by Kevin Cassil
As I am sitting down to write this article, I am not feeling very victorious. Perhaps that is all the more reason why I need to get this written – to remind myself and you that our God loves us very much and wants wonderful things for us.
I may be familiar with Jeremiah 29:11 – “‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.’” It seems though that sometimes I have a hard time believing that. I mean really believing it.
I find there is one enemy in particular that I face in this battle to believe. It’s the bad things I have faced or seen others face or that I conjure up in my highly creative, worrisome mind. I have gone through some really tough times in my life. My mind is keenly aware of the death of family members, wounded relationships, financial upheavals, and on and on. My “natural” mind has these right at hand when contemplating what the future might hold. Where is the prosperity? It’s far too easy to imagine the harm.
Jesus even warned us that, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” The world we live in is full of trials and sorrows. So, if even Jesus is telling me that I’m going to have many trials and sorrows, how can I have hope? If Jesus gives me such a gloomy forecast, what is our adversary, the devil going to do? Where is the hope in that?
The hope is in the reminder of the rest of that verse: “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” The hope is that the story doesn’t end with the trial and the sorrow. The reminder is that, yeah, we live in a messed up world. There is sickness; there is death; there is trouble of all kinds. But there is far more to it than all this messed up world has to offer.
When Jesus was praying on the night before He gave His life for us, He prayed to His Father, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” It is true that Jesus said in this world we will have trials and sorrows. We are in this world. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice – His overcoming the world – we are in this world, but we are no longer of this world. Because we are no longer of this world, our experience no longer stops with what the world has to offer. We have the hope of what our Heavenly Father has to offer!
The apostle Paul encourages us to “not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” He encourages us to change the way we think – don’t think as if what the world has to offer is the only option. Don’t think that the trials and sorrows of the world are the only possible outcomes. Don’t think that what the world has to offer – the ways the things of this world work are the best that you can hope for. Our Heavenly Father has “plans to prosper you, not to harm you.” He has “plans to give you a future filled with hope.” The God that we serve is not bound by the limits of this world. He is not constrained by the everyday stuff of this world. Yeah, we may have trials and sufferings because we are in this world. But it doesn’t end there, because our God gives us hope beyond the trials and beyond the sufferings that is not of this world!
In fact, Peter wrote that if we will recognize that we belong to God and that we need him – that is humble ourselves – He, Himself, will take care of us. Not only will He take care of us, He will exalt us! Peter said that because of the evil of this world, we will know difficulties, but because we belong to the great Heavenly Father, “after [we] have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
So, what does that mean? What can we expect from God?
You can’t even begin to imagine it! “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” In fact, our Heavenly Father “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” David sang, “How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.”
When we hold on to God in our trials and struggles and suffering – when we look at Him with the awe and honor that He deserves – when we look to Him as our hope, rather than to this world, at the right time, our loving Heavenly Father will lavish on us the great goodness He has stored up for us. He will bless us while the rest of the world watches. He will bless us far more abundantly that we can imagine – right here and now!
You want a taste of how extensive the lavish love of your Father is for you? Go out on a dark, clear night and see if you can count all the stars. With all of our technology, we continue to discover more and more. Your Father created all those stars. His love for you is greater than the expanse of the stars. His love and His power go far beyond the limits of our universe. And consider this: your Father can go well beyond the farthest-most star, and at the same time, is right there with you at this very moment. He is more awesome; more powerful; more loving than anything – any trouble; any pain; any trial – the world can conjure.
No wonder the Psalmist sang that those who trust in the Lord “do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.” So you may be going through a very difficult time right now. Your mind may be rehearsing all the trials and suffering you’ve seen and can imagine. You may not see how in the world you can make it through this. Take those thoughts captive, change the way you’re thinking, and remember that you may be in the world, but you are not of the world and your Heavenly Father has hope for you that far exceeds what you can ask or imagine. Hold on, because at just the right time, He, Himself, will bring to you the absolutely wonderful things He has already prepared for you.
copyright January 25, 2014, J. Kevin Cassil – all rights reserved
 John 16:33cNLT