Hope When It Is Least Expected

 

HOPE When You Least Expect It         Jeremiah 29:1-14

Audio:

Introduction

“Hope is called the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19), because it gives stability to the Christian life. But hope is not simply a ‘wish’ … rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.” -R C Sproul

Hope latches on to the certain promises of God. Some of the hardest things we experience life threaten that connection. Hope anchors the soul … it connects us to the love and strength of God… but sometimes it seems out of reach. In the book of Jeremiah, the ‘Weeping Prophet’ has two messages. He delivered God’s word for 40 years. In the first part of the book he tells them of the suffering that will come because they continually rejected God. As a consequence God sent them into Exile, captivity by the Babylonians. In the second part of the book Jeremiah reminds that God has not forgotten them and there is hope ahead. But the truth is that when life is tough, we always have hope. But there are things about hope we need to remember:

Hope Can Be Hard to Find (Jeremiah 29:1)

Jeremiah 29:1 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

What was it like in Babylonian captivity? They were away from their homeland. Held as political prisoners, robbed of their freedoms. All of their past accomplishments were meaningless, and all of their possessions were gone. The heritage of faith as God’s victorious people under the leadership of Moses, Joshua, David, a dream of the very distant past. They didn’t have any hope that it was going to end.

Psalm 137:1-5 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for  songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we  sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

Have you ever given up hope? Is there some area of your life where you have lost hope of things getting better… Hopes that were lost when a loved one passed? Hopes lost when financial or career struggles are out of your control? Hopes that disappeared over time as we grow older. Jeremiah’s message was if we have any hope, it is…

Find Hope in our God who is at Work (Jeremiah 29:4)

Jeremiah 29:4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…

Jeremiah’s appeal was not to himself but to the “Lord Almighty”, the “God of Israel”. The problem for God’s people is that it seemed to them that God wasn’t at work at all. Nearly everyone has gone through a time when they felt that God was silent or absent.

Psalm 13:1-2 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart ?

But our hope remains because God is at work even when we may feel He is distant. Hope can be hard to find; Find Hope in God who is at work…

Find Hope in God’s Mission (Jeremiah 29:5-10)

Jeremiah 29:5-10 Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 

Jeremiah’s message might be surprising – He encourages them to live their lives in such a way that the important things remain important: work, family, and caring for others. Especially verse 7 – a great reminder of our mission of living for God.  We are called to look beyond ourselves. We are here in this place and time to seek the welfare of others in our parish. Are we making it a better place? Are we praying for our parish? Doesn’t this prayer extend to our nation and world? Never let anyone sidetrack or dissuade you from the   mission (Jeremiah 29:8-10).

Find Hope in God’s Plans for His People (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

Jeremiah 29:11-14 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

*He Controls the Future (11) 

* A God Who Listens (12)

* A God Who is Near (13)

* A God who Gathers His Children (14)

The Bible says we are all exiles; we are resident aliens; we are missionaries in a strange and foreign culture.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27, CEB)

At 17 years old she had recently graduated from high school and was preparing to go off to college. Her sister invited her to go for a swim at a beach on Chesapeake Bay. She wrote, “I remember standing on that raft, not knowing —never guessing—that in the next second my life would forever change.” Joni Eareckson dove into the water but it was too shallow and as a result her neck was broken. This diving accident left Joni  a quadriplegic in  wheelchair, without the use of her hands. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. During her rehabilitation, Joni learned how to paint with a brush between her teeth. Her paintings sought-after and collected. She has authored over 50 books and has won many awards and honors. 

Joni Eareckson Tada wrote “The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrows currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.”

Find hope when you least expect it … when it’s hard to find, when God is at work, God’s Mission, and God’s Plans. Hope isn’t found within ourselves, it comes from God.

LifeGroup Questions

1. This past week we created Thanksgiving memories. What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory from the past?

2. Jeremiah writes to exiles … those in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. In what ways can we relate to those exiles? Aside from ourselves, can we think of others who might relate well to those exiles?

3. Apostle Peter addresses Christians who were scattered due to persecution. What do we see in this passage that can help us understand our calling in the world today? Do we think of ourselves as “immigrants and strangers”? If we feel uncomfortable with the term “immigrant”, why do you think that is?

1 Peter 2:11-12 (CEB) “Dear friends, since you are immigrants and strangers in the world, I urge that you avoid worldly desires that wage war against your lives. 12 Live honorably among the unbelievers. Today, they defame you, as if you were doing evil. But in the day when God visits to judge they will glorify him, because they have observed your honorable deeds.

4. When we feel that God may not be at work in our lives or that he seems to have been absent, what can we do about those feelings?

5. Jeremiah 29:7 (CEB) says “Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare.” Let’s brainstorm some ways to put this principle to practice. 

6. A favorite verse of many, Jeremiah 29:11, is often used at graduation time. This passage is directed at a nation of people in captivity, not at individuals in particular. Does that perspective change the meaning of the text for you? Why or why not?

Jeremiah 29:11 (CEB) “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.”

7. Jesus gives a word of comfort and assurance in John 14:27. When you are needing to be assured of the hope you have in God, what words of Jesus mean the most to you?

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27, CEB)

For Further Contemplation

 

Next Sunday: Daniel 3

References

http://www.joniandfriends.org/radio/4-minute/anniversary-diving-accident/