The prophet Jeremiah had a rough go of it. As a matter of fact, he was known as the weeping prophet because Israel would not listen to all that God had told him to say. He was broken over the sin of the people; over his own sin. He was rejected; ignored; fought against. Even in his own discouragement and questioning, though, Jeremiah continued to trust what God had spoken to him when God had called him.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5
For Jeremiah, he was to be a mouthpiece for God to the people of Israel and Judah, calling them repentance for their sins in abandoning God and His ways. It wasn’t an easy assignment, but Jeremiah was created for such a task and moment. Maybe that’s why God said on the outset, to Jeremiah, that He had been formed, known, set apart, and appointed for this.
When you are commissioned to do and say that which isn’t popular in culture, much like Jeremiah, it’s imperative that you know your true and identity and value, as well as know without a doubt that God is with you, for you, and that He is watching over His word to perform it. (Jeremiah 1:12)
“And I, behold (listen), I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.” Jeremiah 1:18-19
Jeremiah’s identity was found, not in what he did, but in being formed by God and known by God. Regardless of how the people of Israel would respond to Jeremiah, he would be secure in knowing that he was God’s very own child, and that he was known intimately by Him.
That should be reassuring for us especially since we have a tendency to find our identity and value in our vocation (what we do). If Jeremiah had placed his identity in what he did as a prophet to an obstinate and cruel people, imagine how shattered his identity would have been. He would have felt as though he utterly failed, and therefore a failure. Don’t get me wrong, Jeremiah had his weak moments. Yet, he was faithful to be obedient because his identity was in the God who formed him and knew him, not in what he did. He may have been set aside and appointed as a prophet, but he was formed and known as a child of God.
It’s no different for anyone who has come to know God through a relationship with Christ. Our identity and value are found in Him, not in our own making or our vocation, or in how well we are liked or received by others. Regardless how good you are at what you do, or what measure of success you seem to have, there will come a time when it either crashes, sputters, ends, or you just simply realize that it’s not enough to satisfy what you really desire most.
Think about the life of Jesus. Before He began his earthly ministry of calling disciples, teaching in villages, healing the sick, proclaiming the kingdom of God, and even suffering on a cross for the sins of the world, He was affirmed by His Father in heaven of His identity and value. The gospel writer Matthew records it this way when God said of His Son, Jesus, “This is My beloved Son (identity), with whom I am well pleased (value).” Matthew 3:17
Henri Nouwen said, “Jesus came to announce to us (those who are in Christ) that an identity based on success, popularity and power is a false identity- an illusion! Loudly and clearly he says: ‘You are not what the world makes you; but you are children of God.”
So where are you finding your identity and sense of value? If it’s in the number of views or “likes” of your social media posts, you will daily be preaching a false gospel to yourself that you are defined by how others view you or approve of you. If it’s in the worldly success of doing well in business, or increasing your financial status, or in the things you possess, you will soon see that your identity is built upon sand that always rests upon the shoreline of a tumultuous and raging ocean that is one tsunami wave away from shattering your perceived identity and worth.
Here’s the point: God has called us to rest in the truth that our true identity, one that is secure and lasting, is found only in Christ. And because we are in Christ, we are His and He is well pleased. That’s who He says we are.