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Calling to God *alone* in times of trouble

Jeremiah 11:14 says, “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.” Yikes! Here is another one of those verses that has always troubled me. It goes against our grain to hear such a solemn warning about God not hearing any requests for help. Yet, similar to yesterday’s post, if our heart is not wholly for God and Him alone, He will likely not act. I think there are some principles for prayer in the midst of trials here.

So often we face difficulty in life and we call out to God. The Jews were facing impending invasion and clearly would have been terrified. Clearly, it is right to call out to God in the midst of trials, but in this verse we see that calling out to Him with a divided heart will have limited effect upon His benevolence. As I mentioned in my last post, the Jews were filling their lives with religion and gods, but not the One true God. Just the verse before says, “Your gods are as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up… (Jeremiah 11:13)” So if these Jews did call out to God, they were calling out to Him and every other god they served. Clearly, God is not pleased with a multitude of religious activity. He wants us to focus on Him and serve Him only.

In my life, I have found that often trials are tools in the hands of God to strengthen our commitment and devotion to Him and Him alone. God calls us to not look to anyone else or any other thing for deliverance. Often He allows the trial to persist so that our divided hearts might become purified and our focus becomes singularly upon the Lord Himself. This is how it could be said, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” It is sin because if our hearts are not fully trusting in God alone, and if instead we are trusting and looking to other saviors that will provide the solution, then we are essentially engaging in the same heart as these Jews here. In all of our lives, there are times when we may “call” upon God, and yet we do so while also seeking other solutions and trusting in our own wisdom to see the problem solved. This ought not to be.

To God alone be the glory and to Him alone we ought to go. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be involved with the solution. In fact, there are so many examples in scripture where clearly God does want to involve us in the solution. Yet, I would say that often the duration and strength of the trial is specifically and intentionally gauged by God to teach us the skill of approaching the situation with a pure heart, seeking Him and following His paths towards their end. This is a spiritual skill/discipline that takes time and practice. Maybe God is using a trial in your life to purify your devotion to Him as you are working towards its reconciliation.

When you go to examine your life in this manner, ask yourself: What are you pursing? What are the issues in your life and where are you going for their solutions? Likewise, when the “issue” is solved, will God get all the glory? Will you be able to praise Him?

Moreover, know that He does not join with sin, and if your solution includes that which is sinful, then He is not part of it. So many people approach a problem with a willingness to include obvious steps of sin. Yet once we include these measures, we are involving other ‘gods’ in this problem and we risk God saying, “I will not listen when they call to Me…”

Why does it have to be this way? Ultimately because God is perfectly loving and good. He is the greatest thing in this universe. Thus, to allow us to be drawn away from Him to any other false ‘gods’ would ultimately be allowing us to harm ourselves. What parent is okay with their children putting their hands into fire? God, in His loving mercy, is seeking to protect us and provide us with the peaceful fruits of righteousness. Since God is the source of fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) then it would be unloving to allow us to wallow in the muck of this world when there are His pristine rivers to be enjoyed.

Here’s my prayer after studying this verse: Lord, examine my heart and show me my motivations. Purge from me any pride and trusting in myself. Purge from me any pursuit that does not lead ultimately to You as the source. Direct me into Your paths and into Your ways. Lead me to that which brings You all the glory.
Russ Brewer

Russ Brewer

Rescued from the domain of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of the Son. Undershepherd of Grace. Husband of Corinne. Father of three. Chew-toy to Zeke...