Peninsula Community Church
Living Like Christ – What’s In Your Future
January 29, 2017
Jeremiah 29:10-14 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
As I was considering the message for today I was moved by a number of ideas and thoughts. As I continued to pray, I was moved by the fact that it seems that so many people today are discouraged, depressed, and are feeling disenfranchised spiritually. The truth of the matter is that the enemy of our soul loves to get us into this stupor of depression and lost hope. It is a place where hope and faith are darkened and any forward movement in Christ is stifled. While this is true, the fact is this was never God’s intent. His intent was that we would live free and hopeful lives dedicated to serve God with all of our hearts.
We must remember that the enemy is no slouch when it comes to discouragement. He knows better than anyone the well timed opportunities he can use to discourage and cause us to feel desperate and depressed. Not only is the enemy at work but we are guilty of filling our minds and hearts with information that tends to pull us down rather than building us up. While we might feel discouraged and desperate for change, it is this desperation that drives us or at least should drive us to God. God uses the issues of life to get us to refocus on Him who is our hope.
As we look around us, there is so much to discourage us today. Financial issues, physical issues, emotional issues, relational issues, spiritual issues, political issues, and health issues all seem to contribute to lost hope and depression. While these things are a reality it does not mean that is where He wants us to stay or live. The truth is, we can move beyond the issues and hold onto the One who makes us whole and complete. In the Old Testament, God responded to the despair of Israel by proclaiming that He had given them a hope and a future. Because we know that all of Scripture is used to teach us the truth of God’s ways, we know that this promise is extended to us as well.
In the passage before us, there is so much that speaks to us today. First of all, notice that Jeremiah records that God proclaims that When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. What is being said here is there will be an end to the Babylonian captivity. The children of Israel had been dealing with this burden for seventy years and there seemed to be no hope for an end to the captivity but God promised that an end was to come.
The point being made is that we will have seasons of difficulty. We will have seasons where there seems to be no hope or no promise of a future. Our future is darkened by the events and the circumstances in our life. For Israel, God was offering this promise and yet they were still in their captivity and would be for seventy years. Notice they were in the middle of the captivity when this proclamation and promise was made on their behalf. The truth for us is that whatever issue we are facing most of them will only last for a season. The fact is we are not immune from the difficulties of life but God provides a way of escape. Sometimes this is a physical deliverance and sometimes it is an emotional deliverance. Either way we are delivered. In the end, it does not matter if we will face issues but it is how we handle them that defines who we are.
In addition to this, we find that not only will they make it through the captivity but God makes s series of promises to them about their future and the hope they have. Look at what is promised to the Children of Israel. The first of these promises is that God will keep His promise. The point here is that God is faithful and He keeps His word. God will keep them and will bring them back to their rightful position and place in the economy of God. One thing we can be sure of is that God keeps His promises to us. You can take that to the bank. He never fails us and He never gives up on us.
There are a couple of things that are noteworthy in this. First, the captivity is not the total story. It is certainly a part of the story but it is not the story itself. The issue you are walking in is a part of the story of your life but it does not have to be the story. The fact is their story does not end in captivity but it ends with promised victory and the promised welfare of the people. And as we know through history they were delivered and restored. I am sure there were moments when the Children of Israel thought their life was over and there was no hope beyond that single moment in time but God in His wisdom knew there were better days ahead. I am sure they thought the promise of being the chosen nation through which the Messiah would come was over but God never forgot and He did not give up on them.
Secondly, God promises them that He has a plan for them. The promise here is that what they are going through will not be for nothing. You see this is a promise but it is also a reminder that God has a plan for them. They were chosen as a nation through which Messiah would come. There is a plan in all of this. In the sovereignty of God there is a plan for them to be better and to achieve more for God than if they had not gone through the captivity. God has chosen us to also reveal the Messiah to all we encounter. In captivity, we can forget that God has a plan for us as we become discouraged and the light of the gospel is diminished in our heart.
Thirdly, God’s plan is to prosper them and He has plans for their welfare. He has plans not for evil but for the betterment of their life. As we look at this, we should make one observation about the word for welfare or prosperity. The word used here in the Hebrew is the word “shalom” which means peace. This is an important interpretation of this word as God’s plan is not just richness or a lot of money but his desire is to bring peace. You see there is so much more to prosperity than money or riches, peace is the focal point of what God is doing.
Fourthly, God has a plan for a future and hope. You see when we walk in peace, we don’t need riches per se. Peace will steer us to a proper perspective on our hope and future. The fact is without God’s peace there is no hope or a future. There are a couple of passages in the Bible in regard to understanding this peace.
Psalms 4:6-8 – There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Isaiah 26:3-4 – You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
At the end of the Jeremiah passage we find there is a balance between God’s sovereignty and our free will. God will restore us and give us a future but we have our part to play. Here is what Jeremiah defines as our part. First of all, we are to call upon the Lord and we are to come and pray to Him. Prayer is always the greatest option at our disposal. Prayer is a matter of refocusing our attention from the issues to focusing on the One we know is able to take care of the problems we face. It places us in a mindset where we draw upon the grace of God and the power of God. Praying moves God but it also moves us into the place of understanding God’s will and purpose for us. By focusing in prayer, we shift our attention from the problems we face to the One who can resolve all issues of life.
Secondly, we must seek God. We don’t just seek after what God can do but who God is. The promise is that if we seek Him we will find Him. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus says the following. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” We are to ask, seek, and knock, and then we will receive, we will find, and when we knock we will have doors opened. This speaks of a persistent faith that never gives up and never gives out. That is our part of the plan.
The promise from God is that we will find Him and what we feel we have lost will be restored. That is the blessing that God gives. He gives us wholeness and completeness in what we do. So what are we saying today? We are saying that we will face issues in life. These issues will feel much like captivity and desperation. It is interesting that when we are caught in the battle, it is hard to look to the future. We view everything through the eyes of the moment and the longer we deal with these battles, the harder it becomes to look to the future. We can be deceived into believing that this is the only world we will know and we can begin to give up on God and people. That is the defining mark of the enemy’s tactics in our life. He blinds us to the truth and prevents us from moving ahead to a better day.
In the end, God wants to deliver us from the captivity we face by giving us peace. It is a love and peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that comes from God. It is a gift that we receive when we seek Him and pray to Him.
John 14:27-29 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So here is the deal this morning. We are facing and we will face great difficulty but in the midst of the difficulty God’s peace can overflow us and fill our hearts with peace. Peace may not change the circumstances but it certainly changes our outlook and our focus. Sometimes our lives feel like they are out of order and confused. It seems that nothing makes sense but when the great conductor of our lives steps to the podium life makes sense again. Watch this video if you will and then we will close in prayer.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom