Getting Unstuck

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Have you ever been stuck before? My son Zander has a way of getting himself into places that he can’t get out of. The most common is in the crib. He can somehow get his leg or arm through the bars, but he can’t seem to get them back out.
Maybe you’ve been stuck in traffic. That is absolutely terrible, isn’t it? One of the worst things is for the interstate to become a parking lot. I hate being stuck in traffic. In fact, I must confess, I hate it so much that I have driven off road before to get out of it.
Maybe you’ve been stuck in a conversation. C’mon, you know what I mean. Someone catches you at just the right time and they go on and on about something and you’re stuck there. All you’re thinking is if they won’t stop talking, the least they can do is pop a mint or piece of gum in their mouth to help with their foul breath.
Maybe you’ve been stuck on a problem that you just couldn’t seem to solve, and it eats up way too much of your time.
Regardless of where or how, I think we can all relate to being stuck. The title of today’s message is “Getting Unstuck.”
Before we jump into our Bible text, I want to tell you a short story.
There was once a pastor who had a five-year-old daughter. The little girl noticed that every time her dad stood behind the pulpit, and was getting ready to preach, he would bow his head for a moment before he began. So, one day after the service the little girl went to her dad and asked him, “Why do you bow your head right before you preach your sermon?”
“Well, honey,” the preacher answered, “I’m asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon.”
Perplexed, the little girl looked up at her father and asked, “Then how come He doesn’t do it?”
Sometimes the truth hurts, and we don’t want to hear it. That’s exactly the situation that Jeremiah finds himself in.
Jeremiah 18:1-13 – 1Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2“This is what the LORD says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ 3And this is what the LORD says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’ ” 4Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.” 5“He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.” 6So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud. 7But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, 8Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 9“My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.” 10Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.” 11So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
There is a lot going on here in this story. Jeremiah is speaking a word from God but some of the officials don’t like what he is saying. He’s telling them to surrender to their enemy. No one wants to hear that. He should be telling them to stand strong and fight. Instead, he says what God wants him to say and it made the officials mad. The truth hurts sometimes, but it needs to be spoken. So, these people become very unhappy with Jeremiah and they convince the king to allow them to throw Jeremiah in a pit to die, and then some guy shows up with a squad of men to pull him out.
In the midst of all of this, I believe there a few lessons we can learn from this story. In fact, this morning I want to take a look at a couple lessons we can learn from 3 characters in this story.
3 characters to learn from:
1. Lessons from Jeremiah – vs. 1-6
Finds himself in a nasty pit/cistern.
Explain what a cistern is.
Explain why they chose to put Jeremiah in there.
This was not a pleasant place to be. Jeremiah was stuck.
A. Getting stuck happens in life.
*Sometimes it’s our own fault.
Poor choices
Bad influences
*There are other times when it’s just what happens in life.
We do the right thing but get the wrong results.
Jeremiah did what God told him to do.
*Even in the pits of life, God is with us.
*Are you stuck today? Do you feel like the harder you fight the further you sink? God is with you.
B. There is a way out.
*We can’t super jump or claw our way out of life’s pits. There is only one way out.
Lamentations 3:55-58 – 55I called on your name, LORD, from the depths of the pit. 56You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.” 57You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” 58You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.
*While in those pits we can either complain, pout, get angry, or turn to God.
*Listen to God whisper, “Do not fear.”
2. Lessons from Ebed-Melek – vs. 7-13
Note who Ebed-Melek is
One of the most famous men in the Bible
Taught in every Sunday school class
2nd in command to the king
No, he was none of those things. He was a nobody. In fact, he was a foreigner.
A. God makes nobodies into somebodies.
*We don’t have to be the most talented, most influential, or best at anything, we just have to be willing to do something.
*We are not nobodies, we are God’s:
Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
Children of God (John 1:12)
God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)
God’s chosen people (Colossians 3:12)
God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9)
*In Christ we are somebody!
B. God wants those somebodies to take action.
*Just like Ebed-Melek we too must do what’s right.
Speak out against injustice
*We should all be pulling people out of pits.
Joke about 30 men to pull Jeremiah out
When we take action, God will get out back.
*The rags were used to protect Jeremiah from the ropes. Be careful as you pull people out. Don’t injure them with the Gospel.
Ephesians 4:15 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
*People are more likely to hear truth if they first feel love.
*Not everyone knows they are in a pit. They might not be in a dark time in their life but without Christ, sin puts us all in a pit that we cannot get out of.
3. Lessons from The Rags – vs. 11-13
*These were old, used and discarded rags that people weren’t using. Ebed-Melek found a use for them.
*God takes a nothing and makes it into a something.
A. God doesn’t discard us.
*God will use us as long as we are willing to be used.
*He doesn’t discard us and throw us to the side. He doesn’t forget about us. God will use us.
*If all we talk about is how God used us in the past and not about how God is using us now, it’s not because God has discarded us, it’s because we’ve stopped allowing God to use us.
B. God always has a purpose us.
*As long as we have breath in our lungs we have a God given purpose.
Matthew 28:19-20 – 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
*Our purpose is to make disciples and that never ends.
*When was the last time you shared the Gospel with someone? If we can’t remember the answer to that question, it is not because God has discarded us. It is because we have not been doing what God desires us to do.
Do you feel stuck today? Maybe you feel stuck in a pit with no way out. Maybe you feel stuck on the sideline not knowing what or how God wants to use you. Regardless of where or how you might feel stuck, God wants you to know that He loves you, He is with you, He wants you, and He has a plan for you.
A man was traveling by foot to a far-off town. As the sun was setting, the man had some trouble seeing the things on the road ahead of him and he fell into a pit that he was not able to get out of. Many people came a long and saw him struggling in that pit, and they all had their own thoughts about it.
The sensitive person said, “I feel for you down there in the pit.”
The reflective person said, “It’s logical that someone would’ve fallen into that pit.”
The aesthetic person said, “I can give you some ideas on how to decorate your pit.”
The judgmental person said, “Only bad people fall into the pit.”
The analytical person said, “Help me measure the depth of your pit.”
The curious person said, “Tell me how you ended up falling into this pit.”
The perfectionist said, “I believe you deserve your pit.”
The evaluator said, “Tell me, are you paying takes on this pit?”
The self-pitying person said, “You should have seen my pit.”
The specialist in meditation said, “Just relax and don’t think about your pit.”
The optimist said, “Cheer up! Things could be worse.”
The pessimist said, “Get ready! Things will get worse.”
Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of that miserable pit.
John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Maybe today you find yourself in a pit that you can’t seem to get out of. There is someone who is waiting to pull you out.
Maybe you’re not in a pit today, but you know someone who is. It could be a relative, friend, neighbor, a coworker, or maybe an acquaintance / someone you just met. And they need someone to pull them out of their pit. Let God use you.
Maybe you’re not in a pit but you feel discarded or like you don’t really have a purpose. God wants you to know that His purpose for you never ends.
I don’t know where you might be today, but before we go, I want us to take a minute and ask God to examine us.
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