“the B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book about me, I stand alone on 3 verses: 29:11, 8:28, 4:13” That’s how the song went, right? There’s a few Bible verses that sit together in a popular kids club and sip virgin martini’s together. They are popular, possibly overused, but popular nonetheless. Excluding John 3:16, the top 3 verses have been misinterpreted, misquoted, misused to be all about us. Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:13. God has plan for me, His plan works out well for us in the end, I can do all things through Christ. Though this is all true, we’re taking God’s word and twisting it to fit our own agenda. Prime example, Psalm 46:10. A verse commonly used to calm the worriers among us. “Be still and know that I am God,” It is important to be still, and to acknowledge God as Ruler over our lives. But did You know the verse doesn’t end there right? The rest of v. 10: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Doesn’t fit so well on the card with a butterfly on it. So, You mean, God get’s the praise in the end? You mean, life really isn’t about me? Exactly.
Let’s keep reading.
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 is writing a letter to people who have been exiled by God to Babylon. Just before verse 11, God says they are going to be exiles for 70 years. 70 YEARS! Skip verse 11. Verse 12 refers to those 70 years in exile. God says to them while in exile “ In those days when you pray, I will listen.” Followed by verse 13: “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” In those days of exile, I’ll hear you, look for me and you will find me. How fantastic is that promise. The God of the universe is listening, and can be found when we seek him!
Isn’t that the purpose of our lives? To know Christ intimately? I fear so many miss out on this hope because we are in verse 11 mindset. Waiting for God to make everything work out for own good (more on that verse next week.) We start talking, “Alright God, what are you doing for me? Make my life awesome, alright? You promised remember? Good ole Jeremiah 29:11?” I remember being a young teenager, and hearing this verse and grabbing hold of it. And it’s a great verse to grip on to, but it can lead to some big frustrations. I spent a long time waiting for this “plan for good” to come but instead, disaster frequently surrounded me. I got bitter at God, doubted Him because life was supposed to be good! The bible said so! But you see, I was using this one verse (out of context, i might add) and using it to promote my own agenda. God is going to give me an awesome future (i.e. a great writing gig, hundreds of followers on my blog, a husband 2.5 kids, 3 cats, a ranch, financial stability forever and ever the end.) Or whatever your dream future is. It might not look like mine, but man, we should NOT hold this verse up to God as a “get out of life trials” card.
In the same way, I fear many of us read this verse and take our 20-60 years of life experience and define the word “good” much differently than the God who has always been good, is good and will always be good. It’s a failed comparison, but it is similar to a child who thinks eating all of his Halloween candy in one night is good. The father would say no, and the child might feel frustrated: “You don’t love me!” He might retort. “If you loved me, you would give me what I want!!” However, the child has no idea that the candy he wants to scarf down in a few hours will lead to stomach aches. However, the father knows that that would not end well at all for his son. Because the father loves the son, he says no to him. We want worldly good things to happen to us all the time, yet God knows that will only lead us to sick stomachs and an empty bag. So He says no to us as well.
So if that part of the verse “future and hope” doesn’t mean God’s going to fulfill our own agenda. What does it mean? Well let’s look, how does God give the exiles a future and a hope? Right after verse 11, He reconciles them with Himself. He gives them Himself. HE is our future, and our hope. He is better than any record deal, any cash amount, any dream job or career. At funerals, when people are speaking about the person who died, what are they saying? “Oh man, I miss John’s stuff. He always bought me stuff.” No, they are sharing memories, priceless memories. Likewise, are we focused more on God’s gifts, rather than the gift giver, Himself?
Is Jeremiah 29:11 bad? No. Is God bad? No. Are we selfish people often in pursuit of personal gain and when we read scripture we sometimes adapt it to our own agenda instead of God’s agenda? Yes. I don’t want you to miss this: read Jeremiah 29:11, but don’t stop there. Read Philippians 4:13, but don’t stop there. Read Romans 8:28 but don’t stop there. As you seek the Lord, you might find that your personal agenda, falls to the back burner as God’s agenda takes a hold of your life. There so much more to a relationship with God than church on Easter, Christmas eve and occasional Sundays. Experience Him. Get to know Him by reading His word. Talk with Him. Seek Him, wholeheartedly, and you will find Him.
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.