Jeremiah was facing a crisis: ministry was a lot harder than he realized.
It was not like Jeremiah knew nothing about ministry. His dad was a priest in his hometown of Anathoth. Yes, he was familiar with the highs and lows.
But this was different. And personal.
A Challenging Assignment
God had charged Jeremiah with a difficult – and uncomfortable – task.
But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. – Jeremiah 1:17
And what God wanted communicated to Judah was not good.
For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are “wise” – in doing evil! But how to do good they know not. – Jeremiah 4:22
Needless to say, his old friends from Anathoth were not impressed. As Jeremiah continued to speak the words of the Lord, the men from Anathoth continued to get angrier.
But things came to a head when Jeremiah began prophesying of Judah’s impending doom:
I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals, and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant. – Jeremiah 9:11
The men from Anathoth were finished with Jeremiah: “Stop prophesying or die”.
Confronted with death threats, Jeremiah runs to God with complaints.
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? – Jeremiah 12:1
Some of you find yourself in the midst of similar struggles and crushing doubts. Maybe you have even asked the same questions as Jeremiah:
- Why is this so hard? Why is this happening?
- Why do the wicked always succeed at everything?
- Why do you, God, never seem to intervene when needed?
From Jeremiah’s human perspective, these were valid questions. And he wanted answers.
God had not sugar-coated the truth to Judah. And He was not about to make the hard facts more digestible for Jeremiah either.
To make the point, God asks Jeremiah two questions:
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?
We can summarize God’s questions with two words: “Already tired?”
Assigned to the Challenge
What was God’s point to Jeremiah? Let’s break down each question:
- “If you cannot keep up with the men of Anathoth – if their death threats are bringing you down – what will happen when you must compete with the horses? In your future, you must face kings, priests, and the courts of Jerusalem. You will be faced with imprisonment and muddy cisterns, depression and loneliness. What then?”
- “If you have lost confidence in your own hometown – if your friends have let you down – what will happen when you must face greater enemies? And even greater threats in more intimidating places? In the future, you will feel as if you are in the midst of the thickets along the Jordan where the lions live. What then?”
In other words, “What happens when the going gets tougher, Jeremiah?”
God was using difficult situations in Jeremiah’s life to prepare him for even more difficult challenges ahead.
Before Jeremiah could be entrusted with bigger responsibilities and riskier missions, he had to be faithful in his present situation. If he could not trust God with full abandon now, Jeremiah was not ready to fully trust God in the future.
What’s the point?
If present hardships bring you down, present challenges discourage you, and present temptations trip you up, what will happen when the “going gets tougher?” What will happen when the hardships get harder, the challenges get more challenging, and the temptations get more tempting?
- Fail to make the right decisions now, and they only become harder to make tomorrow.
- Avoid the challenges today, and they only become more challenging later on.
- Fall for present temptations, and they only become more tempting in the future.
Now is the time to prepare for hard decisions. Now is the time to use the difficulties, decisions, and challenges God has placed in your life as an opportunity to deepen your faithfulness. Start trusting God now so you can trust Him more completely in the future.
Commit to training. Beginning today. And when you must race against horses, you will win.