“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.” – Jeremiah 29:11.

When Florida Marlins owner Jeff Loria and General Manager Dan Jennings signed slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a record 13-year, $325 million contract, the Marlins were telling their 25 year old slugger that they had plans for him. They had plans to prosper him and give him a future.

In Sunday’s message, I talked about our purpose being our creator, not our career. I said everything that you would expect to hear. Yes, you ought to set goals. By all means, work hard. And, please, never give up. But if you only set goals, work hard, and never give up in terms of career and success, then you will ultimately be a failure.

The people who put their careers and work above all else in life tend to fall prey to some poor thinking. They elevate their projects higher than those whom they love. They are stressed. They have no margin. They are often befriended by those who benefit from the fame and achievement that they sought so hard to reach. They find that all they have achieved is temporary.

The prophet Jeremiah says a few other things around verse 11. Here is what he says in verse 10-14: “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. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah says that there will be a time when the Lord will give the exiles a great hope and a great future. When is it? Is it when they do these things? No. They do these things while they wait on the Lord. But the Lord turns to them because of verse 12. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, and I will restore your fortunes.” How do the exiles get a great future and a hope? It is not by SAT scores or six figure salaries. It is not by having a large house or expensive cars. It is not by working more hours than anyone else. Those things are not bad in of themselves. But, higher than those things, Jeremiah says to the exiles: Seek the Lord. Jesus said it as well. Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. THEN all these things (food, clothes, etc.) will be added unto you.

Rick Warren puts it this way: “Success is discovering what God wants me to do and then doing it.” Set goals, yes. Work hard. Absolutely. But always follow Jesus first, because your identity is in Him. If you do that first and above all else, there is no other secret to success, for in Him you have all that you will ever need. For no matter how hard you try, you will not find your identity in the size of your house or the nameplate outside your office door. Instead, I pray that you will remember the great prize you have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So whether you are a teacher, a coach, a pastor, a carpenter, or a businessperson in a normal neighborhood with a normal life, remember this: If you’ve sought Jesus first, you’ve got the greatest reward of all.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some ways the American view of success has filtered into your everyday life? How can you fight this? Is it wrong to seek to be successful in our jobs? How do motives fit in?
  2. How can we sort out whether our motives to succeed are selfish or for God’s glory?
  3. God’s blessing is not necessarily related to favorable circumstances. Agree or disagree?
  4. Pray and ask God to give you the courage to trust Him in everything.