The hit TV show “Monk” follows the detective work of Adrian Monk, a sleuth with OCD—Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The show’s theme song, “It’s a Jungle Out There,” pictures Monk’s life, and often ours:
“It’s a jungle out there.
Disorder and confusion everywhere.
No one seems to care.
Well I do.
Hey, who’s in charge here?
It’s a jungle out there.”
It is a jungle out there. Theologically, we call it a fallen world. In ministry, we face the jungle of criticism, vision killers, finances, sickness, sin, difficult people, time crunches, relationship problems, and more.
Jungle Survival Training
To survive in a jungle, we need OCD—Obsessive Compulsive Devotion.
Jeremiah agrees. In Jeremiah 12:1-4, he laments that he is worn down by opposition and ready to abandon his calling. Ever been there, done that?
In Jeremiah 12:5, God offers his counsel. “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”
God asks, “If you become exhausted, get wearied, lose patience, and give up persistence running a 100-meter dash, how in the world are you going to manage it in a marathon?” God confronts, “If you find yourself burned out racing people, how in the world will you manage against a thoroughbred?”
The word “manage” means to accomplish a purpose, to be purpose-driven. The Old Testament idea is to purpose to do God’s will, to live for God, and to align oneself with God’s sovereign purposes in history through ministry.
We can translate “thickets” as “the swelling jungle of the Jordan.” It describes the area of rich, thick vegetation on both sides of the southern sections of the Jordan valley, so called because of high growth or high, flooding waters. The Old Testament uses the word for swelling waves, a cataclysmic earthquake, a rising flood, a raging river, and a thick jungle.
Thus, God is saying, “Jeremiah, if you can’t fulfill your God-given calling in a paradise, how in the world will you fulfil it in the jungle of the Jordan?”
So, what are the easy things that have wearied Jeremiah? “Your brothers, your own family, even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you” (Jeremiah 12:6).
I read this and I realize that God’s view of what’s easy and my view of what’s easy are light years apart.
In response to God, I’m tempted to say, “Um, who said I wanted to compete with horses? And why in the world would I run a marathon in a jungle?”
God is saying to Jeremiah, to me, and to you, “Life is difficult. It’s a jungle out there. Are you going to quit when waves of opposition crash down upon you? Are you going to run away when the lions come out at night?”
God is asking us, “What’s it take to make you quit? To cause you to give up, cry uncle, wave the white flag of surrender? Will you live an alive life of risk, or will you play it safe?”
Vitezslav Gardavsky, Czech philosopher and martyr who died 1978, chose Jeremiah as his man of courage. The terrible threat against life, he said in his book God Is Not Yet Dead, is not death, nor pain, nor any variation on the disasters that we so obsessively try to protect ourselves against with out social systems and our personal strategies. The terrible threat is “that we might die earlier than we really do die, before death has become a natural necessity. The real horror lies in just such a premature death, a death after which we go on living for many years.”
Though tempted to die prematurely, Jeremiah soldiered on. He was a finisher, not a quitter. He lived courageously, not cautiously. He ran with the horses, not simply with men. He fought on the battlefield, rather than live in the lap of luxury.
How? Persistence. We unearth the Hebrew word for persistence (hashkem) eleven times in Jeremiah. The word describes the activity of people who arise early before the sun and set out with heavy burdens on long journeys. It pictures the tenacity, longsuffering, steadfast endurance of the farmer. It suggests the devotion, dedication, and dogged determination of the Olympic athlete.
What about us? How’s our jungle devotion? How will we persistently hack our way through life’s jungle?
Is the secret to persistency self-effort? Trying harder? Never quitting? Motivational sayings?
The secret to persistency, to OCD—Obsessive Compulsive Devotion—is in God and what God has put in us. Consider God’s personal persistence formula for you:
*Jeremiah 1:4-5—I formed you. You can fulfill a unique purpose.
*Jeremiah 1:6-8—I am with you. You do not need to quit in fear.
*Jeremiah 1:17-19—I made you. You are a fortified city, an iron pillar, a bronze wall. A marathon runner. A racer against horses. A jungle slayer. A giant killer.
It is a jungle out there.
God’s created a warrior in there—in you. Soldier on.
 Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983, p. 17.