Have any of you ever been told by a pastor that God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future? The reference comes from Jeremiah 29:11,
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” [Jeremiah 29:11]
This is commonly said in many churches, and is a true statement. Let’s consider the context of this verse, instead of isolating it. We will see that, although Jeremiah 29:11 is true, it isn’t true about you or anyone living – unless you or they are a few thousand years old. Starting at Jeremiah 29:1, we read:
1 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
2 This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. 3 The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: 4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.
10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
Here, Jeremiah is speaking to the Jews who were exiled from their land by the Babylonians. Just as verse 1 read: “to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” That’s pretty clear. The plans that God has concern bringing the exiles back to their land after the Babylonian captivity. And that is exactly what happened. After the Babylonians came the Medo-Persian empire. It was during this empire that the Jews were allowed to return to their land and rebuild it.
It’s foolish to think that these Scriptures could pertain to believers today, especially when considering their treatment throughout the centuries. Stephen was stoned to death [Acts 7:59]. Paul was beaten [Acts 16:23] and stoned [Acts 14:19] and suffered for the gospel. James (John’s brother) was beheaded [Acts 12:2]. Where was the Jeremiah 29:11 promise in their lives? On the contrary, Jesus promised this to His disciples:
“Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues,” [Matthew 10:17]
“and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” [Matthew 10:22]
“For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” [Matthew 10:35]
““Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” [Matthew 24:9]
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” [John 15:19]
Now, I realize that even these verse are not true of every believer. But I point them out simply to show that just because you are a Christian does not mean that you are entitled to a propserous future or easy life. The plans that God has for you might be that you are killed horrificly. It might be that you are beaten to death. For some Christians in the past, it meant crucifixion. For others, it meant that they were hung upside down by their broken legs and had tiny fires lit under them so they would choke to death. For other Christians, they might live to see nothing more than verbal ridicule. Whatever it might be, give God thanks for any situation, knowing that our great God and Savior Jesus Christ reigns even this day at the right hand of God the Father. He alone has satisfied the wrath of God toward our sins on our behalf through His death on the cross in our place. It is in Christ that we have every spiritual blessing.
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. [Ephesians 1:3-14]