Home Media Destroying the Bible verse by verse. . Super plans by a Super God for a Super People.

. Super plans by a Super God for a Super People.

Super plans by a Super God for a Super People.

Image result for jeremiah 29:11.Let's start with one of the most well-known verses that appear regularly as one of God's Divine promises to you and to me. Hardly ever is there any reference to context, or the actual intention of the statement. This promise we see in Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

It is more often quoted from the NIV, and there is a reason for that. The same verse in the NIV says: 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. The word that is greatly loved in the NIV version is that little word 'prosper'.

This verse is popular in our modern day culture, because we all want to be prosperous, don't we? Now imagine, you pull this card from a promise box, or somebody posts it on your Face Book page, and here Super God is saying to you Super Man, that His Super Plans for you is prosperity. Something that is most definitely not in his plans is 'harm'. Included in the plans is hope and a future. Now, if one takes this verse at face value, it is all glorious and there is nothing negative in store for you. On a very personal level, God is considering me, and mine. Hasn't He just got lekker plans in store for me?

In a church that I was an associate pastor before, I had to endure a sermon on this verse which actually caused me to question the motives of many pastors. For many, the actual meaning of the text in context is of no consequence. It simply serves as a springboard to a good sermon. The problem is that people love it and they lap it up. The sermon was very simple. A simple Google Image search will show you just how popular this verse is.

Let's look at the outline of that sermon based on the text.


Title: God's best promises are for you. (Based on 'declares the Lord'.)

  1. God has a plan for you. (Based on the context of verse 11 alone)
  2. God has full knowledge of that plan. (For I know the plans.)
  3. God's plans are personal and tailor made for you. (Plans I have for you.)
  4. God plans to make you prosperous on all levels. (Plans to prosper you.)
  5. God's plans will never harm you. (Not to harm you).
  6. God's plans are your only hope. (Plan's to give you hope.)
  7. God's plans is to give to you a great future. (Plan's to give you hope and a future.)

What a nice seven point sermon, times 4 minutes of waffle on each point and you have a tremendously blessed congregation who leaves excited because God is for them.

The sad thing is that there was no reference to the person of Jeremiah, the historical context of Israel, Israel was not even mentioned. It is all about me. But okay, this is a normal South African pastor, so we can forgive him, right?

I am loathe to do what I am going to do now, but I need to show you that even some great recognized preachers like Charles Stanley simply at times fail to do justice to the text. Let me post his sermon outline on this section for you. I guess we all are fallable.



God Will Show You His Will

Charles F. Stanley

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11-13

  1. I. The Lord has a plan for our lives. And if necessary, God will move heaven and earth to show us His will (Life Principle #10). Fully understanding this truth is essential to discovering the Father's plan and purpose for you.

II. Why can we trust God to reveal His will?

A. To follow the Lord's plan for our life, we must know what He has called us to be and do. It would be out of character for God to hide His will and still expect us to walk in it.

B. The Bible also promises His guidance, all we need to do is ask Him (Prov. 3:5-6).

C. The apostle Paul indicated that it's possible to know the Father's will (Col. 1:9).

D. The Lord is faithful to reveal 'the path of life' to those who seek it (Ps. 16:11).

III. How can you discover God's plan for you?

A. The Bible: Apply scriptural truth so you won't drift away from God's will (Ps. 119:105).

B. Prayer: The Lord promises to guide us when we pray according to His will (1 John 5:14-15).

C. Circumstances: For a child of God, there is no such thing as coincidence.

D. Godly counsel: Before taking advice, make sure the person counselling you leads a righteous life. Ask, 'What do you think the Word of God says I should do?'

E. Your conscience: It is the moral filter of your life. Develop a godly conscience by saturating your mind with the Word of God, and your decisions will become more Christlike over time.

F. Restless spirit: Dr. Stanley has always felt restless before major life changes. When this happens, it's wise to ask God, 'What are You saying to me?'

G. Unusual manifestations: The Lord sometimes reveals His will in unusual ways (Ex. 3:2; Acts 16:9).

IV. What are some hindrances to discovering God's will?

A. Self-will: If you have already made up your mind, it will be difficult to hear what the Lord wants you to do.

B. The influence of others: They may comment that God wouldn't expect you to make such a large sacrifice, and thereby discourage you from obeying.

C. Ignorance of God's Word: The next generation knows almost nothing about the Bible. Children need to sit in the worship service with their parents, even if they don't understand everything.

D. Doubt: Matthew 7:7 says, 'Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find.' Don't second-guess God's promises will (James 1:6-8).

E. Unworthiness: Don�t believe the lie that you are undeserving of the Lord's guidance or grace.

F. Busyness: If your life is too full to pray, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

G. Fear: When revealed, God's will can seem impossible or foolish. But remember, the Lord can bring good out of every situation (Rom. 8:28).

H. Known sin: If you are determined to live a rebellious life, the Father will not fully reveal His will to you.

V. How can you know for sure that you've heard Him correctly? Ask yourself these questions:

A. Is it consistent with the Word of God?

B. Is it a wise decision?

C. Can I honestly ask the Lord to help me achieve this?

D. Do I have genuine peace about it?

E. Does this decision fit who I am as a follower of Jesus? Does it fit the Lord's overall plan for my life?

F. Will this decision honour God?

VI. A Personal Example: During Dr. Stanley's senior year of college, he saw two falling stars that confirmed his call to preach. The Father graciously revealed His guidance for Dr. Stanley's life. He will do the same for you.

VII. Conclusion: If you will faithfully apply biblical principles, you can know God's plans for your life. Once you know His will, don't let doubt, fear, or wilful sin keep you from obeying Him. Your own plans can't compare to the good things the Father has in store. The wisest thing you can do is obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.


Charles Frazier Stanley (born September 25, 1932) is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in northern Atlanta, Georgia. He is the founder and president of In Touch Ministries and also served two one-year terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1984 to 1986. He has an evangelical and dispensationalist theology. Now, why am I loathe to criticise him? Who am I? He is pastor of one of the biggest Baptist churches in the USA. He has written 35 books and he has hosted 4 Television Programmes.

Am I not just a petty critic sitting on the side line? Now sure, as can clearly see, there is more substance in his outline, it is not just a simple sermon for simple Christians living in a complicated day and age. My disappointment again though is that there is nothing of Israel, nothing of Jeremiah, nothing of their context. One of the golden rules of Biblical interpretation is to discover the message for its immediate listeners and then to apply that message in a relevant fashion for us living today.

Now, if you read through his outline on Jeremiah 29:11 he has a lot to say about the Bible guiding us. The problem is that if this is the way he uses the Bible, why should other Christians not use it like he does? Simply, read the text and give it the meaning that you want to. His opening statement based on the text is bold: 'The Lord has a plan for our lives. And if necessary, God will move heaven and earth to show us His will (Life Principle #10). Fully understanding this truth is essential to discovering the Father's plan and purpose for you.'

Oh, how Israel should wish that they were able to extract all of the above from the verse and be able to apply it in their lives. So, how do we know God's will for our lives? Well, we have a personal example from the life of Dr Stanley: During Dr. Stanley's senior year of college, he saw two falling stars that confirmed his call to preach. The Father graciously revealed His guidance for Dr. Stanley's life. He will do the same for you. So, based on two falling stars I must conclude that God graciously revealed His guidance to Dr. Stanley, and that He will do the same for me, why: 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.

As a young man, I committed myself to being as honest with the text as I possibly could. I have not even arrived anywhere near the standard yet, but I refuse to blatantly expound God's word and know that what I am saying is nowhere near the meaning of the text. Think for yourself, if you were to read the text, would you get anything of what he preached on in the text. That does not mean that I cannot on a devotional level find some level of meaning in the text by simply observing, but that meaning can be greatly flawed if we do not understand that which surrounds the text.

Now, that said, let's just glance a little at this text in context. I don't have time for an in depth exposition as I simply want to commit one evening to each text we are looking at in our Bible studies and no more.

After hearing this verse preached for the first time according to the first outline, I realised I need to re-read the text to make sure how this impacted its immediate readers.

Re-reading Jeremiah 29 required me to back up and understand the story of Jeremiah, especially chapter 28. Chapter 28 records a confrontation between the prophet Jeremiah and another prophet named Hananiah. They are standing in the Jerusalem temple, which is empty because the Babylonians had ransacked the city, when Hananiah makes a bold promise: God is going to restore Israel in two years. (Two years!) All the things that were stolen, all the people forced into slavery, everything will be better in two short years. The tens of thousands of people living in exile will be coming home soon. Here is Hananiah's promise on behalf of God as recorded in Jeremiah 28:3-5 (NIV) 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the Lord's house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed from here and took to Babylon. 4 I will also bring back to this place Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and all the other exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.  5 Then the prophet Jeremiah replied to the prophet Hananiah before the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord. 6 He said, Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the Lord's house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon.

For a moment Jeremiah himself was hoodwinked. Even as a true prophet of God, he thought or wished that this prophecy was true. Even today, good guys are misled by bad guys. We can be misled as well, that is why we must search the Scriptures like the Bereans. Later in chapter 28 Jeremiah learns from God that the prophecy was a lie, and he recognized exactly what kind of promise this was. It sounded good in the short term and would make Hananiah and his supporters very popular. Hananiah may even have believed the promise himself. But it wasn't true. God had no plans to make everything better in two years. Speaking through Jeremiah, God says to Hananiah in verse 15-17 You have made these people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore, this is what the Lord says: I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the Lord. 17 In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.

A good question to ask is this. Why does verse 16 not make the promise boxes? It is a Word from the Lord isn't it? Now, let's be honest so far. How many of us know anything about this part of the story by simply reading Jeremiah 29:11? And this is critical. I will go so far as to say that anybody quoting 29:11 out of context are actually guilty of the sin of Hananiah. We are misleading God's people.

Then comes Jeremiah 29. Against the backdrop of false promises about prosperity, about God's wonderful plan to set everything right in the near future, Jeremiah sends a letter to Babylon that says, more-or-less: "All of you people are going to be in exile for 70 years. You're going to die in Babylon. Your children are going to die in Babylon. Settle in."

Let me post verse 11 in context. We start at verse 8: 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord. 10 For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

We often read Jeremiah 29 like it is good news, plain and simple. But to the first people who heard those words, they were a tremendous disappointment. God's people had suffered terribly. They had lost their land, their throne, their temple. Before Jerusalem fell in battle, the people had given in to cannibalism. They were then force-marched 1280 km and paraded (literally) through a pagan city in which they were now considered as the living symbols of the power of that city's god. It was into this kind of despair that Jeremiah offered God's promise: I know the plans I have for you , plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future and a hope. They were not easy words to hear. Jeremiah promised that God had a plan that was certain and inevitable. But it would not unfold on the present Israel's timetable. It would not simply undo Israel's hardship. Yet the promise stood: God would fully restore His people and bring them out of their desperate situation, but He would not do it in the way any of them would have planned it.

All along I had heard Jeremiah 29 like I was listening to Hananiah as if God would work out everything for my benefit in the near future and in ways that made sense to me. This is simply misapplying God's promises out of context to myself. The reason we take Jeremiah 29 out of its context is because these are the kinds of promises we want to hear, based on the old self, where it is all about me. And so God, our Super God, is there for Super Me with a Super Plan. But, the Word of God does not work like that. All Scripture appears in context, and a text out of context becomes pretext.

I hope this first one has made sense to you. I do not even have to expound it fully, as the context is obvious. We must just read the text before us. Now, you decide who has done a little bit more justice to the text. Us, in what we did tonight, or the simple sermon outline, or the more substantive outline of a dear saint, Charles Stanley that also sadly ignores the context? I would seriously have swallowed Stanley's sermon as even being a goodish topical sermon. My problem is simply that Jeremiah 29:11 is used as the text and then we learn nothing of the text at all. Then one should simply say, I want to talk to you about finding God's will for your life, and then to make sure that the other verses are accurate as well.

So, the next time somebody decides to bless you with this promise. Ask them if they know what it actually means. You see, when you go through trials and somebody throws this in your face as a get out of jail free card, you know God is in control as He was with Israel even if this trial were to last.