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Dealing with Doubt

 

Jeremiah 20:1-18
Related Sunday School Lesson, Family Bible Series, Feb. 19

 

Jeremiah was no doubt a bold prophet of God. But even though he was a bold prophet, he was also a man complete with all the normal emotional faculties. There were times, as this passage reveals, when he doubted and felt uncertain.

I can relate to Jeremiah’s feelings. Certainly there have been times when I boldly preached God’s truths and then wondered if it was worth the effort. I have teacher and pastor friends who have shared similar feelings. Part of the encouragement of this passage is that doubt and uncertainty are normal for those called to stand on God’s principles. Of course, that includes all God’s followers.

Sometimes doubt can cause us to grow weary. When this occurs questions such as, “Am I really called?” or “Will God sustain me?” come to our minds. Even though we may not face the kind of ridicule Jeremiah did, we certainly will encounter discouraging opposition. Focusing on God’s power and dominion will encourage us to remain faithful in spite of doubts and uncertainty.

This lesson will help believers grow in faithful service to God by recognizing that doubt is part of the normal struggle for believers. Trusting in God’s sovereignty is a source of victory over doubt.

 

Life Question: What should I do when my service to God is clouded by doubt?

 

Speak God’s Truth, Jeremiah 20:1-6

Pashur [PASH huhr] was the officer responsible for keeping law and order in the Temple. The beating Jeremiah received involved forty lashes across the soles of his feet. The stocks secured Jeremiah’s hands, feet, and neck. His body was literally doubled over in a cramped position. The utilization of the Gate of Benjamin was so that the punished could be observed publicly. This was the customary punishment for false prophets carried out by Temple authorities.

This method proved to be effective as most men subjected to it became wary of further speaking out against the system or the people. This, however, was not the case with Jeremiah. He became even more fervent in his denunciations and predictions of pending judgment.

God changed Pashur’s name to Magor-Missabib [may gahr-mih SAY bib] which means “terror on every side.” The name was fitting for this leader whose terrible deeds and judgment are highlighted in verses 4 through 6. Jeremiah was saying in essence, “You (Pashur) and your actions will be a sign that the doom I have predicted is becoming a reality.” Jeremiah then names the nation that God would use to execute judgment, Babylon.

Unashamedly Jeremiah spoke God’s truth in spite of the possible danger. Believers should be prepared to do the same. We must do all we can to avoid sharing personal or political opinions when attempting to speak on God’s behalf. God calls every believer, however, to speak His message regardless of potential consequences.

 

Be Honest in Your Doubt, Jeremiah 20:7-10

After such a horrific experience, the prophet became quite dejected. He stated that God “deceived” him. Jeremiah felt that he had earned the penalty of the false prophet. He felt that God used him as a decoy to lure not only others to judgment, but to himself also. Because he did not see the desired results of his ministry, he became angry toward God.

The words Jeremiah used to describe his despair and doubt are those that today’s believer understands. The prophet felt as though his ministry led to nothing more than mockery and laughter. He felt alienated even from the Lord (verse 8). He even considered quitting the ministry altogether (verse 9). But Jeremiah felt compelled inwardly because he did not want his enemies to see him fall (verse 10).

When believers find themselves doubting that God can and will bless their efforts, it is understandable that they may become dejected. I certainly have found myself questioning God and doubting that He ever really called me. These feelings were based on few or no results in ministry.

During these times we, like Jeremiah, can honestly express our feelings of doubt to the Lord. We may feel as though we are not acting in faith with such expressions. But the Lord knows how we feel even before we share them. It is actually an act of faith to acknowledge these feelings.

 

Remember Who is in Control, Jeremiah 20:11-13

In these verses Jeremiah’s tone took a change. He moved from pessimism to optimism. Because he remembered that God was his source of strength and victory, his outlook changed. He remembered some truths of the faith: “the Lord is with me”; “my persecutors will stumble”; “they will be greatly ashamed”; and “they will not prosper.” God has promised throughout His word that He is and will be with us as we carry out His plan (see Joshua 1:5 and Matthew 28:20 as examples). Jeremiah was encouraged when he remembered God’s power over his situation.

In verses 12 and 13 a joyous and confident Jeremiah expressed praise to God. How significant is praise to God in the midst of trial for the believer? James 1:2 reminds us that God uses life’s struggles to mold us into His usable people. So often when we find ourselves in the trial we beg God to remove it. Believers need to recognize that sometimes God has us in those trials for His purposes. Believers, like Jeremiah, should seek to praise God even in the midst of trial.

God has power over every situation. This we know. But the question becomes, “Do we live as though we believe it?” I have never been beaten or put in stocks for the cause of Christ. But I certainly have faced times of trial because of my stance for Him. During those times I have always remembered God’s power, goodness and blessings in my life. Jeremiah faced trials we likely will never face and praised God in them. Surely, we can give God praise in our times of trial … can’t we?

 

“Deceived” – verse 7 – The verb translated “deceived” is better translated “seduced” or “overpowered by persuasion.” Jeremiah uses this verbiage to accuse God of being too strong to deny. Some commentators note that Jeremiah was bordering on blasphemy at this point.