Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Theme: “Called and Equipped by God”
Sometimes I get called on to do things that make my knees wobbly and my stomach churn. Like being asked to preach at a Pastor’s Conference in my first year in ministry. Not a pleasant experience – to have 75 of your peers sitting there listening to you, assessing you, passing you or failing you…..Or being asked to present a couple of papers to a principals and headmasters gathering….. I don’t know if a principal or headmaster gets daunted by a group of pastors, but I was certainly daunted by them….. Then there are those phone calls that seem to come out of nowhere: “Pastor, please come to the hospital. There’s been a terrible accident.” Or “She’s gone! After 32 years of marriage, she’s just walked out. Can you come over, Pastor?”
You know what that’s like too, don’t you. Perhaps not in the same circumstances as me, but you know what it’s like to be called on by others in need. Maybe called by God to help in some way……. And you feel so daunted, so inadequate….. What do you do? How do you cope? How can you help?
Jeremiah – that’s the prophet Jeremiah – he can help us here. Because he was called by God for an important task….. The nation of Israel – God’s special people – they had turned their backs on him. They’d forsaken God and turned to all sorts of false gods and religions. Spiritually they were at a low ebb. And God says to Jeremiah – when he was just a young man – “Jeremiah, you’re going to be my mouthpiece to the people of Israel. I’ve had you chosen for this task since before you were born. You will confront my people and tell them to return to me.” And Jeremiah’s jaw drops. He says: “Lord, I’ll preach at a Pastor’s Conference, I’ll present a dozen papers to principals and headmasters, but Lord, don’t call me to be your mouthpiece to the people!”….. Well, he doesn’t quite say that, but he is daunted by the task God’s placed before him. And according to the text – he does come up with his excuses: “Hey, Lord, don’t pick me!. I’m far too young. You want someone more experienced, someone with more maturity. And besides, you know I can’t talk very well. I get tongue-tied. There are plenty of others with more of the gift of the gab than me. Choose someone else. I’m not your man!”
And can I just say here, these weren’t invalid reasons given by Jeremiah. They were true. He was very young for the task. And he was pretty uninspiring as a speaker. But that doesn’t seem to worry God. In fact, God seems to have a habit of picking seemingly inadequate people to do his work….. Jeremiah wasn’t the first to consider himself too young, not a gifted speaker. There were plenty of others back in the Bible and still are today. And you may be one of them…. But when God wants something done, the ability – or lack of ability – of the person doesn’t seem to be his main priority. Because he has all the necessary gifts and power to offer the person so that the things he wants done can be done effectively.
And that’s just what God does for Jeremiah in the text….. God calls him for a special task – a task that scares the life out of Jeremiah – but God also equips him for the task. He ‘shushes’ him. He puts his hand on his lips and quietens him. “Don’t talk about your age or your abilities! Shush! Be quiet! You don’t need to be afraid. I will be with you. I’ll give you the words you need to say. I give you the authority, my authority!”
And just by the way, if you think that from then on it was a breeze for Jeremiah, then just read the rest of his story for yourself in the Bible. It was no walk in the park for him. Far from it! God set him apart for a task – a difficult task – but he gave him everything he needed to do it well.
Can I – for a moment – can I focus on those of you who are involved in ministry to children and teens. And I’m not just referring to those of you who might be involved in a Sunday School type of thing here at St Peters. I’m talking about those of you who have meaningful contact with kids and teens at any level: as a parent or grandparent, as someone who is involved in Christian education in schools or who might sit next to one in church – whatever level! I don’t know if you realise it, but you have been entrusted by God with a sacred task. And I’m not sure if I can think of a more important one! Those kids and teens, they are growing up in a world that’s complex and confusing, that’s filled with opportunities and fraught with pitfalls. And they desperately need caring people around them to help them navigate their way into adulthood. You have the incredible privilege of walking with precious people in their formative years. Your time with them will leave a lasting impression on them….. What a sacred trust!… God has given you gifts and he wants you to use those gifts for the benefit of those children, those teenagers… He has given you time – hours each day – and he wants you to use them wisely… He has poured his love into you and he wants you to bring compassion to your work, to embrace those kids and teens in the same way as he would embrace them. Embrace those adults too, who come your way, needing your compassion and help. And I’ve got to say – if you take this call of God, if you take the tasks he’s given you seriously, how could you not be daunted by the task that lies ahead? How could your knees not be a little wobbly, your stomach not a little churned? But here’s the thing – if the story of Jeremiah – and of the whole Bible – if it’s crystal clear on one thing it’s this: God doesn’t call you to a task and then say: “Well, all the best! Hope it works out! I’ll be off now!” .. NO! He quells the fear inside of us. He ‘shushes’ the self-doubts, the insecurities and says to each of us: “Go . . . in my name, in my strength, and keep turning to me for the courage you need for each day!…. What I’m calling you to do I will also equip you to do. So don’t be afraid. I will be with you.”
And that’s God’s promise, his assurance to all of us here today, whatever our circumstance. What he says to Jeremiah he says to us in our different situations: “Don’t say you’re too young, too inexperienced, too old, too frail, not confident enough!…. Don’t say that you can’t speak well, that you don’t have the brains, the social skills, whatever! Don’t be afraid! I am with you! I will give you what you need.”…….. And he will – whether you are a leader in this church, or in your workplace, or as a mum or a dad or a grandparent, or as a friend. …… You may feel inadequate – and you may well be inadequate for some of the things he calls you to do, but hey, God has shown in the past he can do extraordinary things with pretty ordinary people. Or maybe he doesn’t want you to do extraordinary things. Maybe he wants you to do ordinary things faithfully that he can use to touch people’s lives in special ways. So, as people who have been called on by God to make a Kingdom difference – in this church, in your workplace, in your community, in your home, at whatever level – be brave! ! Be strong! Don’t be afraid. Trust in God to work in you and with you as he has promised. …. Be in awe of the opportunity you have. Be humble. Keep turning to God for the wisdom and discernment and courage you need.
For all of us – in whatever situation in life we find ourselves in – be open to God’s call to you. Be excited about it. And count on him being the equipping, enabling, faithful God he promises to be. Amen.
Pastor Rob Peach