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Also, 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.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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.
A man wrote to Billy Graham asking why God didn’t answer his prayer to become a famous singer. Billy’s short but thoughtful response ended with this: “My prayer is that you will turn to Jesus Christ and commit your life and your future into His hands. Instead of asking God to bless your plans, ask Him instead to show you His plans, and then give you the strength to follow them.”
Our passage today talks about God’s plans. But what do I mean by this “7-11 Principle”? I’m not talking about indulging in Slurpees or eating 99-cent hot dogs from this well-known convenience store. The 7-11 Principle is something to help people remember the context of a well-known verse from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 29:11 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.”
A quick Google search reveals how popular this verse is and the marketing effort targeting Christians to purchase a myriad of items referencing Jeremiah 29:11. You can buy plaques, rings, journals, T-shirts, bibles, pen sets, magnetic strips, bookmarks, CD’s, pendants and even a cooler to keep your soft drinks cold! Why do people like this verse so much? Because it reminds them that no matter how difficult life gets, God is in control and will take care of His children.
Jeremiah was writing to the exiles living in Babylon living in enemy territory. They were praying for God to deliver them from the hands of their enemies and return them to Jerusalem. But Jeremiah’s letter had previously stated that God had a different plan than the one they had been praying for, one that would have a specific prerequisite prior to any blessing God would give.
Prerequisites are common today. In order to apply for a grant, your application must convince the committee that you meet their stated prerequisites or the committee will not likely accept your application. In my denomination the ordination council has education, internship, written examination and theological requirements for every person seeking to become a minister. In Jeremiah 29:7 God seems to be giving a prerequisite to the Jewish exiles in Babylon in order to receive the blessing he promises in verse 11. Jeremiah 29:7 says,
“Also, 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.”
This important prerequisite in verse 7 is often lost as we focus on the promised blessing in verse 11. That’s why I call this the 7-11 Principle, which I will unpack in more details in tomorrow’s devotional. In the meanwhile, take some time to think about how God is involved in your plans.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What kind of planning process do you utilize in the context in which you lead? What is an example of coming to the realization that a project’s success actually resulted from a different plan than the one you initially had?
In your planning, how do you weigh the best interests of yourself, your organization and those impacted by your organization? Are these mutually exclusive?
Father, I have many plans but I ultimately need to know what plans you want me to follow. Help me to not assume that my best-laid plans are what you desire. Reveal to me your priorities and as I align myself to your will may I experience the blessings you promise to those faithfully seeking you. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: God’s Presence Everywhere (Jeremiah 29)
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