Stronghold 8: Jeremiah 29 (The Plans God Has For You).
“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.”
This is probably one of the most famous verses in the whole Bible, and rightly so. It’s a wonderful statement of God’s sovereign control over our lives and of His care for us. The days of Jeremiah might be long gone, but these words live on as a promise for all believers. God has plans for you, good plans and a loving purpose. Your future is secure in His hands. This verse might be quoted so often that it sometimes becomes a bit cliché, but don’t let that stop you appreciating it and drawing strength from it.
These words are as true now as when Jeremiah first wrote them, over two and a half thousand years ago. But it’s worth remembering the context in which he wrote, because that helps us understand it properly and gain extra insight. Everyone knows verse 11, but very few know verse 10, or verses 12-13, let alone the rest of the chapter. It’s all part of a letter sent by Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. It was written in a time of calamity to a defeated and displaced people. It followed after crushing failure and in a situation where hope was hard to come by. The Jews had lost their Promised Land, Jerusalem had been sacked, the Temple plundered and destroyed, and all the promises and privileges of Israel’s covenant with God seemingly ruined and forsaken (2 Kings 25). Basically, it couldn’t have been bleaker.
Imagine yourself losing everything, being taken from your home and all your hopes dashed before your eyes. Imagine confronting famine, slavery, death and poverty. Those are the shoes we must put ourselves in when reading this verse. Hopefully none of us ever have to experience anything like that, a far cry from the problems and hardships most of us encounter. You see we often turn to this verse when irked by little issues and deflated by everyday setbacks, but the truth is this verse is intended for when you hit rock bottom. It has power to restore hope to even the most hopeless situation.
The Israelites had messed up badly and repeatedly. Yet they were still sent a message of God’s love, purpose and goodness. That’s a really powerful thing to take away from this. Maybe you’re feeling like you’ve messed up too much or too often for God to still love you, or still want to use you. If so, pay attention now. You haven’t. It doesn’t matter how badly, or how often, you have sinned or let God down. None of it changes His purpose for your life, and none of it could ever change how He feels about you. Your sins don’t discount you. There might be consequences, as there were for Israel, but there is always the chance of redemption. This verse isn’t aimed at perfect people. It’s for those who have failed, but who will get another chance.
God has a plan for your life, and that plan cannot be shaken. Whatever happens in your life, God’s plan remains. His plan for us is good – it’s designed to benefit and prosper us, to give us hope and a future. Your present is not all there is – God has a whole future planned for you which is better than you can imagine. It’s not the prosperity gospel to say that God wants to prosper you, because prosperity runs far beyond material wealth or rich comforts. God wants to prosper your relationships, your vocation, your physical and mental health, and above all your spiritual life.
This verse is a stronghold for those who feel hopeless, who can’t see the way forward. It’s a verse for those who struggle to believe that God loves them and has a plan for their life. It’s a verse for anyone whose present is so challenging that they yearn for a better future. This verse gives us hope. It affirms us and confirms God’s love for us. It reassures us that there’s purpose to our lives and that there’s more and better still to come. That’s what these words did for those exiled Jews – it comforted them in a dark time in their history and gave them the strength and courage to rebuild their lives and restore their faith in God.
Seventy years after this letter was written they would get to return to the Promised Land – that’s what the books of Ezra & Nehemiah are all about. God was true to His word and fulfilled His promise. After defeat came victory. After famine came plenty and after exile came restoration. God is equally true to His promises concerning you. You can’t imagine what God will do in your life next week or next month, let alone in 70 years. Trust Him and take Him at His Word. He’s got a track record of faithfulness and trustworthiness that runs the length of the Bible. No matter how bad your present situation, God can turn it around. No matter how much you hope for, God’s plan is better still.
Come to this stronghold for hope and reassurance about the future. Re-discover here His purpose for your life, as often as you have to. He has a wonderful plan for your life, and He’s only just getting started.