December 7, 2015

Assurance from the results

Jeremiah 12:1–13:27, Philemon 1:8–25, Proverbs 14:15–35

There are days when I wonder if being a Christian makes any difference. (As soon as I wrote that sentence, it seems such a silly question, but doubt can and does happen.)

Jeremiah seemed to be in that frame of mind when he wrote: “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? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart.” (Jeremiah 12:1–2)

God gave Jeremiah the same answer as He sometimes gives me: “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? 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.” (Jeremiah 12:5–7)

In other words, Quit feeling sorry for yourself. If life is tough now, you have no idea how much worse it could be. Your spiritual enemy is feeding you a lie, but what would you do if your Christian brothers and sisters did the same? Then who would you trust?

God must grieve when His people doubt His love and promises. He says, “Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness. But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive.” (Jeremiah 13:16–17)

If I think being a Christian makes no difference, then I am sliding into the same attitude that those who are in darkness, and letting my enemy, the Liar, pick at me and bind me in falsehood.

Jeremiah, and anyone who doubts, must ask a different set of questions. What can God do for me that no one including myself can do? He says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?”

God answers this rhetorical question with: “Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. I will scatter you like chaff driven by the wind from the desert. This is your lot, the portion I have measured out to you, declares the Lord, because you have forgotten me and trusted in lies.” (Jeremiah 13:23–25)

This hauls me back from doubt and from believing lies because I know I cannot change my life, but God has. When Jesus came in, everything changed for the better. Why would I want to throw that away and revert to the life of a fool?

Solomon describes how that would look: “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless . . . . A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot . . . . The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death.”

Solomon’s words from Proverbs 14 remind me that trusting God is wise and doubt is foolish. Being thoughtful and cautious is far better than believing everything in reckless carelessness. Having a contented heart is better than being envious. Knowing that I will be with Jesus when I die is better than going through that final checkout with all the world’s goodies only to see them thrown in the garbage, only to see my soul lost forever.

Paul also describes the difference in his letter to Philemon. He writes about Onesimus, a man he met in prison and led to faith in Jesus Christ. This man was a runaway slave who once served Philemon. Paul said, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.”

Being a Christian makes a person valuable. The world may not see that, but God puts His people into His eternal plan. We ourselves are often blind to what He is doing, but His Word assures me that I am on this planet for His divine purpose.

The relationship of these two men also changed. As a Christian, Onesimus went back to Philemon, “no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother.”

I have often felt as if no one cared about me (and thrown those lonely, unhappy pity-parties), but as a member of God’s family, that has changed. Now, through the people of God, I’m enjoying the love of God and a sense of value that makes whatever might otherwise appear ‘better’ show up for what it really is —a lie and without worth. Belonging to Jesus, even as challenging as it might be, is without comparison to any other competitor for my devotion and total trust.

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