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"For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 'Then you will call upon 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 29:11–13)
As followers of Jesus Christ, we know that we are blessed even as we face the trials and temptations of our adversary. It is, as we know, the way of this world which has been fractured by sin and therefore under the curse. A world which is in the dominion of Satan the Prince of the Air who works his evil plan through his demons and men. His mission is the battle that we fight not only against our flesh but that of other flesh. Greater than that our battle is against evil forces in the heavenly places, spiritual warfare that requires the power of God to overcome. (Ephesians 6:12) Many preach a gospel of “health and wealth” to the lost, and it misleads them to believe that in this world, the trials and temptations will be far from them. They often cry out to God in dismay and ask “why is this evil happening to them?” I have questioned God in times of trial, and I would not say that I never will again. We naturally question the events of our life when we think they should not be as they are. God never promises a carefree vacation while we live in this world. God only promises that if we remain faithful to His Word, Jesus Christ, that because Jesus overcame we can also. We have work to do for the Kingdom of God here on earth. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
I do believe that each phrase of the Scripture can stand on its own, but that does not mean that it stands taken out of the context. Some take the verse we are looking at, "For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." but do not look further to see the context. The plan for the Christian that God has a perfect plan for their life. God cares for our welfare and will not lead us into calamity. His plans will give us a future and a hope. God’s provision is true, but we must see where the Israelites were and where we are at the time of Jeremiah’s writing.
We must remind ourselves that Jesus will never forsake us His people. "He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) God had not forsaken the Israelite people; they had forsaken God. They had stopped observing the Sabbath; they had fallen to pagan gods and idol worship. They were not serving the Lord and Him only, as they have fallen into the practices of the world they were living. The Prophet Jeremiah spent much of his teaching warning God’s people that His judgment was coming. Much as our earthly father disciplines us when we are misbehaving our Heavenly Father also disciplines those whom He loves. "For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:12)
As a result of God’s judgment, the Israelite people were living in Babylonian exile at the time Jeremiah was writing this encouraging verse. As a Father disciplines in love, He does not withdraw His love during the time of discipline. My father did not kick me out of the house when I was disobedient but continued to provide for me. Lessons that he taught still benefit to this very day.
The Israelite nation was called to be a holy priesthood for the glory of God, and in this effort, they stumbled often. Just as we today are called to be a royal priesthood for the glory of God. (2 Peter 2:9) We see a part of God’s plan for His people in verse 7 of this chapter. "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." (Jeremiah 29:7) Wherever God’s people find themselves they are to benefit the world around them. God has an appealing message to all the people of the world, and today it is the gospel message of Jesus Christ. The worldly one needs to seek Him while He can be found. "At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you." Behold, now is "the acceptable time," behold, now is "the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)
The Christian perspective is not of the spectator. The follower of Jesus has this Great Commission that they have been commanded to obey. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20) The first word in this command is key, “Go” The follower of Christ is not a stationary position but one of moving forward. This verse from Jeremiah is a great encouragement from God that He has plans for His people that will benefit their welfare and give them a future and a hope. They were in exile and would remain in exile for seventy years. They were to be a benefit of God’s truth to the people that were holding them captive. As we are to be a benefit to the world that oppresses us and our message of reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ. "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
For the citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are here for a predetermined time to live the abundant life that Jesus spoke. (John 10:10) It is abundant life here in His ministry and matures when we arrive at the home we were created to live. We must realize that we are not exiles, but we are in a world that is hostile towards us. Satan is fully active in this world to destroy everything of God’s creation and to steal the souls of mankind away from the Lord God. Satan will spare none and will display his wrath on any that he can. Satan’s work is why we can expect trials and temptations to flourish in the life we live here. It is not God’s doing but that of our adversary and that by our disobedience in the Garden of Eden. As a result sin reign in death.
The reign of Satan is true for all who live here, and it is our mission to plant the seeds of God’s truth into every heart that will listen. It is not our job to save as this is the miracle of God. "So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." (1 Corinthians 3:7) God’s plan for us is to seek Him with all our heart, to love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength. To love our neighbor, as they are God’s creation too.
If we submit to His plan for our life and trust and obey His Word, then we will overcome this world and reach our home in His Kingdom. There God will dwell with us, and we will be His people and fully realize the hope of our future. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
First Baptist Church of Durant, February 28, 2018
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