Devotion for the Week...
In this house, we're all big fans of the group Third Day. So much so, in fact, that Paul and I surprised the boys with tickets to a concert on our way to Florida last summer. We didn't tell them a thing about it until we were in the parking lot of the Six Flags in Agawam, MA for the Rock the Flags event.
One of my favourite Third Day songs is I Need a Miracle. We once heard an interview with lead vocalist Mac Powell during which he told the story behind the song. He said that after one of their concerts a lady came up to them and told them about her son, who had been planning to commit suicide. He turned on the radio to hear one more song before killing himself and the song he heard was Third Day's Cry Out to Jesus. The over-simplified gist of the song is that whenever you have troubles, whatever they are, just cry out to Jesus for help. The son cried out to Jesus and did not follow through with his suicide plans.
Every time I think of that woman telling her story to the band members, I wonder "What does that do for you as an artist?" To hear that God has used your talents in such an amazing way, when you knew nothing about this man or his troubles, must make a person feel astounded. Humbled. It must validate all the hard work and leave you so grateful that you followed the path God laid out for you.
For those of us hearing stories like that, we often think, "Wow, God is really using them" After all, look at the results. People's lives are being dramatically changed.
But what about when we can't see results? Last week I started reading the book of Jeremiah, prophet to the people of Judah. He spent years warning them to turn from their evil ways, to stop worshiping idols and return to God. He warned them that if they didn't change disaster would come. Did they listen?
This is what he says, "To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it" (Jeremiah 6:10). The intro to Jeremiah in my Bible says he carried the Lord's message to the people for between 40 and 50 years. And the people didn't listen. Can you imagine? It's hard enough to speak up once or twice and be ignored or ridiculed. How could a man do it for decades?
If we heard of a man like that, speaking for God and seeing no positive response from the people, would we think God wasn't with him? Would we wonder if God really called him to that task? What about ourselves? If we have a work we feel God has called us to do, but we don't see the results we expected, do we begin to doubt that God gave us that work? After all, if He wants us to be doing it He must expect something to happen, right? Yet that doesn't seem to have been the case with Jeremiah. Here was a man sent to proclaim truth to a generation who refused to listen. There were no visible results of his work, and yet God Himself says He called Jeremiah to it. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations"(Jeremiah 1:5).
Being used by God won't always mean saving someone's life or anything nearly so dramatic. He certainly does use some people that way, but not most people. God used Jeremiah as His voice to a people who didn't want to listen. Their refusal to heed Jeremiah's warnings does not change the fact that he was doing exactly what God wanted him to do. May we also be willing to be used by God, and willing to focus on Him rather than on searching for results.