They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.” - Jeremiah 1:19
How willing would you be to accept an assignment that came with a guarantee of trouble and failure? Not many of us would be eager to embrace a task or invest time and energy in a project we knew would not go well.
Jeremiah was in such a situation where we find him in today's text. God sent Jeremiah to deliver an unwelcome message to an unreceptive audience. The Lord guaranteed his prophet that the people would oppose what he said and mistreat him for saying it. And along with the assurance of trouble, God gave Jeremiah encouragement to bolster his strength to do the hard assignment.
Some folks may enjoy a good fight, but most of us don't want to fight if we can help it. God told Jeremiah, "They will fight against you." Then he gave Jeremiah this three-fold assurance: "But they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you."
As ominous as the promise of rejection may have sounded, the guarantee of God's presence and help enabled Jeremiah to be faithful to his calling and finish his unpleasant mission.
Wouldn't it help to know, in the face of sharp opposition, that the opponents would not succeed? Can you imagine how the assurance of God's presence bolstered Jeremiah when he was attacked, imprisoned and abused? As lonely as it must have been to be God's prophetic voice to people who did not want to hear from God, Jeremiah could cling to the promise of God's presence. As dark as the dungeon and the miry pit must have been, Jeremiah could cling to God's word of assurance that he would be delivered.
You and I may never be in the same straits that Jeremiah endured, but there are timeless principles here that can help us. Jesus has assured us that living for him and speaking up for him will not be a trouble-free existence. "In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart: I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
The resistance and rejection of an ungodly world is a given for godly followers of Jesus, but we have a promise like Jeremiah's that the enemy will not prevail. We cannot be separated from the love of Christ by any person, force or thing. Paul said tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword couldn't do it. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:35-37). The evil world seems powerful, but it will not prevail against God's people, "for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Jesus promised, "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
We also have promises of God's abiding presence. Imagine the power of Jesus' parting words to the apostles: "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). There is life-changing, courage-building power in the promise, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). He is with us as he was with Jeremiah, not just to keep us company in the dark, but to deliver us from the darkness. The Lord stood by Paul on a storm-tossed ship that was doomed, and assured him that he and his fellow passengers would survive (Acts 27). Paul felt the same assurance on trial before Caesar: "At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me… So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:16-18). Paul, like Jeremiah centuries before him, suffered greatly as a faithful servant of God.
But he never lost hope or gave up, because he knew the Lord was with him to deliver him.
Your distress may never be as intense or life-threatening as Jeremiah's or Paul's. But you have the same promises from the same God. We have the assurance we need. I included more quotes than usual to assure us of these things. Our challenge is to believe the promises and be encouraged to be faithful to Christ, whatever trouble we may face for following Jesus.