Jeremiah was one of those books I loathed to read in my academic days. It was dry and oh so negative. Doom and gloom, over and over again.
Many years later, Jeremiah has become a hero and even a mentor to me. It is literally one of my favorite books of the Bible. Interesting, though, Jeremiah did not see very much “success” in his work. Think on it for a moment. He was sent to the Southern Kingdom of Judah to warn them of impending ruin if they did not become more responsive to God and his word. Precious few received the message Jeremiah proclaimed, few listened. And the forewarned tragedy happened. Judah was sorely abused by the Babylonian empire.
So, was Jeremiah a “failure?” He did not have much to show for his work, did he?
A Larger Perspective
The main character in the book of Jeremiah is not Jeremiah. The word of God is the “main character,” if you will. The book is about how God’s proclaimed word works and acts upon God’s creation – Judah, the surrounding nations and even upon Jeremiah’s life. Those who receive the word are shaped by it. Life and blessing is what is offered. To those who reject God’s word, the word acts upon them too. It brings judgment and death. Jeremiah spoke the word that God had placed in him and the word did its work (see Jeremiah 1:11-12).
Reimagining Our Work and Measuring of Success
God has asked me to give my life to sheep who are scattered the world over doing amazing work in tough places. In that work I teach, preach, train, coach, mentor, guide, counsel, debrief, offer spiritual direction – I shepherd. Most often I come across people who are highly responsive to God and eager to learn. Sometimes not so much.
Our roles as shepherds is to take the person of Jesus to others. He is green pasture and quiet waters; he is bread and wine; he is life and love. He is what we all need. As it has always been, some will feast upon him and rest in him. Others will scurry off and go back to their less than healthy ways. We have no control over that.
As for Jeremiah so for Us
We show up. We listen. We give. Some will receive and flourish even in the awfullest of circumstances and others will not. I am not the main character in my own story nor in my work of shepherding.
The world says success is measured by numbers – much, more, bigger, faster, better. I cannot measure success by how many frequent flier miles I have nor the number of invites I receive nor the number of people I speak to. “Success” is more about my communion with God, his presence and overflow in my life, and doing what he shows me to do. The rest is up to him. Be encouraged to trust God to be up to far more than any of us can see. He is watching over his word to do it. Of course, this same message can be carried to the sheep we tend to in extremely difficult, non-responsive regions of the world.