Overcoming Hard Times:
Lesson 6 Jeremiah: Overcoming By Design
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In 1923 a Scotsman athlete and son of a missionary named Eric Liddell was competing in a track meet against the nations of Ireland, England and Scotland. That day he ran in the 100, 200 and 440 yard dashes. His last race of the day was the 440. When the gun sounded and the race began the athletes rounded the first turn and then began moving to the inside track for the best position to run the grueling race. As they jockeyed for position Liddell get entangled with another runner and he crashed to track stunned and daze. He sat there for a moment, not even knowing if he was injured or if he could get up. Suddenly a race official yelled at him , "Get up, man, and run!"
He jumped to his feet and took off after the pack, which was now a full twenty yards ahead of him. In a quarter mile, that's a big distance to try to make up. Liddell was know as the “Flying Scotsman” named after the fasted locomotive in the United Kingdom. As he ran he would tilt his head back until it appeared the was looking up into heaven instead of down the track. With his head tilted heavenward, his feet began to fly and he took off after the pack. In just a few moments he had pulled into fourth place ten yards behind the leader, J. J. Gillies, the man who had tripped him.
With forty yards to go, he pulled into third place, then second. Right at the tape he gave a final push to pass Gillies, he stuck out his chest, and won the race! So great was the exertion that he collapsed once again onto the track in total exhaustion. Medical personnel had to be called to help him off the track.
One year later Eric Liddell would go to the Olympics to compete for his country, but instead was forced to choose for God and withdrew when He was told he would have to run on Sunday. His stand caused even the Prince of Wales to try and convince him to go against his convictions and dishonor the Lord’s Day. Liddell stood against the pressure of his Prince, his coaches and many in his country and refused to run. Giving up a chance to win the 100 yard dash an event in which he was favored to take the gold medal.
Later in the Olympics another athlete who admired Liddell’s convictions gave up his place in the 440 and Liddell, who hadn’t trained in that even since the famous fall a year ago, stepped in and with his face toward heaven won the gold. One of the greatest stories of athletic achievement ever recorded.
You know it’s tough being a Christian these days. You are not popular, you believe in a book and God that most of your neighbors and co-workers ridicule. You stand for Biblical morality and because of that stand you are called a hater, judgmental and ungodly. As a Christian, you are running the race but this old sinful world keeps knocking you down into the dirt and cinders of the track. There are more difficulties than ever before, but this morning I want to encourage you to “Get up and run”
Today’s message is about encouragement, to keep on, don’t quit, don’t give up. Such was the message God gave to Jeremiah in Chapter 12
Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?
In Jeremiah Chapter 11 we read the background of what was happening to the prophet of God.
The men of Anatoth, Jeremiah's hometown, plotted to kill him because his message convicted them. Rather than repent, they decided to destroy the messenger. But they had a second reason: as loyal Jews, they felt that his prophecies were harmful to the welfare of the nation. Jeremiah preached impending judgment from Babylon, while the false prophets were declaring messages of peace. Jeremiah insisted that the people obey the Law and bring their sacrifices to the temple and not to the local shrines (high places), some of which were dedicated to idols, and the priests didn't like that. Jeremiah was pro-Babylon while the rulers were pro-Egypt. In other words, Jeremiah was out of step with his times, and because he was decisive, he had to walk alone and "vote with God."
Until God warned him about it, Jeremiah knew nothing about the plot against his life, and when he heard the news, he felt like a helpless lamb being led to the slaughter. All he could do was commit himself and his enemies to the Lord and trust God to work. This is the first of several occasions in his life when Jeremiah privately poured out his heart to the Lord and asked Him to right his battles and help him with his depression and fears. Publicly, Jeremiah was bold before people, but privately he was broken before God. - Bible Exposition Commentary
Now in chapter 12, Jeremiah says to God, I know that You are righteous but
Let me talk with you about your judgment in this situation that I’m dealing with right now!
He goes on to ask God some very hard questions. “Why do the wicked prosper? Why are all the treacherous happy?
In the midst of all the sin around me, in the middle of the pain and suffering. God I need to talk. I know you are holy and righteous but are you aware of what’s going on down here, especially to me?
We can’t help but wonder, why does wickedness exist? Why do good people get hurt? Why isn’t life fair or just? Why God don’t you intervene when your people, your children, your preachers are being hurt by this world?
I feel like Jeremiah and I want to say, “God, I know you’re right but what about these people who have given their whole life in service to you? Why are they suffering, while the wicked seem to be doing just fine? Does that seem fair, God. Does that seem just?
Well, God is not going to answer me or you in the way I want.
We want God to explain the workings of the universe from before time began until it ends and we don’t want it to be too complicated or too long and maybe to make it interesting it should have a music video and be available on you tube.
But God can’t and won’t give us that kind of answer. First because it would make God our servant. We are making demands of Him instead of seeking His will.
And second because in all truth, we couldn’t understand the full answer even if He did tell us.
God explaining to us His plan for eternity, is like trying to explain the difference between Newtonian physics, quantum physics as and the chaos theory of physics to an infant.
God won’t give us the answer we think we want, but God because he loves us, is going to give us the answer we need.
He does not mind that we ask or that we are afraid or confused. He will answer us.
It will be the right answer and it will be the answer He knows not only can we handle but will also give us hope and challenge us to go on.
(This writing was found in the uniform of a dead confederate soldier after the battle.)
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey
I asked for health, that I might do greater things
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things
I asked for riches, that I might be happy
I was given poverty, that I might be wise
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things
I got nothing that I asked for but everything that I needed.
Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.3 But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.4 How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.
Evil Flourishes - You have planted them and they have taken root and grow fruit
Hypocrisy is Allowed - You are near in their mouth but far from their reins. They are blatant and obvious hypocrites.
Injustice is Ignored - Yet, Jeremiah says, God, you know me and have tried my heart toward you. You know my sincerity and faithfulness. This is unfair. Please deal with the wicked as justice demands.
Jeremiah goes so far as to say that all the land suffers because of the wicked. Even the innocent wild animals and birds are hurt because the wicked do not believe that God will see their end, He will not punish or stop them.
Yes, He allows it because man was created in His image and part of that image was free will, the ability to choose right from wrong.
We see it in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
We see it when Israel comes into the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
We see it in our own salvation. John 3:17-19 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
God also permits evil, pain and suffering in order to test, prove and strengthen His own. If we trust him and allow him then in His power and in His timing we will find that strength that could only be seen in the fires of trail and suffering.
A page from John Wesley's Diary reads as follows:
Sunday morning, May 5, preached in St. Ann's, was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday p.m., May 5, preached at St. John's, deacons said, "Get out and stay out."
Sunday a.m., May 12, preached at St. Jude's, can't go back there either.
Sunday p.m., May 12, preached at St. George's, kicked out again.
Sunday a.m., May 19, preached at St. somebody else's, deacons called special meeting and said I couldn't return.
Sunday p.m., May 19, preached on the street, kicked off the street.
Sunday a.m., May 26, preached in meadow, chased out of meadow as a bull was turned loose during the services.
Sunday a.m., June 2, preached out at the edge of town, kicked off the highway.
Sunday p.m., June 2, afternoon service, preached in a pasture, 10,000 people came to hear me.
If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
If you have run with men and they wore you out? What will you do when I have you contend race against the horsemen? If you had trouble with the infantry, how are you going to deal with the Calvary?
If you are defeated running in the smooth plains, what will you do when I ask you to run in the tangled and deep brush along the Jordan River?
In other words, “Cheer up Jeremiah! It’s going to get worse.
Now that is not the answer Jeremiah wanted but it was the answer he needed.
In the answer was a challenge from God and also a tremendous vote of confidence from the God of Creation.
“Jeremiah, you are my man for the job. I have called you to this difficult task and you will complete it. Jeremiah, I believe in you.
2 Cor 4:16-17 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
Galatians 6:8-10 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men
"Child of God, it’s going to get tougher. Christian Dad, Mom, Teen, Tween, it’s going to get harder."
This world wants to rend your marriage apart, destroy your children with alcohol, drugs, sexual impurity and hopelessness. It wants to turn your eyes from heaven and set your mind on the suffering and pain of the wickedness that is all around us.
But, God has called you to the task of standing against the evil and sin of this world and each day it gets tougher but listen again to what Paul said, “For this cause we faint not Though the outward man perish the inward man is renewed.” Then listen to what God says, “You will reap if you faint not.”
It is His unbreakable promise. Will you keep going that you will see it fulfilled in you? The race is going to get tougher and there will be many times you will get knocked down but on the sidelines God stands and says, “Get up, my child and run!”
Jeremiah didn’t give up. At Anatoth they just threatened him, but in Jerusalem the King arrested him and had him thrown in a well. For months he stood with water and mud up to his neck, only a kind servant of the king kept him alive by throwing him bread.
After he was pulled from the pit, the king had Jeremiah read the book that God had told him to write. As each page was read the king took a knife and cut it from the book and tossed it in the fire. Jeremiah went back and rewrote the book, the very book you hold in your hands today. Jeremiah ran his race with the horseman and in the judgment of God he won that race. The only question left is for us, “Will you keep running the race?”
The End of the Race for Eric Liddell
After the Olympics Liddell when back to China to serve as a missionary and teacher with his father and family. He continued to compete and win in regional meets. He preached and organized the youth he taught in athletic teams that he coached.
In 1941 the Japanese Army which had invaded China was approaching the city where Eric his pregnant wife and two children served. The British government warned all its citizens to leave while there was still time. Eric’s family left for Canada, but he stayed behind to help his brother Robert who was a medical doctor in another Chinese town. His brother was ill and there were many people who because of the war needed help.
Though he could have fled he stayed and worked for the Lord until he was captured by the Japanese and put into an internment camp. He continued to work even there until sickness and near starvation rations brought him to his deathbed. In his last letter to his wife, written the day he died, he told her he had suffered a mental and physical breakdown. He died on Feb 21st 1945.
A fellow missionary was trying to comfort him in his last
moments and they began to talk of serving the Lord and how you keep running the
race of faith. According to that missionary, Liddell’s last words were, “It’s
complete surrender.” You see the other opponents couldn’t beat him because he
had already surrendered to His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and all that left
was victory in His service.