“Above all get an understanding.”
I love this saying. Many times, we gain knowledge. We may even gain wisdom. But in gaining all our knowledge and wisdom, we need to gain understanding (Proverbs 4:7). So, I have asked God that He gives me an understanding as I gain biblical knowledge. Specifically, I have asked God to give me more knowledge of Him.
I want to know more about Him. I feel like I’m courting God, and I just want to get to know Him better. I want to peel back the layers of God. I want to really know Him and understand His will and way. But if I were to be honest, I have unknowingly disregarded a certain scripture that showed me more about Him. I felt as if this verse was abused by people and taken out of context. The verse is found in the book of Jeremiah.
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 NIV)
I neglected Jeremiah 29:11 primarily because I felt as if most people take the verse out of context. Yes, God promised Judah and Israel prosperity, but it was only after they endured 70 years of captivity. God sent the prophet Jeremiah to these two nations for 23 years. For 23 years straight, Jeremiah called the nations to repent, but they refused. So, finally destruction fell on Judah and Israel, and what a great destruction it was!
Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth, a curse and an object of horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. For they have not listened to my words,” declares the LORD, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the LORD.
(Jeremiah 29:17-19 NIV)
Notice how both texts—promises of prosperity and promises of destruction—came from the same chapter, Jeremiah 29. So, for me, I guess I never liked how people have the tendency to only pull the verse that feels good to them. I believe that all scripture is for our instruction, edification, and correction. If we read verse 11 only without the full context, we miss the lesson of correction. If we focus only on verse 11, we miss the lesson of how living in sin can bring down God's wrath and how we can suffer hard consequences due to disobedience.
And y’all, when you read the book of Jeremiah you will see just how serious God was about sending His wrath. I mean, God was big mad! But when you read about all they did, His wrath is completely understandable. For example, they sacrificed their own children to a false god (Jeremiah 35:32).
How sick and twisted is that? God said it was detestable and I concur. Think about that. They committed vile sins before God continuously for a period of at least 23 years. Can we commend and praise God for a second for how patient and gracious He is? The more I study the Bible the more I understand just how unwavering His patience is. I am gaining an understanding of His character.
But not only did I gain understanding of His patience, I gained understanding of His grace, His mercy, and His love. In my opinion, God should have just demolished them all. I mean seriously… sacrificing your own children? What kind of mess is that? I often wonder why God puts up with our sins. Why does He put up with our disobedience?
If God is all-knowing, then before He created us, He knew we would be a grievous, stiff-necked people. But He created us anyway. Imagine that. A God who knew just how difficult and vile we would be but still thought we were worth creating.
To take it a step further, not only did God think we were worth creating, but He also thought enough of us to offer us prosperity. Reading Jeremiah 29:11 in context only shows the massive mercy and love God grants. God had plans of prosperity for men and women who sacrificed their own children… and I just don’t get it. I suppose I never will get how or why He’s so benevolent.
Then I thought deeper about it. Captivity was never a part of God’s plans for Judah and Israel. That only came about due to their own disobedience. As you read the book, you hear God repeatedly saying He would restore Judah and Israel. You hear Him say He would bring them back to their fortunes and prosperous land. The way they prospered before is how God always wanted them to prosper. I understood from the book of Jeremiah that no matter how despicable they were, God still had plans to prosper them.
And it just made me think … I wonder what plans God has for me? What does God have up His sleeve? First and foremost, I know God’s plans for me aren’t necessarily about me. God’s plan for me is to love, honor, and serve Him first and to love others as myself secondly (Matthew 22:37-40). God’s plan is that I walk in obedience to Him and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Did you think I was going to say that His plans for me was going to be related to success or abundance? Is that the first thing your mind went to? If so, this is another reason I found Jeremiah 29:11 to be abused. Because if we are too focused on God’s plans of prosperity for our lives, then we may become blind to the most important plans He has for us. One of those plans came into fruition when Christ died for our sins. Did you know God mentioned Christ in Jeremiah?
‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.“‘In those days and at that time I will make righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.’
(Jeremiah 33:15-16 NIV)
Choosing Christ and walking in obedience to Him is absolutely God’s plan for you. That’s priority, not your prosperity. Don’t get me wrong, I believe and know that prosperity has its place in your life as well as mine. But when our focus is only on prosperity, we erase the entire purpose of Christ being in our lives. If we focus more on God’s plans for us instead of God, haven’t we made prosperity our God? Isn’t that why God tested Abraham? To see if Abraham loved God’s promises more than God?
Abraham passed the test. He showed God that he loved God first. Would we pass the test? Which one takes priority in your life: God or God’s plans for you? Listen, I’m only asking because God asked me the same thing last year.
God showed me that I was chasing after His plans for me more so than I was chasing Him. And that thing broke me down. I cried hard. I was hurt and repented because I don’t ever want to put anything before God, not even His promises for me. And quite frankly it’s easy to do. If God has ever specifically showed you His plans of prosperity for your life, it’s exciting! It’s so amazing, and all you want to do is whatever must be done to make those plans come to past.
But please remember, as King Solomon said, the duty of man is this: fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). And that’s coming from a man who had crazy prosperity in every way imaginable. Yet, I must reiterate, please know there is nothing wrong with looking forward to God’s plans for you. God loves you, God wants to prosper you, and that’s something to be excited about.
Yet, God would rather have you poor with a sure foot into heaven than rich with a sure foot in hell. Also, bear in mind that prosperity doesn’t always equate to finances. Money with no peace would be unfortunate, no? Prosperity stems from having salvation through Christ and the peace of God overflowing in your life. So, I pray you have salvation and I pray God’s peace finds you and overtakes you. May God’s plans to prosper you unfold in its season and bless you mightily.
I’ve nothing more to say besides take care, be blessed, and if it’s the Lord’s will, I will see you next week.
Have a great day and week!
Quin Arrington's debut book "And Then You Shall Have Good Success: Attaining Good Success God's Way" is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook format. Link to book listed below.