Reviving the Saints

Life is exhausting, and ministry sometimes makes it worse. How can Christians be revived on our life’s journey?

Followers of Christ grow weary and sometimes fall away:

  1. Normal ups and downs of life and ministry – To be human is to encounter sickness, injury, and disappointment. Things break, opportunities vanish, relationships wither, and hopes fade. In ministry, people we love and serve angrily resist and reject. We labor for years with seemingly little effect.
  2. Major hurtful events and people in our lives – Sometimes even friends and loved ones succumb to the pressure of the world and reject us and our faith. Sometimes they end their own lives.
  3. Discrimination against and persecution of Christians in the United States (academic, political, economic) – We lose our jobs and other opportunities due to the practice of our faith. Christian schools are threatened with loss of accreditation, and Christians are seen as unfit for political office because of their beliefs.[1] Christians have become criminals simply for reading a Bible passage or saying something that others don’t like.[2] For example, H.R.5 – Equality Act 2019 – LGBTQ rights states “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.” Whatever one thinks about LGBTQ rights, religious beliefs would be no defense to prosecution (and persecution). Christians who believe what the Bible states about LGBTQ issues are specifically targeted.

Non-Christians encounter issues one and two, but increasingly Christians are facing problem three as well. It is so easy to despair. Amidst these challenges, how can believers in Jesus Christ be revived?

Honest communication with God

V15 – Jeremiah knew God. He knew that God understood his predicament but felt forgotten and neglected. Jewish kings, false prophets, faithless priests, bitter public servants, and cowardly soldiers ridiculed, slandered, imprisoned, and wounded Jeremiah. Yet God delayed their punishment. The Lord’s forbearance to those who hurt Jeremiah so much got under the prophet’s skin.

V16 – Jeremiah reminded God how readily he accepted his commission. Jeremiah loved God’s word and made it a part of himself

Do you strive to know God? Do you spend time in honest communication with God? Do you turn off your phones (and maybe even take a phone fast) to get away from distraction? Do you listen to God as well as speak? Do you feel like God is neglecting you? Are you growing weary with God’s patience in exacting justice on your enemies? Have you told the Lord these things? What has He said about them? What has He done about them?

Faithful service to God

V17 – Jeremiah spoke the words of the Lord to His people in His day. They were not pleasing words but harsh words. They were words of judgement, pain, and death, rather than of tolerance, prosperity, and life. Jeremiah’s message was faithful but was not popular. He called for humility and surrender rather than falsely promising honor and victory.

Even the pleasing words of Jeremiah, those that promised ultimate victory for Israel, would only come after their repentance. Furthermore, it would be a long time.

As a result, the powerful people in his nation hated Jeremiah. They accused him of treason and worse. The Jewish leaders were convinced of their own rightness and Jeremiah’s wrongdoing. The seeming certainty of these wicked men, and their seeming prosperity, made Jeremiah doubt.

Jeremiah saw other faithful prophets executed (Uriah – Jeremiah 26:20-24). He could not enjoy fellowship with others, and later was denied even the solace of a wife. Jeremiah felt utterly alone.

Do you feel alone? Do you have anyone to share your burdens with? Whom? If not, who should you reach out to? Whose burdens do you share? Who can you trust? What have you done to build relationships of trust?

Repentance before God

V18 – The burden was too great for Jeremiah to bear. He lapsed into despair, doubting the faithfulness of God. Was God really worthy of allegiance in his life? Was all of this pain worth it? Jeremiah felt deeply wounded and could see no cure. He saw no hope of relief.

Israel, and especially Judah, is a hot, dry land with large deserts to the southeast. Many streams are perennial, only having water after rains, typically in the spring. A traveler seeking water in those streams was disappointed nine months out of the year. And this disappointment could be fatal.

V19 – God’s answer was not gentle but was full of love. He was not angry with Jeremiah but would not tolerate foolishness.

Jeremiah was weary and discouraged, but he had allowed himself to sin. God did not excuse Jeremiah’s sin, for there is no excuse. We may try to condone sin, pretending that a person’s condition forces them to sin, but this is false. Fatigue, discouragement, and everything that Jeremiah felt did not remove his responsibility for turning against God.

The Lord commanded Jeremiah to repent. If and only if Jeremiah repented, God would restore him.

The Lord commanded Jeremiah to utter worthwhile words, not worthless ones. Only then would the prophet be the spokesman for the Living God.

The pressure of Jewish society was tempting Jeremiah to soften his message; to speak things more palatable to the ears of those around him, as the false prophets did. God ordered Jeremiah to speak His words and allow the people to come around to His way of thinking rather than the other way around. Restated, Jeremiah was to teach the Jews to think, speak, and act as God does, instead of the Jews teaching Jeremiah to think, speak, and act as they did.

Are you doubting God? Are you wavering in your determination to follow Him? Are you accusing Him of faithlessness, lack of love, lack of power, or something else? Do you doubt whether He actually exists?

Have you repented, asking Him for guidance, strength, and patience to endure? Have you endured suffering for the glory set before you (Hebrews 12:2-3)?

Have you been bold about God’s message? Have you changed your message to accommodate the world rather than waiting for God’s message to change the world for Him? Are you speaking faithful words or vile ones?

Victory from God

VV 20-21 – God promised Jeremiah ultimate victory in his life and ministry. Enemies would continue to attack him, but God would make Jeremiah so strong that these attacks would not prevail. More importantly, God Himself would be with the prophet.

Who is attacking you now? Are you wavering in your resistance to them? Do you believe that God has made you a wall of bronze that cannot be overcome? Are you looking to this earth for your reward? Are you looking to God for your reward? Are your ambitions targeted to earth or to heaven?

Conclusion

COVID-19, rioting and pillaging in American cities, skyrocketing crime, and hateful politics characterize America and the West in 2020. Persecution against followers of Christ will increase, just like God’s chosen people, the Jews, hated God’s chosen prophet, Jeremiah. Believer’s blood will be shed, even in the formerly Christian-majority West. We will suffer, but our suffering will give way to joy. But God is still on His throne. His victory, and our victory, is assured. Nothing happens, ever, outside of His power.

Jesus said, ““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

[1] Is There Christian Persecution in America? https://www.beliefnet.com/news/is-there-christian-persecution-in-america.aspx.

[2] Criminalizing Christianity by Attacking Free Speech, https://www.afa.net/the-stand/culture/2019/04/criminalizing-christianity-by-attacking-free-speech/.

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