God Promises Us a Future and a Hope

Dr. Brian Allison

Are you having a trying week? Is it a difficult time for you? What has been happening in your life? Maybe you are saying: "What is God doing in my life? What is there to look forward to? It seems that I am having difficulty after difficulty. It seems that the pressures do not let up. I find myself going from pillar to post, and it hurts." Or maybe you are asking, "Why is He allowing that son (or daughter) to challenge me? Why is it that I continue to hear bad news from overseas? Why is it that God has now seen fit to reveal to me something very hurtful and abusive that took place in my life many years ago?" Although you may ask yourself these kinds of questions, I want you to remember that God is ever faithful and good. Never forget that truth when life does not seem to make sense. When things seem to be going awry, remember that God is still in control of your life and to Him everything makes perfect sense.

Jeremiah 29:10-14 provides us with the proper perspective, especially when the dark and gloomy days come; and they will come, if they are not already here. It reads, "For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and bring My good word to you, to bring you back to this place [Jerusalem and Judea]. For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the Lord, 'and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.'"

Jeremiah dictated this prophecy some 600 years before the coming of Jesus Christ. Israel had sinned grievously against the Lord; and by way of judgement, God sent His people into captivity. He brought them under the domination and oppression of the Babylonian nation. But all was not bleak, nor hopeless, for God had a plan for them.

God has plans for His people

God is in control, and has clearly set out how matters will unfold for us; therefore, we need not be concerned – "For I know the plans I have for you" (29:11a). God is sovereign; our lives are in His hand. He has an invested interest in His people. He is personally attached to us and has determined how our lives will progress. Accordingly, we are not to worry. We are not to become anxious, even though our lives appear to be chaotic and directionless; God is in charge. Our heavenly Father is steering the ship and He knows the port to which we are to find rest. You may think that your life is filled with uncertainty, but God says to you also, "I know the plans that I have for you. I know exactly how your life will unfold. I not only know it, I have determined it."

God's plans for His people are good

God's plans for His people are ultimately good – "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope'" (29:11a,b). God's plans for His people are characterized by peace. God says that He is concerned about your well-being. The plans that He has laid out are plans that ultimately involve contentment and satisfaction, and not trouble, difficulty, or misery. There will be a future and a hope for you; that is, there will be something wonderful to which you may look forward, even though your life, at present, may be characterized by pain and trouble.

My brothers and sisters, that is good news. God has resolved to bless us. It is predetermined (i.e., He knows exactly what He is going to do); it is set out before hand. It is already established in His mind. He says, "I know the plans..." He is the One who knows the end from the beginning; and not only does He know it, He has also determined it. That should give you assurance; that should give you confidence; that should give you peace of mind, even though your life right now may be like a roller-coaster.

When God says that He has plans for our welfare and not for our calamity, for our future and hope, we should remind ourselves that He is not necessarily talking about material and physical prosperity, though the welfare may include that. God's blessings span the whole gamut of human experience. We are also talking about emotional and spiritual prosperity. Maybe you are struggling now with fear or morbid shyness. God says, "Listen, I know the plans that I have for you, you are going to have a future and a hope. You will ultimately experience courage and peace." Maybe you are struggling in your Christian walk right now; maybe you are in a period of spiritual darkness, overwhelmed with guilt, sensing that God is far away. Well, God says, "I have plans for your welfare." And maybe it will be a deepening of your prayer life; maybe it will be the acquiring of a deeper thirst and demonstration of holiness.

You need to be encouraged, my friend, because the God of love is the One who has these plans. Do you see what that means? Again, because He is the God of love, His plans must be good. Now that is a simple truth, but how often we forget it. How often we think that God is not for us because life seems to be a bit difficult and unpleasant, and we have begun to shed some tears. But Jesus Christ is the 'same yesterday, today, and forever'. As the God of love, He comes to His people in kindness and provision.

God's plans for His people often involve suffering

Though God's future plans for us necessarily entail ultimate good, suffering and pain may precede those plans, and actually prepare for their coming and disclosure – "For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, I will bring you back to this place'" (29:10). Again, Israel had sinned against the Lord who is of 'purer eyes to behold iniquity and cannot look favourably on sin'. Because God is holy, He is a God of judgement. But out of love, He chastised His people, and He said to them that they would go into captivity. There would be a period of suffering; but after they had been chastised, God would fulfil His good word in bringing them back to their land. The point is this: God, though meaning and purposing good for us, is pleased to allow misfortune, difficulty, and pain to come into our lives. However, you should not draw the conclusion that God does not care for you, or that He is not in control of your life, or that He is not guiding you. When things go awry at work and your employer 'gets on your case', you ought not to draw the conclusion that God no longer takes an interest in your situation. When you hear some tragic news concerning a friend, or even a bad report concerning your own health, you ought not to draw the conclusion that God has abdicated His throne, that He is no longer evidencing an invested interest in your life.

In the mysterious ways of God, this period of suffering and pain has the spiritual design of preparing us for the blessing. Sometimes we may fail to recognize that; and not only do we draw wrong conclusions, but also we may lash out at God, and we may question Him concerning His wisdom and goodness. We may defiantly demand an answer from God for why He seems to be treating us in a poor way. Yet, continue to remember that often the suffering is a prelude to the blessing. No doubt, you have often heard that 'there is no crown without a cross'. God is pleased to wean us of our pride; He is pleased to wean us of our self-righteousness. He is pleased to wean us of our selfishness and hypocrisy; and when He has achieved that end, according to His pleasure, He will come with a blessing. It was true of Israel and it will be true of us.

Some verses that are very precious in this connection are found in Psalm 119: "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy word" (v. 67). What is the psalmist saying? It is because of the pain and suffering – for example, that relationship that did not work out, or that tragedy of a son who overdosed on drugs, or that hurt of separation – that a believer makes his path straight. The end of affliction is obedience. Again, we read, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes" (v. 71). The psalmist did not react to his adverse circumstances; he did not bemoan his trying situation; he did not cry out, "Lord, what are you doing?" No, instead he praised God's wisdom in his personal suffering. Often, God needs to get our attention, and that may be painful for us. Again, we read, "I know, O LORD, that Thy judgements are righteous, and that in faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me" (v. 75). The psalmist realized that what had happened to him was necessary, though he may not have fully understood it.

Do you realize that there is this spiritual design to your suffering? God-ordained suffering is not designed to weaken your faith, but rather to strengthen it by driving you to God for comfort and relief. Think about why you may be having difficulty with a friend or with a husband or with an employee; or why you may be going through financial problems. Have you ever thought that God may be trying to get your attention? He is pleased to make you hurt for awhile that you might turn to Him, not because He hates you, but because He loves you and He wants all of you; and He will not settle for anything less. God wants all of you, or He wants none of you.

Your confidence during this time of suffering is that God determines a set time for the suffering? For example, Israel went into captivity for seventy years. Similarly, God appoints the duration of suffering for you; and there will be different times of suffering. Any given time of suffering may be for 3 or 4 years; or it may be for 1 or 2 weeks. We think of such men as Luther, Augustine, and Bunyan who went through periods of deep spiritual suffering before the light of freedom and peace came. God is pleased to eventually come to restore and to prosper. Wasn't that true of Job? When we turn to the book of Job and read the opening chapter, we discover that Job was the wealthiest man in the East. What did he have? He had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen and 500 donkeys, and 10 children. The Lord was pleased to bring excruciating suffering into his life. The Lord removed all his possessions and destroyed his children. And, yet the words of Jeremiah 29:11 could have been spoken to Job: "For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope." And so, at the end of his ordeal, after the appointed time of suffering had concluded, we read that the Lord gave double back to Job: 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 oxen and 1,000 donkeys, and 10 children (the first ten did not utterly perish; there souls continue).

God expects His people to seek the fulfilment of His plans

With this promise and assurance to bless with a future and a hope, God expects His people to seek Him for it during the time that they are waiting for it – "Then you will call upon Me [during this time of waiting] and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you" (v. 12). Notice that the action referred to in this verse 12 should not be viewed as following chronologically to the action referred to in the previous verse 11 (i.e., God knowing His plans for His people) – that is, the actual calling and praying do not come after God's knowing. The 'then' of verse 12 may be translated 'and', so that the calling and praying of God's people should take place during the time of waiting in which God definitely knows what He is going to do.

So, God has planned good, and we are to seek that good. And in the mystery of God's purposes, one reason why He is pleased to promise and offer us goodness and prosperity is so that we may actually seek it. God offers and promises prosperity in order to encourage us and to open up our hearts to seek that prosperity. His promise should become our propulsion, our motivation. God expects His people to seek that which He has promised. For example, God wants to increase the membership of the Church; He delights in spiritual converts. Accordingly, He wants us to seek Him for it. Do you believe that?

When God invites us to call upon Him, He simply wants us to cry to Him. The point is that we must recognize that He is the source of our goodness and blessing. Further, when God invites us to pray to Him, He simply wants us to come in total dependency upon Him, knowing that unless He moves, nothing will significantly happen; and it is in prayer that we have power with God because prayer is union with God.

Do you see the progression as we move from verse 12 to verse 13? God does not simply want us to come and ask for His blessings, He wants us to come and seek the Blesser. God does not want us to come simply for the sake of what He can give us, but He wants us to come that we might embrace the Giver – "And you will seek Me and find Me [not simply the blessings, but Me!], when you search for Me with all your heart" (v. 13). There is a parallel meaning between verses 12 and 13. In verse 12, it refers to 'calling' and 'praying', but in verse 13 it refers to 'seeking', but the two verses refer to the same activity. This concept of 'seeking' entails these two elements of 'calling' and 'praying', and thus defines the very notion of 'seeking'. For example, with respect to 'seeking' entailing 'calling', Proverbs 1:28 (which is a Hebrew parallelism – that is, the second statement echoes the first) reads, "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me;" again, Isaiah 55:6 reads, "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near." Further, with respect to 'seeking' entailing 'calling', we read in Zechariah 8:21,22, "And the habitants of one will go to another saying, 'Let us go at once to entreat [i.e., to pray] the favour of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of Hosts; I will also go.' So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat [i.e., to pray] the favour of the Lord." Accordingly, when the Scriptures teach us to seek God, it is instructing us to call upon and to pray to Him.

We are to seek God's presence. Again, not only are we to call upon and pray to God for His blessings (i.e., His favour), we are also to call upon and pray to Him because of who He is. We should come to God not simply because of what He can give to us, but because of what He means to us. We come to Him for His own sake. Now, this is something we choose to do. You choose to call upon God, you choose to pray. It is not primarily a matter of feelings; it is a matter of commitment. We are to be committed in seeking God for His blessings, and we are to be committed in seeking God for Himself.

Do you see how we are to seek Him? – "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (29:13). You will only spiritually and personally find God when you earnestly pursue Him as precious treasure. I suspect that some who are reading this article want to find God; and your heart is crying out to Him. You want to draw closer to God; and yet you may have the wrong understanding that this experience is just going to happen, that in some sense God will magically show you His mercy, regardless of what you are doing or how you are living. No! Only when you assume the responsibility of diligently searching for God, will you know the joy and power of His presence.

A number of months ago someone gave my wife and me a sizable cheque in order to finance my continuing education. My wife put the cheque away in a very good place. It was so good that we could not find it! She hunted high and low. She gave undivided attention to the search. She was preoccupied with it. She finally found it. That is what God is saying to us: when we search for Him with all our hearts, then we will find Him. And the good news is that God allows us to find Him.

We have the assurance that we will find God, that we will discover Him, when we pursue Him sincerely and intensely – "And I will be found by you" (29:14a). That is, we will truly know His presence, and thus His favour; we will experience the happiness which He has planned for us. When my son was about 5 years old, we went to the Canadian National Exhibition. At one point, he saw something that captivated his attention. While he was captivated, I was slipping away, but I did not take my eyes off him. He subsequently turned around and discovered that I was not there. He was petrified, and he cried out, "Dad!" And immediately I let him find me, responding to his desperation and his fear. And that is true of God towards us. In calling upon Him in your desperation and fear, in your need and pain, God is pleased to let you find Him. And in finding Him, you find His favour – "And I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, " declares the LORD, "and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile" (29:14).

Do you want God and His prosperity? Do you want to experience God's presence and favour, or are you just expecting to receive these blessings because God is supposed to be good? How is your prayer life? Are you calling upon Him? Are you turning around, as it were, in your desperation and need, and crying, "Father!" Are you seeking Him with your whole heart? If you are, then this is God's word to you: you will most definitely find Him, and in finding Him, you will find your all in all. That is good news!