He’s got plans

The Covington News - - RELIGION - Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day is at 8 & 10:30am. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at www.abid­ing­grace.com.

Think about that – God knows the plans he has for us – and some­times they seem to stink. Some­times, they don’t seem real pleas­ant. So tell me, do you reg­u­larly think about the set­backs in your life as or­ches­trated by your lov­ing God – the one who loved you so much he gave up his Son?

“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.” God said that (Jeremiah 29:11). Have you ever felt like say­ing, “Yeah, right” when you hear it? In­tel­lec­tu­ally, we can say that we agree. We know God is in con­trol and he knows what he’s do­ing and he’s work­ing for our good. We can say that with our mouths…. but do our hearts al­ways buy it? Do we al­ways live like it?

How hard do you think these words were to be­lieve for “God’s peo­ple” in around the 6th cen­tury BC? Be­tween 605 and 586 BC, they had been de­feated and de­ported three times, the last one end­ing in to­tal de­struc­tion of their city of Jerusalem. And right in the mid­dle of it all – God made this prom­ise. “I know what I’m do­ing.” Yeah, right. Yet God keeps promis­ing. The key to this is notic­ing who God said took them into exile – not Ne­buchad­nez­zar, not the Baby­lo­ni­ans – God did it!

Think about that – God knows the plans he has for us – and some­times they seem to stink. Some­times, they don’t seem real pleas­ant. So tell me, do you reg­u­larly think about the set­backs in your life as or­ches­trated by your lov­ing God – the one who loved you so much he gave up his Son?

Think about some of those he­roes of Bi­ble His­tory. Noah had to live like a lu­natic and build a boat in the mid­dle of the desert, Abra­ham had to leave ev­ery­thing he knew and all he had built up at home, David had to live in hid­ing from King Saul and Paul spent plenty of nights blood­ied in jail – all be­cause God was in con­trol and loved them, all be­cause God knew the plans he had for them and was work­ing for their good. And in hind­sight, we see that re­ally clearly – in how ev­ery one of those sit­u­a­tions played out.

But when we are go­ing through it?!? We don’t al­ways see it. Ap­ply this. What is God do­ing with you? When the job is sud­denly not so cer­tain, when sick­ness strikes, when the can­cer comes back… When death takes a loved one, when the fi­nances fail and re­la­tion­ships crum­ble… do you think about those times as op­por­tu­ni­ties from God for your good?

Or is your faith so weak that you think God doesn’t know what he’s do­ing? Or maybe he’s not pow­er­ful enough? Time and again in Is­rael’s his­tory – God sin­gle­hand­edly de­stroyed en­e­mies much more pow­er­ful than Baby­lon. He eas­ily could have de­stroyed Ne­buchad­nez­zar too – but he didn’t this time – be­cause he had plans.

And some­times God doesn’t cure your can­cer or fix your job sit­u­a­tion. Some­times he lets you suf­fer a lit­tle bit – not be­cause he can’t fix it – but be­cause he has plans. And when we don’t see that, when we don’t trust in this prom­ise – he should send more than the Baby­lo­nian army to teach us a les­son. He should cast us away from him for­ever.

But God had a plan – a plan that ac­tu­ally in­cluded this whole Baby­lo­nian cap­tiv­ity thing, a plan that would in­volve some wise men com­ing from this area that the exile Daniel was taken to, wise men who more than 500 years later were study­ing prom­ises learned from these ex­iles in the 6th cen­tury BC that would be ful­filled all those cen­turies later – it was a plan to send God’s Son. He had made it to Adam and Eve, to Noah and Abra­ham, David and all the rest – a plan to pay our price. That was at the heart of all of that Old Tes­ta­ment His­tory. God was keep­ing his prom­ise be­cause he had a plan for you and for me – to for­give us when we failed in our trust, to strengthen us when we are weak, to cel­e­brate with you in per­fec­tion for­ever. But to make that plan hap­pen, it took what didn’t seem pleas­ant – the suf­fer­ing and cru­ci­fix­ion and death of the per­fect Son of God.

Think about what that tells you about God’s plan for you. He loved you so much that he or­ga­nized all of world his­tory to give you his Son. Could you re­ally pos­si­bly think that he would do that for you and then let your sick­ness or loss, your bank bal­ance or job, any­thing that you are go­ing through…. do you re­ally think that if he could and did do what he did, that he isn’t in con­trol over a lit­tle thing like can­cer or war or pol­i­tics or what­ever it is we worry about.

Read the pas­sage at the begin­ning of this ar­ti­cle again. It’s frus­trat­ing when we don’t know the plans. We like to be in con­trol, but when we’re mak­ing de­ci­sions, all too of­ten, we don’t know how it will play out. But how com­fort­ing it is to know the planner! And look at what he says – he has plans to pros­per and not to harm, plans of hope and a fu­ture. His plans al­ways point to Je­sus, they al­ways point to our eter­nity in heaven, so when we wrestle with de­ci­sions here, which­ever choice we make, when we make it with the Planner – he is with us to pros­per us and not to harm.

And then look at verse 12:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will lis­ten to you. He is there lis­ten­ing and an­swer­ing. And, verse 13:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, de­clares the LORD.

He wants to be found by us in Word and sacra­ment. When we gather to­gether around his Word, he is with us. So come join your broth­ers and sis­ters in Christ soon and let’s cel­e­brate God’s plans.

JONATHON SCHARF COLUM­NIST

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