matthew 5:4-10; Romans 8:28; 2 Timothy 1:11-12
The Devotional Bible - Experiencing the Heart of Jesus; Max Lucado General Editor, New Century Version, Thomas Nelson Bibles.