Class of 2011, your class motto is “as long as we have memories, yesterday remains. As long as we have hope, tomorrow awaits.” Hope is a little magical word. It’s one of those things that you don’t talk about a lot, but that you use every day.
I hope to graduate in time. I hope you feel better. I hope to get a good job. I hope this guy doesn’t talk a long time.
What is hope?
“Hope is a vision for better days that changes us in the present.” Hope looks around the corner to tomorrow or the future. Hope is a picture in your mind of what things could become. Hope also motivates us for today. For example, if you hope to graduate in time, you will work hard to pass all your classes. If you hope someone feels better you might do something nice for them to lift their spirits or to help them in some way. And if you hope to get a good job, you will work hard and apply at good jobs.
To better understand hope, I want to introduce to you the prophet of hope, a man named Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a real figure of history. Around the year 627 B.C., when Jeremiah would have been about a junior in High School, God came to him and said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as prophet to the nations”
He had a rough time. No one would listen to him. He only saw two people turn to God even though he preached his whole life. He warned the nation of Judah that God would punish them if they did not repent and turn from their wicked ways and return to God. The people thought they were safe because they were God’s people.
Have you ever had an attitude of invincibility? You might think that nothing really bad could ever happen to you. Or that your family will always take care of you no matter what trouble you might get into. Or that you think you are a good person so you don’t really deserve anything bad to happen to you. If we are honest, I think every one of us would admit that we live from time to time with privilege. And we could think of reasons why bad things shouldn’t happen to us.
The people weren’t “safe” because they lived in Israel. The Assyrians invaded and by 722 BC, over the course of about 20 years, the Jewish people were held captive in the Assyrian capitol of Babylon.
3 different ways Assyria could have treated the Jewish peope:
1) Killed them all
2) Make them slaves
3) Force them to integrate into the Assyrian society.
God told the people to make Nineveh their home, to settle down, have kids, and plant gardens. It’s also crazy that God told them to “seek the welfare of the city” and to “pray to the Lord on its behalf.” I wouldn’t want to do that, but that was God’s instructions for the people.
God wanted them to hope for a return, though.
1. Hope is about a promise. (Jer. 29:10-11)
God’s promise to the people is that he will bring them to their land. He wanted them to realize that this was not the end for them, but that they have a bright future ahead of them.
In the same way, you will suffer setbacks in your life.
Remember these three things:
-Bad things will happen.
-You will get through the rough times.
-Learn from the bad things.
Dale Carnegie, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
2. Hope brings risk.
There was risk for Jeremiah as he followed God’s lead, and there will be risks for you as you follow God’s leading.
Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
I would add: Do one thing every day that takes faith.
3. Hope is about a person.
The people in Jeremiah’s time were hoping for a deliverer – a Messiah. In Jer. 33:15-16 this person is called a “righteous Branch” from the line of David. And his name is “the Lord is our righteousness.”
God’s plan for you about having a future with hope isn’t to make you the center of your own life. The best plans that God has for you is to make him Lord of your life.
One of my favorite pastors said, “If you want to ensure that your life becomes a tragedy, become the hero of your own story.” The Bible teaches us that we are all sinners separated from God. And just like the people that Jeremiah preached to, we need a Savior. And like them, we need to repent, to turn from our sins by asking forgiveness through Jesus’ death and resurrection and victory over sin.
Hoping in yourself or the things of this world will only fail you. This world is temporary and it will let you down. Hope for things not seen and fully trust God.
As Romans 8:39 says “nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”