Life’s Challenges, God’s Opportunity

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

Have you ever had moments in your life, where you needed to cling onto a specific Bible verse?  Maybe you were diagnosed with cancer and God led you to Psalm 23.  Maybe you were depressed and thought there was no way out, then God led you to John 3.

No matter where we may be in this life, I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that God leads us to Bible verses which have permanent impact in our lives.  For me, it was Jeremiah 29:11.

I haven’t written in some time, so if you’ll allow, I’d like to explain why this verse has been so important in my life.

For the past few years I have been going to school, all the while working a full time job, raising a family and occasionally preaching.  Sounds like a lot, I know.  But so far, I’ve been able to handle it…mostly.

During this time, I have noticed that my attitude towards life (in general) has slowly declined.  Many times, I feel like King Solomon in Ecclesiastes when he writes, “Everything is meaningless.”  I have wondered time and time again, what am I doing and why am I doing it?

A few weeks ago, I heard a conference on RightNow Media.  In this conference, there was one Pastor who made a significant contribution to confirm certain views I recently held to.  His name is Dr. David Platt.

Dr. Platt had communicated how we need to have a desire to be completely enamored with Jesus Christ.  In everything we do, we must consider how it plays into what Jesus Christ is doing in and around our lives.  It is not the perspective of how I can get more out of Christ, but rather, how much more can I give to Christ.  It is about Jesus Christ and His mission.

He shared about his experience in South Korea, how large gatherings of believers came to pray before they began their day.  He explained that these Christians got up early every morning just to seek Christ for their day, so they could be obedient to Christ during their day.  This one message stirred in me a desire to re-evaluate all that I have been doing to ensure it is Christ-centered.

More recently, I am considering a very large life change for my family and I.  During our discussions, my wife reminded me that whatever we decide to do, we (more like I) must realize that not only is God in control, but it may be the very seed planted in someone’s life to bring them to the Gospel.

As we have been considering this, I have been praying asking for God to guide me.  In this Jeremiah 29:11 came into play, once again.  In this passage, God is telling Israel, that one day, they will reject Him.  They will go off on their own and suffer the consequences of their bad decisions.  However, God let them also know that one day, they would return to Him and He would then hear and answer their prayers.  In the midst of this God tells them, “I know the plans I have for you.”

I love how God uses the gentle reminders to bring us back into His path.  For me, He has used this passage over and over again to remind me that not only is He in control but He cares about us.

Many times, we read Jeremiah 29 and say to ourselves, “See Israel, there you go again..wandering…God’s judgement is just.”  But as I read this same passage, I think to myself how God must be vocalizing His love towards Israel.  It is as if I could hear Him proclaim, “Oh Israel, I know you are wandering, but I love you.  I love you so much, that I want you to know I have plans for you.”

The same holds true for us.  “Oh Joey, I know that you have wandered, but I still love you.  I love you so much, that I want you to know that I have plans for you.”  Jesus put it this way… “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Jesus lamented that Israel was not willing to allow His love for them to permeate into their lives.  Jesus used the gentle visual about a hen gathering her chicks.  Just as the hen wants to protect her young, so too Jesus wants to protect us.

Isn’t it good to know that no matter the life changing event, Jesus is there for us, desiring to protect us?  Isn’t it good to know that even as we go through the life changing events, Jesus has a plan for our lives?  But it isn’t just a plan.  It’s a plan to prosper us and give us a future!

So let’s think of it this way.  No matter what circumstances we may face.  No matter how our minds may be filled with every concern in this world.  No matter how physically inept we may be, Jesus has, not only a plan, but a plan to prosper us and give us a future!  How?  Well you might be surprised about what I am going to say next.

If our lives (our thoughts and actions in obedience) are enamored with Jesus Christ and we are focused on doing His will for our lives and we are actually obeying what He has called us to do, then our lives should and will reflect His desires.  Therefore, we can easily explain that our prospering future has to do with HIM, not us.

Does this mean we can become wealthy in this life?  Sure, but it can’t be our focus.  Does this mean we can be healthy in this life?  Sure, but if we aren’t healthy it doesn’t mean we are being disobedient.  Here is what Paul says about the rewards we should be seeking….

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.” – Philippians 3:13-15

Our prize is not in this world.  Our prize is in heaven.  Our goals should not be of this world or better yet, our goals should not be focused on this world.  Our goals should be that which Jesus Christ has placed in us for His Kingdom.

Facing life challenges is hard, but it is great to know that Jesus has my best interest in mind.  He is orchestrating our lives in such a way that He wants to prosper us and give us a future with Him.  He wants what is best for us.  He wants to protect us.  He wants us to have that relationship with Him.

I can’t wait until that day, when I finally meet Him, face to face.  I can’t wait until that day when I hear, “Well done” from my Lord.  I can’t wait until I can cry at His feet, allow Him to wipe every tear from my eyes and spend eternity praising Him, worshipping Him and talking and walking with Him.

But until that day comes, no matter what this life has to offer, no matter how many problems I face, I will say what Joshua said, “Choose this day, who you will serve!  But as for me and my house, we WILL serve the Lord!.”

What will you choose?

God bless and encourage someone today.