Twisted

Introduction:

Jeremiah 29: 11 may just be the most famous verse or at least second to “do not judge, lest you be judged” in the entire Bible. Most Christians can probably quote that verse: “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 a hope and a future.” ( Jeremiah 29:11)  What a beautiful promise from God. It offers an assurance for the future. Whatever the circumstances today, God’s people can trust God to change their tomorrow.  God is intricately involved in creating a new future. It brings a perspective of hope. But it is not the magic formula many people think it is.

Bottom Line: Our faith rests on who God is, not what He does.

Something To Talk About:

Jeremiah 29:11 is such an amazing, popular, comforting, soothing and hope-filled verse. There is actually a lot more to this verse than a lot of us understand. We want to bring some context to it, reframe it a bit, and then perhaps you may love this verse even more than you do today.  

  1. Are you talking to me?  Was Jeremiah writing to me? It’s very easy when thinking about God’s plan for our lives to have the attitude: “it’s all about me.” God truly cares about every intricate detail in our lives as evidenced by the fact that the hairs on our head are numbered. But that does not mean we will live in a world of never ending happiness. That is not what Jeremiah 29:11 is telling us. We can mistakenly think that God’s plan is always going to be a “feel good” plan with the intent to make us happy and prosperous. Jeremiah’s message in these verses is actually radically different. He’s writing to a group of people who are being held captive, and are in exile from their homeland. He’s writing to let them know that although they’re not where they would have expected, nor where they would have asked God to place them, God has not forgotten them and He still has a plan for their lives. It is not just about me. Rather than putting myself in the text, I need to draw the truth out of the text.
  2. Great expectations: Jeremiah 29:11 can be viewed as a fluffy promise from God. Some people view it as a guarantee that everything we hope for, including material possessions is given by God and can be claimed by everyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is that God didn’t promise all rainbows and butterflies. In fact, he actually warns us of something very different. Here are two promises that were actually given to us: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” ( 2 Timothy 3:12) “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” (Philippians 1:29) Jeremiah is not offering a feel good affirmation that nothing will go wrong. Instead, we are given hope where there would otherwise be none. Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t promise prosperity or entitlement, it provides the hope and assurance that we are in God’s hands.
  3. I have a plan. Do you trust me? Rick Warren once said that “God’s plan for your life isn’t a map you see all at once, but a scroll unrolled a little at a time, requiring faith.” Throughout the Bible we encounter people frustrated and confused by life. Abraham is challenged to sacrifice Isaac. Joseph is jailed in Egypt for speaking the truth and behaving honorably to name a few. Most of the “Bible heroes” experienced setbacks with little explanation. Jesus spoke in parables His followers didn’t understand. “…you are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they look, they won’t really see. When they hear, they won’t understand.” (Luke 8:10). Most Christians believe that God has a specific plan for their life, but wonder why He is keeping it from them. I believe God is firmly in control of His creation, accomplishing his work of redemption and salvation through (and in spite of) us, and inviting us to partner with Him. I believe the call to every believer is the same—to become more like Jesus and to serve Him in our own small corners of the world. God has plans for us, but He allows us to choose how we obey this call, as proof of His great love. He promises to direct our steps, but not to dictate them. He doesn’t say we’ll always understand, but He promises we won’t be abandoned. Jeremiah’s assurance of “a hope and a future” is not a guarantee of career fulfillment or marital bliss; it’s the promise of real relationships with a faithful, loving Father.

Questions:

  1. We sometimes find ourselves in circumstances that we do not plan nor want. Sometimes this is by our own choices, sometimes it is by the choices of other people, and sometimes it is just bad circumstances. How does God want you to trust His plan in the midst of life’s daily difficulties? How does God want to use you to be a blessing to others?
  2. Before this message, where have you seen Jeremiah 29:11? How did it make you feel?
  3. Read Isaiah 43:1–5:What does this passage tell us to do when we encounter trouble, difficulty, or oppression? What does the Lord reveal about Himself in these verses?
  4. God’s word makes it clear that He has both general and specific plans for your life. Is this hard for you to believe or accept for yourself? Why or why not?
  5. What gets in the way of your ability to understand, discover or fulfill God’s plans for you? What helps?    

Take One Thing Home with You:

“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.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Most, if not all people, are not equipped to understand everything in the Bible the first time we read it. If we were, then we could read it once and put it on some shelf. No, the Bible is not just another book that you read once. Hebrews 4: 12 describes God’s Word as “alive and powerful.” It is meant to help us live life. It is a tool and like any tool we must know how to use it. That means we need to understand the context and the application to our lives.

Jeremiah is writing to a group of people who are being held captive, and are in exile from their homeland. He’s writing to let them know that although they’re not where they want to be, God has not forgotten them and He still has a plan for their lives.  In verse 10, God promises to eventually restore them, but not for 70 years when many of them will be dead. God is letting them know they can move forward, because in the eternal picture, God’s justice will prevail. 

Today, in the midst of difficult situations, God wants us to know He has a plan.  He also wants us to know that as we submit to His plan that He desires to use us in both good and difficult times: “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (Jeremiah 29:13)   God’s plans are more specific and intricate than we can comprehend. He has a plan for your life, a specific one that will bring Him honor and glory. It may have some bumps in the road, but it will fulfill you more than you can imagine.