READING ROOM
 
  Steve Fry  


The Place of Vulnerability


"Stay in this land, and I will build you up. But if you say 'No, we will go
to Egypt, where we will not see war, or hear the trumpet, or be hungry
for bread,' then the sword you fear will overtake you."

- the prophet Jeremiah

Dissappointing Sky, by Paul Kopchak


SOME OF THE GREATEST TESTS WE WILL EVER FACE MAY BE FOUND IN THE UNEXPECT-ed disappointment. The times when we're blind-sided by a loved one's bad choices, sucker-punched by a partner's sudden attack, mercilessly teased by what we thought was a promising opportunity snatched from us just when we thought we had it in our grasp. For Moses it was the Golden Calf incident - for he was ready for the rigors of the desert trek, the hot pursuit of Pharaoh's army, and the administrative challenge of leading such a throng. But to witness the wholesale apostasy of a people so recently delivered from slavery - that was a shock. For David it was Absalom; for Paul, the abandonment he felt while on trial in Rome.

These are moments when a certain quality of faith is defined. It is not so much the faith to move mountains, or the faith to resist enemies. It is not the faith of a lion, but that of the "Lamb who opened not His mouth." Not the faith to "charge" in the name of the Lord, not even the faith to take the next step in a wilderness of wandering - it is the faith to stand still and see His salvation. To do nothing, to say nothing until God Himself acts on our behalf. Sometimes the greatest "step" of faith is not stepping at all, but waiting. Especially when confronted with the unexpected disappointment.

Jeremiah experienced this sort of shocking disappointment towards the end of his life. For decades, Jeremiah had faithfully proclaimed the word of the Lord. Prophesying certain destruction, of course, did not endear him to his countrymen. Yet his words were proven true. Jerusalem had been destroyed, the people carted off to captivity. While being taken to Babylon, Jeremiah is all at once released by the commander of the guard, and given the freedom to go anywhere in the land. Jeremiah returned to Judah where a pitiful remnant of people had gathered. After a short period of hopeful beginnings, the Babylonian-appointed governor was assassinated by a renegade Jew named
Ishmael. Now the situation had turned perilous once again for the few who remained in the land.

Knowing that they face likely retribution at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, this small band comes to Jeremiah to ask him what they should do. No doubt, Jeremiah thought that finally a remnant would
listen to whatever the Lord would say. Jerusalem was nothing but rubble, a grim reminder of the accuracy of Jeremiah's prophecies. Here was a people who would respond to the word of the Lord no matter how difficult.

Yet, when they came to Jeremiah, he waited ten full days before God spoke. Why? We are reminded of the time God made Moses wait forty days and forty nights on Mt. Sinai to receive the Law. As comprehensive as the Law was, it certainly shouldn't have taken forty days for God to
dispense it. But God allowed those forty days to elapse...could it be that one reason lay in God's intention to expose the heart of the people? Could it be that God kept his servant on that mount until the idolatry in the hearts of the Israelites was made manifest? Often, God allows divine delays to occur in the lives of His leaders so that the hearts of His people will be revealed - withholding much needed direction, for example, to test the people as to where their true affections run.

So it is here with Jeremiah. A word that could have come in five minutes was not given for ten days. The truth is, God saw what was in the hearts of that remnant people. They were sincere, as far as they knew - but secretly they harbored the desire that God's word would align with their intentions to go to Egypt. God knew that they did not have a heart to follow Him totally.

We as leaders need to be careful not to rush the processes of God. When the people of God demand direction and we honestly do not feel the Divine stirrings, we must trust God for what is not being said. How true it is that we need to trust God as much for what He doesn't say as for what He does say. There are many times that God will delay answers so that hearts can be laid bare. It is one of the most significant reasons for delay, and one of the most strategic tests of a leader.

When the word finally came - at odds, of course, with their agenda - they defied the Lord, calling Jeremiah a liar. The shock of their stubbornness must have left Jeremiah absolutely numb with disbelief. Their rebellion at this point borders on the incredulous. Jeremiah's accuracy as a prophet had been verified beyond all doubt, yet they resisted the word of the Lord through him -again!

The satisfaction Jeremiah might have received at being vindicated in the very twilight of his life was snatched from him by the unbelief of the people. Jeremiah, with whom disappointment had been a constant companion, who had been disregarded by his peers all his life, is once again slammed into the concrete wall of rejection. The people not only rebel, but force Jeremiah himself to go to Egypt against his will. There Jeremiah dies. No legacy, no following, no success to point to,
nothing that would appear to carry on his name, nothing that would vindicate his ministry.

Yet this whole episode presents to us a provoking contrast: a prophet who was willing to risk all for generations he could not see, and a remnant of people who, because they could not risk, lost their chance to impact the next generation.

Consider. The Word God had given them was essentially this: Stay in the land, do not go to Egypt where you feel it is safe. Do not say that you are tired of war, no longer want to hear the sound of the trumpet, and do not want to face the specter of famine. In the face of their fear of Babylon, the Lord tells them that the safest place is the place where they would face war, would hear the trumpet, and would risk scarcity. In other words, safety was to be found in the place of maximum vulnerability and risk! The safest place, the place of war. The most fruitful moment, the times when the alarm was sounded. The most satisfying seasons, those when circumstantially satisfaction was elusive.

So the Lord comes to us today and says:

"Do you want to feel safe? Then stay in the place of war. Do you want to feel successful? Then respond to the alarms - the prophetic word of the Lord, the cries of the intercessors. Do you want to truly feel satisfied? Then stay at the place of little return."

The irony is that this remnant, called to stay in the place of struggle and risk, did not realize that they were in fact destined to prepare the land for a generation they could not see. They had a chance to rebuild to a measure, to prepare the way for the people that were to come under
Zerubbabel years later. Because they did not, the land was utterly wasted. Could it be that when Zerubbabel and the refugees returned to the land from captivity, that they had to fight unnecessary battles because the land had not been prepared for them?

It was God's desire and intention to leave behind a small remnant that could have provided a landing strip for the returning captives. Like the small platoons who, during World War II, would establish small beachheads on remote Pacific islands in order to clear landing strips for their P-51s, this remnant was given a momentous opportunity. It was not for them to win the war; it was not for them to rebuild the land. It was not for them to see great signs of visible success. They were to stay at the place of risk and vulnerability for a generation they would never see.

Jeremiah stands in stark contrast. Here is a man who stayed at the place of vulnerability. Here was a man who was not allowed to marry, never had the chance to father a child, was considered an outcast, was regarded as a fool. He had few friends. The sum total of his personal disadvantages, public ridicule, social isolation, loneliness, and personal temperament caused him to once curse the day he was born. And then to end his days rejected by a people who refused to believe even
after seeing his prophecies proven true - the shock of such a disappointment would overwhelm most of us.

Yet, Jeremiah was given eyes for the future, and in a sense, became the sole person to prepare for the generation to come. For it was given to him the time frame of the nation's captivity: 70 years. The wifeless, tribeless, childless, almost friendless prophet is given the divine chronology from which Daniel receives his inspiration to pray and to act! Because Daniel prayed in Daniel 9, the momentum was sparked that ultimately resulted in the return of the captives. But it was the disregarded Jeremiah through whom the prophetic countdown was set in motion.

God give us eyes for generations we will never see. Keep us at the place of vulnerability, exposed though we may be to the sounds of war. Help us to measure success not by the accomplishments of today alone - but by the legacy of faith we leave for future overcomers.

- STEVE FRY

 


A FEW WORDS ABOUT
STEVE FRY

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Fry - the son of a minister -
cut his teeth as a youth pastor, a position that he held for
ten years. "We started with a handful of kids, but eventually
grew to 800 members. It was an exciting time. Worship was
such a big part of what we did," he says. Ministering to such
large numbers of youth in the mega-church environment has
enabled Fry to address strategic issues to the body of Christ
here in the 90's.

Fry's experiences as a youth pastor also germinated the
seeds of his missions ministry work. He helped to form
Messenger Fellowship - a program that started with 12,000
young people as a two-week outreach program in L.A. during
the 1984 Olympic Games. It has since become a network
of pastors, missionaries and worship leaders throughout
the world.

For further information and/or to contact Steve Fry, please
visit the Messenger Fellowship web site at:

www.messengerfellowship.org

An excellent interview with Steve Fry can be found
at the CCLI web site, at:

www.ccli.com/WorshipResources/Friends/SteveFry.cfm

Contact Information:
P O Box 474
Brentwood TN 37024-0474
USA

Fax: (615) 370-1323





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