As we walk according to the Spirit, we do not know where He will lead us. But we do know that the Spirit is in front of us, leading us, and ready to guide and protect us as we travel in His wake. If we don’t expect to find freedom and protection within the kingdom of God, where would we expect to find it?
But as we are sent we are, in a human sense, also taking the lead. We are leaving the security of the known, the tangible, the familiar, and following the Spirit “to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Anyone who’s followed the Spirit’s leading into a new work knows how scary it can be. And if they don’t know how scary it is at first, they will, once the excitement wears off and the difficulties come head-on—in fact, it’s often far more terrifying once it’s too late to turn back.
The prophet Jeremiah certainly experienced all of this. To the uninitiated, Jeremiah chapter 20 reads like an exercise in schizophrenia. However, to those who have followed God into a holy but a humanly difficult place, it will ring all too familiar. Read the whole chapter on your own time, but here are just a few samples of how far Jeremiah swings in the context of just one chapter:
“O Lord, you have deceived me,
and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
everyone mocks me….
If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot…
But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble;
they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.
O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous,
who sees the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.
Sing to the Lord;
praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hand of evildoers.
Cursed be the day
on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
let it not be blessed!…
Why did I come out from the womb
to see toil and sorrow,
and spend my days in shame? (Jeremiah 20:7, 9, 11-14, 18)
It is difficult to be overcome by God, and led into places where human safety doesn’t seem to exist. But ultimately, even in the worst of human circumstances, there is no better place to walk than in God’s care.
There are certainly also plenty of stories of difficulty that end in God’s glory. You’ve come across them in your Bible, and hopefully have some of your own stories, too. Consider Jesus’ commissioning of the 72. He sent them out ahead of Him to proclaim the kingdom, and tells them up front, “Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (Luke 10:3). He’s telling them, humanly speaking: You’re in great danger here. And what’s more, I’m not going to let you have any props to depend on—only Me. “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road” (Luke 10:4). No money, no provisions, no human companionship besides the one person travelling with you.
But we also know how this ends: “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” (Luke 10:17-19). Jesus has given the apostles a power they could not have imagined when they set out.
And yet, He reminds them that this even this spiritual power is not what they should rest in, “but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Our true safety is who we are in Jesus. When we believe this, we’re able to go wherever the Spirit leads, no matter what man might—and likely will—do, instead knowing that our eternal security far exceeds any earthly security we could ever hope for.
It’s probably far less than coincidental that the next two pieces of Luke 10 are a parable addressing self-preservation (the Good Samaritan) and an account where Jesus gently rebukes an attempt at self-reputation (Mary and Martha). Again, following the lead of the Spirit is scary—especially when we think it’s all up to us. We don’t want to do anything to “unnecessarily” put ourselves in harm’s way; we’d much rather stay in our comfort zones and overexert ourselves there, in an attempt to prove to Jesus how much we love Him. But that has nothing to do with following Jesus.
We too have a direct commission, and this one too comes with an assurance of security: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Are we ready to walk this out, to the degree Jesus calls us—and in the knowledge that He does have all authority and that He is with us?
Lay down your lives in the eternal safety Jesus offers, and let the chips fall. Whatever we lose here on earth is nothing compared to the glory that lies ahead—if we’re willing to trust Jesus and walk.
Lay It Down Today
We not only need to silence our lips, but also quiet our souls. And as next week’s activities will focus on prayer, this would be a good time to (re-)introduce the discipline of fasting. The fact is, nothing will reveal what we’re relying on—and how badly—faster than abstaining from it.
Therefore, you have some freedom in choosing what you’ll fast from in the next 24 hours. I would definitely make food one of those things. It doesn’t have to be an all-day (or 24-hour) fast if you’re not ready. Do abstain from one meal you take regularly (i.e., skipping breakfast yet again doesn’t count). Spend your meal time in prayer, thanking Jesus that He is “the bread of life” and asking for more of His kind of nourishment.
Also, try abstaining from one additional thing—your answer to the following question, “What do I feel I have to do today, even though no-one else is asking me to do it?” (If you need to continue your media fast from last week in response to this, by all means do so.) Use your fast time to also consider why you’re so dependent on that activity; ask Jesus to help you repent of your neediness and to rely on Him for the real need behind it.