SERMON: The Call to Speak Out (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19)
I want you to imagine that you’ve been asked to give a speech—one that entails speaking out at the local council meeting about something that you know is wrong. It could be a matter of mismanagement, mistreatment of the elderly or disabled, or it could be about one of a number of other things. But how do you feel? Nervous? Panicky? Starting to look for a way out?
Now let’s imagine that you were asked by someone who is important to you—someone for whom you would do almost anything. And you know that the task is important. You also know what the consequences will be.
Because to say that you will receive opposition is to put it mildly. In fact you know the result of what you have to say would almost certainly be . . . Being thrown out of the meeting, being treated like dirt from then on, and even losing all your (so-called) friends. And that people will then go out of their way to be nasty to you.
So how would you feel? Would you do it? Or would you find an excuse not to do it, or even carry on as if you’ve never been asked?
B. THE CALL TO SPEAK OUT (1)
Because Jeremiah, in this passage from Jeremiah, was faced with that sort of dilemma. But with a few differences . . .
Because it wasn’t just one speech that was needed, but a continual need to speak out. It wasn’t just to the local council, it was to the members of the establishment (kings, state officials, priests, influential groups, as well as to ordinary citizens). It wasn’t just a request by any old person either—it was a request from God himself. And it wasn’t just a request—it was an order.
But with that order, there were a few words of encouragement—and a few words of warning too:
1. Brace Yourself (17a)
‘Fasten your belt! Stand up!’ he was told. ‘There’s a torrid experience you’re about to face. You need to be resolute, as a man prepared for battle, or as an athlete determined to win the race.’
2. Speak God’s Word (17b)
‘Tell them everything I command you,’ God told him. ‘You will need to stand up and speak. But not your own words, but the words that I will give you. Not from your own heart, as false prophets do, but the words that I (God) command you to say.’
3. Don’t Be Discouraged (17c)
And ‘Don’t show fear in their presence,’ he was told. ‘Because if you fear what others will do to you, that is nothing to what I (God) will do if you fail to do what I ask.’
In other words, Jeremiah would not only have to face the wrath of the people, but he would have to answer to God as well.
4. God Will Make You Strong (18)
God’s promise to Jeremiah was that he would make him strong enough to do the task. A promise no doubt Jeremiah returned to on a number of occasions . . .
5. You Will Meet Resistance (19)
. . . particularly when he met the opposition that God had indicated he would face.
And you know what? Even faced with all that, Jeremiah did as he was told.
C. UNWILLING VOLUNTEERS
Now then, let’s change our original scenario around . . . Because if we were faced not with the challenge of a friend asking us to speak out at the council, but with God telling us to speak out for him (just like Jeremiah did) what would our response be then? Do we comply? Do we make an excuse? Or do we carry on, and pretend it never happened?
After all, not all of us are good at that sort of thing. We can’t all be good public speakers. We haven’t all been trained to do that. But then maybe, we might tell ourselves, it’s all some big mistake. ‘God can’t really be calling me to speak out,’ and, ‘In any case, aren’t we passed all that sort of thing.’
Well, if that’s the case, there is one thing we can take comfort in, and that is that we wouldn’t be the first to make excuses to God.
1. Jeremiah (6)
After all, Jeremiah himself came up with two excuses: ‘I don’t know how to speak.’ ‘I am only a boy.’
And of course there’s the master of excuse—Moses. ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Sons of Israel out of Egypt’ (Ex 3:11). ‘What will I do if the elders won’t believe or listen to me? What if they say to me, “The Lord has not revealed himself to you”’ (Ex 4:1). ‘Please, Lord, I’m not a good speaker. I have never been in the past and I am not now, even after you have spoken to your servant. I remain slow of speech and slow of tongue’ (Ex 4:10). And perhaps the most honest excuse of them all, ‘Please, Lord. Please send someone else’ (Ex 4:13).
And as we know God didn’t accept his excuses.
And if he didn’t accept the excuses of either Jeremiah or Moses, then why would we think our excuses would be any more acceptable either.
D. THE CALL TO SPEAK OUT (2)
Now up to this point we’ve talked about ‘what if’ . . . ‘What if God was to call me…?’ ‘What would my response be?’ But you know God has called me, and he’s called you. He has called each and every one of us to speak out for him.
‘You will be witnesses . . .’ Jesus said, ‘in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8b).
But what exactly does that mean?
1. Jeremiah’s Message
Well, Jeremiah was called to speak out, to be a witness about a number of things.
He was told to speak out about God: The kind of God he is; his attributes; his involvement in human affairs; and his love for his people.
And Jeremiah did just that. He described God, for example, as ‘the fountain of living water’ (2:13). He used warm personal expressions like ‘betrothed’ (2:2), and ‘father’ (3:19) to describe God. For him God was both near and far off. He used terms like ‘loyalty’ and ‘steadfast love’ of God’s attributes. And ‘loyalty’, ‘justice’, and ‘righteousness’ as the things not only God practices, but the things he delights in.
b). The Nation
He was called to speak out about his country. The things God had done for it and the people. And their rejection of him, and their rebellious ways.
The country is described as ‘a choice vine’ (2:21), God’s own ‘inheritance’ (12:9), even ‘sons’ (3:19). And yet the nation’s behaviour to God is described in terms of ‘adultery’ or ‘harlotry’.
c). Sin and Repentance
He was called to speak out about sin and repentance; the worship of false gods; social sins—injustice, dishonesty and impurity; and the call to return to God’s ways.
Obedience to the laws of God was incumbent upon the people, Jeremiah proclaimed (7:5). But it was not just a matter of the casual, or even habitual breaking of the laws he was most concerned about. It was their basic attitude towards God that was the problem (2:22).
d). Future Hope
And he was called to speak out a message of future hope, of restoration, and of the coming Messiah. Jeremiah pointed beyond judgement to a future hope when fortunes would be restored.
2. Jesus’s Message
Sound familiar? Because it’s exactly the same things that Jesus talked about. Only the Messiah he pointed to was himself.
Jesus talked about his father, and his care for all created beings.
b). The Nation
Jesus talked about his country; the things that God had done; and the way people had turned away from him. He particularly spoke out about the behaviour of the religious leaders, and how they led the people astray.
c). Sin and Repentance
Jesus talked about injustice—the Pharisees being major culprits—and he called people to repent and turn from their sin.
d). The Future Hope
And Jesus talked about the future—about life after death, and the resurrection to life for all who believed.
3. Our Message
And it is to all of these things that we are called to witness.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘As the Father sent me, I am sending you’ (John 20:21). So if we are Jesus’s disciples, if we really believe that Jesus is the Son of God, if we believe that he died for us on the cross, then we have already been commanded to speak out, just as Jeremiah did.
For his pains, Jeremiah was plotted against (11:18-23); had his worked destroyed (namely his scroll) piece by piece (36:25); he was flogged, imprisoned, and held in the most unhealthy circumstances underground (37:11-16). He was considered a traitor (38:2-4), and generally made himself so unpopular that he wanted to give up the task he was given on more than one occasion (9:1).
But he didn’t . . .
. . . and neither should we.
We may face all sorts of opposition. But we shouldn’t give up either.
Now we may not all be required to stand in the pulpit, we may not all be required to stand up at a local council meeting; but never the less we are all called to speak out. We are required to stand up and be counted. In short, we are called to be witnesses for Christ.
And that involves witnessing about God, who he is and what he’s about; speaking out about our nation, the things that God has done, and how people have turned away from him; it means talking about sin and repentance; and it means raising the future hope of everlasting life for those who are disciples of Jesus.
But in doing so, let’s remember the message of Jeremiah. The words of encouragement by God, as well as the words of warning. ‘Fasten your belt! Stand up!’ God said. ‘Tell them everything I command you.’ ‘Don’t show fear in their presence.’
And those excuses? Well, let’s remember that God did not accept Jeremiah’s (or Moses’s), so he’s hardly likely to accept ours either.
Posted: 17th September 2021
© 2021, Brian A Curtis
SERMON: Please Don't Send Me (Jeremiah 1:4-10)
Whenever there is talk in the church about evangelism, outreach, mission, or simply the need to share our faith, there is invariably a great deal of discomfort—and much opposition. Oh yes, many may agree, in theory, that they are all part of the church’s function. But, the responses in most churches, is usually a variety of excuses or delaying tactics to avoid doing any of those things. “That’s for other churches.” “Let’s set up a committee to look at what we can do.” “Let’s concentrate on other (more important) things.” Or, even, “Let’s pay someone else to do it.” Indeed, the one message that is most common in our churches is, “Don’t involve me.”
In regard to evangelism, outreach, mission, and the need to share our faith, many Christians find all sorts of reasons why they should not get personally involved. And even that others would be far more suited for that kind of ministry. And it’s amazing how many people claim that they would not know what to say; that they do not have the right skills; that they do not have any experience in that sort of thing; or, simply, that they just don’t want to get involved.
And that’s surprising, in many ways. Because one of the major reasons that the church exists, is that it is supposed to be a group of people—with all different gifts and abilities—who have the specific task of telling other people about God.
Now if I’ve hit on a raw nerve today, please don’t feel you are being personally got at. Because you are not alone. And it’s not even a phenomenon that is unique to our own times, as our example from the Old Testament—with Jeremiah—spells out.
1. Background (4)
Now the background to the prophet Jeremiah, was that he was a very young man, probably someone in his teenage years. He came from a family of priests, whose duties would have included: interpreting God’s laws to help the people in their day to day lives; passing on the religious traditions; and presiding over certain sacrifices. In other words fairly comfortable, non-threatening, sort of religious duties.
However, Jeremiah’s life was turned completely upside down, when suddenly God came to him and told him he had other plans for his life.
2. Jeremiah’s Call (5)
And what those plans entailed, involved Jeremiah getting out of his comfort zone and speaking out as a prophet of God. Indeed, God told Jeremiah, that this had been his purpose for Jeremiah since before he was born. Jeremiah had been set apart from all others for this particular task. And his specific assignment was to be a prophet, not just to his own people, but to all the surrounding nations as well.
Now that would have been a formidable task for any young man, and particularly for Jeremiah. After all, firstly, he was young and he was inexperienced. Secondly, his own people were not noted for their faithfulness to God. And thirdly, the larger surrounding nations of Assyria, Babylon and Egypt were constantly threatening his people’s existence. And even the smaller countries, including the Philistines, had a history of violent activity against his people.
3. Jeremiah’s Response (6)
Is it any wonder, then, that Jeremiah’s response was a highly predictable one, and one that many of us can identify with, “Alas, Lord God! I don’t know how to speak. I am only a boy.”
Now that isn’t quite a straight “no!” But it is as close to a “No!” to God as he could possibly get.
4. God’s Reply to Jeremiah (7-9)
But, yet, despite Jeremiah’s young age, despite his inexperience, and despite the horrendous nature of the job, God rejected all of Jeremiah’s excuses. And his reply? “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy.’ You are to go wherever I send you. You are to say whatever I command you.”
There was no choice. Despite any inadequacies he might have felt, Jeremiah was required to go to anyone and everyone that God sent him. And, what is more, he was to deliver any message that God gave him as well.
However, God assured him he would not be on his own. Indeed, God committed himself to be with him at all times—wherever he was sent. He would give him the right words to say, and he would keep an eye on him. The job wouldn’t be easy, but God assured him that he would never leave him alone.
In other words, God wasn’t interested in Jeremiah’s excuses. Indeed, in many ways, it was Jeremiah’s inadequacies that were the very thing that he wanted. And he wanted them, in order to reveal himself to the people and the surrounding nations. For they needed to know that the words that Jeremiah spoke, were really from God himself.
5. Jeremiah’s Specific Task (10)
And that was important, because what was Jeremiah’s specific task? But to be a prophet of doom and gloom. To tell all people (including his own) that there was a price to pay for ignoring and disobeying God. And the price that they had to pay, was to lose everything that they held near and dear, including the land they lived on.
Having said that, there was a positive side too. There was also hope. Because should the people commit themselves to a relationship with God, then God would restore his people to their land again.
Now to me, that was a lot to ask a teenage boy—a boy who was young and inexperienced. And his task of giving a mainly negative message to some very hostile people (including his own), would not have been easy.
However, as history tells, God used that young, inexperienced and unconfident man, to not only get his message across, but to make him into one of the greatest prophets ever known.
And that may say something to us, when we hear God’s call, and when we start to find all the excuses under the sun to why he shouldn’t pick us either.
So, let’s put Jeremiah’s call into our own perspective.
1. Our Call
Because the first thing is that Jeremiah is not the only person who has been called to ministry. Indeed, God calls each and every one of us, who can stand up and honestly proclaim to have a faith in Jesus, to ministry too.
Now God told Jeremiah, that he had known him before his birth; that he had been set apart for a purpose; and that he had been appointed to go to all nations and proclaim God’s message. All very well and good. Except for the fact that the bible also teaches, that as far as any Christian is concerned, that he knew each and everyone one of us before we were born too (Ephesians 1:5). And as the Apostle Paul told the Romans: For those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son … And those whom he predestined, he also called…” (Romans 8:29a, 30a).
God may have picked out Jeremiah for a specific task. But regarding the call to service, none of us can claim that we do not have a role to play.
2. Our Response and God’s Reply
The second thing is, if we are to be a people of faith, then we cannot back out of God’s claim on our lives. Indeed, it should be expected that we would fulfil the roles that we have been given to play.
Now in response to God’s call, Jeremiah came up with at least two excuses: his youth, and his inexperience. And he may well have argued his case with other excuses not recorded in the bible as well. So, when it comes to our turn, then, we might come up with a number of excuses, including our inability, our inadequacy, and our lack of knowledge. But we need to remember that just as Jeremiah’s excuses weren’t acceptable to God, then our excuses will probably not be acceptable either.
What we need to remember, however, is that Jeremiah wasn’t asked to make up something of his own to tell the people. He wasn’t asked to be inventive, or creative, or to persuade people using his own strengths and abilities. What Jeremiah was asked to do, was to simply do the things and to repeat the words that God gave him to say and do.
So, we do not have to wait until we fully understand (and can verbalise) just what it is that we believe. We don’t have to even learn some sort of magical formula off by heart. And we don’t even, necessarily, have to be responsible for creating situations in which mission can take place in the first place.
What Jeremiah was asked to do, was to simply do the things, and repeat the words God gave him to say. Nothing more, nothing less. And he was to leave all the rest to God. Nothing very complicated at all. In fact, nothing could be simpler.
And the same is true for us today too. We’re not, necessarily, called to go off and study the scriptures for years on end before we are able to minister. (Although taking an active interest in learning and the scriptures can do one’s understanding no end of good). Because whether we feel adequate to do the job or not, is not the issue as far as God is concerned. All he requires is the simple act of obedience. We need to be willing to allow God to use us, in whichever role that we have to play. And we need to have the ability to leave it up to God to do the rest.
And just as Jeremiah was reassured that God would always be by his side—no matter what—so God has promised to be by our side as well. The words of Jesus, after his resurrection: “Look, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b).
3. Our Specific Task
And, the third thing is, we have already been given the task of mission. Now our tasks may vary from person to person, but the central focus for all of us should be the same.
Jeremiah’s call was principally one of proclamation of negative and positive messages. All based on the repercussions of faithfulness (or otherwise) of the people and the nations. As a consequence, we shouldn’t be surprised that God calls us to go out into our own nation, and all other nations too. But, if we are Jesus’s disciples, we have also been given the tasks of: making disciples, baptising them, and teaching them everything that we can about God and his church.
Now that doesn’t mean that we all have to be great orators. After all, actions speak louder than words—or so the old saying goes. And it may sound like a huge task for any of us to be involved in. But I must say that I can’t find one reference in the bible that excludes any Christian from that task—no matter what lack of talents, lack of knowledge or lack of abilities that they may claim.
One could easily sum up Jeremiah’s call, and say, “What’s the difference between Jeremiah’s call and his reluctance to go, and our call today, with all the excuses that you often hear?” But the answer is “absolutely nothing,” except for the difference of 2,600 years. The call is the same, the excuses are no different. But the refusal of God to accept those excuses still stands.
The expectation of God, however, is that whatever excuses, reasons or barriers that we put up regarding specific events geared to evangelism or mission, or, the more normal every day witnessing of our Christian faith, is that regardless of any reluctance, there is a requirement by God that we, like Jeremiah, should go and do it anyway.
So, when there’s talk in the church about evangelism, outreach, mission, or simply the need to share one’s faith, yes, we may come up with a number of reasons why it’s not for us. But the reality is, that excuses don’t really count. Because God doesn’t take “No” for an answer. Indeed, it’s our weaknesses he wants. And he uses them to demonstrate his strength.
The answer to God’s call, then, is for each of us to get beyond the list of reasons why we are not suitable; to get beyond the, “Please don’t send me.” And rather, acknowledge the importance of God in our lives, and to show a willingness to play our part.
Posted: 13th August 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis
SERMON: Jeremiah and the Potter’s House (Jeremiah 18:1-12)
1. Looking for Guidance
Many people struggle with their spiritual lives.
On the one hand, some try to read the bible—but quickly find that it isn’t an easy a book to read—and in no time become discouraged and give up. Some try to set time to pray with God—a few minutes each day—but in no time find it’s all too hard and they fall away. And some try looking for guidance—and particularly for the big decisions in life—but end up giving up, because they seem to be getting nowhere.
On the other hand, there are some that spend hours and hours each day searching for guidance and for meaning. There are some that read this book and that book, go to spiritual expos, and try all different methods of meditation recommended by ‘so-called’ experts. And yet in the end they find their spiritual life still unsatisfying because nothing seems to work.
And what’s often common to both groups of people, is that what they are looking for is something that makes them feel good and often based on the supernatural—the flashes of lightning, the visions, the dreams, the visits from the angels, even the miracles. And they measure their spiritual life and spiritual growth based on those sorts of things. And when it doesn’t happen . . . well, they either give up, or they just continue on their search for that kind of response.
2. The Example of Jeremiah
The problem is that life’s not like that. And the spiritual life isn’t necessarily like that either. Because whereas we may wish to purse the more spectacular responses from God—and may not feel spiritually fulfilled unless we do—the reality is that God often speaks, not in the supernatural, but in the ordinary things of life.
And I’d like to use the example of Jeremiah—a great prophet—and open up the idea of finding God’s word in the simple events of every life. Because when we start looking for the miraculous, we should remind ourselves that Jeremiah, a man of his time, was spoken to by God in the ordinary things of life—the things that were around him at the time. And they included, a branch of an almond tree (1:11-12), a pot that was boiling (1:13-14), and, in today’s passage, a visit to a potter’s house.
B. THE PARABLE OF THE POTTER’S VESSEL
Now making pottery was a common enough activity in Jeremiah’s day. Indeed, it was an essential trade in the Middle East at the time. So, when Jeremiah felt God calling him to go down to the potter’s house, this is what he saw and experienced.
1. What Jeremiah Saw (1-4)
First of all, when he arrived at the potter’s house, the potter was already there at his wheel, moulding a lump of clay into a vessel of some description. And he was probably using an ordinary potter’s wheel—two stone wheels (one top one bottom) connected by a wooden pole. The lower wheel being spun by kicking with the feet, and the upper wheel holding the clay that the potter shaped.
And, as Jeremiah watched the potter work, what Jeremiah saw was that sometimes the vessel would come out perfect first time. But each time the potter came across a lump of clay that didn’t quite want to do as it was told, the potter would simply stop making the vessel, squash it back into lump of clay, and then he’d start all over again.
However, Jeremiah noted, that if the potter was unsuccessful the first time. He wouldn’t use that same piece of clay to make the same kind of pot again. Indeed, he would try to make it into something else. The potter realised that the quality of the clay wasn’t good enough for what he had originally intended, so he adjusted his plan to make something else.
And evidently that didn’t always work either. Because it appears that Jeremiah witnessed some pieces of clay being re-moulded and re-moulded again. And presumably to the extent that some pieces of clay were finally discarded.
However, in each case the potter had done his best. He had used all his skills to make something of each of those pieces of clay. But in the end, there were just some bits that weren’t suitable for anything. The fault was in the clay, not in the potter. And the useless bits of clay would consequently be discarded.
2. What It Meant (4-6)
Now, talk about God using the ordinary things in life. Making pottery was an ordinary every day event in Jeremiah’s time. And, yes, Jeremiah may have been a great prophet, but even to him, God began his message, this time, in a potter’s house, and using the simple imagery of a potter making pots.
And only after using this everyday image of Middle Eastern life, only then did God explain what he was trying to teach Jeremiah, and what exactly it was that he wanted him to do.
Because as far as God was concerned, he (God) was the potter, and the people around him (God’s people) were the clay. Some people he could mould and make into the people he wanted them to be. Others were more resistant, and, consequently, he had to make them into something else—something less than he originally intended. While others, because they stubbornly refused to be moulded at all, well with them there was nothing he could do. They were only fit to be discarded, only fit to be thrown away.
3. The Implications (7-12)
It was God’s intention to build up his people—to make something of them, to mould them into the kind of people that he could use and that he wanted them to be. However, the fact was that there were some who just wouldn’t co-operate—some who were resistant to his leading. He could shape them to some extent, but they would never be the kind of people that he really wanted them to be. And there were people who refused to be moulded at all. And it is to this group that would face divine judgement—and they would get tossed away like useless pieces of clay.
Modifying one’s behaviour, becoming more flexible, and becoming more open to being moulded, would modify God’s judgement plans. But in the end, those who steadfastly resisted any suggestion to budge . . . Well, divine judgement would be the only possible outcome, and that would be their only reward.
Of course this message that God gave Jeremiah—through the simple illustration from everyday life—was a response to a specific problem relating to a specific period of history. God’s people had gone too far following the stubborn intentions of their own hearts. They had refused to take God seriously. And they had refused to be fashioned into the noble people that God had intended. As a consequence, only the refining influences of judgement could make them amenable again to the potter’s touch.
And therefore, in this, was a message—a warning to them all to become more open to God and his ways; to become more flexible and more willing to be moulded. And if they refused, well the warning was that he would discard them; he would toss them way like useless bits of clay.
It’s a profound message that Jeremiah was given. God’s people were being given a challenge. But then they needed a challenge. Because even though they had kept up the pretence of going through the rituals, their heart really wasn’t in it with God at all.
As a consequence, the warning was very appropriate. Allow God to mould them into the people he wanted them to be and receive God’s blessings, or stick with being resistant to God and face the inevitability of God’s judgement. And that’s a message that is just as relevant for us today, as it was to people around Jeremiah.
However, it was not a message that Jeremiah was given in any spectacular way. Rather, it was given in the ordinary events of everyday life—by a visit to a potter’s shop, and a visit where all Jeremiah did was simply watch what the potter did with his clay.
And in that there should be a message for us. Because, when we try to read the bible—and find that the spectacular insight isn’t there—and are tempted to give up . . . When we try to set a time to pray with God—a few minutes each day—and we find that a loud and unmistakeable voice isn’t calling us and we are consequently tempted to give it away . . . And when we try looking for guidance—and the flashes of lightning don’t suddenly come—and we are tempted to give up because we seem to be getting nowhere . . .
1. Being Open to the ‘Simple’
. . . What we need to remember is that whilst those three things (bible reading, prayer, and seeking guidance) are important—and should be part of the makeup of any true believer—where we should be prepared to listen to God is not just in the spectacular (which may still happen occasionally) but in everyday life as well—in the routine of life, in the things that are common.
Because, whilst many people search for the complex, and are not happy with anything less—and many people go to extraordinary lengths to discover their spirituality—the spiritual life is not necessarily a complicated thing. And the prophet Jeremiah is only one example where God used normal everyday events to speak to him—even a visit to a potter’s house.
Many people’s spiritual searching ignores the mundane and only looks for the spectacular. And, if that is all we do, then we are probably missing out on the many things that God is trying to tell us. So, instead, we need to open our eyes and listen to God in the everyday events of life.
In other words, we don’t have to spiritual ‘giants’ to hear God’s word, we just have to be open to the different ways of God. Including, through the ordinary events of life.
2. Being Willing to Being ‘Moulded’
Furthermore, if we want to have any kind of meaningful relationship with God, then being rigid and determined not to change our ways should not be part of our make up at all. On the contrary, we need to be prepared to be moulded too. For we don’t set the agenda for life, God does.
Now, the potter was undoubtedly happy with the clay that he could fashion to the shape that he intended. But he squashed that which was resistant to being moulded—and with it he started again. Nevertheless, the shape he tried to re-mould it into was a shape less that he’d originally intended. And if we are earnest about seeking God, then we will get nowhere unless we are prepared to bend to God’s ways too.
If we want to have meaningful relationship with God, then, we need to not only look for God in the simple as well as the spectacular, but we also need to be willing to be shaped—to be the kind of people that he wants us to be.
And that, undoubtedly, means change. In fact, a lifetime of change. And it involves the willingness to give up the way we look at things and think about things. And it involves being willing to modify our attitudes and behaviour—on a whole host of things—and to be remodelled into a more godly way.
3. The Role of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13)
And the way we do that, today, is that we need to take the Holy Spirit who was given to us—when we first accepted Jesus into our lives—and we need to allow him to clean away the garbage from within. Not necessarily change things suddenly overnight—though in some things that may be true—but rather allowing the spirit to guide and mould us into the kind of people that God intended us to be.
Because even if we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, that process is not automatic. For it something we can resist if we want to, every step of the way.
Rather, if we want to be the people of God, if we want to be the way God intended us to be, if we want to get rid of that struggle—that is most people’s experience of the spiritual life—then we need to accept the Spirit’s prompting, and willingly. And we need to accept that we need to be moulded, and we need to accept our need to be changed.
You know many people struggle with their spiritual lives. And many struggle and give up to easily—because they are looking for a more special, supernatural encouragement. So much so, that some pour much time into looking for a spiritual lift—and yet never seem to conclude their search.
The reality is though, that whilst it is nice to hear that voice or have a vision or a dream or a miracle or even a visit from an angel—or any one of a number of special responses from God— most of the time God speaks to us in the ordinary things of life.
And, unfortunately, because we don’t expect to see or hear God that way, we miss what he has to say. And that is our loss, because as we have seen today, what he has to say can be quite profound.
God spoke to prophets like Jeremiah, often in the ordinary events of everyday life. And that is the way that he often speaks to us today too.
The question is, however, are we always able to hear God speak, or have we placed limitations on the circumstances in which we are prepared to hear? And how open are we to the ways of God, or are we so rigid and unwilling to change?
Yes, developing a spiritual life is not always easy. Sometimes it can seem just like very hard work. But if we are willing to be open to all the possibilities of the way God speaks—not just the spectacular—and if we’re open to the way God wants to mould us into the kind of people that he wants us to be, then that’s not the end of the process, but only the beginning. But at least we will have made the right start.
Posted: 22nd September 2021
© Brian A Curtis