Thursday, October 1, 2009

One Day at a Time - In the Aftermath of Devastation (Jer 29:4-14)

The recent Typhoon Ketsana that devastated the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam turned many lives upside-down. Within a few hours, their cities were flooded chest high. People saw their children drown and loved ones swept away. People ran out of food and electrical power. Life looked out of control for them.

The Jews that Jeremiah wrote to in Jeremiah 29 also faced a similar challenge – their lives were out of control. Conquered by the Babylonians, thousands, including their king, were deported to Babylon. Will they ever see and worship in Jerusalem again? They had not expected everything to be turned upside-down like this! Undoubtedly, many of these Jewish exiles had faithfully followed God. Yet they too suffered devastation. Likewise, we Christians are not exempt from the tribulations of life, even when we have done nothing wrong.

I had a friend whose life once was turned upside down. He was an executive in a Christian ministry and was happy serving there. But a time came when his boss was upset with him and started treating him like a leper. My friend’s duties were taken away from him and it seemed like he was being forced to resign. It was so bad that he would wait till his wife was asleep so that she would not see him cry as he prayed to God.

How did he cope? He told me, “Every morning I woke up and asked God to give me a day not worse than yesterday. If someone needed help, I would do whatever I could. If there was any paperwork, I would finish it.” In short, one day at a time, he would just plod on and do a God-pleasing day of labour. Then he went home and thanked God for the grace to have lasted the day.

In looking at Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles, we see the same idea in his advice. The Jews were to do their best for God even in captivity. They were to settle down, grow crops, build houses and have children (Jer 29:5-7). In other words, they were to carry on with all the normal, mundane tasks of life, wherever they were. There was no talk of a miraculous deliverance from Heaven. Instead, they were to live one day at a time for seventy long years before they would be restored.

How did they endure it? By trusting in the One who made the promise, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11). The One who made that promise knows everything, sees everything and has power over everything. Although the waiting was difficult, the end-result was assured by God. The lesson for all of us is just to persevere, not in moaning and groaning, but in the tasks that God has entrusted to us.

It ended well for the Jews. Seventy years later, a remnant of them returned them back to their land. For some of us, though, our trials may not end soon enough. However, we can persevere because of our hope that the Kingdom of God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will be fulfilled. Many times, our victory lies not in the hope of a miraculous deliverance but in the hope of having the grace to live one day at a time.

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