David Jeremiah - Forward Interview
Today is about the rest of your life. It's about tomorrow and the day after that. The future God has planned for you shouldn't be a haphazard approach to life. You might feel stuck, but you don't have to be. Perhaps you're discouraged. It's time to deal with that. And if you feel uncertain, you can find clarity. You may not know what's next but God does. He's there waiting for you in your tomorrow, so step into it and discover God's presence and purpose in your life. Starting today, starting now, it's time to move forward.
Sheila Walsh: Dr. Jeremiah, it's just lovely to be with you again.
David Jeremiah: Well, thank you for coming. We've sort of been meeting all over the place, different parts of the country, and it's always because we're gonna talk about something important.
Sheila Walsh: But this is different. I cannot think of a more timely message. Tell us about your new project, "Forward".
David Jeremiah: You know, "Forward" is not a place where you are, it's a direction you go. And everybody needs to move forward. And Christians, especially, the past is something you know for sure that's happened. Maybe you feel like, you know, "I wish I could go back there". You always hear people talking about the good old days which I haven't been able to figure out when they were. And obviously, sometime in the future they'll talk about our days as those days.
Sheila Walsh: I'm not sure about 2020. They might skip over that one.
David Jeremiah: Yeah, 2020, we might take that off the calendar. Yeah, that's a good idea.
Sheila Walsh: Let's dive in, though. First step in moving forward is "Dream". And you write, "Seize your tomorrow today". What do you mean by that?
David Jeremiah: Well, you know, the way we're constructed, the way we're built, before we can go someplace, we have to see it in our mind. We have to be able to negotiate our destination before we start the journey and, while we don't realize that that's happening, we've done it all of our lives. As you get older and you begin to realize your life needs direction, you need to ask God what it is he wants you to do and that becomes your focus and your dream.
Sheila Walsh: Some people would say, "Well, isn't dreaming just for the younger people, you know, for people who have their whole life ahead of them"? But you write, "Don't dismiss that so quickly".
David Jeremiah: Well, when you stop dreaming, you start dying. If you don't have any reason to get up, if you don't have anything you believe you need to do, if you don't feel any calling from God for what's next, something happens and it's not pretty.
Sheila Walsh: The next step you talk about is one that is so central to our faith: Pray. But I love the fact that you chose the life of the prophet Nehemiah to illustrate what forward praying looks like. Why did you choose him?
David Jeremiah: Well, because Nehemiah's prayer was associated with his dream, and I thought that was a great way to tie those two thoughts together. The Bible says that when the Jews went back to Israel and started to build the wall again that they got discouraged and they quit. Nehemiah was in Shushan, the palace, working for the governor, for the head of the whole empire, and he wanted to go back and help rebuild the wall and this is what he said. He said, "God put it in my heart". That's where the dream began. And he began to pray and the reason it was put in his heart because he began to pray for his friends back home, that they weren't building anything. He was brokenhearted, he was in tears. And during that prayer, God put it in his heart. How many times has it been when you've prayed and God said, "Okay, you answer your own prayer"?
Sheila Walsh: That's so true.
David Jeremiah: That's what happened to Nehemiah.
Sheila Walsh: But it's interesting too because Nehemiah had to take a risk going in to see the king with a sad face.
David Jeremiah: Yeah, he went in to see the king and the king says, "Why are you sad"? And it's really interesting if you study the culture. That was a capital offense. If you were ever sad in front of the king, it was over for you. When the king asked him that, he said, "Well, why wouldn't I be sad? My friends are back in Jerusalem and the walls are in disrepair".
Sheila Walsh: Yeah, but you powerfully illustrate in that chapter the way that Nehemiah shot up that quick prayer because sometimes you have time to pray for a long time but you're in front of a king, doing something that could cost you your life, you don't have time for a long prayer.
David Jeremiah: No, you know, that's really... that's such a great thought, Sheila, because he's standing in front of this man, this king, who's the awesome one. And the Bible says he is asked "What do you want me to do"? And then the Scripture says: "So I prayed to God and I said to the king". That's how that works, isn't it? You get caught in a moment. You don't have a long time for a lot of introductory phrases. You just pray to God. That's called instantaneous prayer. I often thought that we know what it's like to say, "God, help. Help me. I don't know what to do".
Sheila Walsh: I thought it was interesting, "Choosing Your Priorities". I think, and maybe particularly at the moment, people feel pulled in a million and one directions. How do you learn how to prioritize and get rid of distractions?
David Jeremiah: What I've learned is if you wanna say, "Yes", to something more, you have to be willing to say "No" to something you're already doing. That's been a really hard lesson for me because I'm a "Yes" person when people ask me to do something. But in order for you to realize your dream and get to where you believe God wants you to go, you can't be doing everything.
Sheila Walsh: Yeah, it took me a while to learn that "No" is a complete sentence.
David Jeremiah: Yes, it is. It is indeed.
Sheila Walsh: Getting back to basics, when it comes to choosing priorities, what does Jesus say about how we go about that?
David Jeremiah: Well, you know, one time he was asked, what was the most important thing and he said, "The most important thing is to love God with all your heart and secondly, love others. And then thirdly", which surprises most people, "love yourself". That often is misunderstood and misapplied but it doesn't mean it has to go away. Love your neighbors as yourself. And until you begin to realize how important it is to take care of yourself, you don't have anything to give to anybody else.
Sheila Walsh: How do you personally, Dr. Jeremiah, organize your priorities?
David Jeremiah: Oh, you know, I sometimes think my priorities organize me, you know? That's what it feels like a lot. I have one basic priority that kind of drives everything and that is I'm committed to the task of teaching the Word of God. That's what he's called me to do. And it's really hard for me to add things to my life that don't have something to do with that. I do, but I don't do it very often and I don't usually do it very productively because what I do is so tied to what I believe is important for me, I don't think that's the only priority and it's not the priority for everybody but it's my priority.
Sheila Walsh: You talk about the importance in the next step of "Focus". I think a lot of people feel like they get stuck in the past and I was wondering how do you find that right balance between balancing the past, the present, and the future?
David Jeremiah: Well, you know, that chapter's kind of built around maybe the theme verse for the whole book where Paul says, "Forgetting those things which are behind, I press toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus". And what Paul wasn't saying is, "Do away with my past", but what he was saying is, "I'm not gonna let the past control my present or my future". And when you stop and think about it, Paul had some awful things to forget, you know? He was the great persecutor of the church. He killed some people because of their faith. I know he imprisoned a lot of them. I know a lot of people that have bad things in their past and they can't get beyond it. But Paul also had some good things. He was the Pharisee of Pharisee. His pedigree, which is in the Bible twice, is like none you'd ever read in your life. He was so well qualified and he had so much going for him and Paul said, "Neither my failures nor my successes control my life". I don't let those things control me. I have a goal for the future and that's what drives me forward.
Sheila Walsh: Welcome back. I'm Sheila Walsh. I'm here with Dr. David Jeremiah to discuss his new series, "Forward: Discovering God's Presence and Purpose for Your Life". What did you mean when you wrote, "Make the one thing the main thing"?
David Jeremiah: It's not easy to come up with one thing but when you realize what it is that God wants you to do, when you figure that out, then you spend the rest of your life trying to make sure that it keeps its place as your priority. And it is attacked every single day.
Sheila Walsh: Yeah, I love the next step, "Risk: Getting Out of the Safe Zone". We don't always think about, as believers, of taking a risk. We think of that maybe as, you know, dangerous, careless behavior. But in your experience as a pastor, why is that so important to be able to move out of a safe place to a place of risk?
David Jeremiah: Well, I suppose, to be honest, Sheila, risk is just another more secular term for faith. Living in the unknown, beyond where you can see. And if you're not willing to risk as a believer, if you're not willing to walk by faith, you can't go forward. You're always gonna be waiting for the next place where you feel secure and you will never go beyond your security blanket and that's where a lot of Christians are. And the Bible doesn't allow us that. The Bible's so filled with stories about people who risked in their walk with God and that's where the joy is. That's where the advance is.
Sheila Walsh: And you highlight that powerfully through the life of Caleb.
David Jeremiah: Yes.
Sheila Walsh: Tell us about that.
David Jeremiah: Well, Caleb was among a bunch of guys who went into Canaan supposedly to spy it out, really just to confirm what God had already told them was there. And when they got into Canaan, ten of the guys saw the people that were there, the giants, and they came back and they said, "We can't go in there. We're like grasshoppers. These are huge men. We'll get destroyed". Caleb and Joshua came back. They had a much different report. They were in the minority. They risked everything to say, "That isn't true. We are able to do this". I've always thought this. The ten guys who said, "We can't do it", made the mistake of measuring themselves against the giants. Caleb and Joshua measured themselves against God and they realized that while they were not able to do it, they had a big God who could help them take the risk and you know the rest of the story. The people who didn't believe, the spies, they were immediately destroyed, and all the people who believed the spies had 40 years until they all died before they were allowed to go into the Promised Land. And when it was all said and done, only the two guys that risked, Caleb and Joshua, had the privilege of going in.
Sheila Walsh: Amazing. What are the benefits, spiritually, of living in the faith zone?
David Jeremiah: Well, I'll tell you one thing. It sure is exciting. It's very adventuresome. Every day you have to just say, "Lord, whatever comes today, help me figure it out and do what you want me to do and live by faith every day and trust you". That's just kind of the daily thing, but then, there's the big things too that come along. I remember when we were trying to buy the first radio station time and how scary that was to us. We didn't have the money to do it. We felt God was calling us to do it. And I remember saying, "Yes", when I had no idea how it was gonna happen.
Sheila Walsh: That's faith.
David Jeremiah: There's a fine line, as you know, between faith and foolishness and you gotta be careful that you don't just get crazy and say, "I'm just gonna do this and God'll bless it". But God is honored when we take a step of faith and trust him to fulfill his promise.
Sheila Walsh: You talk on the next step about "chasing your dream", and I think many of us are guilty of not doing that. We almost kind of quit and give up. And one of the questions I get asked often is, "Is it possible to know God's will and plan for your life"?
David Jeremiah: I actually do believe that it is. I believe you can know what God wants you to do and I think there's a passivity that fills the hearts of a lot of people because they think, "Well, if this is what God wants me to do, he's gonna do it and I'll just be a participant". I actually hear people teach that. God has promised to do his part but that doesn't mean we don't have a part to play too. Maybe that's at the heart of where some people get lost because they think ambition is not something that has a Christian value. You know, selfish ambition is wrong but godly ambition is right. God expects us to be ambitious for the things he calls us to do and not just sit around and wait for something to happen, which is what a lot of people do. God wants us to strive forward and move toward the goal he's set before us.
Sheila Walsh: What do you think it would be like if every believer in our nation actually dared to dream and ask God what is your purpose and then embraced it?
David Jeremiah: It'd be a much different world than we have right now. I don't know what the percentage of people are who do that. It probably isn't as high as we might even imagine but, you know, when you're around somebody like that, it's infectious. You can sense, you know, this man, this woman, God has a plan for them and they're invested in that plan.
Sheila Walsh: Yeah, you talk about the next step, "Believe: Getting Your Mind Right". What's the difference between, I mean, if you go to typical bookstores, there's whole sections on self-help and psychology. But there's a difference between believing, trusting God, and just positive thinking.
David Jeremiah: Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". That's not neutral motivation. That's spiritual motivation. One time, Paul lists all the things that come against him in life and he said, "But I am a super-conqueror over all these things". I love that because the Greek word has the word "nike" in it and the word "nike" means victory. And Paul said, "All those things are against me but I still have victory over them". Super-victory. Paul was a positive person and we need more and more people to stand up and be positive about their faith. Yes, we need to deal with sin when it comes and we should never ignore it but life, if you're a Christian, can be a positive walk with God.
Sheila Walsh: But why do you think it is that so many believers, so many in the church, are way more like Eeyore than they are like Tigger? Why is it that negative thinking is, I mean, if you think about what we believe, we should be the most positive people on the planet.
David Jeremiah: Well, if we really believe what we believe because it's from God, we trust God to help us, and we can be positive. But so often what happens and this is called legalism, we become Christians and we think it's up to us to keep the standard up. So, the way you do that is, you keep denying everything that gets in your way and you just become a negative person.
Sheila Walsh: Wow, how has the Bible helped you to remain positive 'cause I know that you have gone through tough things in your life over and over. How has God's Word helped you to remain positive?
David Jeremiah: Well, when you read the Bible, you just keep running into these people who, like, for instance, Joseph. His brothers wanted to destroy him and his take on it was, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good". And there are so many stories like Daniel's that way. If you read the Bible, you just run into these people over and over again and you think, "I have no right to complain". The things men and women went through in the Scripture make our battles today seem rather petty and there really isn't any reason for us to be negative if we know the God we claim to know.
Sheila Walsh: That's so true. That is a great perspective. I love this next step: "Invest: Outlive Your Life". What do you mean by that?
David Jeremiah: Well, Sheila, you can live your life in such a way that after you're gone it keeps on going, you know? Living your life in such a way that you invest in the Word of God, in the work of God, and in the wealth of God in such a way that it lives beyond you.
Sheila Walsh: For someone who's watching who's not a pastor, maybe not in what they would consider full-time ministry, how do you live investing in eternal things?
David Jeremiah: Well, you know, those three things I think are the key things. You study the Word of God and you share it. Did you know, Sheila, there's only two things that are eternal: the Word of God and the souls of men and women. So when you invest in the Word of God and you invest in the souls of men and women, you're investing in things that are eternal that are gonna go before you into heaven. They'll be there. The Bible is forever. Men and women have forever souls. When you invest in someone, for instance, and you share the gospel with them and they become a Christian, you have invested in their eternity and one day you're gonna be in heaven. You know, there's a song that was written years ago called, "Thank you", and it's all about people in heaven coming up to you and saying, "Thank you for telling me about Jesus so I could be in heaven".
Sheila Walsh: "I'm a life that was saved".
David Jeremiah: That's right.
Sheila Walsh: I love that. Because in these days when people are concerned about financial investments, concerned about all that, we can invest in the lives of our children, of our family, of our friends, of our co-workers. That's something that every single one of us can do.
David Jeremiah: Do you know that, this is a true statement. You're either moving away from your investment or you're moving toward it. If your investment is on this earth and that's all you have, you're moving away from it. You won't be able to have that. But if you invest in the things of eternity, you're moving toward it. Your investment is still ahead.
Sheila Walsh: That's beautiful. Then you talk about, "You're not done until you're done". Your next step is to "Finish". And reading that chapter, I don't know how you felt writing, but it felt like the most personal chapter.
David Jeremiah: Yeah, because it's kind of where I'm at in life. I wanted to use the byline, "If you're not dead, you're not done", but they wouldn't let me do that. I thought that was the better one but...
Sheila Walsh: I like that.
David Jeremiah: But if you're not done you're not done. And I just talked about all the things that are about finishing strong. I can just say that for all the years that I've been alive including up to right now, I've gotten up every day excited to do what God has called me to do. I mean, I have my bad days like everybody does, but I've never ever thought about, "Oh, my goodness, what am I gonna do with the rest of my life"? I'm sure my life is gonna run out before I get done with everything I wanna do.
Sheila Walsh: I'm so glad you didn't stop after the last book because this book, it's already had a huge impact on my life. So we finished well. Is there one more step?
David Jeremiah: Yeah, to celebrate.
Sheila Walsh: Yeah, love that.
David Jeremiah: And the reason I think that's so powerful is because a lot of people think, "Okay, this life is like a compartment that's ended and then after that then there's this big transition and you go to heaven". And I don't think they realize how much of what we do now we're gonna do in heaven without any of the distractions, without any of the problems. For instance, in heaven we're gonna work.
Sheila Walsh: Yeah, love that.
David Jeremiah: But we'll never get tired. We'll always be able to finish everything we start. We will not have any opposition. It will be work as unto the Lord so joyous and wonderful. And you go through a lot of the things that we do now, the one thing we can't do in heaven is there won't be any preaching which is kind of tough on me because we're gonna know even as we are known. There'll be worship. But, you know, I just think heaven is going to be everything that we started to do here with all of the negative taken out of it.
Sheila Walsh: How does looking forward to heaven personally help you and center you?
David Jeremiah: Well, I gotta honestly tell you, Sheila, I don't sit around all day and think about heaven. I'm grateful that I know what it's like and it's there for me and one day when God has finished with me here, I plan to spend the rest of my eternity there. But just knowing that that's there. There's so much despair in the lives of people who don't know Jesus Christ. They come to the end of their life. When I was a student at Dallas seminary, I worked at the Baylor Hospital as a chaplain. That was one of my first jobs. I had no clue what I was doing. But I learned some things the hard way. One of my tasks was I carried a little beeper around and when that went off, it meant that someone was in the family room and they needed help. I used to be able at the end of my time there, walk in the room and tell you without saying a word whether I was gonna deal with Christians or non-Christians because the sense of despair in the lives of people who don't know Jesus was so amazing. I remember one time, a lady down on her knees pounding her head on the floor because she'd lost her son. And I also know I've walked into these rooms and there were tears but they were tears sometimes with a smile but tears of reflection and love and not despair.
Sheila Walsh: And hope, yeah.
David Jeremiah: So that's the difference that heaven makes. Heaven makes it all worthwhile.
Sheila Walsh: Is there anything in particular about heaven that you, personally, are looking forward to?
David Jeremiah: I have a lot of questions that I don't know the answers to and there's gonna be some smart people up there who know the answers, who've lived in the answers. It's kind of amazing to think about having an eternity to hang out with John and Paul and Timothy and, of course, most of all, to be with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sheila Walsh: Yeah, one of the things I love, you talk about taking personal responsibility for living forward. What does God expect from us because I can imagine people thinking, "Well, I want to do all of this but I can't do this by myself". But God's not asking us to do that, is he?
David Jeremiah: No, you know, one of the pictures in my mind that created this book was a statement by N. T. Wright that went something like this. He said, "Christians have two thresholds in their life: the threshold when they become a Christian, and the threshold when they go to heaven. But", he said, "unfortunately, most Christians have no clue what to do between those two thresholds". So when you ask me what is our responsibility, our responsibility is to take the instruction God has given us and put it into action. There should not be any doubt in our minds about what God wants us to do because he's given it to us in his Word, and yet, there's these different attitudes about the Bible. There's interpretation and there's observation and then there's application. And over the last two or three books that I've written, I have felt God pushing me hard toward the application part, simply because our problem is not a problem between what we know and what we don't know. Our problem is a problem between what we know and we don't do. And that's got to be changed if the church is gonna ever make any difference in the world. We know all that we're supposed to do. We just don't do it. And I'm praying that maybe this book will drive people forward in the trenches that God has laid out in his Word so we can begin to accomplish what he's called us to do.
Sheila Walsh: So that would be your prayer that when people have finished listening to this study, that they would hear from God personally in their own lives and begin to live their life forward, looking through the windshield and not in the rear view mirror?
David Jeremiah: Exactly, and for many of them, Sheila, they already know it. But to get doing it, pursue it, get their mind right, all right?
Sheila Walsh: Dr. Jeremiah, thank you so much for allowing me to join you today. I have learned so much, as I'm sure we all have. As you say, it is time to move forward. Thank you.
David Jeremiah: You're welcome.