Second Thoughts on the Pursuit of Success

“And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.” Jeremiah 45:5a ESV

This verse is not your typical name it, claim it promise, nor something you would find typed on a strip of paper in a fortune cookie. In fact at first blush, these are not the kind of words any inspired, faith-filled, goal-oriented believer ever wants to hear. This advice seems counter intuitive coming from the all-things-are-possible God whom we serve. And yet, despite the fact that there are other instances in the Scriptures where God encourages His followers to dream big and press forward to lay hold of those things which we desire, in this case He says the opposite, “seek them not.”

It helps to understand the context in which God would say such a thing and there is a life giving principle hidden therein. These words are spoken on God’s behalf through Jeremiah the prophet to his faithful scribe Baruch. Baruch had just been lamenting the frustrations of fruitless labor – how overwhelmed he feels, weary with groaning and finding no rest. (vs. 3) Their nation of Judah is poised for God’s judgment and in essence He is saying to Baruch, look “I am bringing disaster upon” the whole land. It is not a time for you to seek success, “but I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.” (Jeremiah 45:5b)

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Taking the hope dare

“Yet I still dare to hope . . .” Lamentation 3:21

I want to dare you to hope! If Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, can dare to hope so can we. Very few people can testify to being in a more hopeless situation than Jeremiah and yet he found hope in God.

Imagine what it must have been like for someone to be a survivor of the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11. The sheer trauma of that event coupled with the loss of friends and coworkers is almost beyond comprehension. In many ways, picturing the modern day impact of the 9/11 tragedy gives us insight into the trauma Jeremiah experienced as a survivor of the death and destruction that Babylonians wrecked upon Jerusalem in 586 BC.

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