September 19, 2021

Into The Future With God’s Perfect Plans

Passage: Jeremiah 29:11-13

Charles Swindoll gave the story called “Don’t Quit” which tells us so much about God’s role in our lives –  Ignace Jan Paderewski, the famous composer-pianist, was scheduled to perform at a great concert hall in America.  Present in the audience that evening was a mother with her six-year-old son.  Her hope was that he would be encouraged to practice the piano if he could just hear the great Paderewski play.  So, against his wishes, he had come.  It felt like ages to the six-year-old for the performance to begin and he got restless in his seat.  Can you imagine what happened next?  When his mother looked the other way, he got up from his seat and headed for the piano.  She couldn’t believe her eyes when at the piano was seated her son.  Before she could move a muscle he started playing “Chopsticks.”  The audience immediately got annoyed with what was going on and one man yelled, “Get that boy away from there!  Where’s his mother?  Somebody stop him!”  Backstage, the master overheard the noise in the hall and peeked through the side curtains of the stage to see what was going on.  Without one word of announcement he came on stage and stooped over behind the boy.  He reached around both sides, and began to improvise a countermelody to enhance “Chopsticks.”  As the two of them played together, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy’s ear: “Keep going...don’t quit...keep on playing…don’t quit.”                                                                                                           

Isn’t God just like the master-composer in the story who came to the boy's rescue?  More than what we ever can imagine...He is the One Who wraps His arms around us and secures the situations we find ourselves in.  God wants to bring us to those places He planned for us.  He gave His vision to the children of Israel when they were in exile in Babylon.  Though they had only themselves to blame for the mess they were in, He had a plan to deliver them.  They didn’t follow God’s directions, but their own.  They pushed His precepts aside and lived with the attitude, “We know how to get where we want to go; we don’t need God’s directions.”  And you know, it’s so incomprehensible that those people just didn’t learn from earlier experiences.  Have they forgotten the episode with the golden calf and famines God allowed, because of His rebellious children?  And later captivity became a common reality for the house of Israel.  My friends, before we continue to run down Israel for their ignorance and slow comprehension, let’s answer the following question, “As a people of God, are we much different from them?”  If we are really honest, we have to admit, “All that has changed from the people of Israel to the church of Jesus Christ is the calendar – 626 B.C., the year Jeremiah was called, to 2021 Anno Domini.”  From time to time we live with the same agenda as the children of Israel...and that is called “The Self Plan.”  What have we accomplished because of the “self” in our lives?  Only failure and self-destruction.  When Israel had more than enough time to think of those realities in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah arrived on the scene.  There must have been thoughts among the Israelites, “O, Jeremiah, spare us one of your sermons!  Yes, we know, we did this to ourselves.”  But then to their surprise there was a different message – Chapter 29: 11, “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.”                                                       

What was Jeremiah’s message to the people of Israel?  The same message we have to take to heart in our day.  First we have to remind ourselves – 1 God Knows The Best.  He gave these words through His prophet, “I know the plans I have for you.”   God sees our “tomorrows” before they become our “todays.”  If you were up in a Hot Air Balloon, and you were watching a parade, you could look down and see the entire parade.  You could see the beginning of the parade and the end of the parade and everything in between.  That’s how God sees our lives.  He sees the beginning of our lives and He sees the end of our lives and He sees everything in between. Psalm 139: 16 says “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”  My friends, what do you think would have happened to us if we had been handed the entire schedule of our lives?  We would have been stressed out because of those events we can never change.  No, let God be God.  He has not just our lives in His hands, but also the outcome of the world.  Can we only comprehend that His understanding is beyond any human mind?  St. Paul wrote in Romans 11: 33, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!”  To Israel the fact that God knew the plans He had for them must have brought a wonderful peace in their hearts.  They had no vision before them, because they had been stripped from everything; their prospects were very low.  Have you been at that point to make the confession, “I just don’t know where to go from here?”  That my friends, is the best point for any person to reach, because at that point you surrender to God your entire life.  Then the former things don't matter any more.  It's a new beginning with God doing the planning.

Jeremiah continued – 2 God's Plans Will Make Us Prosper.  Jeremiah prophesied, “…plans to prosper you and not harm you…”  Sometimes, we have a hard time with words like these.  Why would God allow some to be prosperous and others to suffer?  Why would we be in this privileged position to live in a wonderful country with so many resources and there are those in African countries starving to death?  Why would one person be blessed in what he does, but the one next to him can try anything possible, but it would never be a success?  What is the meaning of God’s plan to see His chosen ones prosper?  Jeremiah prophesied earlier that God’s children were going to be taken into exile for seventy years, but then the time was going to come for them to return to Jerusalem.  God was going to make them prosper, but there was something more – their future as a people was going to be secured in God’s covenant that would be fulfilled in Christ.  In Chapter 23: 5 and 6 God already revealed His plan of prosperity in His Son, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,” when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King Who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which He will be called:  The Lord Our Righteous Savior.”  We are in the wonderful position that for us the King had already come; He has secured prosperity for His people when He gave the deepest sacrifice on the cross to restore which was ruined by sin.  Therefore, my friends, we should never ask, “When will God bring things to fulfillment for us?”  No, we are more than conquerors in His Son, Jesus.  All we have to do is to embrace the victory life.  We are brothers and sisters of the King, Jesus, Who conquered.  And our King spoke words He never wants us to forget, “I have come that you may have life, and have it in abundance.”  John 10: 10.                                                                                                                                                     

Lastly, Jeremiah prophesied that 3 God's Plans Will Bring Hope And A Future.  The prophet delivered God's words to His people – “…plans to give you hope and a future.”  For the Jewish people, that meant going back to the Promised Land.  For them it came into fulfillment – God gave them back their land.  Their hope didn’t go unanswered.  Again they could dwell on the Land that was given to their forefathers.  They all could affirm the words from Psalm 25: 8-10, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways.  He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.  All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of His covenant.”  To the house of Israel God's plans were the only plans that secured their future.                                                 For us “hope and future” give to affirmation of going up to the Promised Land where we will be forever in the presence of God; to the land where the Lamb in the middle of the throne will be our Shepherd and lead us to springs of living water.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have hope and future that goes far beyond this life.  Because you see my friends, so easily anything that people see as a hope and future in this world can disappear faster than what anyone can imagine.

What do you believe as you look at life, as you live day by day?  It's perhaps honest from a human heart to say, “I really want to believe unconditionally that God will steer everything to perfection according to His plans, but fear and doubts sometimes get in the way.”  Perhaps we can appreciate what Paul Althuis, a Dutch theologian once said, “If I'm able to believe unconditionally, I don't know, but I know in Who I believe.”  In Him my friends our future is secured.  He will bring it to perfection.

Amen.

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Rev. Willem H. van de Wall