It’s Not About Us
James C. Denison
Smart people can make some dumb predictions:
•In 1943, the chairman of IBM said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
•Decca Recording Company rejected a musical group in 1962 with the assertion, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” The group was named the Beatles.
•Irving Fisher, Economics Professor at Yale University, said, “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” The year was 1929.
•Charles Duell, commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents, said in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
•The head of IBM once said of a proposal, “I don’t know what use anyone could find for a machine that would make copies of documents.” The inventor was forced to found Xerox.
•The chairman of Digital Equipment Corporation said in 1977, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Who of us can really see the future? Who of us thought two Sundays ago that the next day would bring the Virginia Tech tragedy? What will happen tomorrow where you live?
On a day when we honor and pray for our graduates, what kind of society are we sending them into? Is there an overarching purpose to this apparently random, chaotic world? If there is, how can they know it? How can you?
God promises his chosen people, “I know the plans I have for you–plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” But he sent the Babylonians to destroy their temple and take them captive. They’re going to be enslaved in this foreign, pagan land for 70 years. How can this be? How can God have a plan to prosper and not harm them, and allow this?
How can God allow the tragedy at Virginia Tech to take the lives of 32 students and faculty just like our graduates and their parents? How can he allow you to face cancer and heart disease, divorce and death and grief? How does this promise work in a fallen world like theirs and ours? How can we find God’s will and purpose in the midst of such struggles as we all face?
Learn about the purpose of God
Let’s examine God’s answer to our question. Our text gives us five life lessons, each of them crucial to our problem. Our text begins: “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord.”
Here we learn lesson one: God has a plan for our lives. Over and again, Scripture declares that fact.
•James taught us: “You ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that'” (James 4:15; cf. Ephesians 6:6, Hebrews 13:21).
•The psalmist prayed, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God” (Psalm 143:10).
Whatever your decision, question, or problem, know that God has a plan and an answer for you today.
Lesson two: God knows his plans for us, but we do not. “I know the plans I have for you,” he says. But we do not. No one in the Bible gets a five-year plan.
•The Bible says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 13:8).
•When Moses agreed to face Pharaoh, he didn’t know there would be a Red Sea in his future.
•Joshua knew nothing about a flooded Jordan River or fortified Jericho when he agreed to lead the nation.
•When Daniel started the day in prayer, he didn’t know he would end it in the lion’s den.
•The fishermen who left their boats to follow Jesus didn’t know they would lead the global Christian movement.
•When Paul followed the Macedonian call and baptized Lydia in Philippi, he didn’t know he was bringing the gospel to the Western world.
Whatever your problem or decision today, know that you don’t know the answer. Refuse to trust your human wisdom, education, or experience. Tell God that you don’t know the right plan, and that you need his. Develop the reflex of praying first, always.
Lesson three: God’s plan is for our best. His purpose is “to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.”
Forty-three times by my count, God’s word promises that God loves us. He so loved us that he gave his Son for us (John 3:16). He proved his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:35-39). He longs to be gracious to us and rises to show us compassion (Isaiah 30:18).
He is a perfect Father, and he loves every one of his children perfectly and unconditionally. No matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done, he loves us. Even though the Jews’ sins and rebellion have landed them in Babylon, he loved them. Even though our sins and failures have caused us guilt and him grief, he loves us. He has a plan to prosper and not harm us, to give us hope and a future. All of us.
Decide now that you will follow his plan, whatever it is, because it is best for you. And then you will know it.
Lesson four: his plan begins today. It is a flashlight in the dark, showing us enough to take the next step but no more.
God has a plan for where and how they should live: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce” (v. 5).
He has a plan for the families they should have: “Marry and have sons and daughters” (v. 6).
He even has a plan for the country which has enslaved them: “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” (v. 7).