Plans to Prosper

January 19, 2014

Topic: Sermon Passage: Jeremiah 29:11

Jer. 29:10-14

Jer. 29:11 is a classic “LIFE VERSE” – one of those verses that we find so POWERFUL & APPEALING that we make it PERSONAL.
“This is MY verse,” we say - & we then tend to FILTER everything that comes our way in life THRU this verse.
The PROBLEM with that is that we may have a CLOGGED filter – i.e., we may be ANALYZING our CIRCUMSTANCES in life through a somewhat WARPED perspective.

Therefore, it is always imperative that we examine any verse in the Bible in its PROPER CONTEXT.
Remember my quote from Warren Wiersbe this morning: “We can prove almost anything in the Bible if we isolate texts from the contexts and turn them into pretexts.”

Let’s go back, then, to ISRAEL in the days of JEREMIAH:
This point in their history has been accurately described as a “season of DESPAIR.”
The LEADERS of Israel were CORRUPT;
The PEOPLE of Israel were chronically DISOBEDIENT to God’s clear commands, such as in the area of INTERMARRIAGE with their PAGAN neighbors;
PRIMARILY, they were serial IDOLATERS, worshiping many things OTHER than the TRUE God.
Therefore, God had finally PUNISHED them by their DEFEAT by Babylon & their EXILE to that land; an exile that would last for a LONG TIME.

But God had MORE to say to His people through His prophet.
As usual, Jeremiah was facing stiff COMPETITION from the many FALSE prophets who were eager to tell the people what THEY WANTED to hear.
Primarily, they were saying that the EXILE would be BRIEF.
God has a way of DEALING WITH such prophets: Jer. 28:10-17.

In the midst of this, though, there was also GOOD NEWS for God’s people: Jer. 29:10-14.
In analyzing this important passage, 2 simple but important facts must be kept in mind:
God was speaking here to ANCIENT JUDAH. Therefore, His plan was FOR THEM as a PARTICULAR PEOPLE. It is not a PERSONAL PROMISE to any particular individual.
The PROMISE was for those of His people who would be living 70 YEARS from the time this was written. Therefore, the great MAJORITY of those who actually HEARD or READ Jeremiah’s words would not see them FULFILLED in their lifetimes.

These reminders bring up a very IMPORTANT question: is there any PERSONAL APPLICATION that I can make from this passage? The answer is YES.
Primarily, this prophecy can be fulfilled for us in a SPIRITUAL WAY.
God’s plan to PROSPER His PEOPLE is not the fulfillment of the AMERICAN DREAM: peace, prosperity, pleasure, etc.
God’s GREATEST BLESSINGS are reserved FOR ETERNITY – AFTER this life.
This is the assurance that sustained some of the great HEROES of FAITH in Hebrews 11: Heb. 11:36-40, 13.

Does this then mean that NONE of this verse applies to my life HERE & NOW?
No, God obviously provides MANY great blessings to us NOW, in THIS LIFE – but again, we need to see this from a SPIRITUAL rather than a MATERIAL point of view.
Some of God’s greatest CURRENT blessings are:
PEACE with Him;
FELLOWSHIP with His people;
The FRUIT of the SPIRIT;
JOY in WORSHIP, etc.

HOWEVER: if we try to FORCE God’s promise of PROSPERITY to fit our own PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS of what that should LOOK LIKE, we have placed the MATERIAL OVER the SPIRITUAL.
It is true that God OFTEN DOES bless us in MATERIAL ways:
A great FAMILY
A good JOB, etc.
But we should not EXPECT or DEMAND these blessings BASED UPON this promise from God in Jer. 29:11!
As one writer has explained, “We have no right to hold God hostage to a promise that we have misunderstood.” (Eric J. Bargerhuff)

NOT ONLY is it wrong to MISINTERPRET & MISAPPLY these verses to OUR lives, it is EQUALLY wrong to convince SOMEONE ELSE that they apply literally TO THEM.
If you say to someone – particularly someone who is SUFFERING – “I’m CLAIMING this PROMISE for you” - & they DON’T GET BETTER, or their situation DOES NOT improve, then WHAT should they CONCLUDE?
I must not be AS SPIRITUAL as some of my friends.
I cannot TRUST in GOD’S WORD.
My FAITH isn’t STRONG ENOUGH – NONE of that may be TRUE.

If we devote our time & energy anticipating & expecting GLORY IN THIS LIFE, we will be DISAPPOINTED, & we may become DISILLUSIONED & even BITTER.
Not all of GOD’S PROMISES were meant to be FULFILLED as we might EXPECT or WANT them to be fulfilled.
Instead of TWISTING SCRIPTURE, then, we must learn to LIVE BY FAITH: Heb. 11:1-2.
If that is how OUR HEROES lived, then that is how WE should live.

Jer. 29:11 – let us allow this verse to INSPIRE us to APPRECIATE God’s CURRENT blessings to us, & to EAGERLY ANTICIPATE God’s GREATEST BLESSINGS that are STILL to come, living with such FAITH that we would have every hope of RECEIVING those blessings someday.


Join us Sunday at