Summary: Baccalaureat sermon, but focus works with all members seeking the will of God.
A Hopeful Future
Imagine that you watch as two sailboats are approaching one another on Lake Ponchatrain. They are moving steadily and speedily in opposite directions--yet driven by the same wind. You see, a boat’s direction is determined not by the wind, but by the set of the sail. All people have within them the right and power to set their own sail. The winds of life may be beyond their control, but the set of their sails is fixed within their own mind and heart. The set of their sail is nothing more than their attitude, their outlook, and their faith. (1001 Stories–Direction) Today, we honor some young men and women in our midst, because they have accomplished an important part of setting their sails in life. Each has finished one leg of his or her respective journey (either high school or college). And each will make important decisions about the direction he or she will sail in this life.
Finding that direction is important. Knowing where you want to go is a major part of getting there. Do you remember in Alice in Wonderland, Alice asked the cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The cat answered, “That depends a great deal on where you want to go.” Alice said, “Oh, I don’t much care.” “Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go.” Today, I hope our graduates, and the rest of our gathered congregation, do care about where they are going. I hope each of you today has a direction in mind. And, I hope that it is the right direction.
In our text this morning, God promised that he would restore fallen Judah. He was going to make sure that they found the right direction in life.
If we are going to “succeed” in this world in any meaningful way—we need to find God’s direction. We need to follow God’s plan for our lives. Why is this so crucial? Why should we actively follow God’s plan and not just take life as it comes? Consider the following reasons for following God, and you will find that you have a hopeful future awaiting you.
God provides restoration when we fail.
God told his people that he would bring them home when the time was right. Because of their sin, they had been led as captives to Babylon. But, that act of judgment would not last forever. God would bring a repentant Judah home.
We must honestly acknowledge that there are times when we have gotten off track in our walk with God.When that happens, we have but one valid choice—get back on track. A fellow pulled his car over to ask an old woman on the side of the road how far it was to a certain town. The old woman said, "Well, sonny, if you keep going the way you’re headed, it’s about 25,000 miles. But if you turn around, it’s about three miles."
The wonderful promise of this text, and many more like it, is that God stands ready to let us come home—he does not give up on his children. The world is not always this generous, my friends. But remember, if you do fall—if you somehow lose sight of where you ought to be in this world—God will welcome you home. Failure is not the end: because we have a God greater than our failures.
God offers hope in an uncertain world.
The people of Judah had ample reason to doubt everything they had ever believed. In their minds, the Babylonian victory over Judah could be explained in only one of two ways—God had deserted them, or he had been defeated by the gods of Babylon. Either way, their world was turned upside down, and they could be certain of nothing anymore. Still, God spoke to them and assured them that he was still in charge—that he had allowed the Babylonians to win, but that they would not keep the people of God down forever: in God’s timing, things would be set right once again.
Life can be very scary, friends. (Graduates), If you haven’t discovered this yet, hang on—the ride of life is just about to get interesting. There will be moments when you are certain you are on the top of the world. There will be times when it feels like you have reached the very depths of existence, and cannot take it anymore. Jobs in your chosen field may prove difficult to find. Family life may become as wild as a zoo. Health collapses when least expected. Friends turn their backs on you in the midst of the storm.
In all of this, it will be easy to give up your hope—to surrender to despair: but hang on, you have reason for hope. Several years ago a teacher assigned to visit children in a large city hospital received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. She took the boy’s name and room number and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him with his homework so he doesn’t fall behind the others. It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got outside the boy’s room that she realized it was located in the hospital’s burn unit. No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. She felt that she couldn’t just turn and walk out, so she awkwardly stammered, “I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs.” The next morning a nurse on the burn unity asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” Before the teacher could finish a profusion of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him, but ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment . . . . It’s as though he’s decided to live.” The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears he expressed it this way: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?” (Illustrations unlimited / Hope) Our reason for hope is not as mundane as nouns and adverbs—our reason for hope is grand and glorious—the very love of God Almighty. God’s plan for your life is full of hope, full of wonderful possibilities—God knows what he has in store for you: and you can trust that it will be for your good. WE HAVE REASON TO HOPE as we follow the Lord.