“For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
How would you define the word prosper?
Most of us would say that to prosper means to be successful. So if one is successful, what defines success? A big corporate job? Having a lot of money? Having a nice house? Driving a nice car? Wearing only the most expensive clothes? Dining at the fancy restaurants?
Somehow I don’t think this is what God was saying to us in this verse in Jeremiah. God has plans for each of us. Big plans. Plans that will prosper us. Plans that will give us hope. Plans that will give us a future. Do those plans involve each of the successful things above? Maybe. Or maybe not.
If you look up the meaning of prosper in the Hebrew and Greek form, it has several meanings: to favor, to render successful, to thrive, to make gain, to grow, to increase. But I think my most favorite definition of this word is “to move forward favorably”. God’s plan for our lives is to make us thrive and grow and to move us forward (not backward) because we are favored by Him.
We can look all throughout the Bible and see that God prospered many people. One that I want to take a look at is Jacob. I was reminded of God’s plan to prosper Jacob by the sermon of our Associate Pastor his past Sunday morning at church. In Genesis 28, Jacob is on the run. He had just deceived his brother, Esau, and stolen his birthright from him. Esau was pretty livid and wanted to kill Jacob. But with the help of his mother, Rebekah, Jacob was able to escape and move to another land, where he falls in love and marries both Leah and Rachel (and also has 2 concubines). Between these four women, Jacob has 12 sons.
But if we back up a little, we will read about Jacob’s dream (the one we call Jacob’s ladder). In this dream God says to Jacob, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” (v. 13-15).
God spoke to Jacob in a dream and told him that he and his offspring would be great and would be blessed. Jacob commits this promise to memory and doesn’t forget. If we skip forward to Genesis 32, we will see that Jacob is ready to go back to the land of Canaan because God said it was time. But there’s one thing he’s afraid of…his brother, Esau. When he last left Esau, many years ago, things were not good. He was afraid that Esau would try to kill him. So he sends his messengers ahead of him to tell Esau that Jacob is coming home and that he comes in peace and hopes to find favor with him. Esau responds saying he is coming to meet him and bringing with him 400 of his men.
Now this is when Jacob starts to freak out a little. He panics and is worried and he cries out to God, reminding Him of the promise to prosper him. “And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant….But you have said, “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'” (Genesis 32:9-10,12)
Jacob is one bold man to remind God of His promise to prosper him. He’s not afraid to remind God of what He said to him years before. And what does God do? He prospers Jacob. He favors Jacob and moves him forward. Out of Jacob comes the land of Israel. Jacob’s offspring and descendants are great. God promised to prosper Jacob. And God kept His promise.
Jacob could come before God boldly because He knew God and knew God well. He had faith in the Lord, followed Him, trusted Him, and knew that God would never break the promises He made. Never. Because his God and our God is a faithful God.
We can learn a few things from Jacob. First we need to be walking closely with the Lord. And that doesn’t mean only seeking Him when we need Him. Walking closely with the Lord means seeking Him daily, reading His Word, understanding who God is, spending time in prayer. Because when we do these things we will know God and know Him well.
Second, we need to be bold. God wants us to be bold. When we know God and who He is, we can boldly approach Him. We aren’t afraid of Him or what He will say. We aren’t fearful that He won’t listen to us. We can boldly go to Him in prayer and remind Him of His plans to prosper us.
But let’s remember one important thing, God’s promise to prosper us does not look like the world’s definition of prosper. God promises to grow us. God promises to help us be successful (in His eyes). God promises to move us forward favorably.
Are you in a place in your life where you aren’t feeling very prosperous? Maybe you are feeling spiritually dry and need to know what God’s plan for your life is. I believe that if you seek God, know Him, remember His promises, and boldly go to Him in prayer then you will be able to recognize the many ways God DOES prosper you. You will see the ways that God favorably moves you forward.
Prayer: Faithful God, thank You for the promise to prosper us. Forgive us when we long for the success of this world. Help us to know that You don’t prosper us as the world would, but You prosper us by moving us forward in our faith. Thank You for having great plans for our life. We love You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- In what ways has God prospered you.
- If you are in a spiritually dry desert, what can you do to seek God and know the plans He has for you?