Jump Start # 2923
Jeremiah 6:16 “Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
One of the burdens that so many shepherds in the Lord’s church carry today is the belief that they must solve every problem and fix every person. That alone can be very overwhelming. The larger the congregation the more that is multiplied. So many people and so many problems. It is a wonder that any shepherd gets a night’s sleep.
Our passage written so long ago ought to help us some. The Lord was extending His loving hand to His people. They were quickly sinking into the mire of error and idolatry. There was a way out. The story didn’t have to end with defeat, shame and death. There was a better way. It wasn’t something new. They already knew. It was the ancient paths. Seek them and you’ll get out of that pit. Seek them and you’ll find hope. Seek them and you’ll find rest. Seek them and the Lord will forgive you. So easy. So simple.
The reply was quick, direct and defiled. We will not. We will not walk in those ancient paths. We will not have anything to do with what you want. We will continue on the path that we are on. We will not turn back. Leave us alone. We are happy where we are.
And, what we find here is a responsibility upon the people. God’s hand was extended but they were turning their backs on God. And, within this we find some powerful lessons for shepherds today.
First, some people do not want to be saved. That’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Some people do not want to rescue their marriages. They’d rather crash the marriage on the rocks and go over the waterfalls, as dangerous as that might be. Some people do not want to quit drinking. Some people do not want to worship the Lord.
Second, some messes created by us can only be straightened out by us. Sure the shepherds are there and would love to help and guide, but in the end, they can’t do anything unless we are willing. Jesus did not save every person. Some were bold enough to walk away from Jesus. Some saw the miracles and still refused to believe. Attitudes, forgiveness, second chances, we can preach those things all day long.
Third, we pile up pressure and guilt upon ourselves when we feel compelled to solve every problem. The truth is we can’t. And, since we can’t, we feel like failures. We believe that we ought to be able to. Some problems only the Lord can solve. Some problems are up to the hearts involved and if they are unwilling to work towards godly solutions, the problems will remain. The burden some shepherds feel shouldn’t be there. The Lord couldn’t save everyone. There were some who chose to walk away and go home. Was Jesus a failure? Should He beat himself up with sorrow and guilt? Why should it be different for us?
Fourth, some problems take a long time to solve. Problems can be created in seconds, but it can take decades to untangle the messes created by them. And, in those decades, people move, people die, life goes on. Some people move slower than a turtle when it comes to doing what ought to be done. Sure, they know that they ought to stop a sinful behavior. Certainly, they’ll agree with you that they need to apologize. But will they do it? One may change calendars before the first step is taken.
It is easy to point fingers and hang problems on leaders when it is not their fault. I’ve seen some of the best preaching done in a church that had the worst attendance. That’s hard to figure. Throughout this land there are many, many great shepherds who are doing their best to lead the people of God to Heaven. Prayerfully, they are putting their hearts into their work. They give up evenings and Saturdays to meet with others and to shape hearts that will be pleasing to the Lord. But there remains those, like in our passage, who just refuse to do what they should. It breaks the heart of these shepherds. They try one thing and then another, just to generate some spiritual interest in lukewarm and dead souls.
So, men of God, don’t fret over not being able to solve all problems. Sometimes, often times, it’s us. Some of us simply just do not want to do what is right, godly and wholesome. Jesus Himself could not change some of these hearts.
Does the church have problems? Certainly. Is it up to the shepherds to solve all these problems? Certainly NOT. Their role is to guide, shape and point the way to Jesus. In the Luke 15 parable of the lost sheep, why was that one lamb lost? Why wasn’t he following the shepherd like the rest of them? Did the shepherd do something wrong? The shepherd in that context is God. God never does anything wrong. As the shepherds are leading, it’s up to you and I to keep up with them. We must be watching and listening. We must be working out our own salvation. No one else will do that. No one else is expected to do that. They have their own salvation to work on. If we are responsible enough to be baptized, then we ought to be responsible enough to keep up our end of the bargain and walk with the Lord.
Some problems are just ours to solve…