“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.” - Jeremiah 29:11
I’m a bit of a literary nerd. I love reading. I probably read more than about 90% of the adults that I know. Anywhere between two and three hours of a normal day for me are spent reading—and not just the Bible and other Christian books! While they certainly comprise a great deal of my reading life, I also enjoy reading about history, fictional stories, short stories (love that Mark Twain!), random blogs, and plenty of other literary pieces that aren’t coming to mind right now.
I’m especially fond of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby, set in an early 1920s New York City, is a tale that—to me at least—is primarily about unyielding hope. The narrator Nick Carraway reveals early on that he admired this about the title character Jay Gatsby, an incredibly wealthy—if not shrouded in mystery—young man who lives in a palatial mansion next door. About Gatsby he says, “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life … an extraordinary gift for hope.”
Ultimately, this relentless hope led to Gatsby’s downfall. If you’re looking for a pick-me-up piece of literature, The Great Gatsby probably isn’t it.
But don’t you sometimes feel that way? That all of the hope you roll out of bed with is squashed by the time you slide back under the covers at night? That the dreams and aspirations you had as a child have been crushed by the reality of life?
I know that I do. Hopefulness can be replaced by hopelessness as quickly as it takes to answer a phone, or with just a few words of a rejection, or with an astoundingly unpredictable series of events in the final minutes of an NFC Championship game. (Sorry … as a Packers fan I’m still trying to shake off that game against Seattle to play in the Superbowl.)
Then you read those words of Jeremiah above and scoff. “Plans to prosper you? Plans to give you hope and a future? Really, God? Haaaaaaave you seen my life lately? Have you seen my angry, depressed, lonely tears the past few weeks? That’s your idea of prosperity? That’s your idea of hope? I’ve been waiting a long time for my happy ending—but you must have forgotten about me with everything else going on.”
I wonder if the prophet Jeremiah felt the same way. He had just watched his beloved city Jerusalem razed to the ground. It had gone from tremendous glory to a heap of rubble. The temple of the Lord lay in smoldering ruins, all its gold and bronze and beautiful decorations stripped away by the Babylonians. Most of the people either lay dead on the ground or had been dragged away to a faraway land to finish their lives in captivity.
Prosperity? Hope? Future? Hogwash!
But you must realize something about God’s idea of “hope” and “future.” When he uses those words, he means a whole lot more than the glory of a temple. He means a whole lot more than financial security. He means a whole lot more than meaningful relationships. He means a whole lot more than peace with your in-laws. He means a whole lot more than successful entrepreneurial endeavors. He means a whole lot more than the physical health of you, your wife, your kids, or your parents.
He means to give you a hope and a future that never die.
He means to give you a hope and a future which are found in his one and only Son, Jesus.
We tend to see concepts of “hope” and “future” in terms of what we can do, accomplish, and experience during the spans of our mortal lives. The financial security, loving relationships, and Superbowl appearances whose joy lasts for but a breath of time.
God sees hope for you in an everlasting future with him. A future made possible through the death of his Son Jesus. By his suffering on the cross, Jesus has obliterated a future of hopeless anguish for you in hell. By his resurrection from death, he has guaranteed for you a future of everlasting hope that endures throughout this life, beyond death, and into the life to come.
The Apostle Paul writes, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Did you get that? Not even worth comparing. Trying to compare all the bad stuff now with all the incomprehensible beauty and peace of heaven is like looking for a scale to determine whether your bowling ball is heavier than your feather. The hope that we have is a hope in that future glory. It's that hope which sustains God's people even now as we trudge through the muck of our chaotic, and often hopeless, lives.
This week’s series is entitled “Resolutions.” I’m sure you’re smart enough to realize that this coincides with the time of year that many dedicate to New Year’s resolutions.
I would encourage you to add to your list of resolutions this word “hope.” Make hope such a part of your everyday activities and thoughts that it becomes a part of who you are for the rest of your life. God has given you hope and a future. Live in that hope. Die in that hope. And live again forever in that hope.
If you place your hope in earthly security—or, like Gatsby, in an idealistic idea of love—you will ultimately find disappointment 100% of the time. So here’s some homework for you:
- Grab a piece of paper.
- Write on it all the areas of your life where you have placed false security.
- Write on it all the areas of your life in which you feel hopeless, or that God has let you down.
- Bring these things before your God in prayer. Ask forgiveness for those areas of life in which you have placed your trust instead of in God’s future for you. Then ask God for strength in the areas of your life where you feel hopeless, so that in all things, good or bad, all of your hope might rest upon his promise of life in Christ Jesus.
- Finally, open your Bibles to Revelation 21 and 22. Get some perspective here of that picture of everlasting peace and security which awaits God's people.
May our hope always rest securely on God's promises for your future, through faith in his Son Jesus.