For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Jeremiah 29:11 is a passage that has been meaningful to me for several years. Although it’s words were directed to the nation of Judah, in its captivity, they express a principle about God, a principle affirmed elsewhere throughout the Bible. God has a plan for you. Because He has a plan for you, and because no one can thwart that plan, you too can have hope and courage. You, too, can trust God.
Fro our limited vantage point, our lives are marked by an endless series of contingencies. We frequently find ourselves, instead of acting as we planned, reacting to an unexpected turn of events. We make plans but are often forced to change those plans.
Even those whose lives are free from major pain still experience the frequently frustrating or anxiety-producing events of daily life, which momentarily grab our attention and rob us of our peace of mind. A long-planned vacation has to be cancelled because of illness, the washing machine breaks down the day company arrives, your class notes are lost or stolen the day before a major exam, you tear your favorite dress on the way to church, and on and on. Instances of this magnitude are numerous. Life is full of them.
But there are no contingencies with God. Our unexpected, forced change of plans is part of a His plan. God is never surprised; never caught off guard; never frustrated by unexpected developments. God does as He pleases, and that which pleases Him is always for His glory and our good.
Our lives are also cluttered with a lot of “if onlys”. “If only I had done this,” or “if only that had not happened.” But again God has no “if onlys.” God never makes a mistake; God has nor regrets. “This God-his way is perfect”(Psalm 18:30). We can trust God. He is trustworthy.
As we consider this though that “God has no contingencies”, there are three places in Scripture that come to mind. The first is the story of Jonah. In his story we find that God has plans to use Jonah to give a message to the Ninevites. Although they are the cruel enemies of Israel, God has plans to offer them an opportunity to repent. He calls Jonah to the task. Jonah, not wishing to carry the message chooses to get on a boat and sail the opposite way so God stirs up a storm and Jonah finds himself tossed overboard, swallowed by a great fish and vomited out on land at Nineveh. His message is not one of grace or hope but impending judgement. But the king and the people of Nineveh repent of their sins and God spares them. In this story we find God’s servant an unwilling tool in the hands of God and no matter how hard he tries to not do what God has directed him to, at the end he finds himself doing what God had planned. Our lesson is this. Whenever God puts His hand on you for His purpose, nothing can change that plan. I’ve often told people this; when God calls you to His purpose, your choice is willing obedience or forced compliance. In any case God’s plans come to pass. Our objection is that we have been given choice. True, but the choice is whether we serve God or serve the devil. Once we choose to serve God, then by default we choose to do and become what He has planned for us.
The second passage is the story of Esther. She was the niece to Mordecia, a Jew in captivity. She according to scripture was a beautiful young woman who became the kings wife. She no doubt enjoyed all the benefits and for a season perhaps believed the God had just given her special favor. The day came when under the influence of a wicked man, the king issued orders for the Jews to be rounded up and executed. Mordecai sends a message to Esther asking her to plead their cause. She replies that she would be at great risk for she could only have audience with the king upon his request. To come into the kings presence uninvited could mean death. The words Mordecai sends back are powerful words for us as well.
“Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish [since you did not help when you had the chance]. And who knows whether you have attained royalty for such a time as this [and for this very purpose]?”
Six words, “for such a time as this”. Often we may think that where we are, what we have accomplished or what we have accumulated is just for our use and purpose. But we must know that God who plans our lives often places us in a position to benefit the kingdom of God. While we enjoy all the blessings He provides, we must be aware that there is purpose and plan in all that touches our lives. Many will say of calamity or difficulty that they know God has a purpose for all things. We must also know that in blessing God has a purpose for all things.
The third passage is spoken by Jesus.
“Now when Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah, or [just] one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus answered him, “Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, favored by God] are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood (mortal man) did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades (death) will not overpower it [by preventing the resurrection of the Christ]. 19 I will give you the keys (authority) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth will have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth will have [already] been loosed in heaven.”
Here is the definitive declaration of God, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Come what may, the church can never disappear or fail. Institutional things may crumble, programs may cease, methods may change, but the church of Jesus Christ will continue to grow. It may look different, it may operate different, it may not be according to our plans or desires but what is of Christ will not perish but will flourish. There are no contingent plans for redemption of the world other than that of Christ working through His church. Over time humans have attempted to thwart the purpose of the church, using it to their own ends and purposes. But out of the ashes of human influence always rises the church, a people returning to the original purposes of God. Whatever we may call this, whether revival, awakening, correction, or adjustment, God’s plans and purpose for His church remain unchanged. Attempts to destroy it, to minimize it, to corrupt it and negate it have occurred since its foundation, but it lives on in the hearts of redeemed humanity.
Let’s sum up our lessons. First, if God has called you to His purpose, surrender to it and do so now and miss the fish ride. Second, become aware that wherever God has placed you in life, your job, your community, your place of influence; He has done so for His purpose for “such a time as this.” Third, take comfort and hope that the church can never fail, no matter the challenges, the changing environment, the questions and the struggles. Know that many times, God strips away the human induced corruption of the purposes of the church and restores it to its original God- given purpose.
“…….Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [of God], so that [in turn] He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy [set apart for God] and blameless.”
Dr. John Thompson