John Stumbo Video Blog No. 14
September 12, 2014
We really don’t need smaller problems. We need a bigger view of God—a God who looks into every believer’s heart and says, “I am making you more than you are in and of yourself.”
Hey, team, great to be with you again today. I want you to know what’s swirling around in my head as I prepare this video. One, I’ve been watching the same headlines that you’ve been watching—the tension between Israel and Palestine, the tension between Russia and the Ukraine, as ISIS marches across Iraq, and as Ebola marches across Africa, the tensions marching on the streets of Ferguson in our own country.
I’ve been watching the headlines differently since I became president, because I’ve become aware that where most of those headlines occur, The Alliance is there. We are in those places of tension, and I thank you for those who are praying for our international workers and for our two churches in the greater Ferguson area. I want to thank you for those who give to the Great Commission Fund that keep our international workers out there presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ in a difficult era of human history, ministering to refugees, distributing goods but also distributing the loving, hope-giving name of Jesus. So that’s been in my mind.
Another thing that has been in my mind is I’ve just walked away from the Resonate conference. That’s our annual gathering of the newest licensed workers in The Christian and Missionary Alliance. A hundred and forty of them just came into Colorado Springs for a three-day conference that was life-giving. It was wonderful. Charles Galbreath from Brooklyn, Mitch Kim from Chicago, our own Dan Wetzel from Colorado Springs gave significant, biblical, humble messages that again drew out the significance of the local church and the work of Jesus Christ in our lives and the celebration of Jesus that left us more in love with Christ, more passionate about serving the church, and left me with a sense that it’s a great time to be part of this team that God is raising up among us—the Alliance family.
The third thing that is in my mind as I come to this video is that many of you as church leaders watching this today are in the midst of fall launch. September is a big time of year in your churches, and I’m impressed that you’ve been taking time to watch this video, so thank you for that. But now, this time of year, families are coming back from vacation, ministries are ramping up again, your need for volunteers is reaching all-time highs, and you, as a leader, have special challenges at this time of year that I want to acknowledge and celebrate.
Thank you for investing fully in the local church and the work of Christ in your own communities and to the ends of the earth. But this fall is a particularly challenging time for many of us.
So with the headlines, and the recent Alliance events, and your own fall launch in the back of my head, where I feel prompted to take us today in the Scripture is the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 12.
Jeremiah in chapters 10 through 20 gives us a lot of autobiographical interaction of his own communication, prayers, frustration with God, and God’s response to him. It’s a fascinating section of Scripture. It’s not the only thing in chapters 10 through 20, but it’s those autobiographical, inner-personal, journal kind of sections of Jeremiah that are really focused on those chapters. Chapter 12, Jeremiah opens by saying, “You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice”—or “about your judgment.” What a bold statement of Jeremiah. And then he gets specific about what’s really bugging him.
“Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do the faithless live at ease?” He sounds like one of the psalmists here or multiple psalmists who complain that those who are ungodly are somehow getting away with it.
Verse 2: “You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but you are far from their hearts.”
It’s just a façade of spirituality that they have, but their lifestyle and all that they are living for proves that they are not seeking after you.
“Yet you know me, O LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you.”
And here is where Jeremiah really lets loose: “Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter! How long will the land lie parched”—or “how long will the land mourn,” perhaps, in the Hebrew—“and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and the birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, ‘He will not see what happens to us.’”
Jeremiah is really frustrated about not only the times in which he lives, his own ministry in those times, but how God doesn’t seem to be responding to the times. And he has a frank conversation with God—and God answers.
Verse 5: “If you have raced with men on foot,” God says, “and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in a safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? Your brothers, your own family, even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you. Do not trust them, though they speak well of you.”
What is God saying to Jeremiah’s complaint? A couple of things. One, it’s worse than you think it is. “You think you are running on this level? You think you have this level of issues to deal with? Jeremiah, I’ve got to let you know, it’s even worse than that.”
Another thing God is saying to Jeremiah is, “Jeremiah, if you’re currently getting worn out in your current circumstance, what is going to happen to you when the heat gets turned up even higher? Right now, Jeremiah, you’re there in your little shorts and colorful shoes, running a 5K with the other guys. And if that’s wearing you out, what’s going to happen when you find out I’ve enrolled you in a horse race—the Kentucky Derby? Not as a jockey but as a horse. If you have run with men on foot and they have worn you out, how will you contend with horses?
“Jeremiah, you’re about ready to enter into a completely different league. Right now you are in the safe zone. Right now you are in a safe country, actually, but you’re about ready to enter into the thickets, the underbrush, the dangerous place alongside the river where there is no trail, there is no clearing, and there are wild animals. Jeremiah, Jeremiah, if you can’t handle it right now, what’s going to happen when the temperature goes up?”
I love the way God is dealing with one of His chosen leaders, His much loved leader. God is not allowing him to wallow in self-pity, and He’s not allowing His leader to get stuck in his own limited view. See, Jeremiah can only see much; and it doesn’t appear like God is working. It appears like evil is getting away with things. And God is saying to Jeremiah, “I see this. I’ve got this one. It’s—you don’t see it all it’s actually worse than you realize. But, Jeremiah, not only do I have this one, but I have you where I want you.”
Jeremiah seems to have forgotten the words that God originally gave him that said, “I will make you something you aren’t right now.” God of this universe, saying to one of His chosen leaders, “I will make you a fortified city, an iron pillar, a bronze wall. I will build things in you that are not there innately of your own.”
None of us could enter the Kentucky Derby as a contestant. Ah, but the power of God within us allows us to do things, be things, accomplish things, be part of things that are way beyond the natural, the norm, the human.
So, as I’m looking at the headlines, I ask the same questions you ask. As I think about my fall of ministry, I think about some of the same questions you ask. But I—friends, we really don’t need smaller problems. We need a bigger view of God—a God who looks into every believer’s heart and says, “I am making you more than you are in and of yourself.”
As is often said, He doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. You, my friends, have been called by the Lord of this universe in a difficult time in human history. And, yes, some of us feel like we are getting a little weary in our 5Ks and in the safe country. And, yes, it might produce a little fear within some hearts to even think of the thought that things could get any hotter, could get worse, even more difficult. But please, let’s hear the admonition of the Lord to His servant Jeremiah that our God is able to increase our capacity. Our God is able to make us more than we are or allow us to rise to moments that we never expected we’d be in.
Many of you know my health crisis story. October of 2008, I went down with a mysterious attack upon my muscular system that left me in a deathbed, and then after the deathbed era was over just a very slow and painful recovery. Ten months into that story, I was strong enough to take a walk by myself for the first time without the accompaniment of any caregiver or family member. My wife was quite nervous about it. We were at a pier on a body of water in Oregon that had a solid railing that went along the whole thing. And so, inching along—and I mean inching along shakily, with a cane in one hand and hanging onto the railing with the other hand—I made my way maybe 75 feet, 100 feet down this pier.
Ah, to be on my feet again, to breathe fresh air again, to feel the breeze in my face again after so many months of primarily being indoors. It was just, it was a sad, weak reentry, but at least I was back again for a moment, out in God’s creation on my own feet. And you know, I hadn’t felt like I had heard the voice of God in months. But standing on that pier, feeling the wind in my face, I sensed a sweet and simple message from the Lord to my heart that said this: “You’ve been given a challenge; rise to it.”
“You have been given a challenge.” I certainly had been—the attack upon my body and spirit and various other ramifications of my life. But the God of this universe, the God of Jeremiah, the God of leaders, the God of your life and mine was once again speaking into a human heart, saying, “I’m aware that I have given you a significant challenge. But I have given it to you. Now, my servant, rise—rise to it.”
May God give us the courage and faith to rise to the challenges that are before us today. I pray for you as you do. God bless.