HPC – Place and Time Part 2 13/1/19
The Successful Life. What do you believe?
Reading Jer 29:4 – 14. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and posterity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel says: do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them, declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: when seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.
Some months back I announced that my wife had driven her Jeep through the wall of the hall – and you were all invited to go and look. Well, 5 people went to look. 100’s of you rushed up to my wife after the service to ask if she was ok!
The Jeep thing was all about the Junior Church theme for last term – it was all about breaking out on adventure. I had to cut the back off one of my Jeeps so my wife could bolt it onto the wall and paint around it to make it look like it was going somewhere exciting. The kids loved it. Christ is a great adventure. How awesome to start to learn that from such a young age.
You will be glad to hear that we have finally managed to extract the Jeep from the wall – but, sadly, some vandals have gotten into the hall and have painted graffiti everywhere.
You are invited to go and have a look after the service. And no, my wife was not harmed in the process!
Last week we were challenged that one day we will all die – but that every other day we must live.
And this is not just staying alive until we die – but being fully alive every day.
We were challenged – what is the key to living this full healthy life, by God’s standards? What would God call a successful life?
What we learned is that it all starts with what we believe!
Do you believe? Do you believe God? Do you believe that “God made the earth and everything in it” – because what that means is, everything then belongs to Him. He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants to do it.
So, is He a good God or a bad one. What do you believe?
If He made everything – then this means that I belong to God. It means, I answer to Him – He does not answer to me. He has all the rights, I do not. He makes the rules – I do not. He has the answers! He is the Creator, I am the created – I am His property!
Is that just the most incredible beautiful Truth for you – or something that rubs against the grain?
If I belong to Him, can I trust Him? Is He good, or bad?
Last week we saw that – God created, and He placed each of us exactly where and when He wants us – that’s here, now. And He has done all this so that – we would seek Him, and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.
Last week we were asked – is that what your whole life is about? Seeking God, reaching out for Him, and finding Him? This is a continuous process.
Last week we were encouraged – life is tough – but the Word tells us to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. We need to change the way we think, and that will change the way we feel and that will change what we do and why. But it all starts with what you believe. Do you believe God, do you believe God at His Word? Or are you taking someone else’s word for it? And is that someone else God – because if not, that must be the definition of crazy! Looking for answers anywhere but God.
You belong right here and now – you belong and you have a job to do. Last week we saw that in Christ alone do we live, move and have our being. We are to be the best we can be with whatever we have right now – to build His Kingdom! Not tomorrow, not when the economy is right, not when the politics change. Not when I finally get some fuel!
And so we move this week from the NT to the OT. To a passage I think most of us can quote off by heart – well at least verse 11 – I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future!
Do you believe you have a future in Zim? What do you believe? Do you believe you have a future in God?
We looked at this passage some years ago – and we need to take a good look at it again. What can we learn in these verses about what success looks like to God – how was God teaching His people to be fully alive back then, that He would teach us today?
Perhaps you remember the story – God is talking to His people through His Prophet Jeremiah. God’s people had been defeated in battle. They have been crushed, and carried off into exile, into slavery in Babylon. They were in a foreign pagan land – ruled by evil.
And God says? You have every reason to be depressed and down hearted and I’m sure you really miss your home land and how things used to be – and you have every reason to be hating me and questioning me and I’m sure the food isn’t right, and everything even smells wrong, and everyone hates you and is suspicious of you and you can’t trust anyone, and it’s expensive and you’ve already lost everything – and so therefore you should – spend your whole time praying….. for me (God) to do something about it.
No! God writes them a letter through Jeremiah instructing them to move ahead with their lives and to spend their time praying for the pagan nation that enslaved them!
Life can not grind to a halt during troubled times – there always has been and always will be troubled times. In unpleasant and distressing situations, we must adjust and keep moving. And your ability to do that will depend entirely on – a clever plan? No! On what you believe.
What do you believe – do you really believe it?
You may find it difficult to pray for evil leaders – but it is for them that your prayers are most needed. It will be hard to pray for evil leaders or not – depending, on whether they deserve it …… – No! Depending entirely on what you believe.
When you enter times of trouble or sudden change, pray diligently and move ahead, doing whatever you can rather than giving up in frustration, uncertainty, fear – and your ability to do that will depend on your circumstances, resources…. – No! On what you believe.
What we need is leaders who can stir us up and encourage us in the right direction. Someone who believes we can – someone who believes in us – that we can thrive and not just survive. That we can live successful lives, fully alive, every day – if only we had the right leaders!
God is that kind of leader! He knows the future and His plans for us are good and full of hope. And….
He believes in you! What do you believe?
As long as God, who knows the future, is the One who provides the agenda and goes with us – as we fulfill His Mission, can we have boundless hope and be fully alive along the way. This does not mean we will be spared pain, suffering or hardship – but that God will see us through to the Glorious conclusion He wants for us. He has a plan! He has a plan for you!
God did not forget His people, even though they were captive in Babylon, because they had abandoned Him long back. He planned, in His time, to give them a new beginning with a new purpose – to turn them into a new people. In times of deep trouble, it may appear as though God has forgotten us – but that will depend on what you believe. But God may be preparing you, as He did those in Babylon, for a new beginning with Him at the center.
God writes a letter to His people in captivity as slaves in a pagan land ruled by evil. And He says;
Jer 29:5 – 5 Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters – increase in number there, do not decrease.
God is saying – live a successful life. Live a productive life. Plant vegetables and eat what you produce. Increase, do not decrease. What is He saying? Invest yourselves fully where you are – be fruitful and multiply! Settle down.
I have been fascinated over the last years. I have seen in many cases that those who are the most successful are those, not who have managed to get the most money out of Zim – but those who have invested the most in Zim.
God is saying – be part of the solution – do not contribute to the problem.
Increase – God wants His Church, His people to increase. And so He took them to Babylon.
Jer 29:7 Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper
Again, like last week – God is saying – I have chosen your place and time. And here He is saying – seek the peace and prosperity of the city where I have placed you.
And I believe God is saying to His people in Zim today – stop cursing your country. Stop all the negative talk and the complaining. Where will that get you? Seek the peace and prosperity of your city. Pray to the Lord for it. Because if it prospers so will you! But how can it prosper if not even God’s people believe! If not even God’s people are doing His Mission?
Jer 29:8 Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name.
I find this part fascinating – apparently the prophets and diviners – can you believe God’s people used diviners – they were seeking answers to their troubles anywhere and everywhere but God – even false prophets and diviners – who were apparently telling the people – don’t worry, this won’t last long, soon you’ll be home again, everything is going to be wonderful, change is coming, things will be like they used to be. And God says – do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.
No! Listen to God – you are going to be there a long long time, that’s what the 70 years represents – but I have a plan – do you believe me – do you trust me? Then live, today, in my purposes for you!
What if Zim never changes? Does it matter? Does it matter – if God has a plan? What do you believe. What do you believe in!
Because what you believe determines what you do and why?
And if you are not sure what you believe – then look at your actions and what you spend your time thinking about and talking about! If you had the heart of God, the God you proclaim to believe in, then you would have His heart for the peace and prosperity of your country no matter the cost, no matter what is going on around you. Peace right in the middle of the chaos.
Is that really possible? God goes on in His letter;
Jer 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
It really depends what you are looking for? Are you, before all things, looking for God, looking to God? Is your heart for God, or for a better life? You will only ever find peace in God and in His plans for you.
But this one thing I can promise you. God does have a plan, He has a plan for you, a plan for His people. And in that and that alone is your hope and your future.
So, invest yourselves fully and get on with God’s work in this place right now. Which is to be His instruments of peace, love, charity, blessing, kindness, healing, forgiveness – seeking even prosperity for the enemy – because God loves them too – so that we might give God increase.
He really is a very different God to every other god. So believe!
Christ is a great adventure, because He is truly a Good God!
In this passage we read – when the 70 years for Babylon are over – then I will…. it seems God even had a plan for Babylon. And so He…..
2 Thes 2:16 – 17 May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His Grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.