“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 (NIV).
This is an often quoted text within the Christian subculture. When people quote this, it seems that life is going well, or at least there is hope that life will go well soon. When we examine the context of this verse, things are not going well for the people of God. They are in exile. And it will be quite sometime before anything will change for them. God tells His people settle in this exile from Jerusalem for the long haul. It will be about seventy years before things change. The elders who receive this letter are too old to ever see it fulfilled in their life time.
On the world stage we find Christians being targeted for death. We saw this last week in the news when Al-Shabaab targeted Christians for death at a Kenyan university. In America, we are getting mixed messages from our media. On one hand last week, the popular Christian group, Hillsong UNITED, performed on NBC Today Show. Yet, on the other hand Christians in America seem to be increasingly living in exile in our own country. An example of this is found in John S. Dickerson’s, The Great Evangelical Recession:
In 2011, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that in a formal survey, American sociologists said they would be “less likely to hire” a job candidate who is evangelical. Of the sociologists interviewed, 39.1 percent overtly said they would discriminate against a job candidate who is evangelical.
It seems that Christianity is out of step with the prevailing culture. Today the prevailing culture is demanding that Christians keep their religious views more and more private. Your religious opinions can stay in your church buildings. But, do not bring the Lordship of Jesus Christ to have any influence over your life once the Sunday morning closing song has been sung.
How do you and I live in hope when life is hard and hard for a long time? How can we keep from going into despair? If we look to the surrounding verses, we find some action steps we can take to strengthen our hope:
- Continue to live even when life is hard (Jeremiah 29:5-6)
- Seek and pray for the welfare of the culture around you (Jeremiah 29:7)
- Be careful to whom you listen to as secular people try to shape your worldview (Jeremiah 29:8)
- Seek the Lord Jesus with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13)
When you do this you will be able to cope with the hardships of life (including living in exile) and with death because of the hope you have in Jesus Christ. Because the eternal life is ours, we can life with hope and courage!
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).