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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why the Fire Burned

Jeremiah felt a fire in his bones. What was its source?

For years I wondered why firefighters carried axes to
the scenes of fires. Hadn't the fire done enough damage
without chopping away at the remaining roof or walls?
Then I learned that those axes serve a valuable purpose:
They uncover smoldering hot spots that might later ignite.
It keeps the firemen from having to return.

A famous passage in the Bible regarding fire is found in
Jeremiah 20. Jeremiah had to confront strong opposition
to the message he preached. And why did he preach that
unpopular message? It was what the Lord gave him to
speak. In verses 7 and 8 he described those who opposed
him: "O Lord, you induced me, and I was persuaded; you
are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision
daily; everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out;
I shouted, 'Violence and plunder!' Because the word of
the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily"
(NKJV). The prophet faced hecklers whenever he spoke,
and it was getting wearisome.

Jeremiah resolved what any of us likely would have:
"Then I said, 'I will not make mention of him, nor
speak anymore in his name'" (v. 9a). But that plan
didn't work for long: "... But his word was in my heart
like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of
holding it back, and I could not" (v. 9b).

That kind of motivation to speak up for the Lord is needed
in all ages. Jeremiah was not the first to face opposition
for preaching the truth, and he wasn't the last. But where
was the "hot spot" in this man that compelled him to speak
up for God when others fought him?

He pointed to the source in verse 11: "But the Lord is with
me as a mighty, awesome one. Therefore my persecutors will
stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed,
for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will
never be forgotten." Beyond the daily frustration of fighting
the enemies of God, Jeremiah could see the awesome Lord for
whom he spoke. That was what kept the fire burning in his
heart. That was how he could press on against such great

When problems come, we can't help but focus on the problems.
When they are especially large, we grow discouraged. But the
same formula that worked for Jeremiah will work for us. By
shifting our focus from the trials to the almighty God we
serve, we'll find new courage and energy. We'll soon be able
to exult with words like Jeremiah's: "Sing to the Lord!
Praise the Lord! For he has delivered the poor from the hand
of the evildoers" (Jeremiah 20:13).
-- Tim Hall
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