Jeremiah was called into the prophetic ministry when he was young man. Humble and eager to serve God, he became a man of prayer and deep spirituality–a man who faced his trials with courage.
During his forty years of ministry, Jeremiah would suffer intense persecution. He was thrown into a dungeon, beaten, put in stocks, and threatened. Tradition teaches that he was stoned to death. Despite the opposition he faced, however, he remained true to the messages God gave him. He confronted the Jews with their rebellion and called them to confess their sins, accept responsibility, and ask God for forgiveness. As God directed him, he also spoke words of comfort to a people facing disaster.
Jeremiah was also a man of great compassion. He openly expressed his grief over the sinfulness of his people. In fact, he’s known as the weeping prophet. He shed many tears for the sin of his people and the destructive consequences he knew they’d face. After Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were exiled, Jeremiah wrote the book Lamentations to express his sorrow over the pain and loss of his people. There were times when Jeremiah openly and honestly complained to God about the work God had given him. Yet even in the midst of his sadness, Jeremiah never lost faith in God’s power to judge righteously, to reward liberally, and to restore his broken people.
Even men who don’t want to be like their fathers often turn out to be amazingly similar in their behaviors and personalities. Through the power of God and hard personal choices, however, it’s possible to break out of an ongoing spiral of sin and dysfunction.
Take Josiah, for example. Josiah was a young king who chose to stand against a virtual tidal wave of disobedience fostered by his grandfather Manasseh and his father, Amon. Breaking from this downward spiral was particularly difficult since Josiah had little knowledge to guide his actions. The Scriptures containing God’s laws had been lost for years. But when the high priest discovered the Book of the Law in the Temple, young Josiah immediately initiated spiritual renewal for himself and his people.
As a result, Josiah was able to break the cycle of sin that had captured Israel in its whirl. Josiah was not a perfect man but he was a true champion of spiritual renewal. He was committed to God and had the courage to pursue both personal and national renewal.
Josiah made the difficult choices necessary in order to ‘cut loose’ from the sins of the past and to build a new life for himself and the people of Judah. Are you like Josiah? Do you need to make a break from the past in order to build a new life for yourself? I hope you’ll seek the same powerful God who renewed Josiah.
The New Testament describes Samson as a man of faith. It mentions neither his failures nor his great strength. Though he possessed great physical strength, he was a moral weakling who followed his own selfish desires and ignored God. Do you remember his story? He was the man who foolishly loved Delilah?
It seems that after the first three episodes of betrayal, Samson would’ve known not to trust Delilah. But like many of us, Samson thought that giving into manipulation was an expression of love. He chose to please Delilah and to get what he wanted from her, rather than to obey God and deliver his people. Delilah chose to use her relationship with Samson for her own gain. Most of us have experienced the pain of being used, and we have undoubtedly used others. We’ve also known the searing agony of being betrayed.
It will accomplish nothing to look at Samson and think about what he didn’t accomplish. Likewise, it does little good for us to become depressed over what might have been. Samson shows us that as long as we have life, we have hope. It’s never to late to surrender your life to God and allow him to redeem you and restore what you’ve lost. In spite of his failures, Samson is listed as a champion of faith in Hebrews 11. In spite of your failures, you, too, can be a champion of faith as God continues to transform your life.