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Devotional - Top Ten Bible Verses - Number Two - Jeremiah 29: 11 The Secret Of God's Prosperity

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Dec 17, 2013.

  1. This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29: 10-13 (NIV)

    As we wind down our examination of the ten most searched Bible verses according to biblegateway.com, we come to number two. Jeremiah 29:11 is indeed one of the most used and quoted verses in all of Scripture. It is probably one the first verses you will hear from people trying to comfort you. I have heard criticism that it is taken wildly out of context and that it only was meant for the remnant in Babylon. That approach would render nearly all of Scripture as not being applicable to our lives. Hermeneutics requires that we take the entire context of Scripture into account. The Bible will confirm itself. We run into problems when people cherry pick a Scripture to make an unbiblical point without realizing that point is not supported anywhere else in the Bible. So in order for Jeremiah 29:11 to not apply to us today, the remainder of Scripture would have to not point to God having a plan for our future; to prosper us and give us hope and a future. Clearly the entire plan of God was to give us such a hope through the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary's hill. The problem as we will see is when people choose to take this one verse out of the immediate context to make the case that God is talking about earthly, material prosperity. Scripture is clearly unsupportive of such a notion:

    “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. - Matthew 6: 24 (NIV)

    I have always had the question put to me of why can't God do both? The question essentially being - doesn't God also want to prosper His children materially in this life? My answer was always a milquetoast; of course He does. The more I read the Bible however and the more I see the abuses money and greed have perpetrated within the Body of Christ; the more I think the answer is actually no. Hear me out. I am not saying that God expects Christians to live lives of poverty and misery on this earth. I am saying that if that is your question then you are trying to serve two masters. If the question that dominates your thinking is whether God wants to bless me materially, then we are no better than the rich young ruler who refused to put God first. If making us poor and destitute will drive us further into His arms and deeper into His Word then yes, God would prefer that we be poor and destitute. The problem arising from the bless me theologies in this country is that people chase what God can give them instead of what He already has.

    So we come to Jeremiah 29:11; a favorite of the false prosperity gospels. First off, I assume we all would agree that we never hear this verse quoted in the correct context. It is always a stand alone verse to assure us that God has a plan for our future - hallelujah - pass the offering plate. The actual context however speaks to the believer in the valley. The believer who has been going through some things. The believer in Babylon. The remnant was destined to remain in Babylon for seventy years. This portion of Scripture is God delivering a message to His people and the message stands today as well. It is a message for us in our darkest valley. When we do not know how we will come out of it; or if we will. Perhaps this message is for those really low moments when we start to question God. When we wonder if we have been forgotten. Elijah had his moment in the cave. I am sure Joseph had those moments in his prison cell for 13 years. I am sure Peter had those moments after his denials. Is this it Lord? Is this what I was saved for? The key verses today are for these moments and they serve to remind us that there is a promise and a responsibility within the valley.

    The verses start with the backdrop of the promise. Everyone knows verse eleven but verse ten explains how we got there. God says when the seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. Beloved, God has a plan. He knows the time frame for this plan. He knew it would be 13 years before Joseph would be ready to lead. He knew how long David had to wait to be King. He knew the ten plus years the renegade Saul would need to become the Apostle Paul. I know that we think we know better but God is the one with the plan. But we need to remember the promises attached to this plan. First off, God assures us that He will come for us. What does this teach us today? God knows exactly where we are. We are not lost to God. Our condition, no matter how much it may seem to worsen, does not surprise God. He sees our despair. He sees our loneliness. He sees our plight. Not one tear we shed is ever lost to God:

    You keep track of all my sorrows.You have collected all my tears in your bottle.You have recorded each one in your book. - Psalm 56: 8 (NLT)

    God collects the tears we cry. He records them. They are not lost on Him. In order for God to come for us, He must be acutely aware of our position. He knew where Daniel was in the Lion's Den. He knew where the three Hebrew boys were in the fiery furnace. He knows the valley I stand in today and wherever you are as well. Secondly, He says He will fulfill His good promise to us. The promises of God are always good. We just need to know them better and believe them more. We need to be found in His Word so that we can hide these promises in our heart. The Bible is our contract with God. We know that God will always be faithful to His Word. The problem is that we often do not know the terms of the contract we have entered into. When the problems of life intensify or the valley runs deep we need to run to our contract and rely upon the provisions God has made. The world will always present us with something to distract us from the promises of God. One day the fighting men of Israel were all cowering before the giant Goliath. Along came the shepherd boy who one day would be king:

    David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” - 1Samuel 17: 26 (NIV)

    Who is this uncircumcised Philistine? For years I wondered why David referred to Goliath as such and one day God showed me through a sermon that because circumcision was the sign of covenant between God and Israel, David is simply asserting the fact that this giant is not under contract with God, but he was! Beloved, the promises God has for us are very real. The plan He has for us is very real. But so are the periods of refining. So are the tests of our faith. Refining takes fire and fire causes pain. But He will come for us and fulfill His good promise. We just need to better understand His promises.

    The promises continue into verse 11, the one we all know. For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. How so many have distorted these promises and turned them into a pyramid scheme in the name of God. Perhaps looking at the King James translation will help clarify things:

    For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29: 11 (KJV)

    Thoughts of peace? Wait a minute, what happened to prosperity? Well, the reality is that the majority of translations including the ESV, NKJV, and ASV and NASB all deal with peace rather than prosperity. Perhaps this casts a better light on how God views our prosperity? Perhaps to God, our prosperity is found in a deeper sense of His peace. The peace which transcends our mere mortal understanding. The peace we so desperately lack in our valley. You see, God does have a plan to give us hope and a future but we cannot get there without His peace. The message I see here is that we often seek the wrong thing when we find ourselves in the valley. Sometimes we are so busy trying to find a way out while God is trying to show us the way through. That we are trying to escape that which God will use to refine us and strengthen our faith. As we saw when we examined Philippians 4:13, that verse is not about being able to do something as much as it is the ability to endure all things. One of the top listed things people wished they had was peace. The world sells a peace that is fleeting and conditional. God offers a peace that we cannot grasp with our finite minds and is free of charge. We have been conditioned by society and the church to equate prosperity to financial blessings. How many have all the financial blessing they could ever want and yet have no peace? Millionaire actor Jim Carrey once said, "I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer." There is no price tag we can place on the true peace of God. Here is what it sounds like:

    David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” - 1Samuel 17: 45-47 (NIV)

    Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” - Daniel 3: 16-18 (NIV)

    These were all just teenage boys yet they understood the contract they were under. They understood the God they served. Their peace was who they were in who they served and was not conditional to their surroundings or predicament. That is prosperity beloved. Sell that from the pulpit. Celebrate that in the pews.

    Then we move into verses 12 and 13, which contain the responsibilities we must follow through on if we are to expect this prosperity of peace to last in our lives. God did not just say He had a plan and that was it. His plan is always about His glory not our comfort. He is infinitely more concerned about our relationship with Him than our convenience in this world. So what happens when we find the prosperity of peace we so desperately want? What do we need to do to maintain it? Verse 12 says that we must call on God and pray to Him. The secret to Jeremiah 29:11 is not just that God has a plan for us. It is that He is the plan! We often seek the wrong things in this life and often times the church does not help. Forget temporal riches that fade and rust. That have no value beyond the brief time they are here. Where are we placing our eternal value?

    Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. - Matthew 6: 19-21 (NLT)

    We are often lacking peace because our heart is not valuing the right thing. We often are deep in the valley because we treasure things that bring us no lasting peace. I say all the time that God us not hard to find. He does not hide and He does not play games. The problem is that we often approach Him with split priorities. Like earlier when we spoke about asking if God wants to prosper us materially. If that is the question on your heart then the answer I am afraid is no. That brings us to the final responsibility found in verse 13. We will find God when we seek Him with all of our heart. God does not want half hearted Christians. Christians who raise their hands on Sundays and raise hell the rest of the week. Please, I am not talking about perfection. Of these I am the least. I am just a wretch writing about a God who saves wretches. The sad reality however is that we often turn to God in our valley because we had turned away from Him on the mountaintop. We often turn to Him but fail to understand the contract we are in with Him. We fail to understand the promises He has made to us. He has the plan beloved. He always fulfills His promises. That plan however is not the prosperity you heard about on TBN. It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with peace. That peace is found in a deepening of our relationship with Him. He does not want half of our heart seeking Him. He wants it all.

    That is the great secret of Jeremiah 29:11. It has a surrounding context that shows the scope of the promises and depth of our responsibilities. It should be in the top ten searched verses because it contains great comfort for those who think their valley has grown too deep. God has a plan for you. It is a plan to prosper you with the transcendental peace that only God can provide. It is found and maintained in deepening our relationship with Him. In dropping our half-heartedness and truly seeking Him. It is found in finally understanding the secret that He is our prosperity.

    Reverend Anthony Wade - December 17, 2013

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