Summary: A sermon for the first Sunday of a new appointment for a pastor.
A young preacher had just finished seminary and had taken his first appointment in the hills of Kentucky.
Wanting to be effective in his preaching ministry, he walked into the pulpit on his first Sunday and preached about—what he called--the evils of smoking.
When he finished, some of the church leaders met him at the door.
“We’re a little surprised that you would deal with the subject of smoking,” they said, “because nearly half of the state of Kentucky raises tobacco.
You might want to think twice about talking about smoking from this pulpit.”
The new preacher thanked them for enlightening him.
The next Sunday, with great fervor, he preached on the dangers of whiskey.
The same group was standing near the door when he finished.
They said, “We think we need to tell you that you ought to be careful about preaching against alcoholic beverages, especially since nearly a third of our county distills whiskey.”
“I didn’t know that,” the preacher replied.
“Thank you for helping me.”
He came back the next Sunday to preach a stirring sermon on gambling—in any shape or form—the lottery, racehorses, or any other.
The same group met him after the service.
“We think we need to tell you that over half our county raises thoroughbred race horses, so you want to be real careful about talking about gambling from this pulpit.”
Being a quick learner, the next Sunday, the young preacher preached against the evils of scuba diving in international waters!!!
You all are getting a new preacher this Sunday.
It’s a time of change, and change can sometimes be difficult.
Some of you may feel as if your church has been turned inside out and upside down.
Change is hard.
But life really is about what we make of it, is it not?
I think that is one of the things God is telling the people through Jeremiah this morning.
When the people of Israel were exiled into Babylon, everything they knew was turned inside out – their homes, their families, even their worship.
And so, Jeremiah came with a word of hope for a hopeless people.
He told them to build, plant and pray—even though they were in a strange land.
Even though they had been taken captive…
Today, we might say something like, “When life hands you lemons make lemonade!”
He is encouraging them to bloom where they are planted.
To make the best of things.
To thrive, despite their present situation.
They were to do the best for the city they found themselves in, and most importantly they were to remember God.
“God has plans for you—good plans—great plans!!!
Trust in God.”
And because of this—they will always have hope.
Have you ever felt hopeless?
I have, many times, dealt with feelings of despair.
In this life we face all kinds of obstacles.
Difficulties come around that we would have thought unimaginable.
People we love pass away.
Friends abandon us.
New preachers come into our midst.
But God is with us always and forever.
What did Jesus tell His disciples before He was arrested?
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
And in 1st John we are told that God is Love and that there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.
God is Perfect Love and God loves you and me Perfectly!!!
Do you believe this?
Do I believe it?
Jesus is stronger than our greatest fears.
Jesus is stronger than any and all barriers which get in our way.
Jesus is stronger than hell itself.
Jesus is stronger than death!!!
He has overcome them all.
And so, we can trust Him.
And so we can have hope in the midst of a suffering and dying world—in the midst of troubles and hard times.
Jesus said, “I will not leave you…I will never forsake you…”
Many people have said that “Life is what you make it.”
And in many ways this is true.
We are given the great privilege and responsibility to live-into living the kind of lives that Jesus has come to offer us.
I love how Paul puts it in Ephesians Chapter 2: “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God created in advance for us to do.”
Doing God’s will for our lives is what brings us peace and happiness.
Doing God’s will for our lives is what brings us hope.
It’s what transforms us into creatures of love—for we learn how much we are loved by God.
Making the decision to live into God’s great plans is the key to life.