Fear of Opposition
June 9, 2013
Topic: Sermon Passage: Jeremiah 1:1–1:19
“FACING OUR FEARS”
A Biblical Response to Common Christian Concerns
“Fear of OPPOSITION”
Most of my HEROES are DEAD PEOPLE.
What I mean by that is, most of the people whom I ADMIRE most are those who have PROVEN their greatness by the passage of TIME.
Many times, an assessment of someone immediately AFTER they die (or after they accomplish something) later proves to be somewhat INACCURATE.
For instance, when HARRY TRUMAN left the White House, he did so with record LOW approval numbers; & for a number of years after that, he was generally rated as a POOR president.
But in recent years, Truman has been given an increasingly HIGHER rating as president, as HISTORY has REVEALED his many strengths.
And who could have imagined 20 years ago what many people, including liberal democrats have said in the past few years: that RONALD REAGAN was a good president & a GREAT leader.
So, while there are certainly those people alive TODAY that I appreciate & admire, most of my HEROES are found in the pages of HISTORY.
One of those who was added to my list a few years was a British preacher named CHARLES SIMEON.
Simeon, born in 1759, was brought up in family where NO one apparently was a believer - & yet, 4 months after enteringCambridge University, he became a Christian.
Cambridge was such a GODLESS place at that time that Simeon did not meet another believer there for almost 3 years.
Though he changed rooms a few times, Charles Simeon remained on the campus of Cambridge the rest of his life.
On November 10, 1782, Simeon preached his FIRST SERMON as the pastor of Trinity Church on the Cambridge campus - & he REMAINED as Trinity’s pastor for 54 YEARS – until he DIED, on November 13, 1836.
One would think from that amazing record of LONGEVITY that Charles Simeon was able to LAST so long because he was universally ADMIRED & APPRECIATED, but that was hardly the case.
For instance, a Sunday afternoon lecture was a primary duty of the pastor, but the church refused to allow Simeon to have that role for the first 12 YEARS of his pastorate.
When he tried to start a Sunday EVENING service, the churchwardens LOCKED THE DOORS, so that the townspeople who came had to stand outside to hear him preach.
When Simeon tried to VISIT his CONGREGATION from house-to-house, most homes refused to OPEN THEIR DOOR to him. This lasted for at least 10 YEARS.
After these early storms had died down, Simeon encountered ANOTHER fierce wave of opposition, after 30 YEARS of being their pastor.
He had been at Trinity 30 years by that time, & he was 53 years old. At that some point, many people would have concluded that it was time to MOVE ON – but not Charles Simeon.
Being the pastor of a church located on a UNIVERSITY CAMPUS, Simeon naturally sought to impact the lives of STUDENTS there.
But, for the first several years of his pastorate, the students in general MOCKED Simeon, even DISRUPTING the SERVICES by carousing outside.
Eventually, as many students were CONVERTED under Simeon’s preaching, they found themselves RIDICULED & OSTRACIZED by their fellow students.
Perhaps what was worse that the opposition of the STUDENTS was the way he was OSTRACIZED by the FACULTY atCambridge.
And yet, DESPITE such OPPOSITION, Charles Simeon ENDURED. He ultimately came to be ADMIRED & even REVERED by most of the Cambridge community, & he is remembered TODAY as a true HERO of the faith.
Charles Simeon was not the FIRST person to experience such opposition, & he certainly wasn’t the LAST either.
Most of US know what it’s like at some point in our lives to experience some degree of OPPOSITION, & it’s never PLEASANT.
In fact, most of us understandably FEAR opposition, & that certainly includes most PASTORS.
Probably the most common reason for pastoral STRESS & BURNOUT, & even the decision to LEAVE the ministry, is due to the HEARTACHES of being OPPOSED by those whom the pastor has been called to LOVE & SERVE.
JEREMIAH was not a pastor; he was a PROPHET. But he was certainly one who was well-acquainted with facing stiff OPPOSITION.
In fact, he gives Charles Simeon a run for his money in terms of the LONGEVITY of opposition that he faced: vs.1-3 – this spans more than 50 YEARS of the most TURBULENT & DISMAL time in Israel’s history.
In Psalm 56:11, DAVID, a man well-acquainted with opposition, sounds BRAVE & even DEFIANT when he says, “in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
We are not to understand from this verse that other human being cannot DO ANYTHING against the child of God! They can do a lot, in terms of MISERY & even MAYHEM.
In Matthew 10:28, Jesus stated, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
It’s important to note that Jesus DID NOT say that man can DO NOTHING that is HARMFUL to us. In fact, He says that they can KILL us!
But, DESPITE that reality, Jesus commands us not to be AFRAID of them.
The Lord says that a LOT throughout His Word, & that includes what He says here to JEREMIAH.
God makes it quite clear, in CALLING Jeremiah, that he will be OPPOSED, HATED, & HARMED – but, even then, He says, do NOT FEAR those who OPPOSE you.
In this memorable passage, there are 5 facts that must be remembered:
Jeremiah was CHOSEN by God: vs.4-5.
These were basically the same words of JESUS to His DISCIPLES, in John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”
ALL believers are believers because they have been CHOSEN by God: Eph. 1:3-4.
Eugene Peterson wrote, “My identity does not begin when I begin to understand myself. There is something previous to what I think about myself, and it is what God thinks of me. That means that everything I think and feel is by nature a response, and the one to whom I respond is God. I never speak the first word. I never make the first move.
“Jeremiah’s life didn’t start with Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s salvation didn’t start with Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s truth didn’t start with Jeremiah. He entered the world in which the essential parts of his existence were already ancient history. So do we.”
Jeremiah was not chosen by God because he was QUALIFIED: vs.6-7.
1 Cor. 1:26-30
God PROMISED His PRESENCE to Jeremiah: vs.8, 19.
When God CALLS us, we may say to Him, “ I will GO, if You will go WITH me.”
And God says, “I WILL be there. I PROMISE.”
One example: Acts 18:5-11 – Paul ENDURED the OPPOSITION, because God was WITH him. So did JEREMIAH - & so can WE.
God promised His POWER to Jeremiah: vs.9-10.
An evangelist in Colombia, South American, ministered there during the 1980’s & 90’s, a time of much CRIME & DANGER, due to the dominance of the DRUG CARTELS there.
As this evangelist was an ENEMY of the cartels, his life was constantly in DANGER - & was eventually ASSASSINATED by them.
Yet, shortly before he died, he said, “I know that I am absolutely immortal until I have finished the work that God intends me to do.”
With TRIUMPHANT TRUST, David wrote these words: 2 Sam. 29-33, 40, 47-50.
God’s presence & power would be NULLIFIED by Jeremiah’s DISOBEDIENCE: vs.16-17.
Israel in Jeremiah’s day was NOT INTERESTED in hearing WHAT GOD had to say – but that is NEVER an EXCUSE for God’s people NOT to be TOLD: 2 Tim. 4:1-5.
As he ministered SO LONG through so much OPPOSITION at Trinity Church, Charles Simeon had often COMFORTED himself by planning to RETIRE from pastoral ministry at about age 60, so that he could enjoy some time REMOVED from his unrelenting stress.
But, after 25 years of ministry there, Simeon’s HEALTH suddenly FAILED, & he remained in poor health for 13 years – until he reached the age of 60, when God suddenly REVIVED him.
Looking back on that time, Simeon said that it was as if God were saying to him, “I laid you aside, because you entertained with satisfaction the thought of resting from your labor; but now you have arrived at the very period when you had promised yourself that satisfaction, and have determined instead to spend your strength for me to the latest hour of your life, I have doubled, trebled, quadrupled your strength, that you may execute your desire on a more extended plan.”
After God revived his health, Simeon went to preach for 17 MORE YEARS, until just 2 months before he died.
As He said to Israel, so God down through the ages says to His people, “if you carefully obey (my) voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Exod. 23:22)
Simeon Says How to Overcome Fear of Opposition
Remember your ACCOUNTABILITY before God for the STEWARDSHIP of your calling.
In Heb. 13:17, PASTORS are described as “those who will have to give an account.”
But remember that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor. 5:10)
REFUSE to DEPEND UPON the OPINION of OTHERS.
John Piper wrote, “we would all do well not to be curious about what others are saying about us. There is little good that can come out of it: pride, if the comments are good; discouragement, if they are critical; anger, if they are false. These are not the emotions we need to cultivate.”
Be willing to RECEIVE REBUKE, & LEARN from it.
As Joseph said to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Gen. 50:20)
“Many a truth is said in jest” - & many a truth is said in the ATTACKS of our CRITICS, even if their motivation is MEAN-SPIRITED.
Look for the HOPE that can be found in DISCOURAGING CIRCUMSTANCES: Rev. 2:9-11.
Regard SUFFERING for CHRIST to be a PRIVILEGE: Acts 5:27-33, 40-42.
Commit to a LIFETIME of INTENSE DEVOTION to Christ.
A friend of Charles Simeon said, “Simeon invariably arose every morning, though it was the winter season, at four o-clock; and, after lighting his fire, he devoted the first four hours of the day to private prayer and the devotional study of the Scriptures.”
Looking back on his long life of faithful ministry, Charles Simeon said that he had found his ASSURANCE “in the sovereignty of God in choosing such a one – and the mercy of God in pardoning such a one – and the patience of God in bearing with such a one – and the faithfulness of God in perfecting his work and performing all his promises to such a one.”
WE can find that same assurance in that same SOVEREIGN, MERCIFUL, PATIENT, & FAITHFUL God - & we can PERSEVERE; we can even be VICTORIOUS, despite our OPPOSITION.