Jeremiah 29:11 is a really popular verse for Christians to recite to give them hope. It says, “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.” I know a lot of Christians who trot that verse out of memory. It’s a good one. It should be memorized. It’s an encouraging verse.
But a lot of people don’t realize the context of that verse. It’s part of a letter to exiles from Israel who still have 70 years of captivity ahead of them! God isn’t saying those words to happy, comfortable people in their comfortable homes with their comfortable families. God is speaking to people going through some tough stuff–stuff that won’t necessarily get better in this life.
The principle application we get from this verse today is not that everything will work out TODAY. It’s that everything will work out SOME DAY. Ultimately God does have plans to prosper us and give us a hopeful future.
It bothers me to believe that God would localize salvation in one solitary person–in Jesus. But that’s what the Scriptures plainly say. There’s no way of getting around that without gutting the Scriptures. I’ve looked for a loophole. None exists.
Even today, I prefer to talk about the tragedy of people living and dying without knowing Jesus, rather than to get near the subject of the eternal consequences. Deep down in my heart, I know the truth of the matter–without Jesus people are in serious trouble. Believing that is the only reason I would ever consider giving my entire life to the ministry of Christ. Not believing it is why so many pastors and leaders can spend all their time in struggling churches playing nursemaid to a bunch of spiritual pygmies. They have no urgency to share the Good News. They don’t believe that people’s eternal destinies hang in the balance. Since Jesus isn’t the only hope to the world to them, Christianity is a way of living morally rather than a life and death issue.
There’s nothing wrong with moral living; it should be the outcome of any legitimate faith. But moral living is not why Jesus died. Jesus died to save everyone from their sin. To not believe that guts any form of urgency to give one’s life to spread the Good News.
Ephesians 5:15-17, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
That passage teaches us to live wisely making the most of time.
As a child, summer seemed to last forever. But I can still vividly remember a time when my mom looked me in the eye through the rear-view mirror while driving and me sitting idly by during some trip and saying, “Marc, don’t blink. Life will go by faster than you can imagine.” She was most certainly younger at the time than I am now. Since then life seems to have sped up even when I pause to savor the moment at hand.
How do I make the most of my time? By looking for God’s opportunities to show and tell the Gospel. Time is ticking. From now on, I will listen to God and get busy.
Psalm 9:10, “And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”
God’s word constantly reminds us that trusting God is the only safe bet. See Proverbs 3:5, Psalm 37:5, and Isaiah 26:3-4.
What does God’s word say about putting our trust in men or man-made solutions? See Jeremiah 17:5, Psalm 118:8, and Proverbs 28:26.
It’s tempting to place our trust in things or people, rather than God. In the end, this misplaced trust will drive unintended results. People will disappoint us. Our wisdom will fail us. Other powerful people at times will betray our trust.
But when our foundation of trust is the Lord, when we trust His word–it is only then that we can cultivate a Spirit-discerned culture of trust in our personal and professional spheres of influence.
Ignatius of Loyala, founder of the Jesuits, wrote the following prayer which is called the “suscipe” (Latin for “receive”).
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To You, Lord, I return it. Everything is Yours; do with it what You will. Give me only Your love and Your grace. That is enough for me.
We are born questioners. The child’s great word is “why?” That is the curiosity and doubt in the nature of humanity. It is inevitable. It is not to be crushed. Doubt is the prelude to knowledge.
The instrument with which we attempt to investigate truth is impaired. Prejudice, heredity, sin have spoiled its sight. Even the strongest minds are inadequate to the task of knowing all truths.
All religious truths are doubtable. Even that fundamental truth–the existence of God–cannot be proven by reason alone. God is experienced, not just conjured up through reason.
So what? This should teach us intellectual humility. It teaches us sympathy and toleration with all who venture upon the ocean of truth. Let us not think evil of those who do not see like us. Let us take them by the hand and spend time leading them to the true light.
Jesus revealed His top priorities as He taught His disciples how to pray. His first priority was (and is) exalting the Father. His second priority was seeing the world transformed as God’s Kingdom is established on earth. Jesus was permeated with an awareness of God’s greatness and God’s design for the world. His perspective shaped His prayers, priorities, attitude and life.
What shapes my/your life?
Father God, Creator, and Sustainer of the universe, enlarge my heart to worship You, expand my perspective of who You are and what You are doing in the world. Let Your Kingdom, Your will, Your purposes come to be. Let these things shape, my priorities, my prayer life. Make me life Jesus, in whose name I pray.
“Using foresight” and “fearing the future” are two vastly different things. One is not the extreme of the other, but the opposite. The more foresight we use, the less fear (foreboding) we have. The more we are tortured by anxious thoughts about a POSSIBLE future, the less clear vision we have of a LIKELY future … and the less power to influence it.
So when Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:24-25 not to be anxious, He does not mean to prevent the exercise of wise foresight but the constant preoccupation and distraction of the heart looking forward and fearing.