Why The Fire Burned

FireJeremiah 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 opposition.
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).

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