Summary: In times of deep trouble, it may appear as though God has forgotten you. But God may be preparing you, as He did the people of Judah, for a new beginning with Him at the center. He is always waiting for His people to depend on Him.
Opening illustration: A 60-year-old hotel in Kansas is being renovated into apartments. A rusty ship that is docked in Philadelphia is being restored and may become a hotel or a museum. Hangar 61, an admired piece of architecture at the old Stapleton Airport in Colorado, is being transformed into a church. Each structure had a specific use that is no longer viable. Yet someone was able to see promise and a new purpose in each one.
If structures can find new life and purpose, why not people? Think about these men in the Bible whose lives took an unexpected direction. There was Jacob, who wrestled with the angel of the Lord (Gen. 32); Moses, who talked to a burning bush (Ex. 3); Paul, who was temporarily blinded (Acts 9). Their stories were different, but all had a change of purpose when their encounter with God sent them down a new path.
We too may experience circumstances that change the course of our lives. But God reminds us of this: I loved you before you loved Me. I want to give you hope and a future. Give all your worries to Me because I care about you (1 John 4:19; Jer. 29:11; 1 Peter 5:7; John 10:10). (Cindy Hess Kasper, ODB)
This purpose in the lives of the Israelites could only be fulfilled when they are acted upon His very Word. Similarly in our lives God’s purpose of a future and a hope can only be fulfilled when we are serious about God’s Words and act upon it diligently. Let us find out what God wants us to act upon so that He can give a future and a hope.
Let us turn to Jeremiah 29 in God’s Word and catch up with the future and hope that God wanted for His people …
Introduction: Forty years of preaching and no one listened, he wanted to quit, but the Word of God burned in his soul, now he is in prison, which is where this message comes from. No kind of confinement can keep God from hearing his people, and keep his people from knowing his presence.
This is one of the most-beloved passages in the Bible. I have often heard this passage quoted specially verse 11, and I have seen it on signs and posters and plaques. Many Christians commit these words to memory. We inscribe them on graduation cards. We share them with those who are sick, discouraged or in some sort of difficult situation. For many people, this is the only verse from Jeremiah that they know. Believe it or not, I found a website called TopVerses.com that rates every verse in the Bible by popularity. Not surprisingly, John 3:16 is number one. Jeremiah 29:11 is ranked number 29 out of all the verses in the Bible. And rightfully so because it makes a wonderful promise that believers have claimed for hundreds of years. It has been a lifeline, especially when going through hard times.
Apparently this is the most misused biblical passage specially verse 11. We use it for anything to suit our purpose. In fact it is the most relevant passages for us today. We can never understand its use and application till we know the context and intent that God had for articulating this message to His people through Jeremiah. It is more or less reading someone else’s mail through the mail man Jeremiah whom God asked to write and deliver to the Israelites.
What are God’s thoughts for us?
1. Provide us with a future and a hope (v. 11)
We will never properly understand this verse unless we know something about its background. The single most important fact is that it was written to the Jewish exiles in Babylon who had been forcibly removed from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Having been uprooted from all they held dear, they now live hundreds of miles away from home, in the very heart of worldly pomp and pagan idol worship. All their dreams and hopes had been smashed. Deep inside they wondered, “How could God have let this happen? If we are truly his people, how did we end up here?” And they wondered if God had forgotten them. In all their confusion and despair, they made two very human mistakes.
• They thought they would never end up in Babylon. That led them to false confidence.
• They thought they would never get out of Babylon. That led them to despair.
We face the same danger when we -
• Expect what God has never promised, or
• Refuse to believe what he has promised.
(i) God is thinking about us all the time: That may be the most important statement you’ll ever hear. The God of the universe thinks about us. He considers us, he knows us, he remembers us, and He keeps us in mind. He knows who we are and where we are. Not for one second are we ever lost or forgotten for his heart is so big and his knowledge so vast that no one ever gets lost in the shuffle. Even when we do have good thoughts about each other, we tend to forget after a while. That’s why we say “out of sight, out of mind." But God never forgets his children. Even though he has the whole world to rule, he never forgets his own.