Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Are there definite rights and wrongs? Or, is morality completely subjective? Are we to show tolerance (acceptance) of all beliefs and practices? Should we make allowances for sin – sin as defined by God? Or for different religions? And, should we entertain the thinking that there are many paths to God?
Is there a purpose for the things God allows in our lives? Should we expect suffering to be a part of our lives, or should we try to avoid it, run from it, or adopt a belief that suffering should not be a part of the life of a believer? And, does God’s love and grace to us mean he will never discipline or correct us? Or, that he does not require death to sin and living to righteousness?
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, 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.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord. Jer. 29:4-9 NIV
Due to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, where they disobeyed God, and thus they sinned against him, we are all born with sin natures, separate from God, and without hope. We all fall short of attaining God’s divine approval. Also, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, and a curse was put upon them and on the earth, because of their sin. Thus, sickness, hardship, pain, suffering and death also entered into the world.
When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are delivered from our bondage to sin and decay, and we are set free to now walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. We have been given hope, and we are now in fellowship with our God. But, we still live in flesh bodies which are tempted to sin, and we still live on this earth where sin abounds, and we still will face sickness, hardship, suffering and death. Yet, we are exiles here, strangers on this earth, for now heaven is our eternal home.
But, God placed us here for a purpose. None of us are here by accident. Although we are now exiles, and heaven is our eternal destiny, God has a purpose for our lives while he has us here, and that does involve pain, sorrow, sickness, persecution, and suffering, not just for being a Christian, but because we live in a fallen world. For God allows pain, hardship and suffering in our lives as a means of drawing us to himself, and for teaching us to rely on him and not on ourselves, so suffering can be for our good.
Yet, many people surround themselves with teachers who tell them what their itching ears want to hear. They want to believe that suffering is not part of God’s design and purpose for our lives, and that they should just be happy all the time, so rather than allow suffering to do its work in their hearts and lives, to draw them closer to the Lord, many of them medicate themselves with all sorts of stuff, including with sinful practices, to make themselves feel better, but “feel better” is a lie of Satan, for the escapee only ends up feeling much worse, and so he continues to run and to medicate, and to push himself even further away from God.
One of the biggest lies of Satan is that God’s grace to us is more like a pat on the back to make us feel better about ourselves, but that it does not require anything of us – no death to sin, no obedience, no submission to the cross, no yielding to God, and no resisting Satan and fleeing temptation. They teach his forgiveness of sins in such a way in which it alleviates people’s guilty consciences, but it does nothing to deliver them from their addictions to sin, and thus they are still left in their sin, without hope.
We are not to listen to these prophets and teachers who tell us lies, and who tell us that God does not require repentance or obedience or that he will not allow us to go through suffering, hardship and pain. For, it is through the things which we suffer, which includes dying to sin, that we learn to walk in holiness and righteousness, and we draw close to our Lord in fellowship with him. And, it is there, in our suffering, that we draw on the Lord for our strength, and he teaches us his will and his ways so we can walk in them.
Seek and Find
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. 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. Then you will call on 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,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jer. 29:10-14 NIV
Although the Lord has us in exile right now on this earth, and that does involve suffering, and it does involve daily dying to sin and self, which is another form of suffering, he promises that those who have been trained by his discipline will share in his holiness and that we will reap a harvest of righteousness, if we do not give up. So, there are eternal rewards which we can reap even while we live in exile. Yet, we also have the promise of heaven one day, and of our Lord’s return to take us home to be with him where there will be no more pain, suffering, sorrow and death. Amen!
Ok, so how then should we interpret verse 11 to our lives today? What plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future does God have for his church, his saints, today?
Well, for one, God intended to leave his people in exile for seventy years, for he had things he wanted to teach them during this time, and he wanted them to grow in their walks of faith with him during this time, as well. Yes, he promised to deliver them from their exile one day, but not for a long while. Seventy years today is a lifespan for a lot of people. We have the hope of one day being delivered from this world, too, but we may have to live in it for a very long time.
God’s people had been living in rebellion against him, and they had not been listening to him, which is why he sent them into exile. His plan and his purpose for them while in exile, thus, was that they would now call on him in truth, and that they would seek him with their WHOLE hearts, not with divided hearts and divided loyalties. Then the Lord would be found by them, and then they would be delivered from their captivity. And, then the Lord would restore them, revive them, and bring them back into fellowship with him. And, this is his plan and his purpose for all of us, which is why Jesus died for us on that cross.
In other words, God’s plan for our lives to prosper us and not harm us, and to give us a hope and a future is to deliver us from our bondage to sin (via death to sin), and to free us to walk in his holiness and righteousness. It is that we would humble ourselves, call on him IN TRUTH, and that we would seek him with our whole hearts. This means that our desire is now for him, to please him in all ways, and it is not to keep living in sin, pleasing our flesh. For, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
So, our Lord allows hardship in our lives. He permits us to face opposing forces, too, to challenge us in our walks of faith. He consents to us going through times of suffering, persecution, and even temptation, in order to strengthen us in our walks of faith, in order that we will draw near to him, and that we will walk in his holiness and righteousness, and not according to the flesh.
Yet, he gives us everything we need to survive, to thrive, to conquer, to be faithful, and to fight off those attacks of the enemy and to walk in holiness and purity. We just have to put that armor on daily, and hold on to the truth, and not give way to the lies of Satan which will try to coddle us in our sins rather than move us to abandon our sins and to follow our Lord in obedience.
Soldiers of Christ Arise
Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies, through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of Hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.
Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God;
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.
Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul;
Take every virtue, every grace, and fortify the whole.
From strength to strength go on; wrestle, and fight, and pray;
Tread all the powers of darkness down and win the well-fought day.
Saturday, February 24, 2018, 6:00 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for this teaching from your Word. May we all take it to heart and apply its truths to our daily lives. May we resist Satan and draw near to you.