Over the last couple of weeks, our worship services have been focused on the concept of encouragement. We have been considering questions, such as: how can we be a person who is constantly in the mode of encouraging others? What about being more encouraging to ourselves? In short, how can we simply be more positive?
One of the phrases that I have probably repeated hundreds of times over the years is, “Christians ought to be the most positive people in the entire world!” Think about it. Our sins have been forgiven, we have been adopted into God’s family, we have a real relationship with God, He is with us in both our good times as well as our difficult ones, and we are now able to live a life of purpose. Put all of that together and you would think we would be in a pretty good mood most of the time. And yet, most of us spend a considerable amount of our time in a fairly negative state of existence. Let’s see what we can do about this….
I would like to begin with a Scripture that we are all familiar with, Jeremiah 29:11. It 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.”
Now, I have read several articles lately that talk about Scriptures that we take out of context and this one is usually near the top of the list. The argument would be that we quote this verse or even write it out when giving encouragement to each other, but that we never talk about why it was originally penned back in the Old Testament. I agree that we should always look at the context for Scripture to help us understand the true meaning of the text. The problem here though is that the context only confirms the reason so many of us love this Scripture.
Jeremiah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. God gave Jeremiah a very difficult message to deliver to His people. Their sin had become too much and a day of reckoning was coming. God would allow another nation (Babylon) to come in and destroy His beloved city of Jerusalem as well as deliver His judgment on His own people. However, their was a silver lining in Jeremiah’s rhetoric. On occasion, the prophet was given the opportunity to talk about what would happen after the discipline. This section of the book of Jeremiah is just such an opportunity. It is in the context of God’s judgment and discipline that Jeremiah speaks of God’s future plans – plans not to bring harm, but to bring success and purpose back to His people.
So, given that context, how can we then apply this verse to our lives? Does it hold any meaning for us whatsoever? The answer is clearly “yes!” This text shows us the heart of God. The main idea of this Scripture is that God did not want to bring disaster on them nor did He want them to face more and more punishment. Instead, God’s heart desire was for them to prosper, to do well, and to enjoy life! The discipline was coming for a season. But the goal was that the people would repent, come back into a right relationship with God, and then live out a life of joy.
This is also God’s desire for us. God wants us to be joyful and full of life. God wants good things for our lives, spiritual speaking, and there is nothing wrong with telling each other that based on this verse. This is something that we should celebrate and also share with others. Do we believe God has good plans for our lives? Do we share that excitement with those around us?
God does want you to have joy. The truth is joy and fulfillment are found only in a relationship with God through Christ. The problem comes any time that we try and find this “life” in any place other than a great relationship with God. However, when our lives are in line with what God wants for us, we will experience His joy for ourselves.
We will go through both good and bad times in this life. This is true whether we have a strong relationship with Christ or not. It is far better to go through difficult times (and good times) knowing God is right there with you and that He is working out a plan or purpose for your life. Therefore, even in tough times, you can still have joy and fulfillment.
Again, it is my opinion, that anyone who is truly experiencing life this way – someone who believes God loves them and has a perfect plan for their life – will be an optimistic, positive person. This kind of person will be a great advertisement for a relationship with God in this world.
I want to conclude with an illustration and Scripture that I heard in a video devotion by Craig Groeschel which was centered around this same “optimistic” theme. The illustration was simple: think about buzzards and hummingbirds. Each day, the buzzard searches high and low for anything that is dead or near-death and then takes advantage of that opportunity to destroy. On the other hand, the hummingbird, looks for sweet things that will satisfy their appetite. The point is that each of these birds finds exactly what they want – what they were searching for! The same is true for us, we will find what we search for. Will it be something healthy and positive for our lives and others, or will it be something negative and hurtful? Each day, we get to decide!
Proverbs 11:27 tells us this same truth….
“Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it.”
Be careful what you are searching for, it looks as though you are destined to find it!