What Plans does God Have for Us?

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

The Background

The people of God were living in open rebellion against the Lord, living in idolatry and in immorality. The Lord sent Jeremiah, the prophet of God, to speak to the people about their sins, to call them to repentance, and to warn them of divine judgment if they did not repent.

The people mostly ignored Jeremiah’s warnings, and they continued in their rebellious ways, in idolatry, in immorality, and in wickedness. So, God did as he had promised, and he did send judgment upon them, and now they were in captivity (in exile) in Babylon. And the judgment was to last 70 years.

And, then we have verse 11 which is quoted often, but which is usually taken out of context and is used as a general promise for all Christians of some kind of financial prosperity and of no harm coming to any of them and of them only facing stuff that is good and nothing bad, etc.

But that isn’t what it is saying. It is saying that after the 70 years of judgment that God promised, and that he fulfilled, then he would release them from their captivity in Babylon and he would bring them home, for his intention was not for them to be in captivity forever but it was to give them a future and a hope.

Application to Our Lives

So, can we apply this to our lives today? And if so, how so? For we can’t pull this passage out of context to make it say just whatever we want. We do have to look at the context to help us determine if this can be applied to our lives in any way or if there is a lesson to be learned from this.

Well, the first thing coming to my mind is Hebrews 12 where we read that we are not to regard lightly the discipline of the Lord nor to be weary when reproved by him. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” And then it says that it is for discipline that we have to endure, for God is treating us as sons (and as daughters).

Now it continues by letting us know that God disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. And although it is painful at the time that we are going through it, later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. And this is consistent with other teachings in the New Testament on the subject of sufferings, trials, and tribulations.

For suffering produces endurance, character, and hope. And we will experience fiery trials to test our faith. And that testing of our faith produces steadfastness leading to maturity in Christ. And our suffering teaches us to rely on God and not on ourselves, whether we are being disciplined by the Lord or whether we are being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

[Rom 5:3-5; Phil 3:7-11; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 4:12-17; 1 Thess 3:1-5; Jas 1:2-4; Matt 5:10-12; Lu 21:12-19; 2 Co 1:3-11; Heb 12:3-12]

So, like God allowed his rebellious people of old to suffer being in captivity for 70 years as his divine discipline and correction, but not to leave them there, but with the intention to release them from their captivity and to bring them home, and to give them a hope and a future, he disciplines us for our good so that good can come out of it in our lives, and so that, for some, it is to release them from their captivity to sin and to bring them home to God.

The Plans He Has for Us

So, what are the plans the Lord has for us? Well, we know that they are for our good and for our welfare (our benefit, our spiritual well-being). And he doesn’t have evil planned for us, so even if he allows us to go through trials, it is not with evil intent, but with the intent of helping us to grow to maturity in our walks of faith and to teach us to rely on him and not on ourselves, and so we will learn perseverance and share in his holiness.

And then we must look at other Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament, to learn what God’s plans for us are, which are for our spiritual well-being. And there we will learn that his plans for us are that we deny self, die with him daily to sin and to self, and that we follow him in obedience. And we learn that his plans are for us to repent of (forsake) our sins and to now walk (in conduct) in his righteousness and holiness.

And his plans for our future are that we continue to walk with him in holiness and righteousness in obedience to his commands and that we put sin away from our lives and that we honor him with our bodies, and that we tell the truth, and that we share his gospel, and that we are faithful and morally pure and honest and upright and godly in the way in which we live.

And the hope that accompanies that is the hope of salvation from sin and eternal life with God which is promised for all who leave their lives of sin behind them and who, by faith in Jesus Christ, follow him in obedience to his ways and to his commands. For, if we do not obey him, and if we continue to walk in sin, in practice, then we don’t have eternal life with God. And many will hear him say one day, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

With Our Whole Hearts

For, we must seek the Lord with our whole hearts, with our whole being, and to seek him is not for selfish purposes but in order to know him and to revere him and to give him honor and glory and praise. Because it isn’t the benefits that we are to seek after but it is HIM we are to seek in all his holiness and righteousness which then leads us to repentance and to obedient walks of faith, because we have found him.

So, although we can’t take Jeremiah 29:11 as a blanket promise of “health, wealth, and prosperity,” we can look at the New Testament to see what our Lord’s plans are for our lives, for our spiritual well-being, and not for evil, and we can learn there the future and the hope he intends for us who are following him with our lives, and then we can accurately apply this to our lives, because it is then based on the truth of God’s word.

And there we can also learn what it means to seek the Lord and to do so with our whole hearts. For, if we are seeking the Lord, we are not seeking after the things of this world. We are not looking for worldly fame and fortune, but we are looking to live holy lives pleasing to our Lord, even if it means great suffering and persecution in return for our faithful obedience and surrender of our lives to the Lord.

For, our eyes are not on the things of this world. They are not what we are seeking after. And we aren’t “believing” in Jesus just for what we believe will benefit us. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus and on what has eternal value, and we are committed to living holy lives pleasing to our Lord and to following him in his ways and to doing what he has called us to do and in sharing the gospel of our salvation so that others will come to know him, too.

And one day we will go to be with him for eternity, and all the trials and tribulations of this world will be no more. Sin will no longer exist, praise the Lord! Sorrow and pain will be over. Amen! And we will be with our Lord forever. And this is our hope, and this is our future.

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10]

Paradise Valley

Lyrics by Noah White, Music by Virgil Stamps (1935).

As I travel thru life, with its trouble and strife,
I’ve a glorious hope to give cheer on the way;
Soon my toils will be o’er and I’ll rest on that shore,
Where the night has been turned into day.

Up in paradise valley By the side of the river of life,
Up in paradise valley, We’ll be free from all pain and all strife;
There we’ll live in the garden, ‘Neath the shade of the evergreen tree,
How I long for the paradise valley, Where the beauty of heaven I’ll see.

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