This is the one-hundred-forty-first lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 1:7
It was a very troubled time in 18th century England. Working conditions were horrible. People’s lives were so desperate that, for entertainment, they flocked to public executions, the public dissection of dead criminals, and bloody animal spectacles. One-fourth of the women in London were prostitutes. Worst of all, people were learning of the horrific conditions on the slave ships where bodies were stacked together. One captain threw live slaves overboard in order to collect insurance money.
One member of parliament, William Wilberforce, decided to speak up. He made it his life goal to reform social behavior and to abolish the slave trade. He made his decision and began to speak up—at 27 years of age.
Six centuries before Christ, God called a young man named Jeremiah to speak prophetically into the troubled times in which he lived. It was a chaotic era—politically, socially, morally, and spiritually. The kings made unholy alliances with foreign powers and borrowed their gods, ruining the faith of the people.
The call that came to 20-something Jeremiah was not merely difficult, it was life-threatening. How can a prophet speak up to the powers of the day and not be crushed by them? The mournful tone of much of Jeremiah’s prophesy shows the price he did pay, but he could hold onto God’s promise at the start: “Do not be afraid… I am with you and will rescue you.”
Today’s world is as troubling as the era of Jeremiah. Yet Scripture says that God calls many people to speak truth into troubled times. In some parts of the world this is life-threatening. In other parts the risk is merely receiving disdain or prejudice.
We also have this problem: Some believers naively think that if enough people shout loud enough, unrighteousness will somehow be shoved out of society, while other believers doubt whether speaking the truth can make any difference at all. What Jeremiah did, and Wilberforce later did, was to set a course to speak truth—faithfully, precisely, tirelessly—for decades, for a lifetime. They assumed no quick outcome, but redemption did finally come.
What issue in society today is something that God may be calling you to speak up about, and where?
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.