Category: jeremiah

growing expectations

For the last few weeks (and in my last three posts) I’ve been thinking about Jeremiah’s prayer in chapter 12 in the context of encountering God more often.  My final thought is that we encounter God when we are expectant. 

Jeremiah may be really angry, frightened and vulnerable but he isn’t simply venting his spleen.  He prays expecting God to answer him.  There is a very real faith at work here – and God responds to faith.  Just look at what Luke records Jesus saying at key moments.

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  Luke 7:50.

Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”  Luke 8:48.

Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”  Luke 17:19.

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”  Luke 18:42.

Now, I don’t think that you can simply conjure up an expectation of encountering God.  You have to train yourself.  How do you do that?  Well, do the things that do you good.

I know that when I spend time reading the bible, God meets with me.  And when I spend time in prayer, God meets with me.  And when I’m around other Christians in worship and fellowship, God meets with me.  It’s not rocket science – if you want to grow in faith, spend time in the bible, spend time in prayer and spend time with your church family. 

The more you do those things, the more you will encounter God.  And the more you encounter God the more expectant you will be.

spending time with God

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about how to encounter God more often and one of the radical conclusions I’ve come to is that in order to meet Him more, I need to pray more. 

It’s like one of those strange research projects that company’s pay universities thousands of pounds for only to discover that the leading experts in their field have concluded the outstandingly obvious. 

I’ve done it for free.

If you want to encounter God more, spend more time with Him.

For me I think that means more time devoted to prayer, more of those in-the-moment prayers, more time with other Christians praying.  It was really good to get together with my church family this week to pray – I thrive around the faith and zeal of other Christians.

In thinking about Jeremiah’s prayer in chapter 12 over the last few weeks, it seems obvious to me that this is something he does a lot.

Do you want to encounter God more?  Spend more time in prayer.

It has to be said – and I want to be the one to say it – that I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.  It’s  a point my children have been hammering home to me since they were very young.  There’s nothing quite so humbling as being completely outwitted by a two-year old – but it’s a feeling I got used to when my children were that age.  And now that they’re older, it’s just the same.  Except maybe that it happens on Facebook and not behind closed doors.

Fortunately for me, you don’t need to be clever to know God.   

Paul prays that, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better,” (Ephesians 1:17) and asks, “God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (Colossians 1:9).

It is the Spirit who helps us to know God – knowledge that enables us to, “live a life worthy of the Lord and … please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work,” (Colossians 1:10) which results in us, “growing in the knowledge of God,” (same verse). 

NT Wright expresses the thought like this in a Tyndale commentary – “Understanding fuels holiness, holiness deepens understanding.”  It is an ever upward spiral of  knowing God and living holy lives – and this can be our reasonable expectation of Christian life. 

I’ve been thinking about Jeremiah a lot recently – looking at his prayer in chapter 12.  And I’m conscious that even though he is upset by the injustice of his situation, he begins his prayer with a faith statement about who God is.  “Righteous are you, O LORD,” (Jeremiah 12:1). 

Jeremiah knows God.

So this is how it works – when the Spirit of God makes something known to you, respond.  Do what He tells you, live as He shows you, walk as He leads you and you will know Him more. 

You don’t need to be clever.  You need to be humble.

an open heart

Have you ever played hide and seek with a child who’s reached that stage of development when they believe that if they close their eyes, you can’t see them?  I’ve had so much fun loudly searching every corner of the room for a child who is curled up in a ball in the middle of the floor giggling loudly.

Thinking that we can hide our sin or our feelings from God is a bit like that.  It’s like closing our eyes and hoping He can’t see them.  But He can.

Jeremiah knows that.  “You know me, O LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you,” Jeremiah 12:3.   

And when he prays, he’s not afraid to say what he feels.  “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”  Jeremiah 12:1.

We cannot hide our sin from God and if we don’t deal with it, it becomes a larger and greater obstacle in our relationship with Him.  The only helpful way to deal with sin is to confess it and repent.  And it seems to me that God is more interested in how quickly we do that, than in how often.

And why pretend to God that we are feeling OK when we’re not?  We’re so used to bottling up our emotions that we often try to do that even when we’re praying.  And yet speaking out our heart often creates the space and the opportunity for God to speak into our heart.

And here’s the real test of whether or not our hearts are open to God.  It’s not how we receive the good news (He loves us, He forgives us, He has grace and mercy and great plans for us) it’s how we receive the tough news – the correction, discipline, or rebuke of God. 

God’s response to Jeremiah is not exactly encouraging.  Jeremiah 12:5-6 essentially says that life is worse than Jeremiah realises and about to get tougher.  “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? Your brothers, your own family— even they have betrayed you.”

But Jeremiah has opened his heart to God.  He deals with his sin, he expresses his feelings, he humbly learns from all that God teaches him.  He shapes his life around the truth that God reveals.

That’s just the kind of person I aspire to be.

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