150927 Jeremiah 11:18-20

Last Updated on Monday, 28 September 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Jeremiah 11:18-20
Theme: Commit Your Cause To The Lord

407. That's the number of days remaining until the 2016 presidential election, but you wouldn't know it by watching the news. Just last week there was another debate with sixteen Republican candidates in the race (if you are from Wisconsin you probably know that number is now fifteen). Maybe you are interested in politics. Maybe you are still deciding who you want to be our next president. Or maybe you are like a good number of Republicans and Democrats whose minds are already made up.

Ultimately the presidential race will come down to a small percentage of people in the middle, a group that has the ability to swing the vote either way. The candidates will campaign non-stop to win over these undecided voters, to get these people to commit to their cause.

Under the present political system voters are given a number of candidates and parties to choose from, but when it comes to spiritual things there are really only two choices. Jesus said: "He who is not with me is against me" (Luke 11:23). Either you serve the Lord or your serve the devil. There is no middle ground. There are no other options.

No political analyst would have ever labeled Jeremiah as a spiritual undecided. His allegiance didn't change. His loyalties never wavered. Throughout his life, throughout his ministry, Jeremiah served the Lord. Jeremiah was a model of faithfulness for the people he served, and he continues to serve as a role model for believers today.

This morning God himself speaks to us through the inspired pen of Jeremiah. This morning God also encourages us through the example of Jeremiah. And as we work through these verses, it is my prayer that, like Jeremiah, the Holy Spirit will lead you to...

Commit Your Cause to the Lord

I. Devote yourself to the Lord's work
II. Put your life in the Lord's hands

The Lord called Jeremiah to be his prophet at one of the darkest times in Israel's history. The northern kingdom (called Israel) had been completely destroyed, and it looked like Judah to the south would not be far behind. Jeremiah's primary role was to warn God's people that judgment was on its way, to prophesy that Judah's unfaithfulness would ultimately lead to its destruction.

Maybe Jeremiah was overly optimistic. Or perhaps he was a bit naïve because at first he believed that his preaching was producing results. God's Word was doing its work. Things were changing...slowly for the better. But even with a God-fearing king like Josiah on the throne, the hearts of most people remained unchanged. In fact, some men from his hometown were secretly plotting against Jeremiah, and this is what they were saying about him: "Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more" (19).

This is hardly the way to treat someone you know. This is definitely not the way to treat a man of God. But Jeremiah's enemies didn't care. They didn't want to hear that what they were doing was wrong. They didn't need Jeremiah to tell them how to live their lives. So they decided to get rid of him, to "cut him off from the land of the living." And because Jeremiah was unmarried, because he had no children, they hoped that his message would go with him to his grave.

At some point, the Lord revealed this plot to Jeremiah. He did this for two reasons. First, God was looking out for his servant. He wanted Jeremiah know what was going on so that he would be able to defend himself. But the Lord also used these plots to teach Jeremiah a valuable lesson: Believers can expect to face opposition when they stand up for what they believe. Jeremiah's story is not unique. His experience is common to all of God's people. If you need examples, open up your Bible.

Joseph was a devout believer who worked for a man by the name of Potiphar in Egypt. When Potiphar's wife approached Joseph and asked him to go to bed with her, he responded: "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God" (Genesis 39:9)? Joseph did the right thing. Joseph resisted temptation. And his faithfulness was rewarded with an all expenses paid trip to an Egyptian prison cell.

The prophet Daniel was a faithful follower of God He made prayer a regular part of his daily schedule. When he stood up for his God, when he refused to bow down and worship the king of Babylon, he was thrown into a den of lions.

There was a time in Paul's life when he was a persecutor of the church and an enemy of God. The Lord miraculously brought Paul to faith and made him a missionary. From the day of his conversion, Paul dedicated his life to preaching the gospel. He carried the name of Jesus to places where it had never been heard. He proclaimed the good news that Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, the Savior of the world. So did people eagerly receive Paul's message? Did they roll out the red carpet for Paul wherever he went?

Listen to how Paul describes the not-so-glamorous life of a Christian missionary: "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers" (2 Corinthians 11:24-26).

The experience of Paul was the experience of Daniel was the experience of Joseph was the experience of Jeremiah. And the words Paul wrote two thousand years ago to his young friend Timothy still ring true today: "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12).

Satan knows this passage too. He knows that it takes much less effort to look the other way than it does to point out sin. The devil wants us to believe that it is better to avoid conflict at all costs than to speak the truth in love. But that is not what God calls Christians to do. God wants us to devote our lives to him, and sometimes that means getting out of our comfort zone. Sometimes that means telling a person you know and love what God's Word has to say about sin and its consequences.

It's not easy, but it is extremely rewarding to see the Holy Spirit working through our words, using that much needed rebuke or that gentle reminder or that word of encouragement to bring a wandering sheep back into the fold. And when we devote ourselves to the Lord's work, we do so with the assurance that our lives are in his hands.

When Jeremiah found out about the plot take his life, he prayed: "O Lord Almighty, you judge righteously, and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause" (20). Jeremiah's reaction can tell us a lot about his heart. First, I want you to notice what was missing from his prayer. He didn't complain that his calling was too difficult. He didn't demand that God get him out of there right way. He didn't even ask for God's protection.

Jeremiah only asked God to confront the people who were plotting against him. And even then, he wasn't motivated by personal revenge because any attempt to stop Jeremiah was really an attempt to stop the one who sent him. Jeremiah asked God to punish his enemies to demonstrate that God's Word could not be silenced and that God was in control.

The men who conspired to kill Jeremiah were from his hometown, and their ultimate goal for Jeremiah was that "his name be remembered no more." So how did they do? It's probably not a good sign if we are still talking about Jeremiah almost three thousand years later. If we let history be our judge, then the verdict is clear. Jeremiah's enemies have all died and their names are long forgotten, but the prophet Jeremiah lives on in the pages of Scripture.

When Jeremiah discovered that his life was in danger, he didn't give up. He didn't change his tune. He didn't run away. Jeremiah's struggles brought him closer to the Lord. And his name lives on. Jeremiah lives on as an example of a person who devoted himself to the Lord. Jeremiah lives on as an example of a person who put his life in the Lord's hands.

We live at a different time and place in history. We face different challenges. We deal with different problems. But our solution is the same. God promises to be with us at all times. God promises us that we can always find protection in his loving hands.

Those nail pierced hands remind us how Jesus gave up his life on the cross. Those nail pierced hands proved to Jesus' disciples that he had risen from the dead. Those nail pierced hands assure us that our sins have been forgiven. Those nail pierced hands raised in victory guarantee that the battle is over, that our enemies have been defeated, that our future is secure.

When I was a student at the seminary, I can remember walking by the office of one of my professors and noticing the screen saver on his computer. It was nothing fancy, just three short words moving slowly across the screen: "NOT IN VAIN." I was curious, so I asked him about it. He told me that his screensaver was inspired by a phrase from 1 Corinthians 15:58. The full verse reads: "Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." He said that those words were a great comfort to him, especially when he was feeling frustrated or discouraged.

The Lord has brought each of us to faith, and he had called all of us to commit our lives to him. Sometimes that will be difficult. Sometimes you might feel like all your hard work has been wasted. Sometimes you might wonder if Christians are becoming an endangered species.

Jeremiah had similar feelings. His life was hard. His ministry was hard. There were times when it would have been easy for him to give up. There were days when he felt like he was all alone. But God sustained him. God protected him. God did great things through him.

And God promises to do the same for you. As a reminder, maybe it would be a good idea for you to follow my professor's example. Sometime today write down those three words, "NOT IN VAIN," on a sticky note and put it on your computer. On your refrigerator. On your lunchbox. On your dashboard.

Whenever you see those words, remember Jeremiah. Whenever you read those words, remember God's promises. And then with renewed confidence, commit your cause to the Lord. Why? Because when you devote yourself to the Lord's work, when you put your life in the Lord's hands, you have God's promise that your labor in the Lord will never be in vain. Amen.

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