Speaker: Pastor Don Woke
10 For thus says the Lord: after seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
For some people, 2014 has been quite tough and rough. We all have had such years that betrayed our hopes. I remember that about 10 years ago, I changed my calendar to the New Year even when it was still November because of the adverse experiences I was having at that time. I was in a hurry for the old year to pass and for the new to come.
Two thousand and fourteen has been described as one of the hottest years in recorded human history! The ‘heat’ wasn’t only felt in the environment but also in the economic, social and spiritual dimensions. Many people saw their businesses dwindle or collapse; careers fail and livelihood taken away. They started out well early in the year but an ‘evil wind’ blew upon them causing incalculable losses, including the loss of loved ones. Some people were so disappointed that they left church altogether. But no matter what 2014 has been for you, it will soon pass away.
As we look forward to the New Year, there is apprehension in many hearts. The forecasts about the economy are gloomy. Insecurity and violence seem to be spreading across the country and the coming elections doesn’t make it better. Moreover, it was predicted that by 2015 Nigeria will be a failed state, and sadly, the politicians, by their actions or inactions, seem eager to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. From the human point of view, the outlook for 2015 doesn’t look very encouraging.
All these notwithstanding, we have to make a choice, whether to face the future with fear or to face it with hope. One is an expectation of evil while the other is the expectation of good. Whatever we choose will have consequences in the coming year. God’s desire is that instead of fear, we would choose hope. Hope looks at the future and says ‘no matter what happens, it will be well with me’. (Romans 8:24-25; Hebrews 11:1).
ISRAEL IN BABYLON
Our text gives us a picture of the Jews when they were in captivity in Babylon. They had been plucked up from their nation and were now living as second-class citizens in a strange land. At that time, everything looked hopeless. Their condition in exile was pathetic. Psalm 137:1-4 captures their situation at this time. The song of the Lord ceased from their mouth.
God had warned them through the prophets about the consequence of their sins and idolatry but they continued in rebellion. Now they were facing the outcome in Babylon. However, in the midst of judgment, God still demonstrated His mercy by asking Jeremiah to write a letter to the exiles assuring them of restoration after 70 years of captivity. God was reassuring them that He hadn’t forgotten nor forsaken them. I believe that God is speaking the same words to us at this time.
First, we need to know that God is mindful of us. He is thinking of us. It is gratifying to realize that the ‘monarch of the universe’ is preoccupied about us. He knows all about our situation. He said we are worth more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the valley. He even knows the number of hairs on our heads. He is saying to you, “if I can take care of mere birds and lilies, trust me, I can take care of you” (Matthew 6:25-34).
Secondly, God’s thoughts about us are for good and not for evil. Many of us have a wrong concept of God because of what religion has taught us. God has been misrepresented, He is portrayed as a harsh and unloving being. We see Him as a ‘stalker’ watching to see us falter so He can punish us. That’s far from the character of God: “For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.” (Lamentation 3:33 NLT). See how the Psalmist describes God in Psalm 103: 8-14:
8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust. (NLT)
Rest assured that God is thinking good thoughts about you; He has a welfare plan for you and will ultimately bring it to pass (Jeremiah 29:11 AMP and Job 42:2 NIV).
Thirdly, God has a future full of hope for us, not disappointments. As long as there is life, there is hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4). No matter what happens in 2015, with God on our side, it shall be well. We may not know all that 2015 holds for us but we can be sure of one thing, God will be there for us (Psalm 56:9). Furthermore, in Jeremiah 31:17, God was speaking to Ephraim (symbolic of Israel) and He said: “There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border.” This was a much-needed encouragement to a despondent people.
HOPE AS AN ANCHOR TO THE SOUL
In Hebrews 6:13-20, the writer uses an Old Testament imagery of someone who had unknowingly committed murder fleeing to the city of refuge for safety (Deuteronomy 4:42; 19:5). As long as he was in that city he was secure from whatever was pursuing him; all was well with him. In the same vein, believers have entered the city of refuge wherein there is safety. God is our refuge (Psalm 46:1). God’s faithfulness to His promises is our hope for the coming year. He has promised to take care of His people even in the time of adversity (Psalm 37:19; Matthew 6:25-30; Romans 8:32).
Hope is an anchor to the soul. A ship has stability when the anchor is firmly on a rock. God is the source of our hope. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). When our hope is anchored in Christ our lives can be stable no matter what may come our way. That’s why our hope is relationship-based. His presence in our lives engenders hope. “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27). Our hope will not be disappointed because it is based on a relationship with the One whom no one can manipulate or control.
PRAYER AS A KEY TO ACTUALIZING YOUR HOPE
Prayer is a key to realizing and actualizing God’s promises. After the assurance of Jeremiah 29:11, what follows is “12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” This Scripture establishes a connection between prayer and the actualization of hope. No wonder that people like Daniel began to pray and seek the Lord and this led to their return from captivity after 70 years. Thus, their hope was realized. Now is a good time to have a prayer agenda for your life and family concerning 2015. You must pray through and obtain the promises of God for your life.
One thing is certain: you can’t face the coming year and its challenges alone. There may be turbulence so you need Jesus. You need to be sure that you are well anchored in Him, that your hope is firmly rooted.
No matter what the passing year has been or has brought into your life, embrace the coming year with an attitude of faith and hope. Stand on the promises of God and speak the language of hope. Realize that God is thinking good thoughts about you and has planned a future filled with hope for you. Even if you lost everything this year, you still have God; when you have Him, you have what it takes to rebuild your life again.