“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." Jeremiah 29:11
It doesn’t take long for anyone who reads the Bible to learn that God has made special promises to His own, no matter when or where they live. To Jacob, who was fleeing for his life, having stolen his brother’s inheritance, God said, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Genesis 28:15).
When Joshua took over the leadership of the rag-tag band of men and women who had wandered in the wilderness for forty years, God reaffirmed the promise He had made to Moses. God said, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses” (Joshua 3:7).
Even when Israel had turned their back on God, the faithful were assured of God’s presence and help. At least six times God repeated His promise to be with Jeremiah, who was periodically thrown into prison, beaten and treated as an outcast.
In Jeremiah 29:11 there is a wonderful promise which says, “’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.’”
Yet in scrutinizing the lives of these to whom God made promises, you quickly realize that Jacob was deceived by his father-in-law and almost killed by his brother, that Jeremiah was an outcast among his own people, and that Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s sword and people were slaughtered and taken in chains back to Babylon.
The New Testament makes the promises of God even more personal. Twice New Testament writers affirm that Jesus said He would never leave or forsake His own, yet we read that both Paul and Peter were often imprisoned. Paul’s litany of suffering includes being shipwrecked and beaten with rods, receiving the thirty-nine lashes of a Roman soldier’s whip some five times, and countless other afflictions which would cause more than a few to wonder if those promises should be taken personally.
And this brings the present into focus. If God’s promises extend to us today, and a fair reading of the New Testament leads you to conclude this, how do we reconcile difficulty, disasters, and losses with our expectations? Some make no attempt to answer, whatsoever. But others see God’s hand in both the good which we like and the difficult and challenging which we would prefer avoiding. They see God’s hand in not only allowing the fiery furnace but protecting His own in the fire.
Paul believed that a sovereign God allowed evil in the world which still accomplished His purpose. To the Philippians, he wrote from prison, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). To the Ephesians he said, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
No, God doesn’t expect you to be passive to evil or difficulty, but to face it, realizing that evil must be challenged while we must endure its consequences which we cannot stop.
Evil in our world doesn’t negate or disallow the promises that a loving God has made to His children. God will have His payday someday, so until then you can trust Him and realize nothing can destroy or void His promises that cannot be broken.
Resource reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-18