Life verse #2
Do you trust me?
This is the second sermon in the series I call “Life Verses.” In May and June, I will be preaching on some of your favorite verses chosen by folks in the congregation. Dixie chose Jeremiah 29:11. It was also second choice for both Scott and Deb. Dixie is going to read it for us today.
This is part of a letter from God, sent through the prophet Jeremiah, to the Israelites exiled to Babylon in 587 BC. We don’t know the exact year of the letter, but they had been in Babylon long enough to wonder if God had forgotten them.
The letter has essentially two messages for them and for us.
The first message is TRUST IN GOD.
There is an old story of a father who took his young son out and stood him on the railing of the back porch. He then went down, stood on the lawn, and encouraged the little fellow to jump into his arms. "I'll catch you," the father said confidently. After a lot of coaxing, the little boy finally made the leap. When he did, the father stepped back and let the child fall to the ground. He then picked his son up, dusted him off, and dried his tears.
"Let that be a lesson," he said sternly. "Don't ever trust anyone."
That is a sad story, but I’ll be the first to admit that it is hard to know whom to trust.
• “Just trust me.” says the slick used car salesman, as he pats you on the back.
• “Just trust me.” says the politician, as he winks at the lobbyist standing behind you in line.
• “Why can’t you just trust me.” says the teenager arguing with her parents about curfew.
• “Just trust me.” says the slick preacher on TV.
My advice is if someone has to say “Just trust me”… run… run as fast as you can! I say that because of the word “JUST.” Trust is not to be taken lightly. There is a difference between “trust me” and” JUST trust me.” At best, those who want to make trust JUST simple and JUST easy, think you are a gullible pigeon. Usually they are dishonest or even delusional. Though I don’t’ agree with the father, “Don’t trust anyone.” I would say pick and chose very carefully, whom you will trust.
Jeremiah’s letter says, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you.”
Essentially, God is saying “TRUST ME.” However, God is, not some salesman, or politician, or whining teenager. This is the God of our ancestors who has made good on every promise God ever made. This is the God who, over and over, proved trustworthiness to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Egyptian slaves, the Israelites in the desert, the judges, the kings, and the prophets. This is the God who has been watching Israel’s back for generations and generations. God’s message to the Hebrew exile sand us is “I have a plan. Trust me. I have your back.”
Dixie says, when life is hard, when life seems uncertain, when she has needed it the most it is good to know that God has her back. God’s promise that “I have plans for you” brings her comfort and peace. Dixie actually used the word “peace” when we were talking, can you guess that I found when I did an in depth study of the passage, discovered that the Hebrew actually includes a word we all know: SHALOM. How do we usually translate of Shalom? “Peace or wholeness.” The passage reads, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to bring you shalom and not to harm you.” that is “plans to bring you peace and not to harm you.” You might even read it “plans to put you back together and not to harm you.”
Shalom can also be translated wholeness so it might be read “plans to put you back together.” No wonder, when life is falling apart, Dixie, and so many others cling to this promise that trust God to bring you peace or put you back together. No wonder so many people have this promise hanging in their house, underlined in their Bible, and tattooed on their skin. When we have to make a big decision, or when our plans seem to be going down the tubes; it is any wonder that so many of us turn to this that instructs us to trust God to bring you peace or put you back together. No wonder so many people turn to this passage over and over to hear God say “Trust me, I’ve God your back”
But in order for God to “have out back” we have to trust God.
The other message in this passage is to be patient
We usually quote verse 11 of this chapter. Do you remember verse 10? 10 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. Had you ever noticed 70 years?!? 70 years! Does that mean that this plan is for someday, in the sweet by and by? NO.
The 70 years, reminds, us, however, that God’s plan will unfold on God’s timeline; not ours. God’s plan is not always immediately obvious. We may not see it right away. We may not be ready for it. We may not have the perspective yet. We may be too wrapped up in our lower story lives to see what God is doing in God’s upper story plans.
Trusting God means being patient. Patiently believing that God’s plan is working even though we don’t see it. Patently trusting that at the right time we will see what God has been doing.
God has always worked on God’s own timeline.
It was 430 years before the slaves were freed from Egypt. Patience.
It was 40 years before the people were lead into the Promised Land. Patience.
It was 70 years before the exiles made it back to Jerusalem. Patience.
The God who came to earth as Jesus Christ after thousands of years, Patience.
It was 400 years after that, before God came to live on the earth.
And even then, Jesus was born as a baby- and we had to wait another 30 years for him to grow up and start his ministry. Patience.
God raised Jesus from the grave, but only after 3 long days of darkness. Patience.
• I think back to when I left the church 22 years ago. You think back to a time when you lost a job, failed a class, hit a roadblock in your plans, experienced a tragedy… remember one? Now, think back. At that moment, could you imagine any possible future when things would be better? I couldn’t. But I look back from the perspective of today. I’ll admit that I was not always patient (you know “do as I say, not as I do”) but I look back from the perspective of today and I can see that God was working all along. Do you see that in your lives?
God will bring light from your darkness, but you have to be patient.
God will bring hope from your despair, but you have to be patient.
God will bring shalom (or wholeness) form your brokenness, but we must be patient. It is after all God’s plan not ours.
Finally, I want to ask, "How will we know God’s plan when it comes." I am one of those people who can look and look, and not see something right in front of my face. Remember confirmation week? I knew I bought palm crosses for the confirmands as my gift to them. I looked for them Friday, and Saturday (several times) and Sunday (several times) When Dian came into the church I asked her, and guess what… she walked in my office and handed me the box with the crosses.
But don’t snicker too much because we are all a little that way when it comes to God’s plan. How do we recognize God’s plan.
Unfortunately, God rarely lays a map out in front of us and shows us exactly where we're going. Frankly, I'd be a lot more comfortable with that.
In Washington, they say follow the money. At the risk of oversimplifying, as Christians following God’s map means following the love.
In the verses 12 and 13, God’s map is to give you hope. God’s plan for hope was that he loved us so much that he gave his only begotten son.
In the verses 12 and 13, God’s map is to hear and answer your prayers. “Jesus said God loves us like a father who wants to give good things to his children.
In the verses 12 and 13, God’s map is that we would” seek God with all our heart.” God’s love is so great that he provided Jesus to be our way, truth, and life.”
God’s plan is no roadmap. God is not the autopilot of our lives. Jesus is not likely to take the wheel as the country-western song says. The picture here is of a God who loves us no matter what, and wants us return that love no matter what. … The picture here is of a God who gives us hope, hears our prayers, and wants you to love him with all your heart. The picture here is of a God who has or back no matter what. That sounds like a pretty good plan to me. If you want to follow God’s plan… follow the love.
I chose this week to address this life verse in part because of senior recognition. So I am going to address the rest of the sermon to the seniors, but the rest of you are welcome to listen in and translate it to your life.
You will likely receive more than one graduation card that quotes Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you.
It would be a mistake to think that the passage means that God has your life all mapped out and all you have to do it put it on autopilot.
It would be a mistake to think that the passage means that God has your life all mapped out, and all and your job is to find the one correct route.
It would be a mistake to think that the passage means that God has your life all mapped out, and you don’t have any say in it.
But it would also be a mistake to think that you are all alone as you face your future.
You are not. God does have a plan and a hope for your life.
It’s just that instead of looking like this… It looks more like this.
Three things I would tell you as you graduate
Be patient with God.
Love God and let God love you.