Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blessed Assurance

"'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. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and I will rescue you, ' declares the LORD." (Jer 1:18-19)
Jeremiah was given a pretty tough job. He could have lived a quiet life minding his own business. He could have built his own career and enjoy the fruits of his economic endeavors. Yet, the Word of the Lord kept coming. It tells the prophet that before he was formed in the womb, God already knew him (1:5). The Word encouraged him, with childlike faith, to take upon a role much bigger than most adults (1:7). It came to him as visions, of an almond tree and a boiling pot (1:11-13). It called the meek prophet to get ready and to prepare for the day of judgment (1:17). The expectations on Jeremiah are pretty demanding. He was to pronounce judgments according to who God speaks against. There will be resistance. Formidable resistance. Politically, the king and his officials can easily clamp down on his freedom of speech and restrict his place in society. Religiously, the priests can excommunicate him. With Judaism so much a part of the culture, this can cripple one's relationships. After-all, Jeremiah comes from a priestly background and to be cut off from the priestly fellowship is anathema to one's career. Socially, the people can treat him like an outcast, even a heretic. Under such overwhelming odds, isn't it easier to simply keep a low profile and mind one's own business? Jeremiah could have, but he did not make a cowardly retreat. He had been assured thrice.

Three things are worth noticing. Firstly, God has already given Jeremiah triple-layered protection. Against the political powers, the religious leaders and the social fellowships, God assured Jeremiah with triple-protection; A FORTIFIED CITY that will stave off the enemy; AN IRON PILLAR that will strengthen its inner resolve toward faith in God; A BRONZE WALL that is impregnable by the elements of nature or discouragement. With three assurances of protection, God has already fitted the servant way before the tasks. Secondly, God is aware of the anxieties and frailties of the human psyche. In other words, God understands the human heart that is prone to worry and anxieties. The verb "I have made you" (Jer 1:18) is like a pre-emptive strike against the elements of worry and doubt. He assures Jeremiah that even though the enemies will fight him, they will NOT overcome him. What a promise! What an assurance! It reminds me of the Fanny Crosby classic: "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine." Thirdly, God promises that he will be personally present with Jeremiah. For me, this is the single greatest promise and assurance ever possible for Jeremiah. With God by our side, what is there to fear? If God is for us, who can be against us? Should not these three assurances be adequate reasons for the rise of courage?

Dave Kuzminski tells a story about the courage of a butterfly. A man was walking in the woods when he came across a water puddle. As he made his way on the dry area beside the puddle, he was suddenly 'attacked' by a butterfly. Taken aback, he thought the butterfly had accidentally bumped into him. After a brief retreat, he tried to make his way round the wet spot again. The same butterfly continued to butt at him, preventing him from proceeding any further. He paused again and tried a third time to continue his journey. For a third time, the butterfly refused to let up its 'attack.' Bemused, the man started to wonder if the winged insect was mad when his eyes fell upon another butterfly by the side of the water puddle that appeared injured. As he stood, the butterfly that 'attacked' him started to fly down to the injured mate as if it is comforting her. Feeling more impressed than upset about the butterfly attacks, the man began to admire the butterfly's act of love. He had realized that if not for the attacking butterfly, he would have carelessly trampled upon the helpless butterfly on the ground and killed it. The attacking butterfly despite its size had done everything in its power to save its mate.

We too need to muster courage according to what God has already given us, like the courageous butterfly who took on a target many times its size. It did not have guns. It had only wings. It did not have guaranteed success. It had only love for its mate. The prophet Jeremiah stood against tremendous opposition politically, religiously and socially. It is tempting to throw in the towel and to say that the task is too impossible for us to handle. Jeremiah did not surrender himself to fear. He knew that he has already been equipped. He has the Equipper as his companion.

Likewise, we have the promise of God that the Holy Spirit will be with us. We pray the LORD's prayer often that we be delivered from evil. Let us learn from the faith and obedience of Jeremiah, the courage of the butterfly. We can also learn from Jeremiah, that the greatest assurance is not the triple protection promised by the LORD. Neither is it the equiping process or the promise of victory. It is the assurance from the LORD who said: "for I am with you and will rescue you." (Jer 1:19)

Faith is not waiting to be equipped before the taking of any action. Faith is taking an active first step forward without worrying about one's lack. It is walking out proclaiming that the LORD is my Shepherd, and because He is faithful, I shall lack nothing. Jeremiah had the LORD and he went forward. The butterfly had wings and it used it as a means to save its mate. Let us remember that faith means holding the hand of God as we walked the journey into the unknown future.
Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

(Fanny Crosby)

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