Jeremiah was not popular among the people of Judah! His message from the Lord was primarily one of judgment, which lead to his life often being threatened. During his over 40 years of ministry Jeremiah often implored God to protect him…”Remember me, O Lord; remember me and care for me.” (Jeremiah 15:15) and “Let my persecutors be put to shame, but keep me from shame; let them be terrified, but keep me from terror.” (Jeremiah 17:18) Jeremiah had learned to put his absolute trust in God regardless of what the circumstances looked like around him…for he had discovered there’s no safer place to be than in the very center of God’s Will.
This verse implies… it’s not about us…and it’s not at all about our “righteous acts”. That’s because God’s infinite mercy and kindness towards us isn’t based on our works. It’s actually quite the opposite…for in Isaiah 64:6 it says, “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags to God.” And if you think about it, we can’t even take any credit for the relationship we have with God…for without the Cross spanning that chasm between God and man, we’d be lost. No, all honor needs to go to God, the Creator and source of everything. All glory needs to be ascribed to Him… for He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. (Exodus 34:6)
Our Heavenly Father is both benevolent and altruistic when it comes to blessing us. But we usually take that graciousness and turn it into prideful thinking. “Look what gifts the Lord has given me!” I Peter 4: 10-11 reminds us that we are to use those gifts to serve others, not flaunt them in front of people as trophies. The Apostle Paul warns us here that’s it’s all about our state of mind when regarding our giftings… it’s all about gratitude, not attitude and humility, not vanity.
Our walk with the Lord is a process…a long, sometimes difficult passage, from what we once were, to what we are becoming. But what happens many times, we end up feeling stuck in the middle of our old and new self. So that’s when it’s time to take inventory. Turn around and take a critical view of your old self…not a pretty picture, right? Now, ponder where your life is today with the Lord’s help. It’s nothing short of a miracle in how you have grown in the knowledge of God…and with that knowledge, how you have been changed. None of us will every be able to say, “I’ve arrived!” when it comes to the full knowledge of God…but as long as we continually strive for more of Him in our lives…we’ll be making headway.
Admitting we’re wrong and asking forgiveness is hard to do. And when it comes to acknowledging our sin before God it gets even tougher. It’s not that we’re deliberately rebelling against Him…of blatantly and conspicuously sinning for all to see. No, it’s rather sins by omission that really mess us up. These are secret sins that are easy to hide…things that only we may know about. These sins of omission are things neglected and left undone in our lives…like regular time in the Word, or prayer. Or they’re things we chose to turn a blind eye to…knowing the Lord wants us to act, but choosing to be apathetic instead. These sins of omission are disobedience at its best and need to be dealt with, for as time goes on, it becomes easier and easier to allow these sins to hide in our sub-conscience and justify them rather than admit they are wrong.
There was a great famine in the land due to a drought. The prophet Elijah had been instructed by the Lord to find a certain widow in Zarephath who would supply him with food. But when Elijah found her and asked for bread, she told him she had only enough flour and oil to feed herself and her son for the very last time. Elijah then said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But make a small cake of bread for me first.” In other words, “Before you feed your loved ones, I want you to trust God and feed me first.” Elijah was asking the widow to stretch her faith farther than it had ever been stretched before. He was challenging her to put her faith in God for the family’s provisions…no matter how long the famine lasted. He reassured her that by trusting God the jar of flour and jug of oil wouldn’t run dry…and they miraculously didn’t. Oh, to have the faith of that widow! Her eyes only saw a handful of flour and a dribble of oil left…but yet she bravely stepped out in faith, trusting God to provide for her family.
I encourage you to read the entire 11th Chapter of Hebrews, for in it you will read of many kinds and shades of faith. Faith is an ongoing lifetime journey of trusting God. It’s a way of life, not just a one time action done at conversion. Our faith grows as we grow in Christ…confidence in Him is forged and built every time we make the decision to trust Him. But as you read through Chapter 11 you’ll see the different nuances of faith shown… there’s expanding and growing faith, there’s beyond logic and reasoning faith, there’s sacrificial, persecuted, and impossible faith. Our life of faith begins with an internal response, which leads to faith-filled action. From there, it’s a life based on God’s promises…not on circumstances. Though, when you get to the end of this chapter you’ll read, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” Every person you read about here in Chapter 11 was praised for their faith, yet not one saw their promise fulfilled in their lifetime. Instead, they all persevered under pressure, never giving up, and always putting their confidence in their Lord.
Daniel had made quite the impression on King Darius…not only for his exceptional qualities of trustworthiness and integrity…but in his worship of God. Daniel’s life was one unending devotion to God…whether he was at work or at home…whether he was with other Christians or co-workers…his focus didn’t change. Can we say the same thing about ourselves? Would your co-workers readily comment about you as King Darius had observed about Daniel? Has your walk made such an impact on the people around you that they truly know from where your faith comes? Let us pray then that God would give all of us boldness to live a life worthy of the Gospel.
This verse tells us that even in the midst of suffering…God’s love shines forth and His favor surrounds us as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12) Circumstances can still be dark around us, but people will notice something different…a light shining forth from us, as we steadfastly put our faith and trust in God. Situations may not change, for we live in a broken world…but what can change is our attitude and reaction to them.
Jesus didn’t mince words with the Disciples. He used the phrase, “O you of little faith” many times throughout the book of Matthew in dealing with them. In Matthew 8:26 Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” In Matthew 14:31 He again asked, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Here were men who had witnessed miracle after miracle…bodies made whole, blind eyes receiving sight, dead bodies brought back to life…and they still hesitated to fully trust Jesus. If these men had trouble with their faith, why should it surprise me if I fall short? The Believer’s journey is taking that meager crumb of faith we’re given and growing it day by day…of being open and honest when we doubt…and asking the Lord to help us in our unbelief.