Chapter 2; Here's What I Want

So today we're looking at the part of the promise in Jeremiah 29:11when God tells us he has plans for you to prosper.

For I knowThe 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.

Plans to Prosper
Exciting word 'prosper' and we'll come to that in a minute. But first let's start with one of the wonders of the world. Let me tell you about it. See if you can guess what it is.

Almost every person that has ever lived visits it. They have also helped to build it. Every visit brings another brick to be laid and every brick is laid without a thought for anyone else. There are always too many bricks; too many visits leaving people exhausted, stressed and unsatisfied. This particular construction will never be finished. It is the longest, highest wonder in the world. It’s one of the ugliest attractions around, yet people are pulled to it like a magnet.

Worked it out? It’s called the Great Wall of Whiner.

Each brick is a moan. Each builder discontented, each visitor unhappy and always sees someone else’s brick as better, bigger, newer or nicer!

Are you helping to build this wall? Are you under contract to Green R Grass & Co? You are if you’ve ever said: If I only had this; why do they have all the luck; it’s not fair, why me?

If you never feel you have enough or you always want something you can’t afford or achieve, then you’re a lifelong employee in this workforce of woe. Each time you think, ‘If only’ - I could earn more, look better, be famous, build an extension, own the latest IPhone - what do you know, another brick is on its way to the Great Wall.

Wanting more is like a raging fire. It consumes everything you get. It burns up all the things you put into it and demands more and more. You think, ‘why is it always easier for them? So good at interviews, rich, happy, healthy?’

Why is it someone else’s grass always looks greener than yours? But y'know there will always be someone who can do it better or bigger than you.

Green R Grass & Co. likes to employ people who can never enjoy what they’ve already got. Write on your CV that, ‘Happiness isn’t about enjoying all I have, its better to get everything I want!’ and you stand a great chance of a lifetime contract.  You climb up one step of the promotion ladder then spend your time seeing the person on the next step. Your BMW is six months old but the new Mercedes is so stylish – another brick in the wall! There will always be someone, something better. There will always be something more, enticing you into the loser’s game of catch-up, forever worrying about not having enough.

So can you ever escape this overworked, never satisfied, always wanting more, world of want? Green R Grass isn’t your only choice. There is another business just waiting for you to apply. It’s a Father and Son partnership. Great company, universal involvement, specialising in life insurance. No one fails the job interview and once you sign up continual improvement is built into your terms and conditions. They prefer self-evaluation rather than appraisal and if you get something wrong, no problem, they like you to learn from it, forget it and then start again. They’re always there to encourage and you will often find yourself thanking them. Communication is immediate, you can talk to the top man at anytime. He is always available and loves to listen to what you have to say. Once you become a worker in this firm you get a personalised plan to prosper.

Prosper, now that’s an exciting word isn’t it? After all what do we associate with prosperity? Successful career, big bank account, world cruises.

Let’s have a look at some wise words on prosperity: Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.[1] Try this one:

Possession of material riches, without inner peace, is like dying of thirst while bathing in a lake.[2]

Getting the picture here? It is at odds with every brick building that Great Wall? Prosperity is not about what we have. It’s not about what we get or what we own. Prosperity is what we receive as gifts from God. Throughout the Bible we read of God blessing his people or wanting to bless his people. We know of many in the Bible and read throughout history that people of faith struggle, suffer and experience pain. Yet how many times do we read of the deep-seated trust and joy that these people experience in such difficult circumstances.

Paul talks about ‘delight’ even in difficult and unpleasant circumstances.[3] David spoke of desiring nothing more as long as he had God.[4] You are not defined by what you have, you can’t take it with you and God is only interested in your heart not what you possess.

A beautiful sunny day and thousands had turned up. The road crew are excited. This is just the ticket, they think, to promote the product. We’re on a roll, his star is rising, nothing’s going to stop us now. But how quickly emotions can turn. One minute over the moon, next it’s down to earth. One moment you’re saying this is so cool, the next you’re feeling the heat. It had to come. All these people, they want to eat. We can’t feed them! We don’t have enough! We need more!

There was no need to need. There was no need to worry about enough. That day saw thousands fed and loads left over.[5]

Trust Jesus there will always be enough. In the beginning there was nothing and look at what God created. Just think what he can do with the little you have.

The Bible tells us to rejoice in the Lord always and then to do it again, it also tells us to give thanks for everything no matter what the circumstances:

 Rejoice always, pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1Thess. 5:16-18

This way we are happy for the things we have rather than miserable for the things we haven’t. Gratitude and contentment are interwoven. Together they allow us to grow in faith, see beyond the immediate, know God is in control and not worry about enough. He says:

I have plans to prosper you

Remember when these words were spoken the circumstances of the Israelites were anything but prosperous. Had God abandoned them? Life certainly seemed empty. They had nothing. Yet still God is saying:

I have plans to prosper you

Maybe you’ve been in a place where you’ve thought, ‘I go to church! I pray! I give a tenth of my income before tax. I’m on the church council!’

We become discouraged. We long for our days to be problem free but they rarely are. We want things to go well. When they don’t we feel abandoned. There is no doubt that God blesses prayers, rewards faith, heals miraculously, provides financially. But God doesn’t always do things the way we want.

Plans to prosper in an earthly sense can be quite different from heavenly prosperity. Have you noticed how life is full of paradoxes?

Take a look at this one: The more you learn the more you realise how little you know. We get to understand one aspect and realise more questions are needed to understand more.

How about this: The more you fail the more likely you are to succeed. There are many stories of successful people whose life didn’t start that way. Walt Disney endured several failed businesses, once being told by his boss that he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’. Thomas Edison made 10,000 failures attempting to create the light bulb.

Here’s one more: If you admit your faults and say you’re nothing special the more people think you are. Maybe we all relate to vulnerability or just don’t like bigheads!

So when you look at the idea of paradox being built into life it comes as no surprise when we hear of faithful people, who throughout history have endured suffering, often say how it has brought them closer to God

I have plans to prosper you

If God promises prosperity then have no doubt it will come. If God is saying this is how it is to be, you can be sure it will happen and the wonderful thing is that this particular promise is made to a people who had ignored their God, gone their own way, done their own thing, yet they were his children and he wouldn’t let them go.

The Bible describes the Israelites as stiff-necked. Later on they are said to be “hardened and obstinate”[6] and in the New Testament people are told:

“…You are just like your ancestors:
You always resist the Holy Spirit!”
Acts 7:51.

A couple of thousand years later and we’re still the same!
Can you imagine up in heaven the angels lift their hands in despair, the seraphim think it’s time to wash the heavenly hands of us! But their Boss, our great God will have none of it, he was ready to help then and is ready to help us now because he has promised:

I have plans to prosper you.

When you hit the bottom don’t ever give up because God says ‘I will never give up and I’ve got good things planned.’ This promise through Jeremiah is a message of hope, love and encouragement for all of us in any situation.

Worrying about enough? The God of the universe loves you with a love you can never come close to understanding. He never stops planning things for you and doing things for you.

“Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done

the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you…”

Psalm 40:5

Worrying about enough? Tennyson said that more things are wrought by prayer than the world could dream of.
Nothing can compare to our God and I suspect that he has done things for us, which we have never even known about. You may have followed a career you never intended – ever thought why? Achieved something against all the odds – ever thought how? Missed a car accident by a whisker – ever thought wow? Same Psalm, same verse:

“…were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
     they would be too many to declare.”

Worrying about enough? The people of Israel thought they had nothing, they were being punished and no longer loved but all along all they needed was to trust God’s promise. God would not let them go.

The Bible tells us that God lavishes us with his attention and that God thinks a lot about us.

“ How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
 …Were I to count them,
 they would outnumber the grains of sand…”

Psalm 139:17-18

I have plans to prosper you
Let me end with the story Jesus told about five sparrows when he said, “Not one of them is forgotten by God.”[7] Little birds, so common, no more than worthless, waste of space. Jesus is saying God even makes sure these insignificant creatures are looked after. So remember that if there is a choice between you and all the birds that have ever flown, God will take you every time. If God watches over every flying minute of a sparrow how much closer will he look after you?

Back at the Great Wall of Whiner all of us trudging back and forth need to drop the bricks, start smiling and celebrate everything. Learn contentment because God is saying to you, I have plans to prosper you. 

Heaven’s prosperity promise isn’t necessarily about money or things, it is about the way we live, think and give ourselves everyday for God. Drop your bricks of discontent. Pick up enjoyment of what you have. Who knows what you’ll begin to appreciate - your children, the beauty in your marriage, friendships, running water, a warm shower, a larder full of food.

Say this: The Lord promises that he’s got plans to prosper me.
Say it again: The Lord promises that he’s got plans to prosper me.
Once more: The Lord promises that he’s got plans to prosper me.

Hang on, do you know what’s happened?  You’ve just started to write your resignation letter to Green R Grass & Co.


[1]Epictetus

[2]Paramahansa Yoganada

[3] 2 Corinthians 12:10

[4] Psalm 73:25

[5] Matthew 14:15-21

[6] Ezekiel 3:7

[7] Luke 12:6