Jeremiah 1:6-8 “‘Ah, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, I am only a child. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.”
Public speaking is said to be the greatest fear people feel, greater even than their fear of death. Jerry Seinfeld has quipped that, if that’s true, the majority of people at a funeral would rather be the man in the coffin than the man giving the eulogy. Jeremiah isn’t the only prophet who ever tried to excuse himself from serving because he couldn’t speak well. Eight hundred years earlier Moses had used the same excuse.
“I don’t know what to say,” “I don’t feel comfortable talking to other people about my faith” are still common excuses for not speaking up about our faith. Is that true? Do we really not know what other people need to hear from us? We know that it all boils down to man’s sin and God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Have any of God’s messengers ever felt completely comfortable telling others what the Lord has to say? Isn’t this another way of saying, “I don’t want to suffer the negative reaction people often have to talk about Jesus?” But isn’t a willingness to suffer just that reaction one of the crosses he expects his disciples to bear?
Jeremiah’s other excuse, “I am only a child,” also finds its way into the thinking of Christians. Jeremiah did not mean that he was an immature little boy still living at home with his parents. The Hebrew word translated “child” here can refer to a young person all the way until age 30. Jeremiah’s point was, “I don’t have years of experience. I don’t have the trust of older people. I’m still relatively young.”
Is the absence of many young adults from the active life of Christian churches evidence of the same kind of thinking today? Is the difficulty in getting younger men and women to accept positions of responsibility and leadership in part because they think that their youth excuses them?
Note that God didn’t excuse Jeremiah from service. He doesn’t accept our excuses, either. Instead, he confronts our attempts to escape the purposes for which he has made us. “But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you and say whatever I command you.’”
Note that he doesn’t simply give up on the hesitant and write them off for unwillingness. Whether excuses come from laziness, fear, or a simple lack of faith, he forgives. He removes our sin for Jesus’ sake. And then he makes us confident, because he sends us with his promises: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.”
Little David understood who was with him when he took on the giant Goliath. We have an infinitely larger giant backing us up. What perceived lack of skill will trip you up when God is present with all this power and gifts? Paul promises, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). As long as God is on our side, we have an unlimited source of confidence for our tasks.
And if we find ourselves in trouble of some sort, he promises to rescue us. Rescuing his people is our God’s specialty. He has driven the entire course of world history in order to save us from our sins and death. In a hundred little ways he has rescued his people from the forces of nature, from sickness and disease, from hunger and need, from temptation to sin, from personal enemies, and from their own foolishness. His rescue may not always look the way we envisioned it. Ultimately it may mean leading us through death to life in heaven. But the Lord will not leave the people who serve him in a jam. That makes us confident to serve, confident that his promises make it possible to fulfill our purposes.
Are you a fan of the Star Wars movie series? Throughout, there is a lot of talk about characters fulfilling their destinies. Each one has a purpose in a mission to save the universe. God has given each of us a destiny, a real one. We play an important role in his mission to save the universe. Our part may not look glamorous or glorious. But somehow or another we have a part in passing salvation along to others. Let God’s promises make you certain and confident to fulfill your destinies.