Monday, June 19, 2017

Jeremiah 20:7-13 Losing Friends to Influence People

KEY TEXT: Jeremiah 20:8-11 For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my close friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him." But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.

KEY THOT: Preaching God's word truthfully (even in love) will not always win friends but may yet influence people. It sometimes makes enemies of our family and friends. As Jeremiah has experienced: "For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision (NIV: insult) all day long" (v.8). Nevertheless, because he was anointed by the Spirit, he could not but speak: "If I say, 'I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,' there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot" (v.9). While Jeremiah knows that proclaiming God's word will not always win him friends and influence, he has no choice but speak because God's word is like a fire burning within him and he has to speak it to unburden himself. Fear of rejection can sometime prevent us from speaking the truth even in love. But if God has put his word in us, he also causes it to burn within us, so that we "cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

There are two important lessons that we can learn from today's text regarding speaking the truth in love. Firstly, for God's word to be like "burning fire", its source must be from the Spirit: "And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit" (Mark 13:11). When the words are from the Spirit of God, it will burn within us until they are released. And only when such words are spoken are they the very "words of God". Don't speak words that we ourselves have thought up, for they tend to be lukewarm and powerless.

Second principle is that we must overcome fear of men and men's rejection to speak God's word. Let God take care of the effect our words will have on our listeners. If they reject the word and us as God's speakers, then it is not our problem to resolve that but God's: "But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed" (v.11). As Bill Bright of former Campus Crusade for Christ once wrote: "Witnessing is sharing Christ in the power of the Spirit and leaving the result to God." 

But we must expect that sometime speaking God's truth can turn friends and even family members into our enemies--at least temporarily, until God deals with them according to His truth to cause them to turn to Him in repentance. Our responsibility is simply to deliver the Word--it's God's responsibility to handle the listeners' response. 

Abba-Father, deliver us from fear of men. Help us to fear You instead, so that we might speak the Word You have put in our hearts to speak without fear or favour. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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