Let’s continue with this year’s theme of simple and powerful prayers with this month emphasizing the idea of praying back God’s promises to Him. Listen to this promise and we will see why it is both so popular and powerful all at the same time:
“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.” Jer 29:11 NIV
It is so comforting to read the promises in God’s Word. But not all promises come automatically. There are unconditional promises (thank You, Jesus!) as well as conditional promises in the Bible. Last week we talked about an UN-conditional promise from God. We know this because He does not say “I will never leave you nor forsake you, if…or when…or unless.” An example of a conditional promise, that has come to my heart over and over with the current crisis, is found in 2Chronicles 7:14 which clearly shows us our part (to humble ourselves, seek His face, pray and turn away from wickedness) and what He will do in response (forgive us and heal our nation). With Jeremiah 29:11, we see an unconditional promise side by side of a conditional promise. Let me explain.
Conditional. God has a good plan for all of us who choose to surrender our lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior. We have access to the power of God when He unites with our once dead spirits. The Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life as the Bible calls Him, will come into our hearts and change them from stone to flesh. We will be able to connect with God in prayer and learn to use the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives, more and more, as we mature. The condition here is we must belong to God. We must choose to lay down our temporary, limited, selfish lives and pick up this New, Eternal, God-centered life where the peace that surpasses understanding begins to be our normal response to all circumstance in our days. We must come to the end of ourselves and realize that, life apart from God is not fulfilling or satisfying, but only fleeting and insufficient. The condition for this Abundant Life that God wants for us to have, enjoy and share, this New Life in Christ that He has already provided for us to be able to have, is simply to surrender our way and join Him in His Way. This, of course, brings with it benefits that are beyond explanation. You truly have to experience the Goodness of God to really understand how much better life is with Jesus.
Conditional. We often forget that, here in chapter 29 in the Book of Jeremiah, God is telling His people that He is sending them away into exile because of their continued disobedience and rebellious hearts. Verse 10 says, “Thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, and bring you back to this place.’” One of the reasons the next verse is so powerful is that God promises them He has a good plan for their lives, even as they are being banished from their homes. Even though they are headed for potential suffering and possible isolation, God is giving them a secure Hope to hold on to so that they will continue to have light in the darkness. This is kind of like a parent putting their disobedient child in a “time out,” but then telling them, when they are finished sitting there for 70 minutes, they will receive a reward afterwards. Kind of makes the punishment easier to handle. This exile was a condition of their disobedience. But God’s good plan for them was unconditional.
Unconditional. God had already given His people years and years of opportunities to repent, and they refused to listen. So now the sentence had been passed, yet the promise is, after 70 years, God would restore them. This restoration did not depend on them now becoming obedient while in Babylon. God had decided, regardless of what they do or do not do, He would bring them back. Notice verse 12 does not say, “IF you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me,” but, “then you WILL call upon Me and come and pray to Me.” God knows that this punishment will lead to the repentance that will begin to restore their relationship with God. He knows that we will choose our own way at times and refuse to turn from our selfishness. He knows that He must then allow us to reap what we have been sowing. But He also knows what it takes to turn our hearts back to Him once again. And so God’s Plan for us works together both the good and bad choices we make, and blends them into a good plan that will lead us to return to Him. Then He WILL restore us, bringing us back into this glorious relationship, here and then forevermore.
Conditional and unconditional. This is a relationship, after all. There is a part that we must choose to do, and there is a part that only God can, and will, do. Let us pray and praise God for His good plan for His children. Pray with me: Lord, fulfill Your plans for our lives. And yes, we are even praying for discipline when necessary! This will keep us from straying too far from God and experiencing His Goodness more and more. As I said above: You truly have to experience the Goodness of God to really understand how much better life is with Jesus. That includes His loving “time out’s.” This has been the story of my life in Christ…and I wouldn’t want it any other way. How about you? Then won’t you join me?
Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.
<>< Peace, Diane