Prominent pastor and Christian author David Jeremiah is encouraging believers to not get stuck in the turmoil of 2020 but believe that God’s best for their life is ahead of them through his new book, Forward.
“You need to get up every day and realize that the very best thing God has for you is out in front,” the pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California, told The Christian Post.
He does not believe that the upcoming election, the pandemic or anything else should cause Christians to miss what God has for them or cause them to veer from their God-given purpose.
“This world needs Jesus no matter who's in the White House,” said Jeremiah, also the host of the radio and TV program "Turning Point.”
The pastor’s latest book highlights how powerful the presence of God is, which helps everyone fulfill their God-given dreams despite the crises America is currently facing. “If we stand firm in God, we can move forward,” the book states.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview with Jeremiah, where the New York Times bestselling author offers advice on reducing the many distractions, pressing into God’s presence, and overcoming depression and reveals what he will do after the upcoming election.
Christian Post: You've written over 50 books in your writing career. What important message are you sharing in Forward that is different from the topics you've discussed in the past?
Jeremiah: This book is about getting unstuck. You know, so many people have gone through COVID-19, they've been in shelter, their whole lives have been turned upside down. Sometimes when that happens, it's hard for us to regain momentum and get started again and God never intended for us to get blown off course by this. We have to go through this, but you know, when you go through something you come out on the other side, you don't stay there. I talked to a lot of people who are frightened, they don't know what to do and so they're just hunkering down and in my estimation, it's time for us to start going forward again. We can't stay in limbo the rest of our lives; it's time to move forward and that's what this book is about.
CP: Your book is calling people to dream bigger and have a bright vision for the future but 2020 has been pretty dim. What advice do you have for Christians to march on forward following this year?
Jeremiah: I use an illustration in the book that when you get in your car and you sit down in the driver's seat, you have this great big windshield in front of you to see the future. And you have this little tiny rearview mirror to see the past. Yeah. I think what's happening now to some people is still they're living their life in the rearview mirror. They're thinking about how bad 2020 has been. What about 2021? What about the future? If we stay stuck in the problems of 2020 we will never be ready to move forward into the opportunities of 2021.
That's why you have to have this dream about what you believe God wants you to do, what He's put in your heart to do. You have to believe that dream and you have to cultivate it. I tell people, "Put it in Technicolor so that you see it clearly" because if you don't see that dream, if you don't understand what God wants you to do, you will never be able to do it and you will never be able to get anybody to go along with you to do it either. You have to have this dream fully formed in your mind.
I use the illustration in that chapter of David's dream for building the temple because the Ark of the Covenant was in a tent, and he was living in a cedar paneled house. And he felt like it was right for them to build this beautiful temple. He didn't get to do it himself because God said he was a man of blood and of war. But he enabled his son Solomon to do it and so the result of that is Solomon's temple.
CP: The book was inspired by a song written and performed by Tommy Walker. Can you briefly share how that came about?
Jeremiah: Tommy Walker's a friend; the book is dedicated to him. He came to our church to share with us his gift on a Sunday morning. We had already planned for him to stay over and do a concert Sunday night. He brought his daughter and his musicians and backup singers and it was in a wonderful concert. At the end of the concert, he said, "I wrote a song recently and I think I should sing this before we close." Then he sang the song called "Forward." I turned to my wife and I said, "This is what I've been thinking about. I think that's the name of my next book, Forward." In the song, he talks about how we get stuck in our safe places and we get afraid to move out and do the things that God calls us to do and it's time for us to move forward. It was such a blessing to me and actually, in the book we have a place where you can go to YouTube and pull it up and watch it.
CP: While the world is in transition it’s a great time for people to get unstuck.
Jeremiah: What happens here is if we're not careful, we let other people dictate our lives, we let our situation dictate our lives, we let COVID dictate our lives. God is not interested. He wants us to be challenged and changed by the things we experience. But God puts in our hearts what He wants us to do and we have to move forward and do that or we'll get lost. Then we lose our vision, we lose our desire, we lose our joy and so that's what this is all about. You start with a vision and then you have to pray, you have to ask God to guide, not only at the beginning, but through the whole thing. So there's a lot of steps you can take.
CP: How does one discover God's presence?
Jeremiah: When we follow God's direction in our lives, He's promised to go with us and be with us. Here's what I know, God is never less present with us at any one moment than in any other moment. He's always with us. But it's our awareness of His presence, our appreciation of His presence that makes the difference. So why would you be aware of God's presence in your life when you're doing what God wants you to do, when you're fulfilling the dream He's put in your heart? When you do that, you sense God's presence in a way that you never sense it.
Sometimes, for instance, in our church, when we have communion, people say, "Oh, God was really present." Yes, that's true but He was no more present than the other times. But communion makes us aware of His presence, His body, His blood.
The presence of God is not a variable. The Bible says, "God is always with us. He's our Emmanuel." But when we walk in the fellowship of God and we do what God tells us to do, and we live in His will, His presence becomes what we call manifest presence. We know it, we feel it, we sense it, that's the way to know the presence of God.
CP: There is a section in the book that talks about how to diminish distractions. We're in an age of mass distraction. What are some practical things that you delve into in the book to help people focus on being able to acknowledge the manifest presence of God that's always with us?
Jeremiah: Paul talked about in Philippians 3, he said, "This one thing I do." I always thought, oh my goodness, he didn't say this many things I do. He said this one thing I do. He was able to understand the vital purpose of his life and if you read Philippians, 3:12-14, he goes into some detail about his one thing. I know it's awful hard for us in this multifaceted culture to be people of one thing but we have to learn how to get rid of the distractions. We have to understand we have limitations.
I mentioned in the book, it's something a little controversial, that Jesus had limitations when He was on this earth. He self-limited himself. He never left Israel. He never left Palestine, He was there. He didn't go to the major cities of the world. He stayed there. He only had a short period of time. He had 12 men that worked with Him. He worked in a situation where if we would look at it today, we would say, He was the unlimited Son of God, but the Scripture teaches that He limited Himself and the use of His attributes so that He can identify with us. When Jesus died, just before He went back to Heaven, He said to the Father, "I have finished the work that you have given me to do." He didn't say, "I finished all the work there is to do." He said, "I finished the work you've given me to do."
I think that's one of the real key things is let's make sure we're doing what God wants us to do and not being responsive to what everybody else wants. I face that as a pastor. I have 8,000 people in this church, they all have some ideas to what I should be doing but I have to do what God wants me to do. If I do that, I will be a blessing to these people. So you have to decide whose voice you're going to listen to. That's the main thing.
CP: The book highlights how powerful the presence and power of God is. There are people, even Christians who can not move forward because they are stuck in hopelessness, depression, anxiety. Can you speak to those people who are struggling?
Jeremiah: It's interesting. I have a wonderful friend, actually a young man that I led to Christ many years ago, who has gone through a period of depression and recently tried to take his life. Fortunately, he didn't succeed and he's still here.
I think a couple of things. First of all, if you're going through that, the worst thing you can do is isolate. You need to talk to people about it, talk to your friends, talk to your spouse, talk to your family, make sure you have people working with you on it. Then there's help, you can get help for this! Recognize that there's lots of different things that cause depression. I'm not a psychologist or a counselor, really, but you can have organic things that happen. I have a daughter who's had some issues with that, but she has MS. It's the MS that causes that for her.
I think the worst thing that happens, what do we normally do when we feel depressed? We want to be alone, we go someplace, we hide out, we get away from everybody, we let our self-talk begin to control our lives, we listen to ourselves and all of a sudden, it gets worse and worse. It can get to the place where it's beyond our control. My most important lesson in this is get help from somebody. Whatever you do, when you find yourself moving into depression, talk to somebody. Help somebody understand what's going on in your life and know that God cares.
Some of the greatest people in the Bible went through that. Moses went through it on occasion, Elijah surely did. In one moment Elijah was on the mountain contesting the prophets of Baal and the next minute he was running from a woman and asking God to take his life. So it's not sinful to be depressed but it is sinful if you don't find help, if you don't reach out and if you allow it to take you to a place you don't want to go.
CP: You emphasize the importance of spending devoted time with God. Why would you say this is a vital part of moving forward and actually fulfilling these dreams?
Jeremiah: At this particular time, you have to be proactive to invest in [time with God.] The subtitle of that chapter is living beyond your dying. In other words, investing your life in such a way now that it continues to bear fruit after you're gone. I told the story in that chapter about getting a Bible from my mom and dad, a Scofield Reference Bible, which was the only Bible that was a reference Bible back then. It was such a blessing to me and I learned so much from that Bible as a young person. One day I opened the front of it and I realized that Bible had been written in 1909. C.I. Scofield wrote that Bible long before I was ever born. But here I am, all these years later, I am benefiting from the investment that he made. I remember praying, "Lord, help my life to be like that. I want to do what I do in such a way that when I'm no longer here, what you have done through me still is bearing fruit in the lives of other people." That's what it means to invest. You have to be proactive in doing that. That's not a natural thing to do; it's a discipline thing to do.
CP: What's the ultimate message that you want people to hold on to after reading Forward?
Jeremiah: I want people to know that God always has His best for you in front of where you are today. Some people want to sit back and remember their memories. Paul said, "One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, I press forward." That's what we need to do. If you want to live in the present or in the past, you can do that but God's best for you is still out in front of you. You need to get up every day and realize that the very best thing God has for you is out in front. If you don't move in that direction, if you don't walk with Him, you're going to miss the best thing He has for you in your life.
I believe that I have more of my life behind me than I have in front of me. I am having the best time I have ever had as a pastor and in the ministry, and I'm trusting God for great things tomorrow. There's no rule that says when you get to this place, God says, "OK, go sit in a beach and I'll come get you someday." No, He wants us to move forward in His purpose and when we do that we find the fulfillment that we need and the joy that He is providing for us.
CP: There's a lot of chatter about the upcoming election and what will become of America, there's a lot of worry and unrest. Is there anything else you'd like to add about where we are in America?
Jeremiah: Let me just tell you what I tell people. They say to me, "Well, what are you going to do if so and so wins and so and so loses?" This is what I tell them, "I'm going to get up the next day and go to work and I'm going to serve God with all my heart. I don't have any way to control what happens in my environment, I have every way to control how I respond to it. This world needs Jesus no matter who's in the White House, this world needs the Word of God no matter who's running the Supreme Court or who's got in charge of the Senate. My job doesn't change because of what's going on in Washington."
Here's the problem: If people like me abdicate what we do to go do that, who's going to do what we do? We're called to preach the Gospel. It's a real challenge for a person of influence to say, "No, that's not what I do. Here's what I do. Let me tell you about Jesus Christ and what He can do for your life." That's what I do, that's what I've always done. No matter who gets elected I'm going to keep doing that and that's going to make the difference for all of us.