Summary: The nation of Israel was facing the unknown in exile in a foreign land, they needed to know God was there. Jeremiah gave them a message that brought comfort...

Sermon Brief

Date Written: May 23, 2013

Date Preached: May 26, 2013

Where Preached: OPBC (AM)

Sermon Details:

Series Title: Graduation/Graduate Sermon

Sermon Title: Graduation has come-What’s Next?

Sermon Text: Jeremiah 29:11-14a [HCSB]


This morning we have met 2 wonderful young people who have made great sacrifices in their lives to achieve a goal to move their lives ahead… to better themselves!

We are so proud of Jason and June and today we HONOR their grit and determination and their willingness to sacrifice to make a better life for themselves!

Not many people are able or willing to make the sacrifices these 2 have made and NOT many people achieve graduation after they start school… so today, Jason and June… we want to let you know how proud we are of you!

We want you to know how much we recognize the level of accomplishment you have reached because of your sacrifice! God bless you… continue to put Him first and I know He will use you in a great way for His kingdom!

ALSO today the Sunday before the Memorial Day holiday and many people look to this day as a 3-day weekend and a chance to barbeque and have a good time!

But Memorial Day means SO MUCH more than a 3day weekend… SO MUCH more than a barbeque and a good time!

Today, I want our church to take this opportunity to stand and honor the fallen soldiers who have given their lives to honor and protect this nation and its freedoms!

From the 1st Revolutionary soldier who died to the latest soldier who has given his life on the field in Afghanistan… there have been millions who have served and so many who have been willing to pay the ultimate price for OUR FREEDOM!

The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution stand as testaments of what can be achieved if you are willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Many people gave their lives so that our nation would shake off the shackles of tyranny and enter into the greatest experiment of government known to humanity!

Our nation stands today as a beacon for the rest of the world… a beacon of freedom and liberty… a beacon of hope and a new start!

We are NOT perfect and there are some in this nation who would see us TORN down and made into something totally different… but it is because of the people like these soldiers… that we still experience unparalleled freedom in our nation!

Without the sacrifice of these soldiers, we would NOT be a free nation…

Without the sacrifice of these soldiers, we would NOT have enjoy the prosperity and independence that we have enjoyed for the past 237 yrs… It is because of this sacrifice we are free!

This morning I want to also declare that we are standing HERE in this sanctuary… singing these songs… praying as we do… listening to this sermon… all because of a great sacrifice!

The sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary opened heaven’s door for all who profess Jesus as Savior… Jesus gave Himself for the sin of the world… Jesus laid down His life as a sacrifice to atone for the sin of the world…

Without the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary, we would NEVER know the supreme peace and comfort that comes with a relationship with the Creator God of the universe!

Without the sacrifice of Jesus our destination would be sealed and unchanging…we would be doomed to an eternity OUTSIDE the presence of God in a place the Bible calls HELL!

The sacrifice of Jesus SAVED us from the wrath of God and delivered us into the sweet grace of God! Today and EVERYDAY should be a Memorial Day for believers as we remember the sacrifice Jesus made to save us from HELL…

While we KNOW of the sacrifice of Jesus I want you to know that this is NOT some CHANCE thing that God decided to do in the spur of the moment…

God has planned this out since before the beginning of time and God KNOWS what is going to happen and the choices we are going to make!

With that being said… I believe that God’s will or the PLAN of God has been set forth BY God and we are part of that plan! This does not mean ALL of our actions are scripted by God… this does NOT mean we are robots without free will…

This simply means that God in His sovereign power has granted freedom of will to His creation… but He is such a great God that he already knows how things will end… what choices will be made… and who will accept Him and who will REJECT Him! But either way…accept Him or reject Him… God has a plan!

The nation of Israel was reeling from being conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and many of them had been captured and taken back to Babylon in captivity!

Many of them wanted to know what God’s plan was for them… there were some prophets who proclaimed that God was going to OVERWHELM the Babylonians and that Israel would soon be free to return home, but Jeremiah did not agree!

Jeremiah had prophesied the downfall of the nation and the captivity that was happening right now… In our passage this morning God has just instructed Jeremiah to tell the people that He was NOT going to rescue them at this time… but that they NOT to be disheartened!

In v.10 God said thru Jeremiah, 10For this is what the Lord says: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place…”

Here God lets the people know just how long their captivity will last… he lets them know that these prophets who were proclaiming God’s deliverance were false…and that Jeremiah was the true prophet of God!

God told them that they would be there for 70yrs and THEN He would move to free them… In a sense the people who had been exiled to Babylon were now commanded by God to sacrifice their lives in exile before He would bring the nation out and restore the nation…

But God did not ask them to sacrifice without some assurance… this brings us to our passage for this morning – READ Jer 29:11-14a here

11For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

14I will be found by you…”

Basically what God is saying here is, “I know I am asking you to sacrifice in captivity, but I also know I have a plan… MY PLAN is FOR you… it is a plan of GOOD not evil… a plan to PROSPER you not make you destitute!

God’s assurance here laid out a plan that gave the captives HOPE and ENCOURAGMENT to go on with their lives and serve Him while living in a foreign land!

You see captives taken back to the conqueror’s land were NOT treated well and MOST if not all became slaves and were badly mistreated!

These people were grasping at ANY hope they could find and the false prophets who were telling them that God was going to deliver them… gave them hope, and Jeremiah’s message seemed to take away hope!

But God’s msg thru Jeremiah here in this passage strips away any pretense about God’s intention for the nation.

THEY knew and understood that their nation had fallen because of their disobedience and rebellion against God… and I am sure many of them were expecting God’s punishment to be MORE severe!

But here God’s mercy and love is revealed thru the prophet Jeremiah… a message of hope and a clear mandate from the God of the Universe that He had a plan to prosper them at the given time!

So this was a great message of hope for these people…even though they knew they were going to be there for 70yrs!

Why is this message a message of hope? How does this message from God reveal the love and mercy of God?

This morning we will look at this passage and see just how what this message is saying and discover why it IS a message of hope and a revelation of God’s love & mercy!

The first reason we see this as a message of hope and a revelation of God’s love/mercy is found in the simple point that reveals to His people that…

God Has A Plan for you – v.11

11For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. [show 1st highlighted v11]

“Are we there yet?” are the infamous words that parents hear from the back seat during family outings, especially when those outings require lengthy road trips!

Think about it from the child’s point of view… did you sit down with them and discuss your planned route and estimated time on the road? Did you tell them what your ‘plans’ were for the trip? NO… you didn’t… and WHY didn’t you tell them?

Well for the most part, they wouldn’t understand… but also they may not even be interested in the details! When you tell a child that you are going to DisneyWorld… they don’t CARE about the details… they just want to get to DisneyWorld!

And when we get on the road and hear, “Are we there yet?” we also don’t stop the car and pull out a map to show them where we are and how much longer it will be.

You see the ‘Are we there yet?’ question from the backseat is NOT about the details… its about the waiting! The kids in the backseat don’t CARE about the details!

You see they ask that question because they want the waiting to stop… to a child, it is the waiting that is so brutal… and because they don’t know any better we get “ARE WE THERE YET?” many, many times until we get there!

The nation of Israel was IN the backseat (so to speak) here and they wanted to know when God was going to restore them back to their land!

They cried out to the Lord and many false prophets spoke up and said what the people wanted to hear… but one particular prophet spoke the WORD of the Lord!

You see God had a plan and Jeremiah told the people to TRUST God and His plan for them… this became a source of comfort for many of the people!

God told them to build homes and settle in and that they would be there for at least 70yrs… but God also made a promise to them that He had a plan for them AFTER those 70 yrs!

Now when the kids are in the backseat and playing and acting up… they are bored and cry out, “Are we there yet?” in their whiniest voice!

Usually then it is mom who will say something that will calm them down, and they go back to what they were doing… playing, sleeping, or reading…

You don’t hear the children crying out… OH NO! Dad, do you know where you are going? This is because the children know Dad, and that whenever Dad is driving, they have always arrived at their destination.

You see this is what the nation of Israel was facing… they did NOT want to wait… they wanted to get back to their land… but they also knew that the FATHER had a plan, and He had always delivered on His plans for them!

Today, graduates, you are stepping out into life…

Jason, you have graduated with your Doctorate and you are stepping out into life…

June, you have graduated from one level of college and your goal is to advance to the next level of college…

Daniel, you have graduated from High School and you may want to go to college OR you may have other ideas about your future…

BUT here is what I want ALL 3 of you to know… God has a plan for you! His plan is just like the plan He had for the nation of Israel…[show 2nd highlighted v11] it is a plan for your welfare, not for disaster… His plan is to give you a future and a hope…

His plans are NOT our plans… He knows what lies ahead in our future… we do NOT! God has a plan for all of His children, and we need to heed His plan!

Graduates, I challenge you today to seek God’s face… seek to know God’s plan for you and your life! You can do this by reading God’s word on a daily and regular basis… You can do this by meditating on God’s word and praying to God for direction in your life!

You can know God’s plan by beginning to live your life as God has called us to live our lives as His children… through His word!

How can I KNOW God’s plan preacher? I don’t know where to start!! Well that brings me to my 2nd point! [show v12 here]

God Has an Ear you – v.12

12You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.

In this passage God told His people to call on Him… to go to Him in prayer and that HE WOULD LISTEN!

How comforting is it when we KNOW that the person we are trying to communicate with actually sits down with us and gives us their ear… allows us to share our hearts and they sit and actually listen to what we are saying!

Communication is the KEY to any relationship and when 2 people are willing to sit down and LISTEN to one another, the relationship grows and become closer and closer!

Here God is telling the nation that HE is going to be there to hear their prayer during this difficult time of sacrifice and exile… He is going to be there to LISTEN to their heart’s cry!

When we face troubles here in this life… we want someone to share our troubles with… but the problem with that is NO ONE wants to hear our problems because they have problems of their own… let me share with you what I mean!

When we meet someone we know in the hallway of the church or on the street and we greet them with, “Hey, how are you?” what is the NORMAL response to that greeting?

The normal response is “I’m fine, how about you?” but the normal response is NOT always the honest response! The honest response may be ‘Well I’m not doing so well because of this or that…’ But we all know that others just don’t want to hear about our problems so we just say… “I’m fine…”

OR if we are on the other end of the conversation we are hoping that they won’t tell us what is wrong because we really don’t have TIME to listen… and this is such a sad testimony about ME…about believers… about the church!

We should be willing to sit down with a brother or sister in the Lord and help them to bear up their burdens! We should have the “Good Samaritan” mentality when it comes to listening and responding to our brothers and sisters in Christ… AND to the world around us!

Here God assures the people that HE IS THERE and that HE IS LISTENING! This is an ACTIVE participation by God with His people… God is taking the initiative here… setting the stage for them to come to Him when they need Him!

Likewise, today we can rest in that same promise… a promise that assures us that God is there and God is listening! That in and of itself is comforting… but just listening is NOT what God is doing!

Graduates, this should be comforting news for you… now that you have achieved this goal, you may have doubts and fears about what the future holds for you… where do I go from here? What is going to happen? Where will I end up?

Well I call on you to rest on the promise that when you call on God, HE will listen…God will listen to you, but greater still…. God will respond when we come to Him! When we come to Him with our prayers…

When we lay our burdens at His feet…

When we seek His direction and wisdom… GOD not only listens but God ANSWERS!

Not only does God have an EAR for you but we can also see from this passage that…[show v13-14a here]

God Has Time you – v.13-14a

13You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you…”

What God is saying here is NOT that we would have to FIND God, but that HE WOULD BE THERE FOR US!

You see it is NEVER God leaving us, but it is us turning away from God! God never leaves us… this verse is a reference to His people turning back to Him and re-discovering that He never left their side!

When you were a child and you got scared or you got hurt… and you cried out for MOM or DAD… do you remember how it felt when they dropped everything and came running?

As a parent I know what it means to drop everything and go running to my child… AT 2 yrs old, our oldest daughter Joanna was playing in front of our house when she was hit by our neighbor backing out of his driveway…

I had taken my brother in law to the base gym to play some basketball and have some away time from the children… But in the middle of this enjoyment time, there was a phone call… Joanna had been hit by a car and they were on the way to the hospital!

I don’t remember what I said or did… my memory is only of me in my car and speeding toward the base hospital…

I DO remember running every stop sign between the gym and the hospital… I did not care about what the consequences may be… I just needed to get to my child who needed me!

I can remember hearing her crying as the ambulance pulled into the emergency room driveway… I remember her screams as they told me I would have to go inside the x-ray room with my precious baby girl! I remember trying to sooth her as they strapped her in a harness to x-ray her to see if there were any broken bones…

I can remember her cries of ‘Daddy, daddy’… I can remember her reaching for me and wanting me to take her away from all this… she was scared and hurting! I could not take her away, I could not stop the pain… all I COULD do was BE THERE…

My daughter still carries the physical scars from this terrible day, but what I DO know is that she does not remember the pain!

What she does know is that mommy and daddy were there for her then and all thru her life! And we STILL are there for her, even as she has her own 2 children…

This is how God feels about ALL of his children… He WANTS to be there for us… He wants us to CRY OUT to Him, and when we do, we are going to FIND HIM! He wants us to know that HE WILL BE THERE!

The nation of Israel was in pain… in shock… desperate for something to happen… they were crying out! God answered their prayers thru the Prophet Jeremiah and told them that He would be there for them! He laid out His plan and assured them He was listening to them…and then He assured them He would BE THERE FOR THEM!

It is one thing for someone to say, I love you and I support you and I am there for you… but it is a totally different story when the rubber meets the road and they are ACTUALLY THERE FOR YOU!

You see, God is not a casual friend… God is a friend who has promised to BE THERE for us when we need Him! This was His promise to Israel as they endured captivity and exile… and this is His promise to US as we have to endure the fallen and broken world of sin that we live in today!

We will constantly be bombarded by the evil of this world, but we can rest assured that God has a plan… God is listening and that God is THERE FOR US! Even when we don’t understand why He does things the way He does things…

I am sure that the people of Israel did NOT understand why they had to stay in exile, but it was God’s plan and we find that some 70yrs later God delivered on His promise as Ezra and Nehemiah lead the people back to Jerusalem and the nation is restored!

Graduates, there is going to come a time in your life when the world HURTS you and things are NOT going your way! A time when you cry out to God for His plan… for His ear… and for His presence! I want you to know that this is His promise to you… that He will be there for you!

We are NOT alone…we have God who has told us that He will never leave us NOR forsake us, but we also have each other (which is also God’s presence and plan as well)… we are here for each other… we are called to minister TO each other!

God has a plan… His plan for us is to prosper not destruction… his plan for us is for good not evil! We must believe that EVEN when we don’t understand God’s plan! The nation of Israel did not understand His plan, but God delivered for them…

[show slide for 3 points here]

Graduates! And everyone else here this morning I want you to remember these three things:

God has a plan for you

God has an EAR for you (He will listen), and

God has time you (He will be there)

If you can remember these things as you read your Bible and pray every day, you will be able to NOT ONLY survive in this world BUT you will be able to THRIVE and SERVE Him in a great way!

Today you may be here and have questions about your life and what is in store for you… I am here to tell you God has a plan, God is listening and that God is THERE FOR YOU!

Today you may be here and NOT know about God… you may NOT know about Jesus and what He has to offer you! You may think that YOU have everything under control, but I want you to know that there will come a time when life gets OUT OF CONTROL for you… and you will not be able to handle it!

This is the time that you can turn to God! This is the time you can turn to Jesus! Today may be that time… today you may feel that life is spinning out of control and you have NO answers!

I assure you that God has a plan, God is listening and that God is HERE FOR YOU! Turn to Him today and know His love… turn to Him today and know His mercy… turn to Him today and know His salvation!

As Bro Ken leads comes to lead us in our hymn of invitation… I want you to push aside your pride… I challenge you to stop struggling against the tide of this world and turn it over to God! He has a plan, he is listening and He is HERE… TODAY… RIGHT NOW – for you!

Are you here today and you KNOW Christ as your savior but you are spinning out of control because of decisions you have made… The children of Israel were God’s children, but they had made terrible decisions… decisions that landed them in exile and banished from their home land!

BUT the prophet Jeremiah assured them that God had a plan for them… that God was listening TO them and that God was there FOR them!

Today… you can turn to God… turn to Him and submit to His plan… Turn to Him in prayer – He WILL listen… turn to Him in your life… HE WILL BE THERE FOR YOU! As Bro Ken leads us… I ask you to come!