The Plans God Has for Us – Part I

‘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.’


“’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.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

This is a popular verse often quoted to provide people hope in their personal circumstances in life. It’s also a verse about which people have written many critiques and admonitions not to take verses out of context.

On its face, this verse seems to say that God has plans for us, and by “us” I believe most people assume it means for each one of us. God has plans for you… and for me. His plans are to prosper us, not to cause us harm. His plans include hope and a future. That is exactly what this verse says, right?

I’m going to go out on a limb and says, “Yes!” It means what it says. But I think we tend to jump to the conclusion that it’s all about us. And here, I have to admit that the application of this verse to modern individuals in the 21st Century is not the primary meaning.

I don’t think that means that we shouldn’t find application of the verse relevant to our modern lives. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and 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) This verse seems to suggest that all Scripture, not just some verses, are applicable and relevant to “the man of God” (each one of us).

But that being so doesn’t suggest that the context isn’t important. While God may speak to us, as I believe He does sometimes, personally through isolated verses and passages, there is a broader context. That broader context is itself, “profitable” to us. In fact, the broader context often provides insights we would fail to see any other way.

To be perfectly frank, we tend to view our lives, Scripture and even God in very myopic and provincial ways. We focus heavily on our immediate circumstances and our immediate future. Even when we are thinking beyond our immediate circumstances and future, our focus tends to be this worldly.

We are, at a basic level, finite beings. Our vision is finite. Our focus naturally gravitates toward the finite. But God is infinite, and He offers to us his infinite love and an infinite destiny.

When we think about Jeremiah 29:11 in the context of an infinite God who, therefore, has infinite plans for us, that perspective changes everything.

St. Augustine, I understand, emphasized the multi-layered meanings of Scripture. From the literal to the figurative, the present to the future, and so on, Scripture can be understood at different levels, and each level of understanding is “true” and is profitable, has application, to our lives.

In that vein, we should always be mindful of the big picture. The big picture is God’s grand design, His overarching plan for us and all humankind. And these plans are being worked out in the history of the world and in our collective and individual histories.

With that said, let’s look more closely at Jeremiah 29:11 in the context of the period in history in which it was written and in the greater scheme of God in the history of His dealings with mankind. We will do that in Part II of this series on The Plans God Has for Us. And then we will come back to its relevance and application to us today.

Plans, Paths and Choices on the Way

We can live our lives on our own, going our own ways or we can live life in harmony with God and His ways.

positphotos Image ID:: 76630903 Copyright: Aitormmfoto

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. Prov. 16:1

God expects us to make our plans. The ability to plan, to exercise choice, was given to us by God, who created us in His own image. But we do not control the outcomes. On the one hand, we do not control our own destinies. On the other hand, we are not left to our own devices.

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. Prov. 16:9

We have the responsibility to plan our ways, but God determines the outcomes. We can spend our entire lives planning our ways without any thought to God, who determines our outcomes. We have the ability to live as if God does not even exist, but we do not escape the One who establishes the course we actually take. We may have no choice in the outcomes, but we have choice in our planning.

To that extent, we could plan our ways with God in mind, seeking God’s wisdom, God’s purposes and God’s plans. Or we can choose to plan our ways without regard to God at all. God gives us that choice.

A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way? Prov. 20:24

The actual courses we take, however, are affected by the “circumstances” of our lives, the opportunities and obstacles that come our way, and the almost unlimited variety of influences, happenings and factors that ultimately determine the “steps” we take. This is just another way of saying that God establishes our steps.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  James 4:13-16

We don’t control our own way though we often think (presume) and act as if we do.  God doesn’t frown on our plans. He made us with the capacity to plan our own ways, but we err (sin) if we fail to understand that we are not in control of the outcome of our plans. Our ability to freely plan our ways creates an illusion that we are the captains of our own destinies, but thinking and acting as if we actually do captain our own destinies is arrogance of the first order.

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. James 4:14

Our lives are but a breath. (Job 7:7) Our lives are like clouds that appear and then vanish into thin air. (Job 7:9) Our days on earth are just a shadow. (Job 8:9) Our days are like the runner, fleeing away. (Job 9:25) Our days pass on like grass boats slipping downstream. (Job 9:26) Our lives are like a wind that passes and never returns. (Psalm 78:39) We are like flowers that bloom and quickly wither. (Job 14:2)

LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Psalm 34:9

Don’t presume about your life. Be mindful that life is short. Be aware that God is ultimately in control. God has his purposes.  Pray and seek God and to understand His purposes. Make plans, but always be mindful of God and his plans and purposes. Invite God into your plans; seek for your plans to be harmonious with God’s plans.

We can live our lives on our own, going our own ways or we can live life in harmony with God and His ways. God gives us that choice, and we are responsible for the way we exercise that choice. At the end of our short days, as the bloom withers, what will be the outcome of our lives if we lived them our own ways?

The creed of this world lived our own way, apart from God, is I Did It My Way. We can do that. We can boast we did it our way. But, to what end?

As for me, when I think of the alternatives, when I consider the temptation to be the captain of my own soul, come hell or high water (as it is said), I think of the disciples complaining of the words of Jesus spoken to the crowds:

“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60)

Jesus didn’t change His message to accommodate His followers, and, as a result, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him”. (John 6:66)

In this context, Jesus turned to the twelve disciples and asked,

“Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67)

This is the question we all must face. This is point to which we all have or will arrive, either in this life, or when our days are done. How we respond to it is the ultimate choice we make or will make.

We don’t control when the light that is our life will go out. Our days are numbered, and they are in God’s hands. We don’t control when the choice to accept and follow Him can be made.

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. Prov. 16:1

We make our choices, but God is the determining factor in our destiny. Will we choose to submit our selves, our plans, our destinies to God? Or will we go our own way.

When Jesus asked his disciples whether they wanted to go away too, as the others followers did when the message got difficult for them, Simon Peter answered for the group:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

This, too, is my response. Though I often stumble, there is no other path for me. There is nothing else for me. There is nowhere else I want to be.

How about you?

Aiming for Eternity

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God is from everlasting to everlasting. He sets eternity in the hearts of men (Ecc. 3.11), but our glimpse of eternity and our sense of God is often obscured by the every day realities of our lives.

That God set eternity into the hearts of men should tell us something. It should urge us to look beyond ourselves, to look to God for His purpose in our lives. Yet we are often given to walking with our heads down, driven with blinders on chasing after self-fulfillment or prone to obsessive self-reflection with eyes turned inward. We have a hard time seeing past our own noses, much less focusing on an eternal God  We have a hard time, wherever our gazes are set, letting go of self-direction.

The Bible calls that sin.

Take the morality out of sin, and sin is simply missing the mark. The mark is God, His character and His purpose. When our focus is on other things, when we are pursuing other things to the exclusion of God, we are missing the mark. We are missing the purpose of God in our lives.

God, of course, is the very reason for our existence. Continue reading “Aiming for Eternity”

Olympic Gold and Everlasting to Everlasting

 (c) Can Stock Photo

(c) Can Stock Photo

I tend to think that life revolves around me.  From my perspective, it does.  I see the world through my eyes.  My understanding of the world starts with me, but it cannot end there.

That myopic beginning is part of my lot in life. That is where my challenge starts.

I am finite.  My view of the world is limited. My view is not just limited; it is utterly infinitesimal.

Science tells us that the world began with a “bang” about 14 billion years ago.  All of known history is less than 10,000 years.  My life began only 56 years ago, and I might only have another 30 years or so if I am fortunate. In comparison to the age of the universe, I am barely a mist. Continue reading “Olympic Gold and Everlasting to Everlasting”

Cross Purposes

Three Crosses & Rays of Light


“Your will[i] be done[ii]….” (Matt. 6:10). This statement that is part of the way Jesus taught us to pray is not just a onetime proclamation, but an ongoing imperative cry for an emerging and growing reality in the life of the believer and in the world. Continue reading “Cross Purposes”

Seven Ways to Have More of God

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Anyone who has had an encounter with the Living God wants more. That is why Jesus had a following. People gathered around Him and followed Him wherever He went because they wanted more. We all want more of God, more of His presence, but how do we “get” more of God?

I am not an expert on this, but I was praying through these thoughts the other morning, and I believe God spoke to me through various passages in the Bible about how we all can have more of God.

We need to make room for Him

When God became man (Jesus), He came to His own, and His own people (the Jews) did not know Him. There was “no room in the inn”. We need to make room for God in our hearts and lives.

God emptied Himself to become a man, lived the life we could not live in perfect submission to the Father, suffered and died on the cross as atonement for our sin and rose again making the way for us to have fellowship with Him. If God emptied Himself for us, we need to empty ourselves for Him. We need to decrease so He can increase in us.

I am relaying these things in the order that God gave them to me, but I do not think there is any particular order in which we should do these things. That is, except for this one thing – we need to make room for God in our lives.

This does not just mean carving out some time during each day to pray and read the Bible; this means that we allow God to inhabit us and inform us in every aspect of our lives. We need to allow His Spirit to indwell us by making room in our hearts, by emptying ourselves and “getting out of God’s way” so that He can fill us with Himself.

We need to spend time away with Him

Jesus went away to pray and be alone with the Father often. Jesus was always going back to the Father alone, by himself. He found times to steal away from the crowds and the crowded marketplace to pray and just spend time with the Father. If Jesus needed to do that, we need to do that all the more if we want more of God in our lives.

We encounter God in many ways, but He speaks to us in a still, small voice. We need to be still and quiet to hear what God is saying. We need get away from the busyness of life, the things that crowd in upon us, and spend time with God, alone, where He can speak into our hearts, and we can learn directly from Him. We need to get away from other things and spend time with God by ourselves if we want more of God.

We need to wait for Him

Jesus told His disciples to go out into all the world and preach the Gospel. That is the Great Commission. But He followed the instruction “to go” with another instruction; He commanded them to do something that seemed completely counter-productive to the direction “to go”: He told them to wait.

He told them to wait for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father. The Holy Spirit is “God with us” in the same way that Jesus was “God with us”; except that the Holy Spirit is God in us!

We often want to rush ahead of God. It is a natural inclination. After Jesus turned a few loaves and fishes into a feast for a crowd, the crowd wanted to seize Him and make Him king. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people celebrated Him as an earthly king and savior, but they did not realize other things needed to happen, first. Jesus needed to die for our sins. He needed to conquer sin and death. God, in His great mercy, was not ready to take the throne. He was extending the opportunity for generations to accept His atoning death for our sins and be saved.

We can not see what God sees and do not know what God knows. We need to wait for Him and seek to understand what God is doing right now in our lives, in the church we attend, in the area in which we live and in the world. When we wait for God, we are waiting to understand and waiting for His power to enable us to fulfill what He has for us to do. If we run out ahead of God, we will not be doing exactly what God wants us to do, when He wants us to do it, and we will be going in our own strength, instead of God’s strength.

We need to ask

What father, when his son asks for bread, gives him a stone? Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Water. He invites us to partake of Himself, but there is something in the asking.

God wants us to ask. God is Person. He made us in His own image. He made us for fellowship. When we ask, we are stepping into fellowship with God. He delights to give of Himself, but he is looking for an exchange: He draws, and we respond; we ask, and He gives.

If we want more of God, we need to ask for God Himself. Our treasure is where our heart is. We could ask for things for ourselves or even for others, but the greatest treasure is God Himself. Our treasure awaits us in heaven, but God has given us His Holy Spirit – which is Himself – and we can partake of that treasure on earth. We just need to ask.

We need to seek

God promises to reveal Himself to us when seek Him, and we find God when we seek Him with all our hearts. Seeking God with all of our hearts means we need to be “all in”!

We need to devote our hearts to the seeking, and what we seek needs to be God, Himself, if we want more of God in our lives.

As we seek God, we stop seeking other things. Other things, even good things, are poor substitutes for God. In the process of seeking God, we must stop seeking other things and devote ourselves to the greatest thing – God. In that process, we align ourselves with God; we put away the lesser things; and we set our sights on God. He wants us to seek because, as we seek Him, we focus on Him and take our focus off of other things.

We need to go

Jesus told us to go. There is a time to go, and when we go, the Holy Spirit is right there with us to help us. Although there are times we need to wait for God, there are times that we need to go. Ultimately, going is what we need to be doing. I think the Church, as a whole, misses God because the Church is not going.

Peter, James and John climbed a high mountain with Jesus. On the mountain top Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. Elijah and Moses appeared with Him. What a “mountaintop experience”! Literally. The disciples wanted to pitch a tent and camp there. – Who wouldn’t?!! – But that was not God’s plan.

It is never God’s plan for us to camp on our experiences with Him. In those encounters, Jesus shows Himself in all of His glory; we learn things about ourselves, about God and about the world; but He does not intend for us to pitch a tent and stay there. He took the disciples back down the mountain to the valley where the purpose of God is played out in real, everyday life.

We cannot camp on our experiences with God. God has a plan, and He wants us to move on to fulfill that plan. He wants us to go with Him. If we camp where we experience God, He will move on; and we will be left on an empty mountain top. We should seek God on those mountain tops, but we need to follow God down from the mountain to the valley of everyday life where the purpose of God plays out.

We need to do

Jesus spent much of His time walking the dusty roads, on the street, in the marketplace, mixing with people, healing the sick and sharing the Gospel. If we want more of God, we need to be where God is and doing what God wants to do – reaching people with the Gospel and love. We will encounter God by doing those things Jesus did.

God told the prophets that He wants His people to administer justice, to show compassion and mercy to each other. Pure religion is looking after orphans and widows in their distress and keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world. We need to be about the business of God if we want more of God in our lives.

Doing means speaking as well. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. If we are not telling people about the Gospel, who will? God chose to use us and send us into all the world to preach the Gospel, and we need to be doing what God wants us to do if we want more of God in our lives.

I began Navigating by Faith in response to what I believe God was speaking into my heart. For me, this is part of being about God’s business. I believe He has given each person gifts and burdens and callings that are unique to each individual. We all have the ability to write, serve, speak, have compassion, pastor help, etc., but God gives out different measures to different people, and God places different things on different peoples’ hearts to make use of those gifts and abilities. We do not live this life alone, in a vacuum. We need each other.
 
Let me know what you think. What has God put on your heart? What do you think He is calling you to do with the gifts and abilities you have and the calling He placed within you? I would love to hear from you.