Plans For your Well-Being
Have you ever wondered what God is up to? Maybe you’ve read in scripture how God is sovereign and good but then looked around the world or at circumstances in your own life that just made you scratch your head.
The Israelites in Babylon were wondering, too.
They were captives in the city of their enemies and God had just told them to be a blessing to their enemies. In other words, God told them, “Don’t count the days until your return. Don’t live in the past or the future. Live in the present and try to help the pagan Babylonians thrive. Because the more they thrive the more you will thrive.”
That’s the plan. But no doubt many were offended by this plan so God reassures them in verse 11...
For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
God’s reassurance is He knows what He’s doing even if it doesn’t seem like He does. So let’s look into verse eleven more deeply. There are four points that need to be made— God’s plans are known, personal, good, and hopeful.
Verse eleven says, “For I know the plans I have for you.” The KJV has “thoughts” instead of “plans” and while it is true that God thinks of us, even when we don’t think of him, the better translation of the Hebrew is “plans” because the meaning goes beyond God just thinking of us. God is working out His plan for us.
Now the emphasis in verse eleven is on the fact God knows the plans he has for us. He says I know the plans I have for you. Repeating “I” twice is God’s way of saying “I know what I’m doing.”
We may not know what the plans are, but God does. Listen to some of God’s plans in verses 10-14. God says...
I will attend to you and confirm my promise
I will restore you to this place
I will listen to you
I will be found by you.
I will gather you from all the nations
These are God’s plans for His people and He will surely do all that he says. But it’s important to emphasize that when God says “you” he is referring to his people, and not necessarily individuals. Of course, we are right to personalize His promises but we don’t want to minimize the emphasis God has upon the community of believers.
See God has been working out his plan of salvation since creation for his people. Ephesians 1:4 says He chose “us”, referring to His church, before the foundation of the world. And according to verse 11 of Ephesians 1...
Ephesians 1:11 (CSB)
In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will,
So God’s plan of salvation is known and His plan is for all believers. God is thinking big picture when he says “for I know the plans I have for you.”
But what does that mean practically? It means that when we encounter personal problems we need to try and remember that God’s plans involve more than just us.
At least part of the reason we suffer is for the benefit of others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says that we suffer so that as we can be comforted then comfort others. So there is some truth to the old saying “misery loves company.”
OK, so God’s known plans aren’t all about us and that’s something we need to try and remember.
Of course, God cares about us as individuals, too. He cares about all the little details of our lives. Every hair on our head is numbered and there isn’t any aspect of our lives that God isn’t involved with. Sometimes we refer to the times we see God at work as “God things.” They happen all the time.
For example just yesterday our son David lost his wallet and it had quite a bit of money in it so of course he was really worried. After just a few minutes of searching, he remembered where he put it. Was that just a coincidence? I don’t think so because God cares about even the relatively minor things in our lives. His plans are personal.
God guides our lives every step of the way. His plans for us are personal plans.
You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.
See, we can have a personal relationship with Him now. We can, and should, thank him for being involved in our lives on a daily basis. If we can’t see God at work that’s not God fault, it’s ours because God is always at work. We don’t have to wait 70 years or even 70 minutes to talk with him because when we call on Him, He listens.
It’s true that searching for God sometimes feels like a game of hide-and-seek. But it’s like playing hide-and-and seek with a little child. All of our kids loved it when I would play hide-and-seek with them. And when it was my turn to hide I tried not to make it too difficult for them. If they took too long I would make little noises so it would be easier for them. God doesn’t want to frustrate us, He wants to be found.
“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
So God’s plans are known and they are personal. Seek him. He wants to be found…by you.
Jeremiah 29: 11 says God has “plans for your well-being, not for disaster.” In other words, God’s plans are good.
God has to remind Israel of this because from their point of view having to serve their enemies for the next 70 years doesn’t sound very good. For many of them that would have been for the rest of their lives!
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.
The CSB for some reason doesn’t translate the word “good” before the word “promise” even though it’s in the Hebrew so I’m using the NIV here.
Maybe it’s redundant to call God’s promises good since God’s promises are always good but it’s good to emphasize it. And there’s nothing better than God good promise of giving guilty sinners eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the best promise of all!
But God’s plans aren’t just good in the future, they’re also good in the present. Remember what we read last week in verse 7?
Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.”
See God’s good plan was for His people was to thrive, not just in the future but in the present. When Daniel and his friends served the kings of Babylon, they didn’t just barely survive, they thrived as they served. Daniel 6:28 says “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
Of course, prospering doesn’t always involve wealth, good health, and fame. Sometimes God has more important things in mind for us in the present. So God’s plans for us are good even when they involve difficulty.
Do we believe this? Sometimes I think we have difficulty believing it which is why we’re here today to be reminded. The truth is that if we love God and seek to obey Him, He will always work out everything for our good.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Those that love God and his purpose will “pursue the well-being of the city” that we have been sent to. This is a major part of our calling and purpose and if we do it then it is guaranteed that God’s plans for us will always good.
Lastly, God’s plans are hopeful. God’s plans are known, personal, and good. But they are also filled with hope. Jer 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you...plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Literally, the words are “an end and a hope” or “a hopeful end.” In other words, our hope is that in the end everything is going to be OK.
Isreal had every reason to lose hope. They were in exile. So many had died. But God’s promise to them was that it’s all going to turn out OK. Just wait and see His plan unfold. Don’t lose hope.
In Jer 29:14 God promises, “I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you”—this is the Lord’s declaration.” The word “fortunes” means “way of life.” In other words God’s promise to the Jewish people was that their culture, their way of life that is uniquely Jewish, would not be forgotten. “It’s all going to be restored” he says. “Trust me. Don’t lose hope.”
In verse 10 God said it would take 70 years before everything was restored and there is some debate over whether it was 70 years to the exact day or “about 70 years” that God meant. Either way, the point is that the exile wouldn’t last forever, and it didn’t because God’s plan leads to a hopeful reality, not just a pipe dream.
I will be found by you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “I will restore you to the place from which I deported you.”
That’s God’s promise to his physical people. How much greater are his promises to his church? So don’t lose hope. We can look back on God’s words and be comforted by the fact that God keeps his promises. When we go through hard times in the present we don’t need to complain because we know the present difficulties and trials are a part of God’s good plan. It’s his way of preparing us for the future.
Think for a moment about what a plan is. A plan includes steps for something that hasn’t happened yet. So, if we have a plan to remodel our house, first we have to clear the space. Then we have to demo the old stuff. And before we do any of that we have to figure out how we’re going to afford to finish the plan.
The point is, all the stuff that happens before the remodel is finished is the plan and we’re not going to be able to enjoy the new bathroom, etc. unless the plan is followed. The same is true of salvation. God has a salvation plan and it’s being carried out, right now!
So we have hope in the future fulfillment of the plan but also in the present working out of the plan! And as we wait for God to complete His plan we live by faith.
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Without faith that God’s present plans are good we won’t have hope. Having faith in God’s plans doesn’t just mean sitting idly by while we wait for everything to be accomplished. Instead the plan is to do what God tells us to do while we wait.
Which is what? For the Israelites in exile it meant building houses, planting gardens and serving the people of Babylon. That was God’s plan for them while they hopefully waited for God to restore them to their land. And I think that’s primarily what we are to be about as well. We are to pursue the well-being of the city God has put us in.
So God knows what he’s doing and his plans are for our well-being, not for disaster, but to give us a future and a hope.