The Prize of Your Life

Don't miss the prize by prizing the wrong thing.

Little Things (1)

 

“Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the LORD. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”’” Jeremiah 45.4, 5

Misguided vision
Baruch had high hopes. And why not? He worked for the best-known prophet of his day, listening in on his devotions, attending to his daily needs, accompanying him in his ministry, copying down all his words, reading his sermons before high public officials, and carrying out important tasks for his master. He was faithful and uncomplaining in all his work, and for this he had high hopes of greatness.

Perhaps Baruch envisioned the day when Jeremiah would finally be recognized for being the man of God that he was, and he (and Baruch with him, of course) would be elevated to a greater social standing than what he typically endured (rejection, imprisonment, mocking, and scorn). Then Baruch, too, would get the respect he felt he was due.

Or he may have cherished in his mind an appointment to some cushy position among the political elite of Jerusalem, the consequence of his many eloquent and impassioned readings before them. 

Or maybe he saw his relationship with Jeremiah as somewhat akin to that of Elisha and Elijah. Once Jeremiah’s work, albeit good, was done, he would take over with even greater power and impact.

Whatever it was Baruch envisioned, it was a big deal; it would be the prize of his life, and it would finally allow him to be someone other than Jeremiah’s best boy. He would be someone in his own right.

But Baruch’s vision was misguided. He longed for greatness, greatness for himself– that he might become or accomplish something that would cause him to be seen as a great man in his own right. And the Lord, through Jeremiah, rebuked him.

Seeking greatness
From Jeremiah’s rebuke we might get the impression that seeking greatness is a bad thing.

But Jesus commended greatness on several occasions. He urged His followers to aspire to greatness and to seek it earnestly. He even told them how. He said that greatness could be realized by learning and teaching the Law of God (Matt. 5.17-19), serving others selflessly (Mk. 10.42-45), and being faithful in all the small details entrusted to us moment by moment, day by day (Matt. 25.21-23).

The difference between what Jesus commended and what Baruch sought is all in the focus. Baruch was seeking greatness for himself, that others might look at him with admiration, respect, and maybe even awe. He would be somebody in his own right, and that would be really, really great. Jesus commended greatness for the sake of God’s Kingdom, that His rule of righteousness, peace, and joy would increase on earth as it is in heaven; and the knowledge of the glory of God would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Rom. 14.17, 18; Hab. 2.14).

Baruch prized greatness for himself. Jesus encourages His followers to seek greatness for His Kingdom and glory. This is what He has called us to, after all, and to seek anything other than the greatness He prescribes is to fall short in our calling (1 Thess. 2.12; Matt. 6.33).

The promised prize
The Lord spoke sternly to Baruch, rebuking his desire for personal greatness, for some big, self-gratifying prize in life. But though God rebuked him, we can be sure He did not abandon him. Instead, he made a promise to Baruch which should be the envy and desire of all who truly seek the Lord.

The Lord promised to give Baruch’s life to him as a prize. And it didn’t matter where he was, what he was doing, or whether the conditions of his life were favorable or adverse. God promised to give Baruch his life as a treasure, a boon and bounty to be enjoyed, invested, and increased. The prize Baruch longed for in his soul would be the prize of his very life – every day of it, every moment and task, every inconvenience or setback or disappointment as well as every duty and delight. God promised to change Baruch’s vision and aspirations by making the prize he sought nothing other than the life to which he arose each morning and which he journeyed through every day.

Baruch vanishes from Scripture following Jeremiah’s rebuke. But we can be sure that, because the Word of God does not fail, Baruch’s heart was changed from that moment. He began to see that the prize of his life was his life, every breath and heartbeat, all the minutiae of personal health and hygiene, every detail associated with his work, each word he might speak or thought he might think, all the unique-to-him small stuff of his life – Baruch would come to view these as prizes to be laid hold on with joy and thanksgiving, things to be prized because of the presence of God in them and the promise of glory attached to them, things to receive and engage and indulge with boundless energy and joy, because God Himself was giving them to him, precious, free, and fraught with glory, every moment of every day.

Baruch’s name means “blessed.” His mind was so full thinking about the day when he would realize his blessing, his prize, that he was failing to notice the innumerable blessings and prizes God was bestowing on him every day.

And aren’t we all a bit like that, so busy longing for the prize that we fail to prize the many blessings and opportunities God gives us every day, so busy dreaming about the greatness we think we deserve, that we miss the greatness available to us at every moment. But take heart: God can change all that, and teach us to prize our lives as He does.

For reflection
1.  What do you prize in life? What, as you think about it, fills you with joy and anticipation? What are you willing to devote your best strength and energy to realizing?

2.  To what extent does the idea of Kingdom greatness factor into your daily life? In what ways?

3.  Would it affect the way you think about your daily life if you understood your life to be God’s prize for you? Explain.

Next steps – Preparation: Reflect on your answers to the questions above. Use your answers to lead you into a time of silent meditation and prayer, waiting on the Lord to convict, affirm, and direct you as He will.

T. M. Moore

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This week’s study is part 1 of a 3-part series, The Small Stuff. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 1, “Little Things.” Why not line up some friends to study through all three parts of this series?

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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