A Future With Hope

by Rev. Randy Brown

Go back with me about a year. I don’t usually look back a lot at the beginning of the New Year, but I want to do that just for a moment this morning. Go back with me about a year and there were two buzzwords that were all in the news and all you had to say were these words and you didn’t have to say anything else. One was something about a cliff that we were getting ready to go over. Remember that? The other one was a tragedy known as Sandy Hook. Those two buzzwords were all that we needed and we didn’t have to say anything else about those situations.

Do you ever wonder about the future? About what this year is going to be? Jeremiah lived in the time such as that. He lived and he was with his people for 70 years in the wilderness. They had been given false hope from time to time. They had been disappointed. They had broken promises. They lived in the nation like that, the nation somewhat like ours. One day, Jeremiah spoke on behalf of the Lord.

The Lord told him to speak these words, “For I know the plans that I have for you. Plans for a future with hope, not plans for disaster, not plans for doom and gloom, but plans for a future with hope”. I want to ask you this morning as we come to the communion table in just a few moments, do you have a plan for 2014?

Do you have a plan? Will we exercise more and eat better? How many of us do still keep… I won’t ask for show of hands. Will we pray more? Will we read our Bibles more? Will we forgive more? How are we doing with that? It’s important to have a plan, but it’s more important to follow a plan. I think of a greeting card that I heard about years and years ago. I think it was Reverend Doctor Ben Haden at First Presbyterian in Chattanooga the first time I heard it and the greeting card went something like this.

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the New Year, ‘Give me a light, that I might tread safely unto the unknown.’ He said unto me, ‘Put your hand into the hand of God and it will be better to you than light and safer than a known way.’” Do you have a plan? Are you willing to follow God’s plan? God’s plan for us is tailor-made for us. It takes in our uniqueness into that plan. It’s a plan not that it has to do with the American dream because we think that’s God’s plan for us.

God’s plan is more than that. It’s to grow us. It’s to redeem us. It’s to receive us. It’s to have us to reflect his very nature. That’s God’s plan for us. Now, I want you to know that not everything that happens to you this year is going to be God’s plan. Not everything that happens is going to be God’s plan for you because we have the freedom to accept His plan or to reject His plan. With the rejection of His plan, there are consequences. Then sometimes other people get in the way, so not everything that happens to you in a particular year is God’s plan. He gives us the freedom to try to follow that plan.

Now, with following God’s plans, there’s another buzzword. That buzzword is this, “buy in.” Will you buy in to God’s plan? Now, I know some folks in this room will really enjoy this next couple of minutes. Are you Auburn people? You’ll really going to enjoy this. Yesterday, I was watching television yesterday afternoon and they were talking about the difference in Auburn this year and last year and how they’ve gone from last to first. They talked about, and they used the word over and over again, because when the new coaching staff got there, the players bought in to what the new coaching staff was telling them. They bought in to it.

You got to have a buy in whether it’s in your family, whether it’s in your search, whether it’s in your work, whether it’s your team, for success to come, there’s got to be a buy in. Anybody that’s done a thing successfully knows there comes a time when you got to buy in to it? You got to buy in to the plan. Are you willing to take God at his word and to buy in to what he has for you?

The question before the house this morning is this: Will you buy in to it? We’ve read his word. We’ve been told that there’s a plan for our future with hope, but will we buy into it? That’s the question before us this morning. His goal is for us to grow into the likeness of his Son, likeness of forgiving, likeness of love. There was an artist one time, a sculptor and there was a block of granite. And, as this sculptor was getting ready to make something out of this block of granite, a friend walked up and said, “What are you going to make there?” He said, “I’m going to make a horse.”

He said, “That’s a block of granite.” He said, “I know. Come back in a month and it’s going to be a horse.” He came back in a month and sure enough, that was a beautiful sculpture of a stallion – beautiful with intricate detail. The friend asked the sculptor, “How did you do that?” He said, “It was simple. I just chipped away everything that didn’t look like a horse.” That’s what God wants to do in my life and in your life. If there’s anything in our life that didn’t look like Jesus, He wants to chip and chisel away at it. That’s His plan for us. Will you buy in to it? Will you buy in to that plan?

Now, if you’re going to follow somebody and you’re going to buy in to their plan, the first thing you want to know about that person before you commit to buy in is what’s their track record? Whoever the Titans get as a new coach, they’re going to look at his track record. Before people are going to buy in to accepting him as a head coach, they want to know what he’s done in the past. Is he proven? Is this track record proven? Let’s look at that for a moment. Let’s look at God’s track record.

There was creation. Not bad, huh? There was the wilderness to which he led his people through. There was redemption. There was the cross. There was the empty tomb. There’s the resurrection. That’s not a bad track record. Folks, can you think of anybody else that can do that sort of thing? If we want somebody with a proven track record, we got it. The question remains, will we buy in? That’s the question. What’s keeping you from buying in? Do you think you can do better?

What’s keeping you from buying in to His plan? Without a buy in, there’s no benefit. Look at others who have bought in to what God says. Others who have bought in to hearing the Lord say, “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to give you a future with hope.” Other people have bought in to it. Look at Simon, Simon who was a reed. Do you know what a reed is? A reed is a blade of grass and a blade of grass can just blow like this. He said, “I’m going to take you from being a reed to a rock.” Simon Peter bought in to God’s plan and was changed from a reed to a rock.

Paul bought in to His plan. He was made a new creation. Zacchaeus bought in to his plan and had a houseguest. The widow from Nain bought in to his plan and her son was returned to her. Moses bought in to his plan and went from a basket case to a leader of the world. You all got that, didn’t you? Look at Noah and Jonah and Job. Look what happened in their lives when they bought in. Then look what happened to that woman who was caught in adultery and Jesus gave her a brand new life.

That’s the track record. That’s what has happened to other people when they’ve bought in to his plan. The question before the house is will you buy in to it? Will you buy in to His plan for you? Now, in His plan, I’ve got to be honest with you, there may be some detours. You may think you need to go here and God says, “No, let’s go around this way.” There may be some detours if you get and follow His plan. What do detours do? They keep you safe, right? There may be some detours on His plan but the destination is always sure. Will you buy in to it?

There was a little boy who was asked to memorize a scripture. The scripture that he was going to memorize was the 23rd Psalm. He practiced and practiced and practiced for days. He got ready to recite the 23rd Psalm. He said, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want…” and he stumbled. He looked and he caught his mind and he started over. Over and over again he started. Finally, in a fit of frustration, he said, “The Lord is my shepherd and that’s all I need to know.” He bought in to it didn’t he? The question is will you buy in to His plan? Will I? Will we?

Holy Communion reminds us that God has a plan. Holy Communion reminds us that He thought enough of us to put us in that plan. He has a plan. He left us a meal so that we would never forget that He had a plan. That’s what the book says and the book never lies. Let us pray.

Father, we confess to you that sometimes we like our plan, but our plan so many times is so shortsighted. Lord, you’ve had your plan for a long, long time. It’s always included us. It’s always been for our benefit. It’s always been to prosper us. Lord, help us in these moments when we come to Holy Communion to lay our plan down and to pick up your plan. To leave our plan with all the brokenness that it’s brought us, to leave our plan on the altar and to follow your plan from this day forward. Help us Lord to do whatever it takes to buy in to your plan for we know that it is the one who will never fail. Lord, in these moments, when we remember your plan, may it come alive in our hearts in Jesus’ name. Amen.