During a recent discussion with my sister she quoted Jeremiah 29:11 to me.
“11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
I responded by telling her to go back and start at the beginning of chapter 29.
4 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: … 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
This entire chapter, including the very popular verse 11, was written for the Jews that were exiled to Babylon.
Now we have to ask ourselves a very important question – Is it okay to take a random verse out of context and claim it as a promise to ourselves?
I see and hear people do it all the time, but I’m not convinced it’s okay.
God has a plan for everyone – but Gods plans are Gods plans. He alone gets to decide what they are and the plan for my life may be different from the plan for you life, which also may be different from the plan He had for the Jews exiled to Babylon. I can tell you though, that no matter the plan for your life, no matter what you go through – It’s all for the glory of God. In the moment we may not see it, through the pain and the tears we may not see it, laying in the pit of despair we may not see it – but I guarantee you it’s all for the glory of God!
If we blanket verse 11 over all people and say it’s a promise for everyone then we run into a real problem. What about babies who die at only a few weeks old? What about children who are prostituted and abused? What about the young family that dies in a drunk driving accident? What about the Christians in foreign countries who are persecuted and martyred?
If Jeremiah 29:11 applies to them, then where is their happiness? Where is their prosperity? Where is their future?
Telling someone that they’re promised a good, hope-filled and happy life when there really is no such promise, can cause a lot of problems when trouble arrives.
Life can be vicious. Life can bulldoze you over, kick you in the gut and rub excrement in your face. What is going to happen to someones faith if they’re led to believe everything will be peachy-keen because they have the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 and then life throws them in the mud? What would happen to you and your faith, if you falsely clung to this promise as if it was written to you, and your world began to crumble down? If you got ill, if you lost you job, if your loved ones died, if you were persecuted harshly, falsely imprisoned or even tortured relentlessly – Would you still serve God if you knew His plans for you weren’t so happy and good? Would you still serve Him if you knew your life was going to be full of heartache and letdowns? Would you still trust God if instead of prosperity your life was planned to be full of struggle and pain?
Nobody wants to think of these things. Nobody wants to consider that maybe God has some hardships planned for your life – for His glory.
The book of Job is all about suffering. In it Satan makes a bet with God, that Job (Who is very wealthy, very prosperous, well liked and just an all around great guy) is only loyal and faithful to God because God has allowed him to be so prosperous. He wagers that Job will curse God’s name if God just allows Satan to take away everything that Job has.
13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. 19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
Wow! Simply to prove a point God allows Satan to take away everything Job has. His oxen, donkeys and camels are stolen, his sheep and all his shepherds are burned up, his servants are slaughtered and his children are all crushed to death in the collapse of a house.
An absolutely horrible chain of events occurs and Job loses everything in one day. EVERYTHING – GONE.
As difficult as it may be to consider, I want you to imagine that your car gets stolen, you wife or husband is murdered, your children die in an accident and your house burns down taking any pets you may have with it – all in one day. (After writing this last section I immediately went and hugged and kissed my wife. Life is so short.)
So how did Job respond?
20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship.21 He said,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”
22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
In all of this Job did not sin against God! Job did not blame God, he did not curse His name and he didn’t complain saying “what about that promise in Jeremiah 29:11?”
Job instead worshiped God in his grief and proclaimed ” The Lord gives and the Lord takes away!”
Could you say that? Could you experience the loss, the pain, the heartache that Job experienced and still praise the name of the Lord!?
I realize this is an extreme situation but it teaches us a valuable lesson. “The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.” Everything we have comes from God. Our possessions, our spouse, our kids, even our very own life – it all belongs to God and He has the right to plan it however He wills. He has the right to give it and He has the right to take it away.
So when the storm comes and life gets rocky and nothing is turning out the way you had planned – remember that Gods plans are Gods plans.
And when the world kicks you and your life fills up with heartache and loss – remember that Gods plans are Gods plans!
What will you do on that day when you’re expecting a handful of flowers and instead receive a mouthful of dung – Will you worship and praise God or will you curse His name?
Oh… by the way, after the storm passed over and Job proved faithful through it all, God was faithful too – He gave Job more than he had to begin with, blessing him even greater than before.
12 So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters.
16 Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. 17Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life.