God's Good Plans for Your Future
God's Good Plans for Your Future
Futurologists make predictions about the future. One prediction is that some babies born now are likely to live to the ripe old age of 150. Wired magazine, not long ago, predicted that meal replacement patches (taking nicotine replacement patches a step further) would be in existence by 2018, and that by 2020 there would be a new financial currency introduced for purchases in space!
Some look to futurologists to know what is coming. Others go further. Some people read their horoscopes because they want to know what their future holds. However, Jeremiah warns in the passage for today, ‘Don’t for a minute listen to… spiritualists and fortune-tellers, who claim to know the future’ (Jeremiah 27:9, MSG).
The study of history helps us to predict the future. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘To understand the future we need to understand the past.’
But as the one who holds the past, present and future in his hands, only God truly knows the future. Much of it is hidden from us. However, there are certain things about your future that God tells you.
Your future is freedomPsalm 119:25-32
I love the psalms. There is an honesty, reality and authenticity about them.
We all face temptation, sin, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes and desires. How does the psalmist respond to all these challenges?
He does not disguise his feelings. He speaks openly and vulnerably about them: ‘I am feeling terrible – I couldn’t feel worse!’ (v.25a, MSG).
You too can be real with God and say, ‘I recounted my ways and you answered me’ (v.26a). Spread your case before the Lord, opening your heart with sincerity to him. There are times of deep sorrow: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow’ (v.28a).
Pray like the Psalmist, ‘Preserve my life according to your word’ (v.25b). Meditate on God’s word (v.27b) and pray, ‘Strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law’ (vv.28b–29).
Resolve to follow God’s ways in everything, but not out of a sense of obligation or guilt. Choose to run in the path of God’s commands, for he has set your heart free (v.32).
Lord, thank you that you have a path of freedom for me and that, in times of struggle, I can turn to you. I turn to you now and speak honestly with you.
Your future is secure2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
Jesus is coming back. His second coming is the most important thing to know and believe about the future. It changes everything about how you live your life now, and infuses every moment of the present with hope. No one knows exactly when it will happen, but live every day as if he were returning today – doing what he would want you to be doing.
Paul begins this letter with the assertion that ‘our God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you’re to be’ (v.2, MSG). He thanks God for their growth: ‘Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully… We’re so proud of you’ (vv.3–4, MSG).
There is a great deal of emphasis in the New Testament on spiritual growth. You are not meant to stand still. Your faith and love should grow. God is trying to increase the muscles of your faith. Is your faith getting stronger? Is your love increasing? Do you react differently from two or three years ago?
So often, it is our struggles rather than our ‘successes’ that make us stronger. The Thessalonians’ faith and love were growing in spite of – maybe even because of – the persecution and trials that they were enduring (v.4).
Paul tells them that in the future God will put things right (vv.6–7). ‘Justice is on the way’ (v.6, MSG). When Jesus returns he will execute a perfectly just judgment: ‘This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels’ (v.7).
God desires that all people repent and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). But he warns those who consistently reject the knowledge of God throughout their life, and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8) – as was the case with those who were persecuting the Thessalonians – that there is a judgment to come. They will miss out on the possibility of eternal life.
The opposite of eternal life is ‘destruction’ and being ‘shut out from the presence of the Lord’ (v.9). Those who know God and obey the gospel will experience his presence and his majesty into eternity ‘on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed’ (v.10a). Paul says this includes the Thessalonians: ‘because you believed our testimony to you’ (v.10b). Their long-term future is totally secure.
Their response to the gospel determined their future. The gospel message is urgent. The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.
As far as their short-term future is concerned, Paul writes, ‘We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith’ (v.11).
Do not simply sit around waiting for Jesus to return. God has a ‘good purpose’ for your life. He has called you. He puts ideas into your heart. He works in you both to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).
In all this, Paul prays that the name of Jesus will be glorified: ‘If your life honours the name of Jesus, he will honour you’ (2 Thessalonians 1:12, MSG).
Lord, thank you so much that my long-term future is secure. Help me to make the most of my life here – to grow in faith and love, fulfil the purpose you have for me and bring honour to your name.
Your future is hopefulJeremiah 27:1-29:23
This passage contains one of the most wonderful and often quoted promises of God about his future plans for our lives. Jeremiah was a true prophet. He heard the word of the Lord.
But there were false prophets around, like Hananiah. Jeremiah says, ‘The prophet who prophesies peace will be recognised as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true’ (28:9). Hananiah’s predictions did not come true because the Lord had not sent him (v.15).
Jeremiah’s prophecies did come true. The people of God did go into exile as he had warned.
Jeremiah speaks the message from the Lord to his people in exile. He tells them, ‘Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper’ (29:7).
There is an important principle here. Generally, you should seek the peace and prosperity of the place in which God has put you and pray for it. This includes places where you may work, your local church, your city and your nation.
There is an expression: ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ This passage encourages you to make roots even where you feel uncomfortable or isolated (like in exile). Sometimes the place where you find yourself is not where you want to be but if God has led you there, then that place must be fertile ground for God’s work in you to thrive.
God promises his people that the exile will come to an end: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place’ (v.10).
This is the context of the wonderful promises: ‘For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you’ (vv.11–14a).
God has good plans for you. They are not plans for your failure or defeat. They are plans to ‘prosper you’. They are not average or mediocre plans. They are ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ (Romans 12:2).
But God will not force his plans on you. He requires your cooperation. If you want his plans to be fulfilled in your life, you need to seek him. He promises that, if you do so, he will be found by you (Jeremiah 29:13–14b). As you spend time with him, you will become like him and he will lead you into the good plans he has for your life.
Lord, today I want to seek you with all my heart. Thank you that you have great plans for me. Help me to walk in your paths and fulfil the purpose you have for me.
‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.’
It is very exciting to be part of a new Alpha term. During these first few weeks, people have spoken of their curiosity and search for God. It is good to know that if they search for God with all their heart he promises, ‘I will be found by you’. I can’t wait to see what will happen this term.
Verse of the Day
‘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).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.