Several years ago I heard a message by Dr. David Jeremiah. There were four points to his sermon that I wrote down and that I keep on my desk. I don’t remember all of the content of the message, but I know how these four points speak to me daily.
The reference passage for Dr. Jeremiah’s sermon was Jeremiah 29:4 – 13. While most of us are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, seldom do we acknowledge the context of this verse.
The Israelites were in exile because of their sin and God’s judgment. They wanted to go home, and a false prophet, Hananiah, prophesied that their bondage would be broken in two years time (Jeremiah 28:6). This sounded really good, but it was false. God did not abandon His people, but He acknowledged that the captivity would last 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10). God told the people to plant and harvest, to seek the peace of and pray for the city where they were in captivity. In other words, they were to keep busy until God’s timeline allowed them to go back to Jerusalem. In the meantime there was work for them to do.
God didn’t direct them to mope or mourn. He told them to pray for their captors and be a blessing to them. Jeremiah 29:11 is God’s encouragement to the people of Israel as they underwent this time of bondage.
Dr. Jeremiah gave the following four points to summarize God’s direction to the people of Israel. His direction didn’t involve overthrowing Nebuchadnezzar – that was God’s job – but they did direct the people’s’ actions to allow them to flourish in captivity.
- Be Faithful
- Be Fruitful
- Be Useful
- Be Hopeful
When I look at these four principals each day, no matter what is going on, they remind me that God always has a plan for His people.
- Be Faithful – Keep doing the things that you know are right. Continue trusting in God’s plan.
- Be Fruitful – Allow the Holy Spirit to control your actions and reactions, so that His fruit is fully displayed in your life (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control – Galatians 5:22, 23). Yield to God’s way over your own way.
- Be Useful – Look for ways to serve physical and spiritual needs. Wherever you are, whatever is happening in your sphere of influence, live positively and productively. Join in God’s work.
- Be Hopeful – Never forget that God IS in control. He does not forget His promises, and He ALWAYS keeps them.
We are all faced with difficulties and trials in this life, and sometimes it seems that we are in bondage with little hope for the future. God does not leave us there. He gives us work to do and challenges to keep, and He helps us make each day count.
Jeremiah 29:4 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
8 For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.
9 For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord.
10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.