The Reality of God’s Purposes

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
 
I love this verse and the encouragement it provides for the followers of God, but like many of us, I usually forget to read it in its proper context. If I read it on its own, I can mistakenly assume that God just wants me to be happy and successful (according to MY terms). But when MY dreams do not pan out, this gets confusing. However, when I put it together with the “before and after” verses, it offers so much more clarity.
 
This verse comes out of a letter from the prophet Jeremiah to the Jews living in exile in ancient Babylon (modern day Iraq if you need a visual). In chapter 28, we are introduced to the prophet Hananiah, who was offering the Jews false hope. His message was that their exile would not last long, and God would very soon deliver them from captivity. Apparently, this was not the message that God had been sending through other prophets, like Jeremiah. Hananiah died for his false prophecy. Jeremiah’s message to the Jews in chapter 29? Unpack your bags and settle in. You are going to be captives here in Babylon for 70 years. That doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it? At first glance,
 
Jeremiah’s prophecy makes it appear like God has it out to get the Jews. Not so. Read on. Verses 10-14 say that God has every intention of fulfilling his promises and has a plan to bring them prosperity. Part of the problem may have been that they did not define prosperity the same way God did. That certainly can be my problem too.
 
So what can I learn from these verses?
 
1. Be realistic about my current circumstances. This does not mean I stop praying for God to move or change my situation. But if stay focused on what I do not have, I will miss out on what I do have already. This is the key to contentment.
 
2. Grow where I am planted. I can recognize the opportunities God has given me where I am, using even the most difficult situations. Jeremiah instructed the Jews to use their exile as an opportunity to pray and promote peace in the land where they were living. They had the unique privilege of being a Godly example to the world around them. I should follow the same pattern.
 
3. Distinguish God’s plans for me vs. others’ plans for me. Just because a person in my circle of influence, including those I consider Godly counsel, gives me advice, does not necessarily mean it comes from God. We are guided in Scripture (Acts 17:11) to test the instructions of those in our Christian circle against the Word of God to make sure it is correct. Sometimes well-meaning, and typically wise Christians offer advice that really is based more upon opinion than instruction from God, and simply may not be meant for me. I need to pray for discernment, seek the Scriptures myself, and rely on the Holy Spirit to help me discover whether or not the counsel given is God’s intent for my life.
 
The good news is that God does have a plan for my life. I have learned that I have to stay focused on God’s will for me in order to remain content, because He knows me so much better than I know myself.
 
-Sarah Roberts, Worship Director

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