Most Christians know Jeremiah 29:11 by heart. After all, we have Jeremiah 29:11 artwork and calendars, Jeremiah 29:11 magnets and coffee mugs, even Jeremiah 29:11 hoodies. And for good reason. The verse is beautiful: “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.”
That said, the verse becomes even more beautiful when taken in context. In the preceding verse, it reads, “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place’ ” Jeremiah 29:10.
Waiting 70 years might not seem encouraging on the surface–or at all for that matter–but it points to a bigger picture that God has for our lives.
Last month I attended the Sojourn Network Conference in Louisville, KY, and I was challenged by so many gifted speakers. While several of the talks are still in my head, I keep coming back to one in particular by Jamaal Williams, lead pastor at Sojourn Midtown, who encouraged us to “unpack our bags” in our ministry endeavors.
He Makes Us Lie Down
It’s a simple theme, but if I’m honest, I have not done well with unpacking the bags of my life. I have a restless heart, and I’m guilty of looking for the place where the grass is greener. The irony, of course, is that Christ–not our circumstances or job or relationship–provides that grass and the rest that comes with it. In Psalm 23, we are reminded that “He makes me lie down in green pastures . . . he refreshes my soul.” Take note: The Good Shepherd does not “invite” us to lie down–he makes us lie down. And it’s this whisper from the Lord that I have to listen to more often, not the siren call of our culture which lures me to self-gratification.
One of my favorite pastors is Matt Chandler, who confessed to his congregation during his “A Beautiful Design” series that he often “wants to be the point.” I, too, want to be the point. My world can become so me-centered that I can forget whom I should be pointing others to. Throughout the Bible runs a recurring theme of rootedness in a place, a home, and a people; this theme has so much beauty that it’s easy for me to forget that the place, the home, and the people of the Old Testament are pointing to the One to Come.
Unpack Your Bags
Jeremiah 29:10-14 reminds us that we serve a God of redemption and restoration, a God of faithfulness. Yet God is just–and in the seventy years mentioned in verse 10, many of the Israelites to whom God is speaking will be dead and gone.
In the midst of your own struggles, have you wondered if your dream is God’s desire?
Is your goal leading to His goal?
Unpack your bags, fellow believer. Lie down. Let the God of restoration do His work in you.
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Small Group Director at Good News Church | St. Augustine, FL