Boldly Answer God’s Call , 1 March 2020

Boldly Answer God’s Call
Series—Jeremiah: Called to Faithfulness
Jeremiah 1

Series Big Idea: Jeremiah was faithful despite his difficult prophetic task.

Big Idea: Obey God’s calling on your life, whatever it may be.

Mark Twain said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

Why are you here…on this planet? What is your purpose? What is your calling?

Welcome to March! We’re going to spend the next four weeks looking at the life and book of Jeremiah. Although Psalms has more verses, Jeremiah has more words and thus can be considered the longest book in the Bible. It would easily take us the rest of the year to go verse-by-verse through the entire book, but we’re going to examine four key chapters in this book, but first, a little introduction.


The book of Jeremiah begins…

The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile. (Jeremiah 1:1-3)

That’s historical background, but the point is God comes to Jeremiah.

The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

“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 1:4-5)

I love those ten words: before I formed you in the womb I knew you.

Parents have several milestones before they every meet their child. The first is obviously conception, though that moment is not known until the second milestone: the positive pregnancy test.

I’ll never forget the Sunday afternoon when my bride exited the bathroom and said, “It’s pink!” I had no idea what she was talking about until she said the pregnancy test revealed we would have a baby. I’ve rarely had so many emotions at one time! Thrilled would be an understatement. My world changed that day.

The next milestone came when we were able to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Wow! A real, human life was growing inside my wife. I had sonic proof I was going to be a daddy!

The ultrasound appointment literally showed us the baby and, in many cases, the gender (we didn’t want to know with our first two but caved on our third!). Gazing at our otherwise invisible baby is nearly miraculous.

These days, so much takes place in preparation for a baby—gender reveal parties, nursery prep—the birth might almost seem to be anti-climactic, though it’s amazing!

I had hopes and dreams for my children before I ever met them. In fact, we started praying not only for them, but their spouses…before they were even conceived! In a sense, I knew our children before they were born.

The same is true with God, our heavenly Dad. God knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb. He didn’t need an ultrasound machine or even a pregnancy test! My favorite psalm says,

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

Before you were born, you were seen by God. You were known by God. You were not a surprise or an unwanted child of God!

He also had a plan for you and your life. It’s different for each of us. God’s calling on your life might be for you to become an incredible school teacher, raising the next generation of leaders in our city and world. Others may have that same mission in the home as stay-at-home parents. Some are called by God to be successful in business, building wealth and generously funding God’s work at home and abroad. Still others are sent to the Jeep plant, the courthouse, the coffeeshop, or the hospital to fulfill their calling.

I don’t upset easily, but I get angry whenever I hear Christians neglecting their calling or considering it less spiritual than mine. If God calls you to be a pastor, be a pastor. If He calls you to go overseas and be an Alliance International Worker, do it. But don’t think for a minute that being a professional, vocational Christian is any more or less important than another calling.

We are all called to full-time ministry, but we’re not all called to vocational ministry.

God has created you with a plan, with a purpose, with potential. Don’t ever settle for anything less…or different! He knows you. He loves you. He wants to do life with you. We’re even told…

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4a)

You’ve been invited to follow Jesus. You’ve been commissioned to make disciples…wherever you live, work, and play. We need disciple-makers—missionaries—all over our city and region.

Where is God calling you to minister? He told Jeremiah plainly.

“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 1:4-5)

The Hebrew word for “formed” here is the same word used to describe the creation of Adam (Genesis 2:7). It is a word that conveys close, careful, personal effort. The word “knew” is earlier used to describe the face-to-face relationship between God and Moses (Deut. 34:10). There intimacy between God and Jeremiah…and God desires intimacy with us, too.

You may think a calling to be a prophet to the nations is a big deal…and it was, but it wasn’t an easy assignment. A prophet declared God’s messages to the people, something we rarely see in our day, partly because we have God’s written word, the Bible, to guide us. Listen to Jeremiah’s response from God.

“Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” (Jeremiah 1:6)

When God called Moses, he had a similar reply.

Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

The only appropriate response to a calling from God is…yes!!! God knows our weaknesses…and often chooses us because of our them…so He can get the glory.

God used Noah, a drunkard.
God used Rahab, a prostitute.
God used David, an adulterer and murderer.
God used Jonah, a man who ran away.
God used Matthew, a tax collector.

God’s not looking for successful people. He’s looking for surrendered people.

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 1:7-8)

These verses include two of the most common and most important statements in the entire Bible:

- Fear not.
- I am with you.

Do you see the connection?

If God is for me, who can be against me?
If God is with me, whom shall I fear?
If God is in control, I don’t have to be.

Last week we simply said God can be trusted. If you rebel and do your own thing, it will eventually catch up with you. I guarantee it!

If you obey God, you’ll never regret it. Sure, it won’t always be easy, but you’ll never be alone. You’ll never be out of God’s will. You’ll find peace even in the middle of life’s storms. There’s nothing greater than the presence of God.

Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:9-10)

God’s equipping Jeremiah for His assignment. Where God guides, He provides. You might not have what you need now, but He’ll equip you…with wisdom, resources, people, vision, whatever you need to accomplish His plans…for His glory.

The problem is so often we’re concerned about our glory. We worry about our reputation. We focus on our success. We fear our failures.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve thought about how I need to preach a good sermon, I’d be a rich man! If I could have back every minute I’ve thought about success, I’d probably have time to write a book! If I could harness the energy wasted on worrying about what people thought of me, I could probably power a small town!

When we serve the King, it’s His responsibility.
When we serve the King, it’s His battle.
When we serve the King, it’s His reputation.

God made promises to Jeremiah…and He always keeps His promises.

God has made promises to you and me…and He always keeps His promises.

What’s your excuse? Is your God too small to provide what you need to do what He wants you to do?

I sat in the office of our District Superintendent not long ago and said I’m inadequate to lead First Alliance Church. He said, “If you ever feel adequate, let me know so I can remove you from your position.” He was serious…and I was thankful.

I can’t do my job. I can’t make disciples. I can’t transform people to become like Jesus. Sure, I can play a song on the piano. I can give a lecture. I can even lead a staff meeting, but my mission is not to be a manager. I’m not called to maintain an organization. He’s called me—and you—to make disciples. He’s called us to become like Jesus and help others to become like Jesus. The problem is, we can’t…apart from the Holy Spirit. We can’t…apart from God. We can’t…apart from divine intervention.

I’m grateful for our beautiful, debt-free campus.
I’m grateful for our competent staff.
I’m grateful for all of you showing up today and all of the volunteers who serve.

But we’re not here to distribute religious goods and services. We’re here to restore God’s masterpieces. We’re here to be conduits of blessing to our city. We’re here to change the world, one life at a time. We are inadequate—all of us—but when we are weak, He is strong (2 Cor. 12:10)! We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13)!

Now God begins to give Jeremiah his assignment. It won’t be glamorous. It will, in fact, be downright offensive, but when God gives you an assignment, it’s not your place to judge it, critique it, or walk away from it. Just do it!

The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.

The LORD said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching
to see that my word is fulfilled.” (Jeremiah 1:11-12)

The first tree to blossom and bear fruit was the almond tree.

The word of the LORD came to me again: “What do you see?”

“I see a pot that is boiling,” I answered. “It is tilting toward us from the north.” (Jeremiah 1:13)

Jeremiah must be thinking, “LORD, what’s going on?”

The LORD said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the LORD.

“Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah. (Jeremiah 1:14-15)

Disaster was coming because the people had done disastrous evil by forsaking God.

I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made. (Jeremiah 1:16)

God’s not happy, and when God’s not happy…

God calls Jeremiah to call out the people, to pronounce judgments, to warn them of the consequences of their sin. Does this sound like a fun assignment to you? God continues,

“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 1:17-19)

The next 51 chapters describe what happens as Jeremiah responds to God’s calling.

So What?

Obey God’s calling on your life, whatever it may be.

There are three types of people. There are those who have heard God’s call and said no. How’s that working out for you? There are those who have heard God’s call and said yes. Well done. There are those who want to hear God’s call but haven’t…or you’re not sure. Be patient. Seek. Pray. Ask. Knock. Share your thoughts with a trusted friend. I’d love to talk with you.

Some of you may be waiting for a calling with global impact while you fail to influence those around you now. Maybe you feel like you’re “only” a stay-at-home mom or only a mechanic or only a student or only a retail clerk. Be faithful in the small things and God may give you more (Luke 16:10).

Maybe He’s calling you into a new assignment, into deeper waters. Perhaps you’re resisting because you feel inadequate and unworthy. You are! Let Him do the heavy lifting. Start by saying yes and leave the results up to God.

One more thing…

Jesus was given the most difficult assignment of all. His calling was to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). His mission was to leave heaven and hang out here for three decades for the purpose of dying the most brutal, agonizing death imaginable…for the junk, mistakes, rebellion, pride, and sins in our lives.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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