Jeremiah 1:8 “’Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”
Earlier the Lord had told him, “I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” What reason did Jeremiah have to be afraid? Jeremiah knew well that none of the nations at that time loved the Lord or respected his word. There may have been a few faithful Jews living in Jerusalem, but most of their fellow citizens had no time for either God’s commands or his promises. The pagan religions around them were more fun. They approved of their favorite sins. They promised instant satisfaction, not future hope and glory. Jeremiah just knew his message would not be well received.
Jeremiah’s fears were realized to a great degree. At best he was ignored and dismissed. The other priests and prophets accused him of being unloving and needlessly negative. Plots were made to take his life. Jeremiah was just one in a long line of faithful prophets whose life was hard because people don’t really want to hear what God has to say.
Are our fears much different? Like Jeremiah, we might not say out loud, “I’m afraid of what might happen if I serve.” But the thought is there. We have seen those who stick their neck out to serve get criticized–even by their fellow believers. If we spend too much time at church, friends, neighbors, or coworkers might get the idea that we are “some kind of fanatics.” Perhaps we are afraid of putting in all that effort just to see nothing happen. We’ve put in all that work for nothing in the past.
But the greater fear is that serving makes my life less comfortable. Honestly, how many of us are interested in making our lives less comfortable? Don’t we pour almost every ounce of energy into making them comfortable as can be? Even when we seem to be enjoying success, it’s still work. In fact, if God grants us success, we might fear that we will be making more work for ourselves. It would be easier, and more comfortable, just to stay home and watch Netflix, or work on a hobby, or go to a game, than to carry the crosses we know come with serving.
The Lord answers our excuses for not serving with a promise, “I am with you and will rescue you.” Our God isn’t some awful task master. We live under grace. First, he sent his Son to live and die for us. He removed our sins, so that the promise, “I am with you,” doesn’t make us tremble with fear. It helps us brim with faith and confidence. The Lord has chosen to be our companion.
And then we know that when we are involved in his service, we aren’t out there alone. He has chosen to be our co-worker. He’s on our side. He is touching our feeble and imperfect service with his blessing, making our service possible with his strength. If God is for us, who can be against us? If God is with us, why do we need to be afraid?