“Are you seeking great things for yourself?” Jeremiah 45:5a (NLT)
Even a sincere heart can fall captive to selfish ambition. There’s a fine line between seeking great things for God and promoting ourselves along the way. Pride causes us to take the credit for what God and others made possible in our lives. Are you led by selfish ambition or spiritual anointing? How can we know? There’s a short chapter in Jeremiah that gives an example. In this chapter, the Lord gives a personal message to Jeremiah’s assistant, Baruch. Baruch’s name in Hebrew means “blessing” but he almost missed his blessing. He had been serving Jeremiah as a scribe, recording his prophecies and relaying them on Jeremiah’s behalf to the people, Temple leaders, and the King. Jeremiah dictated the prophecies that God gave him, and Baruch wrote them down. Since Jeremiah was imprisoned for his messages, the only way he had to get them out was through Baruch. You can imagine, if the people and the leaders didn’t like Jeremiah’s words, poor Baruch sure wouldn’t be received well for sharing them. In Jeremiah 45, God had heard his heart cry. It was one of discouragement. He had faithfully served Jeremiah and God, and he thought he deserved better treatment. So, God gave a word to Jeremiah just for Baruch. This came after Baruch had written down everything that Jeremiah had dictated to him. He said,
“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You have said, ‘I am overwhelmed with trouble! Haven’t I had enough pain already? And now the LORD has added more! I am worn out from sighing and can find no rest.’” Jeremiah 45:2-3 (NLT)
Have you ever felt that way serving God? To be fair, Baruch didn’t have an easy job. After writing down every word that Jeremiah dictated to him, the Bible says he went to the Temple and read the prophecy with the hope that the people would respond to the word of the Lord and turn their hearts back to God. Instead, the people despised him and sent him to the King who listened as each page was read and, then, cut the pages up and throw them into the fire! When he returned to tell Jeremiah, the Lord told Jeremiah to dictate it again and have Baruch write it out all over again! Only this time he added much more, the Bible says. God’s mercy and patience is amazing! Still, I can imagine the frustration of this well-educated scribe. Hoping for more – more respect, more reward, more recognition. After all, these were the words of God he was delivering! All that work went up in smoke! Unappreciated and unrewarded! To make matters worse, he lived in the shadow of a successful brother who was a staff officer in the King’s service. No wonder he cried,
“I am overwhelmed with trouble! Haven’t I had enough pain already? And now the LORD has added more! I am worn out from sighing and can find no rest.” Jeremiah 45:3 (NLT)
Look at what God says to this discouraged servant.
“Baruch, this is what the LORD says: ‘I will destroy this nation that I built. I will uproot what I planted. Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life as a reward wherever you go. I, the LORD, have spoken!’” Jeremiah 45:4-5 (NLT)
God was telling Baruch to check his attitude and his motives. Are you seeking great things for yourself? Was he serving out of selfish ambition or his spiritual anointing? He had his eyes on himself and his situation rather than on the Lord. God was saying that he needed to get his eyes off himself and whatever rewards he thought he deserved and, if he did, God would protect him no matter how bad things would become.
It’s so easy to lose the joy of serving when we take our eyes off God. The more we look at our own situation and our own sacrifices, the more frustrated and discouraged we become. As you serve God, beware of the subtlety of selfish ambition. Beware of focusing on what you are giving up or not getting in return. When that happens, ask God’s forgiveness and redirect your focus to the incomparable privilege of serving God. Consider the divine anointing God has given you to serve Him in whatever capacity that is and serve Him with all your heart.