“‘But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,’ declares the Lord, ‘but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.’” Jeremiah 45:5 (NAS)
Money, happiness, fame, and acceptance—what would you trade to get these things? Would you sacrifice your time, your effort, your heart?
Adoniram Judson, the brilliant son of a pastor, had the world at his fingertips. At age 19, he graduated as valedictorian from Brown University. An intellectual giant, Adoniram could have pursued any career. After college he moved to New York to become a playwright. But after watching his unbelieving college friend die, he faced the reality of death without Christ. So instead of pursuing prominence in theater, he entered seminary to prepare for ministry. In seminary, he mastered Greek, Hebrew and Latin with ease. After listening to a call to mission work given by a British pastor, Judson and his wife, Ann, obeyed God’s call and set out for Burma.
Like Adoniram, we all have a decision to make. Will we follow the path of obedience to God’s call, or will we blaze our own trail to pursue our selfish desires? Will we pursue the treasure our culture can provide, or will we expend our energy for an eternal prize?
When Adoniram and his wife arrived, Burma had never seen a Protestant missionary. It took four years for Judson to lead the first Burmese convert to Christ. But during those four years, He studied the complicated language and translated the Bible into Burmese. God used Judson’s intelligence and talent for languages to proclaim His message to Burma. Throughout his 40 years in Burma, Judson endured persecution, imprisonment, and the death his wife and several children. Like Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, Adoniram’s life followed the path of struggle and pain.
The book of Jeremiah records God’s words of judgment and restoration to His people, many of whom suffered in Babylonian exile because of their disobedience. But in Jerusalem, Jeremiah and Baruch languished with the few remaining Israelites. The path of these two men zigzagged through the devastated streets of Jerusalem as they proclaimed God’s message. They climbed mountains of difficulty and descended into valleys of depression as they faithfully delivered God’s message to His people.
Adoniram also faithfully followed God’s call on his life. He could have remained in America and may have achieved fame and fortune as a playwright. But he would have foregone the obedient life in Burma that yielded a lasting legacy and eternal treasures. We benefit from Baruch’s legacy as Jeremiah’s scribe when we read the book of Jeremiah in the Bible. And the Burmese people received God’s saving message as a result of Judson’s tireless efforts.
So what do you treasure? We must remember that working as a playwright, a lawyer, or an investment banker is not wrong—but God calls us to something more. God calls His children to discipleship and our careers provide a platform to share His message. But when we make decisions to pursue our own selfish desires instead of God’s glory, we fail as disciples and we forfeit the everlasting prize He promises to His obedient children.
Just like Adoniram, Baruch had a decision to make. Would he selfishly choose the path of ease and acceptance? Or would he obey God’s call and walk the road of toil, rejection, and reward?
Baruch mourned because Jerusalem lay desolate and God’s people suffered in exile. He also endured opposition as Jeremiah’s assistant. Grief accompanied these men daily and finally Baruch voiced his complaint to God: “Ah, woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning and have found no rest” (Jer 45:3).
The Lord responded to Baruch’s complaint with grace and discipline. In Jeremiah 45:5, God encouraged Baruch to follow the path of selfless obedience, which would yield great reward. He said: “‘But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,’ declares the Lord, ‘but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.’”
God rebuked Baruch for his selfish protest. The Lord also encouraged him to obey His call. Baruch, who came from a noble family, may have sought a life of wealth and prominence. Yet God’s path of persecution would produce for Baruch a harvest of reward. While God’s judgment led to much loss of life among His people, He preserved the lives of Jeremiah and Baruch so that they could serve Him, proclaim His Word, and store up eternal treasure.
What should we seek—an affluent, comfortable life in which all of our egocentric cravings are met? Or a life of obedience that declares the truth of God? Should we keep quiet about our faith to blend in with our culture or should we risk rejection to share the gospel with our co-workers and neighbors? Should we buy the best car, house and the latest gadget, or should we give sacrificially to our church, missionaries and charities? Eternal blessing awaits those who take up their cross as God’s ambassadors. Jesus encouraged us to follow in His footsteps: “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?’” (Mark 8:34-36).
 Based on From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions, by Ruth A. Tucker, Zondervan: 2004, pp 130-139.