Jeremiah 29:1-31; 1 Timothy 1:12-20; Psalms 86:1-7; Proverbs 20:13-15
OT: “This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Find wives for yourselves, and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.” For this is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you, and don’t listen to the dreams you elicit from them, for they are prophesying falsely to you in my name. I have not sent them.” This is the Lord’s declaration. For this is what the Lord says: “When seventy years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm my promise concerning you to restore you to this place. For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:4-13 CSB)
Jeremiah 29:11 is probably one of the most quoted passages of scripture in the Bible. It is an encouraging verse of scripture, and it was written to encourage the exiles in Babylon. However, that verse needs to be understood within the context of the full message that Jeremiah wrote, otherwise we risk missing its intended meaning and purpose.
There were false prophets among the Jewish exiles that were telling the people to not get settled, for God’s deliverance was coming soon. Within two years they would be back in the land of Judah and everything would be back to normal. Jeremiah wrote to the exiles to tell them that those prophecies were false. God was not going to deliver them within a couple of years. They were going to stay in exile for seventy years… an entire lifespan. Yes, God had promised to deliver them – but it wasn’t going to be soon. Jeremiah 29:11 was declared by God and written down for all to hear within that context. When God said, “I know the plans I have for you,” He was in essence saying this: “I’m pretty clear on what My plans are for you – and they aren’t what the false prophets are telling you. Do I have plans for you? Yes I do. Have I made promises to You? Yes I have. But the plans that I have are not your plans, and will not be rushed into prematurely fulfilling My promises. Listen to My words and do what I say, and you will flourish even in captivity – and you will position yourselves to be a part of My plans and ready to receive the promise when it comes.”
God had good plans for His people – for out of His people would come the Messiah who would bring salvation to the entire world. God’s plan had always been to bless His people so that they could be a blessing to all the nations. However, to be a part of His plans, His people needed to honor and obey His word, will and ways. They needed to stop seeking their own will and ways, repent, and seek Him with all their heart. Being a part of God’s plan and entering into His promise of a good future is all contingent on seeking the Lord, submitting to the Lord and obeying His word, will and ways.
The truth of Jeremiah 29:11 is that God does have plans for His people and His plans are always for their good and for a bright and glorious future. That doesn’t mean that God is bound to honor our plans for our lives. God is also not bound to bless us if we are ignoring or rejecting His word, will and ways. Often times, God’s plans for our lives are extremely challenging to our flesh. Often times God’s plans for our lives do not look anything like our plans for our lives. God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s definition of success is much different that the word’s definition of success. To fully enter into God’s prophetic plans and fully experience the fulfillment of His prophetic promises, we need to lay aside our plans, submit to His timetable, and seek Him with all our hearts.
NT: “I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry… This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” — and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and have shipwrecked the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:12, 15-19 CSB)
God had plans for Saul of Tarsus – but those plans ran completely contrary to Saul’s plans… so much so, that Saul vehemently and sometime violently opposed God’s plans… until Paul was arrested by the risen Lord Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus. It was there on the road to Damascus, after a lifetime of kicking against the goads, that Saul submitted fully to God’s plans and received God’s saving mercy and grace through faith. It was then that Saul and Saul’s plans died, and Paul entered into God’s glorious plan for his life. Part of God’s plan for Paul was to use Paul as a living testimony that God is willing and able to show mercy and save the most vilest of sinners, as long as they repent of their sin and place their faith fully on Him. Because Paul sought God and God’s plans with all his heart, countless numbers of people across the millennia have experienced God’s mercy and have been blessed with salvation.
Timothy had been given powerful prophetic promises over his life – but those promises would not be fulfilled if Timothy did not stand strong and fight the good fight of faith. Life in Ephesus for a submitted believer in Christ was extremely challenging. Ephesus was a pagan city given over to the worship of the Roman goddess Diana, goddess of wild animals and fertility. The temptation to compromise with the culture was strong, and some believers in the church had even shipwrecked their faith by capitulating to the pressure and ignoring their conscience. Undoubtedly, Timothy was discouraged – so Paul encouraged him to remember the promises that were spoken over him and continue fighting for the good hope that lay before him by faith.
God has good plans for our lives, and He has made many prophetic promises over our lives. But those plans and promises don’t just happen regardless of how we live our lives. We have to actively align our lives to God’s plans and actively fight for the fulfillment of God’s promises by grace through faith… and we do that by keeping our eyes on Christ and passionately seeking the Lord with all our hearts.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You have good and glorious plans for my life. I thank you that I have hope of a rich and glorious future in You. I realize that Your plans are not necessarily my plans… but Your plans are so much better and so much more fulfilling and satisfying than mine. What I have found over the years, is that as I lay down my plans and submit to Yours, You richly bless me with everything that I need and abundantly fill my life so that I can bless others. I gladly lay aside my plans and my preferences for the rich and satisfying plans that You have for me, and I trust that as things become challenging – as I remain faithful to You, You will be faithful to me and give me grace that is sufficient for every challenging thing. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.