Last night I was running the sound board at church and I was bothered by what I heard in the message. We are in the middle of a series about discovering God’s will and our youth pastor was talking this week on God’s personal will. At the beginning, he told a story about talking with one of the youth about some troubles he was having in life and wanted to know what to do. To console him, our pastor recited Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you…”). It was so disappointing because he has made the same mistake that many do of taking that verse completely out of context.
Greg’s article (linked) shows the misuse of this particular verse and that, by reading the surrounding text, you find that it is not a promise for us. That verse is part of a letter that was written to a specific group, the Jewish exiles in Babylon, and it is specifically for them at that time. You can further prove this by reading the next few verses after that and see that God promises hardship for those that remained in Jerusalem against God’s instructions.The problem is that there is no such promise for the Christian in the New Testament that the plans God has for you are for welfare and not calamity, and those plans will give you a future and a hope. Yes, we have a future and a hope, but not a hope according to the path of welfare and not calamity. That was a promise for Israel, the nation at a specific time in history. That was not a promise for individual Christians. In fact, the promise for Christians is just the opposite.
Peter writes in 1 Peter 4, “Why should you be surprised at this fiery ordeal that’s come upon you as if something strange were happening to you? But insofar as you suffer for Christ, the spirit of grace and glory rests upon you.”In the next chapter Peter says, “The same sufferings that you are experiencing are being experienced by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:9). Jesus promised, “In this world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Paul says all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Paul frequently found himself in difficult circumstances. In 2 Corinthians 4, he spoke of troubles, trials, and tribulations. He listed them one after another. And then he says, These are small things. “Momentary light affliction” is the way he characterizes his own hardships, which were significant.The good news is that there are promises in the New Testament for Christians:At the end of the Gospels, Jesus said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7), He said, “Look at the lilies of the field. They don’t toil. The birds of the air, they don’t worry. Aren’t you more valuable than they are?” The Father will take care of you. That’s encouraging.
1 Peter 5:5-7, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, casting all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you.”
Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 4:15 & 2:18, speaking of Jesus, “He was tempted in all ways such as we are, but without sin, so He is able to, ‘Come to the aid of those who are tempted.’” “All disciplines for the moment seem not to be joyful but sorrowful, but afterwards, once we have been trained by it, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
Hebrews 12:11 If we’re looking for the New Testament promise that says God is going to get us out of difficulty, we’re not going to find it because that is not His promise to us. His promise for Christians is rather to be with us in the midst of difficulty, and make the transformation that He intends in our lives through the difficulty.