The morning Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11-14 11 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,
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“Don’t Forget Prayer”
Last week and this week we are looking at challenging Scriptures in the Bible. Last week we looked at Micah 6:8 8 God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? In Micah 6:8, there is a list of requirements that God desires for those of us who are seeking to walk in God’s ways. As lovers of justice, bearers of kindness, living in and walking closely beside God, we respond to Micah 6:8. It is an embodiment of what Jesus defines as the greatest commands. We can respond to Micah 6:8 by daily practical action. In the year 2021, it can feel like nothing an individual can do will help or change the circumstances that are the day-to-day reality. However, Micah provides a “checklist.” Do justice, love kindness, and submit to walking not in our own ways, but in the ways of Jesus, the Christ, to all who profess faith in Him.
Let’s look at today’s Scripture Jeremiah 29: 11-14 11 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,
Have you ever known a time more desperate than this? We are in the midst of a crisis in America. The moral climate in America continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Everyone is looking for someone to shoulder the blame and searching for a way to improve their desperation. The church continues to face the clash of liberal and conservative agendas and the serenity that we once thought we knew is vanishing before our very eyes. It is often easy to look at the trouble that we face and feel overwhelmed and forsaken.
The original audience of the message by the prophet Jeremiah were living in desperate times. It was in 586 BCE, and these were the last days of Jerusalem. Babylonian captivity for Israel was looming on the horizon. The final destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was inevitable. Things were economically hard. That meant, back then, not that the people had a shortage of ready cash, but that there was a shortage of food. The political outlook was bleak and grim. Normal daily life was no longer normal. They had powerful enemies threatening them, and they were not merely looking at the loss of their jobs or a severe reduction in the value of their money. They were facing the likely loss of life. In short, the people had every reason to ask where God was. Why had God abandoned His people, and what were they going to do? However, most of the people of Jerusalem were probably not asking those questions. They had fallen into paganism and unbelief, and many of them were making their sacrifices and appeals to their idols and others were just feeling hopeless and helpless. The majority were probably angry with the God of the covenant of ancient Israel, and blamed God for their dire straits.
These verses from Jeremiah have very important meaning for Ann and me. In the very early days on ordained ministry, we were troubled by broken promises in ministry. We had made major changes in our lives – given up jobs and moved to Washington DC to be in ministry with the homeless. But our expectations and hopes in DC were not panning out and it was clear to us that a change was coming. Some dear friends of ours shared Jeremiah 29: 11-14 with us and we resonated with the hope that our lives would get better. Jeremiah 29: 11-14 11 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, Eventually, God’s real plans for Ann and me emerged from the fog of disappointment and concern.
The situation for America appears to be something like that. We have brilliant but brief periods where everything is just wonderful, but they are stacked between periods in which we tend to feel troubled, challenged by circumstances, and frightened about what the future may hold. Like Israel at the time of Jeremiah, we have come sliding out of a time of great good and found ourselves in a time of frightening change: economic change, political change, social change, and personal change all coupled together by the lingering effects of the pandemic. Jeremiah speaks the same message to us that he spoke to those who still trusted in God and would listen to His Word: God has a plan – good plans – for us. God says, “I have plans for you.” “Not only do I have plans – clear and definite and I know precisely what they are, and they are plans for your welfare, and not for the calamity you may be expecting. These are plans to give you are hope and a future!”
Remember that hope is the assurance that things in the future will get better than they are now. However, from where we stand, we cannot always see how God could possibly have a good plan for our lives. Of course, we may think, God has plans for eternity, but what about right now?! What sort of plans does God have for this life and this moment? The answer is, we don’t know. God hadn’t given them to Jeremiah either. Jeremiah knew that those plans led through the valley of earthly troubles and sorrows, and, for many, death.
God also has a plan for our life here and now. But the plan is for us to live our lives as God’s believing disciples. We are to show the world what true faith is, and who God is, and what God has done for us and what it means to us and to life in this world. When people see the reflection of God in us and in our lives, they will come seeking the difference, and then we can also share with them what becoming followers of Jesus the Christ will mean for their lives. They need to see Christ in you and the Christ in me. They need to see the faith, the hope, the confidence in God for this life and for everlasting life. Sometimes we show that by how we set our priorities. Sometimes it can be seen in how we face adversities. Occasionally, people see our Lord reflected in how we handle the good times of life, too. It shows in humility and good cheer borne of the forgiveness of sins and the knowledge of the love of God. The words we use and the way we judge or do not judge others tells a lot about our faith and hope – or the lack of it.
Here is the “but factor.” A big part of the plans of God include your prayers. “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you.”
God’s plans include seeking God in prayer, seeking God in times of trouble and need, pouring out our hearts to God, and finding that God is there, listening, answering. So, as people who are seekers of the Risen Christ, God promises us that God will listen. That doesn’t sound like much until you consider that the meaning of the term “listen” means to listen with a sympathetic ear and answer in a sympathetic way! For Jeremiah and the people of his day, this was probably understood as pointing to a future day when God would gather His chosen ones back together to live in the peace and prosperity in which they hope and of which they could only dream.
God may not always answer as we think God should or in the time frame that I would like, but God hears me. There is no greater power available to humanity than prayer. It is through prayer that we make our requests known to One who has the power to move on our behalf. I don’t know where this day finds you. I don’t know the burdens that your carry, but I know One who does. The Lord has an intended plan that He wants to weave into our lives. The Lord has a path that He desires for each of us to take. If we are to see God’s will fulfilled in our lives, then we must seek God in prayer. Are you troubled today? Has life brought circumstances that are beyond your ability to handle? Remember, life doesn’t just happen. God is in control. God has just what you need this very moment if you will seek Him. Why not come and seek the Lord for the need in your life?
Thanks be to God!