Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
“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 have Jeremiah 29: 11-13 in a frame on the wall of my workshop in my garage. It is an awesome piece of Scripture. It makes me feel good because it tells me that I am on God’s mind. He has plans for me and I am very open to following His guidance. I want to be experience prosperity, I want to avoid harm, and I want to have hope and a future. J.I. Packer writes “To many Christians, guidance is a chronic problem. Why? Not because they doubt Divine guidance is a fact, but because they are sure it is. They know God can guide, and He has promised to guide, every Christian believer…. Their fear, therefore, is not that no guidance should be available for them, but that they may miss the guidance which God provides through some fault of their own….they remain anxious, because they are not certain of their own receptiveness to the guidance God offers” [Knowing God, 230-31]
This is how Packer begins Chapter Twenty entitled “Thou Our Guide.”
He admits that worry about “receptiveness” is not everyone’s problem. As he has discussed many times in his book, some Christians have obscure knowledge of God, some are downright ignorant of God’s capability and some have been improperly educated by the church. Of course, all this makes it doubly hard to accept that Divine guidance exists at all.
Whether a Christian’s problem is fear of receptiveness or just plain old lack of knowledge of God, how can one accept the fact that God can give humans Divine guidance?
First of all, God has a plan for individuals, like you and me. How does Packer support this claim? He begins by pulling phrases from Ephesians, phrases like “eternal purpose,” “a plan for the fullness of time” and He “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will” [3:11 and 1:10-11]. He cites God’s plan for redeeming His people from Egyptian bondage [guiding them through sea and desert by means of a cloud by day and fire by night]. He had a plan for the return of His people from Babylonian exile, placing Cyrus on the throne and having him motivate the Israelites enough for them to build a temple. Of course God had a plan for Jesus; He spent his whole life on earth doing His Father’s will. God had a plan for Paul, who stated in five of his letters that he was God’s apostle by “God’s will.”
Yes God has a plan for each of His children, even you and me.
Ok if you accept the premise that God has a plan for every believer, how does one “get with the plan?”
First of all, all Christians have what Packer calls an “indwelling Instructor, the Holy Spirit. This Spirit came to us as Jesus left this earth, the Helper, Comforter and Guide was the Gift that believers received to keep them linked to the will of God. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” [John 14: 15-17].
In addition, God has always been a communicative God. He used prophets to make His will known in Old Testament Scripture. He certainly guided Jesus and Paul. God tells David “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” [Psalms 32: 8]. Isaiah 58:11 states “the Lord will guide you always.” Guidance is the main theme in Psalm 25: “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way….Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord?”
We have just finished discussing a chapter about being adopted into God’s family and if we are His family members, does it not follow that God would give His own children guidance. If human parents have a responsibility to give their children guidance when they are about to harm themselves by engaging in dangerous activity, the same should apply to God’s family members. Matthew 7: 11 says “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.”
Let’s not forget the Bible. Scripture is God’s Word and is “profitable…for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” [2 Timothy 3: 16-17]. Teaching means instruction in how to live; understanding the will of God. The words reproof, correction and training in righteousness mean that we can apply scriptural instruction to our lives. When we are “equipped for every good work” we are living life in God’s way. We have tapped into His plan; we are learning how He wants us to live.
Let’s conclude by admitting that most of us humans can be very selfish. If we really believe the words of Jeremiah 29 many of us may focus on the words “prosper,” “hope,” and a God who “will listen.” It sounds pretty good; I will seek Him and will find Him and He is going to give me a really nice future.
Here is the “catch.”
God seeks His glory in our lives. He is there to teach us and we are to be His devoted students. We are supposed to learn how to walk in His will, knowing there will be great benefit. But the benefit shines directly on God, not us. What we have, what we are able to produce, how we respond to the ups and downs of life etc.; all this reflects God’s gifts to us. He seeks glory in the Christian’s life. In Psalm 23: 3, David proclaims “He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake.”
This is not about being selfish. It is about giving credit where credit is due.
“For I know the plans I have for you, ‘declares the Lord’”. When we dwell on those words, it is not about us; it is about Him. The Christian who begins to understand God’s plan, increases their knowledge and receptiveness of His message and is headed for a better life. But the secret of the Christian life is that it is all about us allowing God to take over; it is Him working in us that produces the fruit, not our labors.
Here is the bottom line. We are adopted children but…
Let’s not forget our Father.