Jeremiah 29:11 says
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.”
As a Christian this verse and others like it have been of great encouragement to me at different points in my life. However I wonder if this verse has become something that the Christian community truly live by or just a platitude that is rolled out when people are finding things tough in order to comfort and encourage, and let’s be honest be honest it is a good verse for that.
The bible isn’t just a collection of verses that we can pluck out at random as though they are fortune cookies, they are words from the living God to his people, as Paul writes to Timothy
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
In the light of that we must be very careful how we approach the Scriptures and how we use verses such as Jeremiah 29:11. However my reason for sharing this text isn’t to speak about our use of Scripture, but to look at what Paul writes as he opens up his letter to the Ephesians, and others (c.f. 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Col 1:1, 2 Tim 1:1)
Paul opens up his letter to the Ephesians by writing – ‘Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God.’ Consider this in the light of Jeremiah 29:11 – God has plans, a purpose, for those who are his. Later in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
Paul’s words in opening up his letter to the Ephesians not only affirms Paul’s role within the church – he is an apostle, they also affirms who he is an apostle of – Christ Jesus, but more than that they state that his apostleship is ‘by the will of God’.
It is this phrase that I wish to focus on – ‘by the will of God’.
We live in a day when people are less and less satisfied with their lives, with the relationships that they are in, the jobs they have, and sadly this has crept into the church. People become dissatisfied with church for a variety of reasons, the style of worship, length of preaching, type of coffee, lack of x, y, or z, or excesses of x, y, or z.
Also the world that we live, due to the economic climate that we have been through in recent times has led some to ‘go it alone’, to make their own way in this world, and this is for very good reasons. But in terms of church and roles within the church we can be dissatisfied with what we are doing, feeling that our gifts are not being used or that we ‘destined’ for better things and in the light of this we can try to force things and manipulate our way to bigger and better.
But notice what the Scriptures say – God has planned and purposed good works, there are things that God has just for you to do – for Paul that was to be an apostle – to the Christian’s in Corinth Paul wrote that he been “called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus”.
Here’s the thing, here is what I have been thinking of for a while – do I get dissatisfied with what I am currently doing because I am yet to be doing those ‘good works God has planned’ for me, do I feel as though God has something better in store for me and that means that for the time being I’m not going to give my all, because ‘this is not what God has called me to?’
Here’s the bottom line, you may still be seeking out what God has called you to do, and that is fine and commendable, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of the here and now. David had been chosen by God, purposed and planned by God that he would be king of Israel. When he found out he was tending his father’s flock – after finding out he went back to tending his father’s flock, he then went into service of king Saul, all before he became king.
The same could be said of Joseph too, called by God to save his family and the future nation of Israel from famine – but his path the fulfilment of that calling saw him sold into slavery by his brothers, then falsely imprisoned before he saved the Egyptian’s and future Israel nation from a great famine.
The things we do here and now, are the testing grounds for us, they are the training for future tasks. Think of like this, until we understand, outwork and fulfilling the ‘call of God’ on our lives – until we are walking in the good works that God has planned for us we are in effect doing an apprenticeship for the Lord, training on the job.
So what have you been called to do? Do you know? Are you there yet? If not serve well with the small things, let God see your devotion and service to him, and let him worry about the big plans, let him work out his plans and his purpose for your life.