Others May, You Cannot
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Jeremiah 45

1The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,
2Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch;
3Thou didst say, [ Jeremiah, speaking for God, is saying to Baruch ] Woe is me now! for the LORD hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing; and I find no rest.
4Thus shalt thou say into him, [ God says, ”Jeremiah, thus shalt thou say unto Baruch…” ] The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land.
5And seekest thou great things for thy self? seek them not: for behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life I will give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.

Notice please again the fifth verse:

Jeremiah 45

5And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not:…

Back in 1946, I personally went through a very trying time because God had asked me to do something that I did not want to do; and in the effort to do it, there was a great deal of stress, because it didn't look like God was blessing, even though there was no question that God was directing. This building, or at least this location, was opened in 1943 as a ministry to the service men, and God blessed in an abundant way. We had a Bible conference every month. We now have one once a year, and it's difficult to get folk out. We had them once a month then. I had a Bible class every night in this city and surrounding cities. And when I was not teaching the Word in Bible classes, I was in revival meetings, as the term was used then. I don't suppose there is a town, at least not very many, within driving distance of Abilene, that Joe Temple has not held a revival meeting. And God blessed; souls were saved. People were encouraged, and I could sense the blessing of the Lord in the ministry with the service men, and the meetings to which I have made reference.

Beginning of the Church

There were some people who wanted to have a church here, and I never encouraged it because frankly, I did not want to be the pastor of a church. I would listen patiently, and I would pray perfunctorily, but I never really planned to do anything. One of the Bible conference speakers we had was eating lunch with me one day; and he said, “Joe Temple, God has been speaking to my heart, and people have been talking to me. You are not doing what you ought to do. You are giving the people in this city who are interested just enough of the Word of God in your Bible classes to make them dissatisfied with not getting the Word. They would like to have a church.” And he said, “I think you either ought to leave this town and let somebody come here and have a church which will stand firm on the Word of God, or do it. It's time to quit playing around.”

This man was a very frank man, and he said that much more forcefully, perhaps, than I'm trying to say it. Of course, it just added to the burden that I had, because I felt that he was right. I didn't need him to tell me. But then he told me, and there wasn't really much that I could do. So, with little enthusiasm, we began to have services here in what was known then as “The Victory Service Center.” We began to have services on Sunday. I discovered, after a few Sundays, that what people will tell you when they've enjoyed a message, they don't always follow through with. I thought the problem was me. I thought all I needed to do was say, “All right, Lord, you can use me to start a church,” and the place would overflow. Well, it just didn't happen that way. It was a long, uphill road, a difficult climb. Satan would whisper in my ear, “You see! Why should you spend your time here? Why should you waste your time when nobody is interested? Look at what you could do if you weren't here.”

Facing Discouragement

Then things happened that even make me more restless and more discouraged. Opportunities came to minister in other places where it would be so much easier and where the response would be so much better. There is a Bible College in Nashville, Tennessee, today and they asked me to come and head their Bible department. I was there some years later for a Bible conference. Oh, how I wanted to do that. But still there was this overhanging impression, “Keep this door open for a place to teach the Word.”

Another thing, and I'm sure some of you have had this experience, that made it difficult was the prosperity of friends, the success of friends, because I did not consider this a success. I remember one such friend came to see us. At that time we were living in the back end of a building that isn't there now. He drove up in a beautiful new car. He was so proud of it. He told about how the Lord had blessed him, and He had. And then he said, “By the way, where is your new car?”, and I said, “In there in the crib.” We'd just had a baby. You know, you can't have babies and new cars at the same time, ordinarily speaking. “Oh,” he said, “you're missing so much. Why do you stay here?”

I continued to pray about it, and then one evening I was approached with a plan. Some men in the city felt that my talents were being wasted in Abilene. Remember, it was only a town of twenty-five thousand people then. These men had gotten together and decided that they would set up a foundation; and out of that foundation, they would buy me a home, and they would invest money, from and related to that foundation, so that I would have an adequate income where I would not have to be concerned about finances, and I could go anywhere the door was opened to preach the Word.

One individual who encouraged them in that was Dr. Charles E. Fuller, who is now with the Lord. He was anxious for me to go across the country declaring the Word of God. So when that occurred, I went to the Lord, as I had so many times, and I said, “Oh Lord, Lord, if I stay here, you have got to give me something. I'm not capable. I'm just not capable of weighing these opportunities. Lord, surely you must not want me here, if all these doors are open.” You know, oftentimes when we're seeking the mind of the Lord, we determine that direction of the Lord by open doors, and there's nothing wrong with that. There is such an open door policy. But an open door is not always necessarily an indication of God's direction.

Seeking Direction From God

When I prayed and waited on the Lord, He drew my attention to this passage of Scripture that I have read today. Let me emphasize the verse again:

Jeremiah 45

5Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…

I didn't like that. I reasoned, as most folk reason when God tries to deal with them, “I'm not seeking great things for myself; I'm seeking great things for You.” As I prayed and waited on the Lord and asked for guidance, in the providence of God, someone sent me a tract entitled, “Others May, You Cannot.” I have borrowed the title of that tract for this message, and I want to share some of this with you. Please get the message: If God has called you to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, He will draw you. The point is this, if God has called you to a work, you are going to have to do that work, regardless of what other people do. Others may talk about how great they are. Others may boast about what God has done through them; you may not. Others may receive great acclaim of men; you may not. Others may be thanked for everything they do; you may not. Others may be free to do any number of things that you question, but you may not. The whole thrust of this little tract is exactly that. You cannot, Joe Temple, gear your life to what others do. Settle it that God has called you to do what He has called you to do. It doesn't matter what others do.

Baruch's Example of Discouragement

I would like to pursue with you now a few comments on Jeremiah, chapter 45, to help you to understand how this verse is the reason, and I say this humbly today, that you are sitting in this building today. If God had not given me this verse, and if He had not held me to it, I would not have stayed in Abilene, Texas. And though God's work is never hindered by what I nor anyone else may do, God, doing it through me, would not have been able to. This first verse of Jeremiah, chapter 45:

Jeremiah 45

1The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying…

This first verse sets the time on the calendar for this message that Jeremiah gave to Baruch. Actually, Jeremiah, chapter 45, follows chronologically chapter 36, and when you have time, read that chapter. When you do, you will find that God said to Jeremiah, “Get hold of Baruch, your secretary, and dictate to him all the words that I have given you.” Up to that time none of the words in the book of Jeremiah had been written. Jeremiah had declared them only orally. So Baruch sat down with what they called “the roll of the book,” and he wrote everything that was in the book of Jeremiah, at least up to this point. He wrote the rest afterward, perhaps; I don't know, but Baruch was the secretary who wrote down what God had given to Jeremiah about the sins of Judah and about the need for Judah to get right with God, to repent of her sins. Baruch was thrilled to write this down, and he wrote it carefully.

Then there was a man by the name of Gemariah, who was one of the scribes. He overheard Jeremiah and Baruch. He saw what Baruch was writing. Baruch took it to the temple that it might be stored. Gemariah read it. Then he went to some of the other scribes and he said, “I have never seen anything like this. We'd better do something about this, because God's judgment is going to fall if we don't do it.” And Baruch was thrilled. Oh, how God was using him. And Gemariah took this roll of the book, and saw that the king got it. When the king got it, he ordered that it be read to him, and the scribe read it. And as he rolled the book down and read it, the king said, “Let me see that.” He took what the King James version says was a penknife. It was a scribe's knife, and he just cut that part out and threw it in the fire. And Baruch–try to put yourself in his place–knowing what a tremendous thing this was, and knowing what a tremendous amount of work had gone into it, couldn't believe his eyes. “God, why are you letting him do that?” But hardly had he uttered those words until the scribe began to read again. The book unrolled. The king asked for it, and he took the knife and slashed it, and threw it into the fire. And Baruch said, “This is more that I can bear.”

Then he went back and told Jeremiah what happened. Jeremiah said, “God, what can I do?” God said, “Write it again.” There was Baruch, writing again something that he knew well that nobody would want, and he was carried away with that idea. Then when he took the book back to the scribe, the scribe said, “You and Jeremiah hide. We'll take care of this book.” But finally they came to Baruch, and they said, “Look, we're mad at you. We're not going to treat you kindly at all, because even if Jeremiah told you to write it, you shouldn't have written it. Even if God told Jeremiah to tell you to write it, you shouldn't have written it. And even if God told Jeremiah to tell you to write it, you're to blame for it all.”

What does all this mean? Those of you who have taught the Word may have some understanding of it. There's nothing so discouraging as to spend hours in the preparation of a message from the Word of God, hours in prayer, and know that God has given you that message, and then sometimes have people take issue with you personally after the service, mad at you because all you did was declare the message of God. Sometimes people walk out and say, “If you believe that, I'm never coming back to this place again.” And they don't. They sometimes say, “Even if you think God told you that, you ought to have had more sense than to say it.” That is very discouraging.

Sensitivity to Criticism

That was the position that Baruch was in, and that's the reason why, in chapter 45 of Jeremiah, verse 3, God gave to Jeremiah this special message for Baruch.

Jeremiah 45

3Thou didst say, woe is me, now! for the LORD hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.

So you see why this passage of Scripture spoke directly to my heart? I was at that place. I was at that place, and I felt that God was just adding grief to my sorrow. I had no rest; I had no peace of mind. I can tell you on the basis of experience today that when you have peace of mind about the thing that you're doing, it's much easier to do. But when you don't have peace of mind, it isn't easy to do. Keep in your mind today that the lack of peace of mind is not necessarily the work of Satan. It could be, and oftentimes is, the working of he Holy Spirit of God in your heart to bring you to be the person He wants you to be.

One of the lessons that God taught me is right here is this verse. I have used the word “sensitivity” to describe it, for God was saying to Baruch, “You're too sensitive. You think everything that everybody does is a direct attack on you. You must learn that it is your obligation to teach the Word; and if people attack you for that, if they hurt your feelings because of it, it is not your responsibility.” That was a terrifically hard lesson to learn, but oh, I thank God that I learned it.

Now, maybe I've swung too far the other way. I have learned that lesson so well, and I believe it so much, that sometimes I may seem rather hard and crass in the things that I say from the Word of God. Sometimes I might have said jokingly, but as we used to say, “half fun, whole earnest,” I don't care whether you like it or not. I feel that way in a sense, and yet that isn't right. I had to learn that I could not be sensitive to what people thought and said and did in the manner that I'm talking about. I have told you before that I've asked God to give me a tender heart, and I believe He has. Sometimes I think He's overdone it, because I can rarely speak about compassionate things without crying. But I'm talking about a different phase of it now. I had to learn that I could not be so sensitive.

Now the second lesson that I learned, and this was a tremendous lesson to me is that God is very sympathetic. I tried to get across to you in my earlier remarks the idea of God's compassion in His message to Baruch. You see, tying this chapter in with Jeremiah, chapter 36, the rewriting of the Word, and if I may do this without seeming sacrilegious, God said, “Wait a minute, Jeremiah! Before you say anything else to Baruch, give Baruch a special message from me. I want to talk with Baruch specially.” And the amazing thing is that God said to Baruch, “I know what you're thinking. I know how you feel.” In verse 3, He said, “You said, 'Woe is me.' You have said, [this is God talking] 'I have grief, sorrow; I'm fainting; I don't have any rest'.” God has to be a sensitive God to interrupt a declaration concerning the future of an entire nation to say something to one man.

I have had God to be just that sympathetic, just that compassionate. I have marveled at the times that God, at least figuratively speaking, took time off from running the universe to come and put His arm around Joe Temple and say, “I know. I know what you're going through.” There have been periods of discouragement and disappointment and heartbreak in my life. Folk would be sympathetic, and they would try to let me know; but in the dark, cold hours of the night, when nobody was around to do that, God, figuratively speaking, would slip His arm around me and say, “Joe Temple, I know. I know.” And He would give the words of comfort. I don't know what picture you might have of God in your mind. You may think of Him as a terrible God who sits on a mighty throne, who just loves to squash people, but I don't know Him that way. I know Him as the God who knows when Joe Temple has had all he can take, and His arms are underneath.

Recognizing God's Sovereignty

I had to learn another lesson. I have described that lesson by the word “sovereignty,” for you will notice, in verse 4, God still speaking to Jeremiah, telling him what to say to Baruch:

Jeremiah 45

4Thus shalt thou say unto him, The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land.

I've used the word “sovereign” to describe that verse, because that's exactly what it's talking about. You see, Baruch was concerned about the reaction of the nation of Israel to the message. And he wasn't too sure that Israel ought to have to go into Babylonian captivity. There was in his mind, implied here in the Scripture, a question. “God, you can't do that to your people.” Habakkuk had that problem, remember? He said to God, “God, you're too fair, you're too just to do what you've just told me you're going to do.” And God said to Baruch, “Baruch, I want you to remember something. I have planted the vineyard, [He was speaking of Israel. That's described for you in Isaiah, chapter 5, if you want to read it sometime. It's a beautiful passage] and if I have planted the vineyard, I have a right to pluck it up. You can't ever question Me as to what I do and why I do it.”

That's what God said to me back in that period of time related to 1946. “Joe Temple, you've got to learn that I have a plan for you. And if I have a plan for you, then I have a right to execute it in your life. It may not be what you want, but if it is my plan, I am sovereign, and I have a right to see that it is fulfilled in your life.” “But Lord, why can't it be something else?” “Don't talk to me about something else. Others may, but you cannot.” God settled in my mind that He was sovereign in my life, and He had a right to do with my life what He wanted to do, and I need not question it for it would do no good. When I learned that lesson of His sovereignty, I was able to do what He wanted me to do.

Denial of Self

There was another lesson that I had to learn. Baruch had to learn it, and it's found in verse 5:

Jeremiah 45

5And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…

God said those words to me as forcefully as Baruch must have heard them when He said, “Joe Temple, if you are seeking great things for yourself, don't do it. Don't do it.” I have used the words “self denial” to describe this verse more for the sake of alliteration than anything else, and I must add quickly here, that it might be better to use the term “denial of self.” You see, self denial in the minds of most people consists of doing without something around the Lenten season and Easter. Drinking people will do without any alcohol for a period of time. Some folk do without any fish or any beef for a certain period of time. Some folk quit smoking. That's all self denial. You just deny yourself certain privileges that you would enjoy, and you do that with the idea that this surely would please God. I'm not talking about that, but I'm talking about the denial of self. God had to say to me, “Joe Temple, I have a plan for you, and that plan is to stay in Abilene, Texas. It doesn't matter how many times you come out with the idea, ‘Let me do something else,' it's not going to help. Your will must be surrendered to My will.” It was one of the greatest battles in my life, to tell God, “Not my will, but Yours,” and particularly relative to Abilene, Texas.

This building is different now than what it was then. There used to be a store building over there, and my study was in the little back end of it, and I was very busy with five radio programs a day and Bible classes every night. Cricket took care of the mail. She would always put on my desk, on the very top, anything very personal. She read them; we had no secrets from one another. She told me about this later. I had received a letter with what she thought was a tremendous offer for service for the Lord. We always spoke of “going back,” because we lived in the back of this building; and she said, “After I put that letter on your desk, I went back and I prayed, ‘Oh God, make him go.'”

It wasn't easy for her. It may have been harder for her than it was for me, and men, let me digress long enough to say you ought to keep that in mind. You're busy with your work. You're occupied with meeting multitudes of people. Your wife, because she loves you, is where she is, but she doesn't have the same burdens and the same vision for the work. She doesn't understand all about it. You need to keep in mind that her unhappiness is a real thing, and you ought to consider it.

She said she went back, and said, “Oh, God, make him take it.” When I came in, she came up to the study, and she stood in the door. She told me that she almost trembled as I picked up that envelope and I opened it. And she thought, “Oh, Lord, will he? Will he?” And then she saw me take my pencil and write a note in the margin. That's the way I answer letters. Even ladies who work for me today, I just write something on the envelope, and they form the letter. She said she could tell by the little I wrote that I was saying no. She said, “I went back and I threw myself across the bed, and I said, 'God, I can't take any more'.” But she said, as she prayed about it, peace came. I happened to come back about that time, and she said. “For some reason you took me in your arms, and you said, 'Honey, I know this is hard for you, but I've got to do what God wants me to do'.” And she said, “From that point on, I never questioned whether we ought to be in Abilene, Texas, or not.”

God's Promised Protection

Now, I don't want to make this sound like a horrible thing that I had to do that I didn't want to do, although all those things are included, but I don't want you to think that God left me out on a limb, because He didn't. Did you notice the last part of the fifth verse? I didn't read it, but God gave it all to me. I saved this for the last:

Jeremiah 45

5And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh [that's talking about the punishment He was going to bring on Israel for her disobedience] saith the LORD, but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.

What's he saying to Joe Temple? It's not going to be easy, this work I have called you to do, but I promise you this: I will give you your life for a prey. Now that's an Old Testament expression which is used several times over. One thing it means is, “I will protect you and keep you going no matter how difficult the path.” Some translators have translated it, because it's all involved in the word “prey” there, “your reward will be exceeding great.” I say to you today, and I hope you will accept it as my tribute to the glory of God, that those many years ago, God brought me face to face with this decision, and I made it. I made the decision, and I've been here in Abilene, Texas, as most of you know, for fifty years only because God spoke to my heart through this verse.

I want to add that He's kept the last part of it. He has protected me. He has given me strength to go when medical men said, “There's no way you can go.” He has given me great reward. I have not wanted for any good thing, materially or otherwise. God has met all of my needs, and I can say to you honestly today that I do not know of one thing I want that I don't have. If I wanted it, I would ask God for it; and I believe God, according to His Word, would give it to me. I say that to His glory today. God said, so long ago, “Joe Temple, seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not.” That became the rule of my life and my ministry; and I'm here to testify to you, some of you who have so much of your life yet before you, if the Lord tarries, that it pays to make the decision that you need to make God. I'm not talking about preaching; I'm talking about anything that God leads you into. You need to know that God has led you, and you won't have to get away. You won't have to swerve back and forth. You'll know.

Conclusion

I have felt directed of the Lord when I bring these messages which are so very, very personal, and share these truths with you, to challenge you to walk with God. Some of you may be in very difficult places today. You are wondering whether you ought to go on or not. You're wondering if maybe you just ought to throw the whole thing over. But you know God has led you, and you would like to have prayer for courage and strength and every thing that you need, to stay where you are, because you know God wants you there. It's not easy. It's hard.

Prayer

Our Father, thou hast seen our hearts today, and we pray especially for these dear ones who are going through a very trying time. They wonder if it's worth it. They wonder if it wouldn't just be easier to give the whole thing up. And yet, you put them where you put them. Give them, our Father, that same encouragement that you gave to Baruch and that you gave to me. Help them to make the decision that it will be God's will in their life, no matter what. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


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