“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
This is how Jeremiah understood God’s hand upon his life. It describes both the way he thought about God and second, the way he thought about himself.
Do you see the sequence? “I formed you… I knew you… I set you apart… I appointed you.” At the most intimate level, God is Creator, (“I formed you”), Father (“I knew you”), Sanctifier (“I set you apart”), and Lord (“I appointed you”).
And this understanding of God is inextricably linked with the way the prophet thinks about himself, his life and his life-choices. Once you acknowledge that you are a created being (and not a random concatenation of atoms, evolved by chance), then it follows that there is a Creator who has fashioned and formed you, and who fully knows and understands what He has made. And that being so, then He has a right and authority to speak into the life that He has given! He sets apart, He appoints certain ones for certain tasks, because He is Lord over all He has made.
This is a very reassuring truth. Not only is there a path which God has prepared for us to walk in, but also, God has prepared us for the specific path He has chosen. God has a plan for you and me. It reminds me of that old song lyric, “There’s a work for Jesus none but you can do.”
And further still, as F.B.Meyer put it, “There is no emergency in the path for which there has not been made provision in our nature.” The God who knows me completely brought me to this hour, to this point of decision today, to this problem that I’m facing, and so He has put within me all I need to face this challenge. If God has brought me to it, God can bring me through it. He who has begun a good work in me intends to bring it to completion! (Phil 1:6)
There’s a curious moment at the end of John’s gospel, (John 21), when Peter asks the risen Lord about what will happen to John in the future. Jesus answers, almost curtly, “What is that to you?” Peter has already received his own instructions (“Feed my sheep”), and he’s not to be distracted by someone else’s life-task.
It’s no different for you and me. It’s simply a waste of time and effort to compare your own journey with that of someone else, or to be jealous or envious of what they are doing. “What is that to you?” Your task is to answer God’s intention in your own creation, salvation, and summons to service. It’s enough for you to be all that God intends for you to be, and to do it well.
So today, even this morning, if you’re not sure about it, why not ask God what your work in the world is, that for which you were born, that to which you are appointed, and on account of which you were conceived in the creative mind of God?
This verse reminds that there is such a purpose, so seek that you might be permitted to see it through, and never doubt that you have within you everything you need to do so. God has formed you with great care for the life that you’re living right now, and He makes no mistakes.
And if God’s purpose is presently unclear, and your life seems like a jumble of disconnected bits, then dare to believe that He knows what He’s doing, and that one day those disconnected bits will turn into an amazing mosaic, assembled by a Master-craftsman and fashioned together in love. “For now I know in part; but then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13)