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”