Friday, August 10, 2012


“If you have raced with runners and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in a peaceful land, what will you do in the thickets of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5 HCSB)

Like the waves of the ocean, pressures and problems just keep coming at you. Life is relentless. The world will grind you down. Little by little, it erodes your determination and one day you collapse in despair.

Physical sickness, financial struggle, marital strife—the stressors are many and our strength seemingly inadequate. There can be a spiral into depression. They crack up; they break down; they cave in; they crumble under. Some even despair of life altogether and consider the unspeakable.

Those who would serve the Lord, not only find they are not immune from these issues, but have taken on themselves the heaviest burden of all—they shoulder a cross! Voluntarily, they lean down and lift up a cross and begin to walk in the bloody footprints Christ has left. Scripture tells us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Saints and sinners alike have ferocious storms assail them, according to Christ in His closing comments in His Sermon on the Mount.

But, disciples of Christ have at the core of who they are, a cross, and at the heart of what they do, denial of self. This is the Calvary Road. It is a path of pain. We are beckoned to come and die.

Paul, the Apostle, certainly traveled this trail of travail. Listen to his lament:

“Are they servants of Christ? I'm talking like a madman--I'm a better one: with far more labors, many more imprisonments, far worse beatings, near death many times. Five times I received 39 lashes from Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods [by the Romans]. Once I was stoned [by my enemies]. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea.

On frequent journeys, [I faced] dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers;

labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing. Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 HCSB)

Paul testifies of relentless pressure. An Old Testament counterpart, Jeremiah, could certainly identify with the New Testament missionary.

The prophet was crushed. Jeremiah’s burden had brought him to his knees. He had come to the point of despair. He looks at the sin of the people and knows how it grieves God—so the godly man is heartsick also. Jeremiah understands what the rebellion of his people will cost them, and he is broken for them. He has warned them and they have scorned him. Jeremiah has spoken to them in love and they have reciprocated with hate. Still, God expects his man to be faithful to preach a sermon that he knows no one wants to hear. He must shepherd a flock of sheep that are behaving as a pack of wolves—seeking to devour him.


“If my head were [a spring of] water, my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night over the slain of my dear people.” (Jeremiah 9:1 HCSB)

He had cried so much that his tear glands had the dry heaves! He needs to cry, he wants to cry, but is “cried out” and wants God to fill up the well in his eyes again. His soul is grieved, but not so much from his own suffering, as sorrow over the slain of his people—their suffering because of their sin.

It was so needless. They could have chosen deliverance through repentance rather than death through rebellion, but they were so heedless. They would not listen to the prophet’s warning; they would not respond to God’s offer of compassion. Things were bad, but destined to get worse.

Jeremiah sees it unfolding before his eyes. Those eyes were red and swollen—the result of this burden he carried.

Then there followed his ESCAPE REFLEX.

“If only I had a traveler's lodging place in the wilderness, I would abandon my people and depart from them, for they are all adulterers, a solemn assembly of treacherous people.” (Jeremiah 9:2 HCSB)

A stove burner may be turned off, no longer red, yet still very hot. Have you ever had that painful reminder? You placed your hand on it. Did you think, “My, that’s hot! I wonder why it’s so hot? What is that I smell—burning flesh? What should I do now? Maybe I can discuss my options with a family member or friend.”

Is that what you did? No! You instinctively jerked your hand away without needing to think—it was a reflex.

If you are jogging down a path in the woods and a snake darts across your path, do you: a) seek to identify the kind of snake; b) bend over and take a picture of the snake; or c) come to a screeching halt and jump backwards as quickly as you can with a scream?

You chose “c” of course. It is a reflex built in to escape.

Jeremiah wants to run away. He’s had enough. He can’t take it any more. If you have never wanted to run from the fire then you’ve never tried to fight against hell. If you have never sought to escape that old Serpent, then you have never done enough to cross his path and upset him.

A lady went into her bedroom one Sunday morning and told her husband, “It’s time to get up and go to church.” He mumbled, “I don’t want to.” She said, “You have to.” He groaned, “Why do I have to go?” His wife replied, “Because you are the pastor!” Please, don’t tell anyone, but there have been a few times I was tempted to roll back over and go to sleep on a Sunday morning—it’s just our secret, okay?


“This is what the Lord says:

The wise man must not boast in his wisdom; the strong man must not boast in his strength; the wealthy man must not boast in his wealth.

But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me-
that I am the Lord, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things. [This is] the Lord's declaration.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 HCSB)

When our wisdom is exhausted—and even the brightest among us is not omniscient, there is an understanding and knowledge that surpasses any other—knowing God. Our problems may defy a solution, but if we have a personal experience with the Omniscient God, that is more than enough to know.

When our strength is expired—and even the mightiest among us is not omnipotent, there is power available that is stronger than any stress we are under. In our weakness, we become strong—in our connection with the Omnipotent Lord.

When our wealth is expended—and even the richest among us is not limitless in resources, there is a God we know who has the surpassing riches of His grace available. In our bankruptcy, we have abundance—in our reliance on the Omnipresent Lord, who will never leave us, nor forsake us.

He is faithful. Limitless love, perfect justice and utter righteousness will be administered by the Lord. If we are hated by family, unjustly treated by friends and done wrong by our fellowman, we can be assured our Father delights to bless us nevertheless. He has promised!

In the temptation to give up, Jeremiah is reminded of his ENDURING RESPONSIBILITY.

“If you have raced with runners and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in a peaceful land, what will you do in the thickets of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5 HCSB)

The prophet was worn down in the race. He had been on the run and was ready to drop out. What does God say? I paraphrase: “If you can’t keep up with life now, how will you keep going when it really gets tough?” You are going to have to run with horses! Jeremiah was facing hardship before Jerusalem fell, what would he do when the city was destroyed and the pagans took over? He would find himself in the thicket of thorns! This is out of the frying pan and into the fire.

God issues a call to endurance. He never promised it would be easy. It wasn’t for Jesus; it won’t be for His followers. Christians are beginning to face some pressures today in America. We call it persecution, and to some degree it is. But, we have brothers and sisters behind the Veil of Islam and behind the Bamboo Curtain who are imprisoned, tortured, and slain for their faith in Jesus Christ. They kept running, even with the horses. If we can’t handle this, how can we face that? As the world grows darker, the attempt to extinguish our light will become more intense. Brace yourself.

We will be tempted to give up, give out and give in. Doing the right thing will not enable us to evade trouble; it will exacerbate it! Jeremiah would stagger, but God would steady his servant.

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up.” (Galatians 6:9 HCSB)

Finish well; be faithful. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.

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