We live in an increasingly fake and non-genuine world these days. It is too easy to invoke our own sense of rights and blame other people for things than it is to take responsibility ourselves - and it is easy to reject truth when we hear it spoken but it doesn't fit with what we want or clashes with our loyalties to one another. So how does the truth come to a world that doesn't want to hear it?
My favorite Old Testament prophet is Jeremiah. Jeremiah was bold, courageous and spoke truths that other people didn't want to hear. He told the nation of Israel that they had turned against God and that God's judgment was coming upon them as a result - but Jeremiah's word clashed with the words of the other "prophets" at the time who were continually telling Israel how great they were and how pleased God was with them despite their unrepentant, sinful nature. Needless to say Jeremiah's words did not go down well. He was publicly shamed, imprisoned, labelled as a "traitor" and even thrown into a well and left to die. However, Jeremiah stood true to his word and refused to back down - and ultimately what he prophesied came to pass.
One of the most important things to note about Jeremiah are revealed in Jeremiah 1 vs 6 where he tells God that "he is not a good speaker and that he is too young". From this passage we can grasp the truth that Jeremiah does not believe in himself and does not believe he has the ability to speak the truth to a wayward nation. But God comforts him by telling him that "I have put My words in your mouth" (Jeremiah 1 vs 9) and God confirms that He is supposed to oppose the people and that they will "fight against him but will not overcome him, for I am with you and will rescue you" (Jeremiah 1 vs 19). This is the beginning of Jeremiah's boldness. He knows that despite his flaws, self doubts and weaknesses, God is with him and that he must do as God wishes and that God will empower him and carry him through despite any opposition.
I have seen a strong parallel with my own life over the last few years. After falling very ill back in 2011, part of the process of my recovery has been learning to speak the truth to other people - mainly into the lives of other Christians. This has been incredibly challenging for me especially because due to many factors in my background I have struggled to speak my mind - I have felt it was easier and better to just keep silent as that is how you keep the peace. This was how I learned to live my life. I can relate completely to Jeremiah when he says that he was not a good speaker - I was not either. In fact, talking to people - especially bringing a tough truth to someone - was something I dreaded.
In 2012 this journey of carrying the Jeremiah mantle over my life began. I began to receive words of knowledge that I knew had to be spoken to other Christians around me. These were tough words and it pained me to think about what would happen when I brought them. These were not words borne out of a desire to "get even" or to fulfill my own agendas, or satisfy my own loyalties. Jeremiah spoke of how the word of the Lord was "in my heart like a fire - a fire in my bones. I am weary of holding it in - indeed, I cannot." These words were exactly like this in my life - they would just burn and burn and eat away at me until I finally said something. Of course, very often these words were not received well but I knew that I had done the right thing. Often, the fallout from speaking these words was so minor compared to the relief I had of not having them burning inside of me like a furnace any longer. Eventually I realized that I had been called to preach the truth as Jeremiah had - not from stadiums to mass audiences, but quietly to people that God had brought into my life for various reasons.
I began to realize why God picked me for this assignment. God takes the weakest people imaginable and uses them to bemuse the powerful and the wise - as a testament to His own power. But He also does it to help heal the weak and broken people as I was. My journey of carrying the Jeremiah calling has forced me to face so many of my fears - most of which were directly connected to the fear of speaking out and saying something, and what could happen to me as a result. Being put in a position of having to face my fears has brought me incredible relief and freedom. If I had been called to something other than the Jeremiah mantle it would have been more difficult for me to face my own darkest fears and therefore find the healing I needed.
One of the main things that I learned throughout this journey were to have confidence in both God and myself that I was hearing and doing the right thing. There were many times when I would speak something out to someone and face a retaliation of some sort. These often made me doubt myself and question whether or not I had heard right in the first place and if I had done the right thing in saying something to that person. But I learned to trust myself and my own heart. Once I lashed out at someone and spoke out of term towards them - the guilt ate away at me for days on end until I went to them and apologized. Once I did this the heaviness was removed and I began feeling at peace again. So I have learned to gauge my own actions against this - if after I have said something I feel a peace and a release from doing it, then I can be confident that I have done what I was meant to do. This was challenging for me as confidence was not something I was overly familiar with but it has grown stronger over time.
Jeremiah did not see or feel much blessing in what he did. He went through a great deal and was called a traitor by his own nation who didn't understand his true heart. He loved Israel and wanted the best for them and wanted to see them repent in order to escape the destruction that was coming against them. But he was hated for his message because the so-called "prophets" of the time would speak in favor of Israel's sinful actions and Israel automatically sided with the other prophets of the time as their message was easier to digest and did not require something from them. So they turned against Jeremiah and sought to silence him rather than pay attention to his message. Jeremiah ultimately was imprisoned and would remain in prison until Israel fell the army of the Babylonians, just as he had foretold. Throughout his ministry Jeremiah doubted himself and doubted God - even despairing the day of his birth (Jeremiah 20:17-18). But despite his doubts, God sustained him and though the messages of destruction he preached took a long time to come to pass, they did eventually happen and he was proved as one who carried the truth in the end.
Throughout my journey so far I have often felt the same way. I have not suffered to the degree Jeremiah has of course but carrying the Jeremiah mantle has been costly. I have lost many, many friendships over the years due to speaking the truth to popular, well liked people and having my message rejected by them which means the inevitable falling out - not just with the people I spoke to but with the others they were connected to as well. I've had my fair share of dirty looks and stares and received a few nasty messages over the years - plus a few messages from people trying to bring "correction" to me by telling me that "I've been forgiven for what I've done" i.e. accusing me of sinning. I've seen many people put loyalty to themselves, friends and family over truth which needed to be spoken and I've had to remove myself from them as a result. Of course the self doubt has started to creep in at times - "Did I really hear right? Was I supposed to say that? Was I too harsh? Have I done something wrong here? Is this really any of my business?" Just to name a few. But every time I have had that still, small voice of reassurance come and tell me that I had done what I was supposed to do all along - and at the end of the day I go to bed with a clear conscience every night.
What fruit did Jeremiah see from his own ministry? Very little. He prophesied death and destruction, was hated for it and the only real fruit he saw was his own prophecies fulfilled - which of course meant death, destruction and exile for his own people. But he was proved right in the end and is now upheld as a hero of the faith in the scriptures. In the same way I have seen very little fruit from my own calling. But I believe that once God inspired truth is spoken out to people and situations, those words have power and the truth will begin to have its day. I have seen situations where people going against God's will for their lives have had things working out incredibly well for them until the word of truth was spoken - then all of a sudden the truth begins to take effect and the favor they were under switches off. This can take years to happen - but it does happen.
To you who are reading this, maybe the Lord is calling you to also walk the path of Jeremiah. In an increasingly dishonest world, God needs people who are willing to be lead by His Holy Spirit and speak words of truth into the lives of those around them despite the cost. I can't promise it will be pretty. I can't promise you will be listened to and that you will not suffer loss. But I can promise that if this is truly what God requires from you - then it is surely the right thing to do.