I am reading this morning in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 29, which is in the Old Testament. To give you a little background here of what was going on back then, I will share with you that the people of God had been living in open rebellion against the Lord, living in idolatry and in immorality.
So, the Lord sent Jeremiah, the prophet of God, to speak to the people about their sins, to call them to repentance, and to warn them of divine judgment if they did not repent. But the people mostly ignored Jeremiah’s warnings, and they continued in their rebellious ways, in idolatry, in immorality, and in wickedness.
So, God did as he had promised, and he did send judgment upon them, and now they were in captivity (in exile) in Babylon. And the judgment was to last 70 years.
Jeremiah 29:10-11 ESV
“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. 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.”
Is This for Us?
Many people today are misquoting this passage of Scripture and they are using it to promote a “health, wealth, and prosperity” false doctrine. Many people are using this passage of Scripture to teach that all is going to go well for us, that we won’t have troubles, that we won’t get sick, that we won’t have heartaches, but that only good will come to us, and not harm.
But Jesus Christ and the New Testament apostles did not teach that to the believers in Jesus Christ. They taught us that we will have hardships, that we will be hated, that we will be persecuted, and that if we follow Jesus with our lives that we will share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, becoming like him in his death. And we are told that life will be hard, not easy for us.
And they taught us that suffering is for our good, that God is disciplining those he loves, and so we are to rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and character and hope. So, we are not to be surprised when a fiery trial comes upon us to test us. In fact, we are to consider ourselves blessed that we are able to suffer for the sake of Christ.
So, we are to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds, for the testing of our faith is for the divine purpose to produce within us steadfastness of faith and spiritual maturity. So, we are blessed when others revile us. [I have been experiencing some of that the last 24 hours.] And we are blessed when they persecute us and utter all kinds of evil against us falsely on the Lord’s account. But our rewards are great in heaven.
We are to expect to be persecuted, even by others who call themselves Christians, and even by pastors of what are called “churches.” And we should anticipate that if we are fully devoted to following Jesus Christ with our lives that some of us will be booted out of some of these institutional churches, which is okay anyway, for we are to leave Babylon.
But these sufferings are for our good, that we may share with Christ in his holiness and that it may bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness in us who have been trained by God’s discipline, and that we may learn to not rely on ourselves but on God, and that we may comfort others with the comfort we received from God when we suffered as they are now suffering, etc.
[Matt 5:10-12; Matt 10:16-25; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 6:22-23; Lu 21:12-19; John 15:1-21; Jn 16:33; Ac 14:22; Rom 5:3-5; Phil 3:7-11; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 4:12-17; 1 Thess 3:1-5; Jas 1:2-4; 2 Co 1:3-11; Heb 12:3-12]
A Future and Hope
So, this is one of the ways in which God is fulfilling his plans for us, which is for our welfare (in our best interest, for our good) so that we will not do evil as our ancestors did, and as the children of Israel did in the wilderness and as they did many other times throughout their history as the children of God. And this is for the purpose to give us a future and a hope.
For we are still living in flesh bodies, and we still are being tempted to sin against the Lord, and we still have the propensity to sin, so the Lord disciplines us for our good so that we will not go astray, and so that we will not continue in or fall back in sin, but so that we will live holy and godly lives in the forsaking of our sins and in walks of obedience to our Lord.
And the Scriptures teach us that if we walk (in conduct, in practice) in sin, and if righteousness, godliness, and obedience to our Lord are not what we practice, that we will not inherit eternal life with God. It won’t matter what we professed with our lips or thought we believed in our hearts, for our faith shows itself to be genuine or not by our actions, by what we do.
So, just like the Lord back then disciplined his people for their good, in order to bring them back to the Lord, in order that they might walk in obedience to him and no longer go their own way so that they would have a future and hope in him, the Lord allows us to suffer for his sake to keep us on the right path and so that we do not stray from him, but so we obey him in all ways.
And this is so that we will have the hope of heaven when we leave this earth. For Jesus said that not everyone saying to him, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one DOING the will of God the Father who is in heaven. So many people are thinking that they are headed to heaven, yet only one day for the Lord to tell them to depart from him.
Jeremiah 29:12-13 ESV
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
So, if you are going through a difficult trial or hardship which is testing your faith, thank the Lord! If you are being persecuted for righteousness’ sake because of your walk of faith in the Lord Jesus, rejoice! This doesn’t mean to ignore the hurt or that you can’t cry. It is okay to hurt and to cry your suffering out to the Lord, but then let him heal you from the inside out.
Let the Lord Jesus show you the purpose of your suffering, for it is not for naught. It has a purpose, and it is to mature us and to make us holy and to prune and purify us so we are more fruitful for God’s eternal kingdom. So let God do his work in your life to change you and to mold you into his likeness and to make you more like Jesus. And then trust him fully!
And if you are suffering because you are being rebellious, and you are lacking in self-discipline, and you are not listening to God and to godly counsel, but you are stubbornly going your own way, living in idolatry and in immorality, then submit to Christ as Lord and let God have his way in your life. Surrender your life to the Lord and forsake your life of sin.
For, we are all going to be judged by what we do in this life. And we are all going to reap what we sow. And if we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction. But if we sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life. If you walk in sin, you will die in your sins. You will not inherit eternal life. So walk in holiness and obedience to the Lord Jesus.
[Matt 7:21-23; Lu 9:23-26; Jn 15:1-11; Ac 26:18; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Rom 12:1-2; Col 3:5-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-11; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15; 1 Co 10:1-22; Heb 3:1-19; Heb 4:1-13]
Rejoice in the Lord
By Ron Hamilton
God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness He giveth a song.
I could not see through the shadows ahead;
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day;
Then peace came and tears fled away.
Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit I will bear.
O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake,
He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried and purified,
I shall come forth as gold.
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