It is easy to get our eyes off the Lord when it seems like our world is coming apart at the seams. Every day challenges us to keep our faith in the Lord strong. No matter what is happening in the world or in our lives, we must trust Him because He is in control.
God has had a plan for us from the beginning – and His plans are best because God knows all about them. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD,” in Jeremiah 29:11. We do not know God’s plans, but He does, Philip Graham Ryken teaches us in his wonderful commentary on Jeremiah. God’s plans for us are not our plans for Him. They are not even our plans for ourselves. God insists on His right to know His plans and fulfill His plans, which is why His plans are so good.
The God who knows the plans also carries them out. We know this by Scripture and experience. The prophet Jeremiah goes on to list all the things God will do:
“I will be found by you.”
“I will bring you back from captivity.”
“I will gather you.”
“I will bring you back to the place.”
In Jeremiah’s case, the promise of freedom was for the nation of Israel living in exile. (To discover how God did all this, read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.) God does the finding, gathering and the bringing back. Since God made the plans and knows the plans, it makes sense for Him to fulfill the plans.
For Jeremiah, God’s promise of return was for the whole community of exiles. In the case of the church, the promise of salvation in Christ is for the whole community of believers (Eph. 1:4-5, 7, 11). God especially knows every step of salvation, from start to finish, which is why it is sometimes called “the plan of salvation.”
If God knows His plans for the church, then He also knows the plan for those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. Although we should not take Jeremiah’s promise individualistically, we can apply it individually. God knows His plans for every Christian.
I spent six years in seminary, waiting for God to reveal His plan for the ministry He had in store for me. When a call finally came, desperate and financially destitute, I rejoiced, thinking God was calling me to a new ministry. But God had another plan – and He used my sweet, late wife, Bernadette to reveal it.
When a call from another state came, Bernadette told me she would not go. After a week of begging and weeping, she remained resolute. I told God, “Lord, you gave her to me and if you want me to go, then you must change her mind.” She did not, and so I took that as God’s direction for my life.
Six months later, the Missouri Baptist Convention called and once again I was faced with the uncertain prospect of how Bernadette would react. When she smiled and replied, “Well, I guess we’re going to Missouri,” I wept because I knew what God was doing. It has been 18 years, and I can tell you God has a plan. And He intends to complete it.
One morning last August, emergency medics placed my limp, unconscious body on a gurney and rolled me out of my home and into an ambulance. I can tell you I had no control over my situation. I was on heaven’s doorstep, but God, once again, showed me He has a plan. I do not yet know all of His plan, but He knows. I know He has me still here as your editor. And I will be tomorrow – if it is His plan. I share these experiences not because they are peculiar, but because they demonstrate the way God works out His plan in the lives of ordinary Christians.
I encourage you to stop and think about God and the plan He has for you and your family. Try not to let the ugly news of the day distract or discourage you. Take the time to look back and see how God’s hand has guided you every step of the way. We know from our own experiences that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28). That promise is not to be taken for granted. It is the truth. God really does work all things for the good of those who love Him. He knows the plans He has for us. He always has.