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“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”1
There is a school of “Christian” thought which looks at this verse as an open-and-shut case in determining the will of God for every individual. That line of thinking looks and sees a promise of prosperity across all facets of life—prosperity in health, prosperity in finances, prosperity in career—more prosperity than you can shake a stick at. True enough, the promise in this verse is indeed for prosperity. It is the Lord’s plan to prosper and not to harm, and because of that unshakable plan, we can hope for the future.
So God promises prosperity … but not yet.
We would do well to remember that this verse was part of a letter the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiled Israelites. These were the people who endured the siege of their city, bore witness to the destruction of the temple, and were at present living under the rule of a foreign king in a foreign land. And most, if not all, of those who heard these words would die in the state they currently found themselves: “When seventy years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place.”2
Seventy years. That’s not an overnighter. That’s seven decades of deportation. Seven decades of lack of national identity. Seven decades of foreign oppression. So yes, Israelites, God will prosper you. But not yet.
We, as post-resurrection Christians, face much of the same dynamic today. Much as we might want to believe that the prosperity of God is a present-tense reality, we have our own seventy years to live. Seventy years of cancer. Seventy years of persecution (in some parts of the world). Seventy years of living out the values of an eternal kingdom in a hostile culture. Seventy years as exiles. And who knows what that seventy years equates to in our case. It might be over tomorrow, or we too might live and die in this foreign land without seeing the true prosperity of the Lord come to pass when Jesus comes back…
When will our own deportation end? When Jesus comes back. When we see our own selves caught up in the resurrection that Jesus began with His own resurrection. Then we will know what true prosperity is. But in the meantime, we are to seek that kingdom in the midst of this one. We are to live with contrary values and contrary ideals right in the middle of this hostile territory. And the motivation for that kind of life is the fact that God will indeed prosper us. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow … but the prosperity of the Lord is coming, just as it has come. And His name is Jesus.—Michael Kelley3
The destiny of a Christian
What is the destiny of a Christian? Eternal glory. True prosperity is not found in this world with its riches and glory, but in the unfading eternal glory that is ours in Jesus Christ…
When we are asked who is a successful man, we usually say it is the man with the most money. According to this Western definition, Jesus and his apostles were not successful. Even Christians are tempted to embrace this false definition. To such people, belief in the gospel is seen as the way of coming into lots of money.
But 1 Peter gives us a different view of the life of Christians in the world. Christians are seen as strangers and aliens who will experience fiery trials designed to purify our faith. We are told not only that the world is against us, but also that we have an adversary, the devil, who desires to swallow us up. This letter tells us that we are not to hope in this world but in Jesus Christ, who will come again to give us an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.
The destiny of the Christian is not the riches of this world. We are promised suffering in this life, but eternal glory in the life to come, and the apostle Peter shows us the way to this true prosperity and glory in 1 Peter 5. The way to glory and abiding prosperity is not the way of autonomy and self-exaltation; rather, it is the way of submission to the kingdom of God, the rule of God... It is the new and living way that Jesus Christ himself pioneered.
He was God, but he humbled himself, became a man, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God highly exalted him, as we read in Philippians 2:6–11… Our destiny is eternal, unfading glory in Christ. In this world, the glory comes and goes. But the glory promised to us through Jesus Christ is eternal. …
If we are God’s people, God has a plan for us. It is not a plan to harm us but to prosper us. The Bible tells us promotion doesn’t come from the east or from the west or from the south, but from God. In fact, we are promoted even now, for we read in 1 Peter 4:14 that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” As we are suffering and experiencing pain, something is resting on us: the Spirit of glory and of God. Our destination is glory.
May God help us to choose the way of humiliation, the way his Son chose, that we may come to the true prosperity of eternal glory which is God’s wonderful plan for our lives.—P. G. Mathew4
God’s primary concerns
God’s ways are not man’s ways, and His ways are above our ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are His ways above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts.5 God is more interested in people than in money. He is more interested in souls than in income. He is more interested in your safety and usefulness than in mere prosperity of some kind of worldly business.
God’s Word and His guarantees have no restrictions, no limitations, no qualifications except our faith. He is not bound by time nor space, nor land nor place. “Forever His Word is settled in heaven,” and His promises are forever.6 Our future is as bright as the promises of God, regardless of where or when, as long as we obey and trust Him.
We have a number of times done things contrary to natural expectation because we knew it was the will of God and good for us and good for His work and good for lost souls and good for the gospel to be preached throughout the whole world, even though it seemed it was going to cost us a great deal in effort and time and money and even manpower.
When my father and mother were young and very new in the Lord’s service, they were compelled to drop out of their denomination and their comfortable, secure pastorate in order to obey the Lord and preach the truth which their denomination forbade them to do. It looked ridiculous that they should give up their whole careers and lives in that particular denomination, which my mother’s own father had helped to found and in which they seemed to be secure and always guaranteed a pastorate and a reasonable income.
But because that denomination forbade her to preach healing after her marvelous healing, my mother refused to remain in it, and they struck out together by faith alone with three small children, just trusting God to guide them and lead them and care for them, and He never failed! In fact, He gave them a greater ministry than they ever could have dreamed of otherwise or they could ever have found possible in their old-line denomination.
May God help us to have faith to believe God and His guarantees! Because we trust Him and we obey Him and we believe His guarantees in His Word, He will supply all our need according to His riches in glory.7 God will not fail. Jesus never fails!—David Brandt Berg
Published on Anchor April 2020. Read by Jerry Paladino. Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Jeremiah 29:11.
2 Jeremiah 29:10.
5 Isaiah 55:8–9.
6 Psalm 119:89.
7 Philippians 4:19.