When We Say We Aren’t Able


Jeremiah 1:1-6 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: 2 To whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month. 4 Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. 6 Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

Jeremiah was chosen by God for a special but difficult task. He was to give God’s message to Judah and the nations in the final days before their captivity and destruction. This task overwhelmed and intimidated Jeremiah. He felt like a child unable to speak and to do what God was asking.

His feelings of being overwhelmed are ones that many might feel at the task God has for them. Maybe you have felt it. Maybe you have thought, “There is no way I can be a preacher or a missionary. I am just a child. I don’t know what to do or what to say. No one will listen to me. I am not worthy.”

To Jeremiah and to you, God says, “Do not say, I am a child.” God does not want us to make excuses; He wants us to obey. When we say, “I can’t; we are actually saying I won’t.” Because if God calls you to do something, does it not follow that He will help you do what He calls you to do?

Notice how God addresses the real issues behind Jeremiah’s insecurity. God’s answers to Jeremiah reveal the real issues we all face as well when we are overwhelmed by our own inability.

1) Claiming our own inability is a mask for our DISOBEDIENCE.

Jeremiah 1:7 But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. 

Jeremiah was using this excuse to try to get out of what God wanted Him to do. He knew it was a big job. He knew it would be tough. And he tried to say you have the wrong guy. But this was all a cover-up because he was wrestling with obedience. The real issue was not one of ability but one of obedience. So will you do what God wants even though you feel inadequate? Will you making obeying a bigger priority than anything else?

2) Claiming our own inability is a mask for our FEAR.

Jeremiah 1:8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah was saying, “I can’t.” God was saying, “You can; you just are afraid.” He was thinking of how they would speak to him, reject his message, and looking intimidating at him. The fear of man is a powerful thing, and it was paralysing Jeremiah.

I wonder if you have let the fear of what others may think or say keep you from obeying the Lord? The solution for this fear is God’s presence. No matter what they say or do, He will be with His children and will ultimately deliver them and give them final victory. Fear is no excuse and no reason to not obey because we know that we win in the end if we are on the Lord’s side. So what are you afraid of? What fears are holding you back? Stop making excuses and repent of your fear.

3) Claiming our own inability is a mask for our LACK OF FAITH.

Jeremiah 1:9 Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. 

God gave Jeremiah the ability he needed. He touched his mouth and gave him the ability to speak to these people. When Jeremiah said, “I can’t” he was showing a lack of faith in God’s ability to help him. I think God wanted to say back to him, “Won’t you trust me to help you? Won’t you rely upon me? Who said that you would do this alone? Don’t you think if I call you, then I know what I am doing and can make it happen?” How many times will we insult God’s character by disobeying and making excuse rather than obeying and trusting God to help us do what He asks us to do?

4) Claiming our own inability is a mask for our own PRIDE. 

Jeremiah 1:10-16 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant. 11 Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. 12 Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. 13 And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. 14 Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. 15 For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah. 16 And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. 

Jeremiah was making this all about him; instead of considering that this was really all about God and His plan. God tells Jeremiah his plans for the nations and for his life. God had a message he wanted to deliver that was bigger than Jeremiah and his feelings and insecurities. It is very prideful for us to make the command of God all about us. To subject God’s sovereign plan to our own personal feelings is the height of arrogance and self-centredness. When will we realise that the job of taking the gospel around the world is bigger than us? It is about God, His glory, His salvation, and His gospel. We need to set aside thoughts of ourselves and focus on Him and how He deserves to be worshipped, served, and obeyed.

Then God concludes with the following words.

Jeremiah 1:17-19 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. 18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. 19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.

God essentially says:

  • Get up and get going.
  • Speak to everyone all that I tell you.
  • Don’t be afraid of them, or I will make you afraid of them.
  • I have made you a strong defenced city, an iron pillar, a brass wall against the whole land, the kings, the princes, the priests, and the people.
  • They are all going to fight against you, but they will not prevail, because I am with you to protect you and deliver you!

Wow, what a promise! What a statement! And we have many more similar promises as God’s children. So let us get up and go out and be bold for God. He is with us. He will help us. He will do a work through us.

About the author

Travis has been a church planter to the United Kingdom since 2002 and also serves as the Europe Field Director for Vision Baptist Missions.
3 Responses
  1. Jason Fowler

    Amen hallelujah what a Mighty God we serve. Thanks for the encouraging devotion. Reminds me to listen more than I do and stop putting fears in the way of His work He is doing in me.

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