Sunday, March 30, 2008
Confessions Of An Unpopular Prophet
Jer 11: 18 The Lord informed me, so I knew. Then You helped me to see their deeds,
19 for I was like a docile lamb led to slaughter. I didn’t know that they had devised plots against me: “Let’s destroy the tree with its fruit; let’s cut him off from the land of the living so that his name will no longer be remembered.”
20 But, Lord of Hosts, who judges righteously, who tests heart and mind, let me see Your vengeance on them, for I have presented my case to You.
21 Therefore, here is what the Lord says concerning the people of Anathoth who want to take your life. They warn, “You must not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will certainly die at our hand.”
22 Therefore, this is what the Lord of Hosts says: “I am about to punish them. The young men will die by the sword; their sons and daughters will die by famine.
23 They will have no remnant, for I will bring disaster on the people of Anathoth [in]the year of their punishment.”
Jer 12:1 Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
Jer 12:2 You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart.
Jer 12:3 But you, O LORD, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
Jer 12:4 How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? For the evil of those who dwell in it the beasts and the birds are swept away, because they said, "He will not see our latter end."
Jer 12:5 "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?
Jer 12:6 For even your brothers and the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; they are in full cry after you; do not believe them, though they speak friendly words to you."
Jer 12:7 "I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned my heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies.
Jer 12:8 My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her.
Jer 12:9 Is my heritage to me like a hyena's lair? Are the birds of prey against her all around? Go, assemble all the wild beasts; bring them to devour.
Jer 12:10 Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
Jer 12:11 They have made it a desolation; desolate, it mourns to me. The whole land is made desolate, but no man lays it to heart.
Jer 12:12 Upon all the bare heights in the desert destroyers have come, for the sword of the LORD devours from one end of the land to the other; no flesh has peace.
Jer 12:13 They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns; they have tired themselves out but profit nothing. They shall be ashamed of their harvests because of the fierce anger of the LORD."
Jer 12:14 Thus says the LORD concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: "Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them.
Jer 12:15 And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land.
Jer 12:16 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, 'As the LORD lives,' even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people.
Jer 12:17 But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the LORD."
It was once announced that the devil was going out of business and would offer all tools for sale to whoever would pay his price. On the night of the sale, they were all attractively displayed and a bad looking lot they were: Malice, Hatred, Envy, Jealousy, Sensuality, and Deceit, and all the other implements of evil, were spread out each marked with its price.
Apart from the rest lay a harmless looking, wedge shaped tool, much worn and priced higher than any of them. Someone asked the devil what it was. “That's discouragement,” was the reply.
“Why do you have it priced so high?”
“Because,” replied the devil, “it is more useful to me than any of the others. I can pry open and get inside a man's consciousness with that when I could not get near him with any of the others, and when once inside I can use him in whatever way suits me best. It is so much worn because I use it with nearly everybody, for very few people yet know it belongs to me.” -- Rev. E. E. Hendricks
During the Boer War (1899-1902), a man was convicted of a very unusual crime. He was found guilty of being a "discourager." The South African town of Ladysmith was under attack, and this traitor would move up and down the lines of soldiers who were defending the city and do everything he could to discourage them. He would point out the enemy's strength, the difficulty of defending against them, and the inevitable capture of the city. He didn't use a gun in his attack. It wasn't necessary. His weapon was the power of discouragement.
In “Remember All the Way,” William C. Townsend founder of Wycliffe Bible translators related the story of an evangelist who was facing discouragement and criticism. One day he said to a colleague, “'Don Guillermo, I'm going to quit.’ Guillermo replied, 'Why do you give your resignation to me? When you began your service, you said the Lord Jesus Christ was calling you to tell others about Him. I think you'd better present your resignation to the One who called you. Let's get down on our knees here, and you tell Him that you are going to quit. Let Him hear what you've just told me -- that it's too hard, that too many people criticize you. Tell the Lord -- He's the One who sent you.’ 'Well, I hesitate to do that,' he replied. 'I'm afraid He'll tell me to stay with the job.’ 'If that's what He wants, don't you think you'd better stay?’ 'Yes, I think I should!'" Taking new courage and refusing to look back, the evangelist went on to 'plow a straight furrow for God.’
1. Faithful Christian Service Can Be Formidable
Jer 11: 18 The Lord informed me, so I knew. Then You helped me to see their deeds,
19 for I was like a docile lamb led to slaughter. I didn’t know that they had devised plots against me: “Let’s destroy the tree with its fruit; let’s cut him off from the land of the living so that his name will no longer be remembered.” 20 But, Lord of Hosts, who judges righteously, who tests heart and mind, let me see Your vengeance on them, for I have presented my case to You. 21 Therefore, here is what the Lord says concerning the people of Anathoth who want to take your life. They warn, “You must not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will certainly die at our hand.” 22 Therefore, this is what the Lord of Hosts says: “I am about to punish them. The young men will die by the sword; their sons and daughters will die by famine. 23 They will have no remnant, for I will bring disaster on the people of Anathoth [in]the year of their punishment.”
Sometimes our faith will cost us with family.
Jeremiah had a problem and the problem was in his own hometown. Some of the home grown politicians and the local families of note wanted Jeremiah dead.
A plot had been made against his life. And Jeremiah ought to be real careful.
Later it would be the King Jehoiakim who wanted to take Jeremiah’s life.
Luke 4: He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
22 They were all speaking well of Him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from His mouth, yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
23 Then He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverbto Me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself.’ ‘All we’ve heard that took place in Capernaum, do here in Your hometown also.’ ”
24 He also said, “• I assure you: No prophet is accepted in his hometown.
The Lord Jesus said Matthew 10 : 32 “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven. 34 Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.37 The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. 39 Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it.
Ravi Zacharias, a great Christian apologist writes: When I was a teenager growing up in Delhi I was really not doing very well. I was failing at everything. For those of you who have read my story in WALKING FROM EAST TO WEST, you’ll know failure was writ large on my life. My dad basically looked at me and said, “You know, you’re going to be a huge embarrassment to the family — one failure after another.” And he was right given the way I was headed. I just was looking for an escape. I wanted to get out of everything I was setting my hand to, and I lacked discipline.
During this time, India was at war with a neighboring country and the defense academy was looking for pilots to be trained. They were calling them general duties pilots — G.D. pilots. So I applied and I went to be interviewed for this. It was an overnight train journey from the city of Delhi. It was wintertime and it gets quite cold then in the northern part of the country. We were outside freezing in the cold air for about five days as we went through physical endurance tests and all kinds of other tests. There were three hundred applicants; they were going to select ten. On the last day they put their selection of names out on the board, and I was positioned number three.
I phoned my family and said, “You aren’t going to believe this. I’m going to make it. I’m number three. The only thing that’s left is the interview. The psychological testing is tomorrow, and I’ll be home.”
The next morning I began my interview with the chief commanding officer, who looked to me like Churchill sitting across the table. He asked me question after question. Then he leaned forward and said, “Son, I’m going to break your heart today.” I wondered what he was going to say. He continued, “I’m going to reject you. I’m not going to pass you in this test.” “May I ask you why, sir?” I replied. “Yes. Psychologically, you’re not wired to kill. And this job is about killing.”
You know, inside of me I felt that I was on the verge of wanting to prove him wrong right then and there. But I knew better, both for moral reasons and for his size! So I went back to my room and didn’t talk to anybody, packed my bags, got into the train, and arrived in Delhi. My parents and friends were waiting at the platform with garlands and sweets in their hands to congratulate me. No one knew. I thought to myself, “How do I even handle this? Where do I even begin?” They were celebrating, and yet for me, it was all over.
Or so I thought. Had I been selected, I would have had to commit twenty years to the Indian armed forces. It was the very next year that my father had the opportunity to move to Canada. My brother and I moved there as the first installment, and the rest of them followed. It was there I was in business school and God redirected my paths to theological training. It was there that I met Margie; there my whole life changed. The rest is history. Had I been in the Indian Air Force, who knows what thread I’d have pulled to wreck the fabric.
THANKFULLY, OUR DISAPPOINTMENTS MATTER TO GOD, AND HE HAS A WAY OF TAKING EVEN SOME OF THE BITTEREST MOMENTS WE GO THROUGH AND MAKING THEM INTO SOMETHING OF GREAT SIGNIFICANCE IN OUR LIFE. It’s hard to understand it at the time. Not one of us wants that thread when it is being woven in. Not one of us says, “I can hardly wait to see where this is going to fit.” We all say at that moment, “This is not the pattern I want.”
Sometimes your faithfulness will be tested with regard to family.
Sometimes your faithfulness will be tested with regard to fear.
I guess there is a sense in which you don’t gather your convictions until someone so wants to take your life.
Marijuanna almost took one pastor’s life some years ago.
Do you remember the McKay murder down in the Riverina? There were several places Robert Trimbolli had plantations growing. This pastor stumbled across one , grown by the husband of a parishioner. One day the woman who was scared and distressed dropped off 27 plants in his backyard. He burnt them off in his back yard. It was too dangerous to bring the authorities in at that stage, as her estranged schizophrenic husband had gathered a multitude of weapons including hand grenades and hand guns.
He had already spent a few years in gaol for trying to blow up a police station with dynamite strapped to his chest.
He figured out it was either the pastor or a deacon in the town that had destroyed his prototype research crop. And he wanted the one that did it dead.
The pastor needed to see him gone. So he arranged a police swoop that netted a million dollars worth of marijuana. There was actually 3 m8ilion worth growing there, and the police only took one million worth.
So the pastor arranged another swoop with the drug squad, which netted another million worth.
Very soon after the pastor found a bad of marijuana dumped on his driveway. He didn’t touch it (kept finger prints off it) and realised he might be being set up. He called the police and none came. So he sat watching the marijuana and preparing sermons all day, ringing the police every two hours to come get it. Finally he rang a young policeman who immediately came a picked it up.
The pastor spent a whole year keeping a low profile, realising that what had happened to his friend’s brother-in-law, could certainly as easily happen to him.
Yes sometimes our faith will cost us with fear!
2. Faithful Christian Service Can Be Frustrating
Jer 12:1 Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?
2 Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
3 But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.
(Psalm 73: 1 God is indeed good to Israel, to the pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray.
3 For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have an easy time until they die,and their bodies are well-fed.
5 They are not in trouble like others; they are not afflicted like most people.
6 Therefore, pride is their necklace, and violence covers them like a garment.
7 Their eyes bulge out from fatness; the imaginations of their hearts run wild.
8 They mock, and they speak maliciously; they arrogantly threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues strut across the earth.
12 Look at them—the wicked! They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth.
13 Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?
16 When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless
17 until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny.
18 Indeed You put them in slippery places; You make them fall into ruin.
19 How suddenly they become a desolation! They come to an end, swept away by terrors.
21 When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded,
22 I was a fool and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward You.
23 Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me up in glory.
28 But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do.
The ministry is not a picnic or carnival and is a task that requires determination, conviction and a reliance on God. This is no place for the fainthearted. This is no place for those who are on a fool's errand. This is not Bible camp. This will take everything in you. The apostle Paul would have been greatly alarmed if he had been asked to speak at many modern-day conferences on ministry. "I wonder what he would have thought about spending a great deal of time on the nature of blended worship." Likewise, Paul would have been dismayed to hear such addresses as "the pastor and his computer," "the pastor as a change agent" and "seven skills for highly effective pasturing. You can just imagine him laying the phone down on his desk and saying, 'My, my. I don't know what I'm going to do with these people.'"
Pastor Im served the Lord in North Korea before mistakenly being arrested and thrown into prison on Kojedo Island. He could almost hear Satan whispering, “Where is your God?” But he overcame self-pity and prayed, “Dear Lord Jesus, if You have let all this heartache come to me and my family, it must be because You have something for me to do. What can I do for You here on this prison island?”
It was Christmas season, so Pastor Im gathered some other prisoners to sing carols. Such gatherings were forbidden. But the American soldiers knew the tunes, though not the Korean words; so with guns trained on the group, they let 500 Korean POWs stand in the rain and sing carols of our Lord’s birth.
Pastor Im won hundreds of prisoners to Christ, holding Bible studies in camp. More than 6000 men finished the six-month course of daily Bible study. At least 600 prisoners went on to become preachers of the Gospel -- all because of one man who didn’t give in to the Christmas blues.
Sometimes your faithfulness will be tested with regard to finances.
When Lorelle and I started out pasturing a small church plant in Kiama things were tight. The wage was $110 a week, out of which we paid $80 a week rent, and I had to run a car and go to Sydney each week to complete theological college. When we were first married we saved up for three months to buy a mop.
Sometimes you need those times to test whether you are serving the Lord for right motives. Finances should never be an issue when you are looking into eternity. Sometimes the Lord tests us in this way.
3. Faithful Christian Service Can Be Fatiguing
Jeremiah 12: 5 If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan? 6 For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.
There is a Peanut’s cartoon where Charlie Brown is telling his problems to Schroeder. To comfort Charlie Brown Schroeder says, “Don’t be discouraged, Charlie Brown. These early defeats help to build character for later on in life.”
Charlie Brown asks, “For WHAT later on in life?”
Schroeder answers, “For more defeats!”
In the fifth chapter of Romans the apostle Paul declares, “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
Rev. W.G. Lawes of the London missionary Society in PNG worked at “Savage Island”.. over the years of his ministry there, the Lord allowed him to lead over 1000 folk to Christ and see them baptised as believers., He trained many of the young men as pastors and missionaries. He translated the whole New Testament and parts of the Old testament into the native dialect. He found it hard to leave the work “but the call to harder work, more self denying work, is an honour from the Master’s hands. Does He not in this way deal with his servants? Is not the reward for service in His kingdom, more service, harder sservice, and (measured by human standards) less successful service?”
Steve Brown related the story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost. In the darkness he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Brown explained, "Then he remembered the One who had died for him -- who had endured -- who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches."
Lift up your heads, discouraged ones,
And be ye glad at heart,
For Calvary and the resurrection —
Earth’s saddest day and gladdest day,
Were just three days apart,
Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. — Hebrews 12:3.
Many years ago there was a discouraged servant of the Lord in a New England town. He was criticized for his beliefs and the way he expressed them. One day with a sense of failure, he climbed to the steeple room in his church. Unconverted men feeling a lack of approval, financial success and popularity might have attempted suicide. But this man, Washington Gladden, sat down and poured himself out in prayer and then wrote:
“0 Master, let me walk with Thee In lowly paths of service free,
Tell me Thy secret, help me bear The strain of toil, the fret of care.”
Another hymn writer pout it this way:
When my life is burdened with sorrow, And it seems all help is gone,
Jesus whispers, “Do not falter; I will leave thee not alone.”
Then somehow amidst my trials, How it is I cannot see;
Still I hear a voice from heaven; Gently saying “Follow me.”
Sometimes my friends do forsake me, and I’m tempted to despair;
Then I think of my dear Jesus -- To lay His head He had nowhere.