The prophet Jeremiah spent much of his ministry being persecuted by the people he was called to teach. He was imprisoned by his people, and when they were destroyed as he had predicted, he was forced to flee with them into Egypt, where he was stoned to death.
Jeremiah had reason to be discouraged about his ministry, especially since he didn't seem to have a single convert. He had reason to quit, to tell God, "Look. I'm not getting anywhere. Do you mind if I stop this pointless exercise and go live out the rest of my life in peace somewhere? Why do I always have to be in the middle of this mess?" But he couldn't seem to shake the compulsion he had to speak the words that God had given him. He wrote,
But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9, NIV)
Jeremiah continued his mission despite the hardships he faced, because he knew the truthfulness of the words God had given him. He knew it with such fervor that it was like a fire in his bones. I've felt like Jeremiah lately. No, I haven't been imprisoned by a hostile people or spent decades preaching against idolatry, but I've felt a powerful witness of the living reality of the Son of God, and the truthfulness of His gospel. It is, in a very real way, like a fire in my bones. It is uncontrollable and inescapable. It is warm and bright, but not tame--it burns with a wild might, a consuming passion, an everlasting flame. I do not completely understand it, but I know it to be true.
C.S. Lewis explained his communion with God in this way: “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God — it changes me” (The Weight of Glory). That's how I feel about the gospel--it changes me, in a way that no self-help book or psychological program could. My knowledge of the truth flows out of me, waking and sleeping, crying and laughing, certain and doubting, sinner and saint. It's simply true. And because of that inconveniently wonderful fact, I choose to exercise my faith and trust in the things I do not understand. Yes, living the gospel is a choice, but not a capricious or random one--having examined the alternatives, I choose it because it's the only one that makes any sense. And so I choose to let the Lord teach me and guide me, shaping me into the person He wants me to be. I choose to trust His ways and His timing, though patience does not come naturally to me.
I choose to answer as Peter did, when the Lord asked His disciples whether they would forsake Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:67-69). I do it because Jesus Christ is my Redeemer, my Savior, my Master, and my King. Because He fills me to overflowing. Because He brings me peace in a world that makes so little sense. Because He moves with power to succor me, to reclaim a life out of balance, to enfold me in the arms of His love, to drive me to extend the same grace and mercy to the rest of His children, to reflect His light into their lives.
Because His gospel is like a fire in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in. Indeed, I cannot.
Picture from http://blog.ning.com/