It’s January. January 2019. TWENTY NINETEEN. (Say it slow so it sinks in… can you believe it??)
As I write this, it’s only a few days after New Year’s Day. And I don’t know about you, but when it comes to New Years I think of three things:
I think of fireworks. Right?! It’s not New Year’s without some fireworks, even if they are just dodgy sparklers…
I think of how tired my 10 year old will be the next day if I let him stay up til midnight and do I really want to deal with that? (I hear an amen from the Mums in the back!)
I think of New Year’s Resolutions.
I have mixed feelings about New Year’s Resolutions. Probably because for most people they don’t work!
“I’m going to the gym every single day for the whole year!”
Yeah we all know you’re not going to do that… by January 10 when the alarm goes off, you’re rolling over and thinking “maybe next year”.
But as we walk into 2019, I have a thought that keeps coming back to my mind, which I suspect is the kind of New Year’s Resolution we could all do with.
It comes from Jeremiah chapter 1.
To give you some context, in case you are wondering “Who the heck is Jeremiah and what does he have to do with New Year’s?” —> Jeremiah was a guy who lived in Israel in about 600BC. He was a prophet, which means God chose him to remind the nation of Israel of their covenant, their agreement, with Him.
After God had freed the nation from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, He made a deal with former slaves. In a nutshell He said “I am God - I’ve rescued you out of slavery, I’ve given you a homeland, I’m going to protect you, and I’m going to bless you. All I ask in return is that you love and worship me.”
Sounds like a good deal, right?
But Israel was a stubborn bunch of people who thought that they were smarter than God… reminds me of me a lot of the time… and they looked at how the nations around them lived, and started to feel peer pressure. They decided that God’s way of living didn’t look as fun as the nations around them, so they started to worship the gods of the other nations. These gods were deceptive… they made it look like their way of life was more fun, like you could do whatever you wanted, like you had freedom to love who you wanted to love and live how you wanted to live… but it was a trap. Once people started worshipping these demonic idols, they quickly got sucked into a life of pain that masqueraded as a life of freedom. Marriages were torn apart, children were sacrificed on the altar of their parents selfish desires - literally - injustice was rife, and everyone lived only for themselves.
Sounds familiar, actually.
And God was not okay with it. He wanted His kids to return to relationship with Him. He wasn’t going to force Himself on them if they didn’t want Him - but the problem is that when we continually reject God, when we continually push Him away, He does what we ask - God removes Himself from our lives. And when He leaves, His protection and His blessing go with Him.
And God didn’t want that for His people Israel. So He sent prophets. The prophets weren’t fortune tellers or psychics - they were men and women who reminded Israel of the covenant, the agreement they had made with God. They reminded Israel that they had agreed to serve God and only worship Him. And that He had promised to bless and protect them.
But the prophets also reminded them that if they continued to rebel against Him and reject Him, He would remove His blessing and His protection from them. And this was not going to be a good thing for them. There were a lot of nasty, bloodthirsty, brutal nations around Israel, who would happily destroy the whole nation in their quest for power.
Jeremiah was one of these prophets.
And in Jeremiah chapter 1, we get to see the moment when God actually calls Jeremiah to be a prophet.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, “I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid fo them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 1 : 4-8
Jeremiah is very young, probably in his late teens, and he is really daunted by what God is asking him. He knows how his nation treats the prophets - he knew that only 60 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah had been murdered, ordered by the evil king to be sawn in two. Prophets were imprisoned, tortured, executed, despised. Jeremiah was a young man with his whole life ahead of him - and he didn’t want it to be this.
So when God tells Jeremiah that he has been chosen to be the spokesperson for God, all Jeremiah can see is his shortcomings.
He starts his speech - “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
I’m sure these weren’t his only objections - I suspect he had many more:
I don’t know how to speak
I’m too young
I’m not confident around people
I’m not influential
I’m not educated
I’m too fearful
He had a whole list of “I’m not” and “I can’t” and he was just getting started!
But God won’t allow Him. He says to Jeremiah “Do not say ‘I am too young’, for you will go to everyone I send you and say whatever I command you.”
God literally says “Don’t say it”.
“I’m too…” — “Don’t say it”
“I’m not…” — “Don’t say it”
“I can’t…” — “Don’t say it”
God wanted to speak into Jeremiah’s spirit, He wanted to impart boldness, purpose, courage, strength, clarity and identity into Jeremiah - but he only got three lines in when Jeremiah interrupted with all the reasons God was wrong, why He should pick someone else, why he was not capable. Jeremiah couldn’t listen because he was trying to talk over the top of God with his list of excuses.
God had to interrupt Jeremiah - “Don’t say it” - and it was only after Jeremiah stopped, that God resumed speaking identity and purpose into him.
So many times we are confused about our identity and our purpose because we haven’t stopped saying all our “I can’t”s so that God can speak His truth - the truth - into our lives.
When Jeremiah finally stops, what does God say?
In verse 5, God had already said I formed you, He already said I knew you, He already said I set you apart, He already said I appointed you - but Jeremiah wasn’t listening.
So God has to start again —
I am with you (v8)
I will rescue you (v8)
I have put my words in your mouth (v9)
I appoint you (v10)
I have made you (v18)
I am with you (v19)
I will rescue you (v19)
This is what God wanted to speak over Jeremiah’s life and future - but He couldn’t do it until Jeremiah shut up!
What is God wanting to speak over my life? What does He want to speak into my future? What is He wanting to impart into my spirit - but He can’t because every time He starts, I don’t hear it - I am too busy with my list of all the reasons why NOT.
I believe that those statements God made into Jeremiah’s life are for us as well —>
I knew you
I formed you
I set you apart
I appointed you
I am with you
I will rescue you
I have put My words in your mouth
I appoint you
I have made you
I am with you
I will rescue you
But before He can say any of this, there is something else we need to hear:
“Don’t say it.”
Now that’s a New Year’s Resolution that will change your life! Don’t say that excuse. Don’t say “I’m just” or “I’m too” or “I can’t” or “I’m not”. Don’t say it!
Don’t let fear, failure, insecurity and doubt hinder the plan of God in your life. Don’t say it!
I think especially as women we talk ourselves down all the time. We have this constant stream of conversation happening in our heads with ourselves and it’s not good! I wonder how often God wants to speak life, hope, peace, identity and security into our spirits but He can’t get a word in edgewise because of our own self-talk!
For me I can pinpoint a particular time in my life when listening to God’s “dont say it” truly changed my life and my future.
I was 28 years old, a new Mum, Dave and I were Youth & Young Adult Pastors on the Sunshine Coast - and I was paralysed by fear when it came to my role as a pastor. I couldn’t lead because I was gripped by fear, and I absolutely couldn’t do public speaking. So I would say “no” any time I was asked to speak or share, even if it was only for a couple of minutes.
One day God said to me “Don’t say it. Stop saying no.”
And I listened. I decided I would stop saying “no” and start saying “yes” - even when it scared me.
God has taken me on an adventure since that day that has brought me confidence, not self-confidence but God-confidence, where I am able to relax knowing that if He has called me, then it’s His responsibility to enable me. That adventure has brought me the ability to trust God with my family and my future - something I could not do before. That adventure has brought me courage where once fear ruled supreme. That adventure has brought me security that I am in God’s hands, not flailing about in the unknown.
Listening and obeying when God said “don’t say it” was the best thing I have done. He’s a good God. We can trust Him.
He wants to do something real and powerful and intimate in your life… He wants to speak purpose and destiny and identity into your spirit… He wants to take you on an adventure that you can’t even begin to imagine… but it starts by obeying when He says “don’t say it” to whatever your excuse is.
What is God saying “don’t say it” to in your life?
What is that one thought that has become a stronghold in your life that God is putting his finger on, saying “I can’t do what I want to do in your life while you keep bowing your knee to this lie”?
2 Corinthians 10:5 in the Passion Translation says:
“We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One.”
I love that picture. Every thought, every “I can’t” that rears its ugly head in defiance of God - we literally take prisoner.
We don’t give it any rights to speak anymore.
We starve it.
We break it.
We kill it through neglect.
God is saying “Don’t say it. Stop listening to your self talk - instead let Me speak words of LIFE and HOPE and FUTURE and IDENTITY and HOPE and COURAGE into you.”
Don’t say it.
I reckon that’s a New Year’s resolution I can get behind.
Let’s chat soon.