Another real spiritual certainty, upon which we can rest our lives here on earth, is that our God who has paid such a great price for us on the cross, bringing us into His family as His well loved sons and daughters, has great plans for us. How do we know that? “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 a hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11.
We have probably often heard that verse. It may have been given to us as an encouragement, and that is what it is but when we realise the context in which it was spoken, our faith should soar. This is because it is a promise that God spoke through Jeremiah to the nation of Israel in the midst of a great judgment on their apostasy. They were His people, but had been led badly astray by kings, priests and leaders, who had themselves strayed from the Lord’s ways by forgetting His love and goodness.
We on the other hand are His redeemed children, and because we live this side of the cross, any and all judgement that we have ever deserved, or will ever deserve, has fallen onto Jesus. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that bought us peace was upon Him”, Isaiah 53:5. Not only has the cross bought us freedom from judgement, His resurrection has brought us into His family and new life.
We are now ‘Kids of the King’ (as one childrens chorus puts it), and furthermore He has destined that we should be changed to become like Jesus Himself, or ‘conformed to the likeness of His Son’. We are redeemed, justified and glorified too, Romans 8:29,30. That being the case, we can be absolutely certain of those plans and purposes that He has for us, those plans to prosper us and not to harm us. He has invested the very life of His Son in you and me. Therefore He has plans, and they are good ones, no doubt about that at all!!
So how does thanksgiving come into all of this. There are three good reasons, that I can think of, to thank Him for the truth that He has good plans for us. The first is just one of sheer gratitude when we realise that we have a God who is on our side, and on our case. A God who loves us and is going to make us like Jesus. A certainty to be blessed with indeed, in a world where life is often very uncertain and unpredictable.
The second reason for giving thanks that He has good plans for us is that it denotes our agreement with the Lord, and our embracing of His plans for us. Our thanksgiving communicates our surrender to His agenda. This is really important because unless we can thank Him for His plans, and in doing so say “Your will not mine be done” as Jesus did, we may find ourselves fighting Him over His plans for us, and miss the goodness in them.
This is because, and it probably goes without saying, some of these plans that He has, may be good but not necessarily comfortable. God has not promised us a trouble free existence, but rather that His refining presence will be with us wherever He leads us. John16:3. If we think about Paul, he doubtless didn’t necessarily sign up for prison, that would not have seemed like a ‘good plan’ to me, but he was able to write to the Philippians that as a result of his chains the Gospel had been preached to the whole palace guard. Philippians 1:12,13, and he was greatly blessed.
Closer to home I heard recently of a pastor who caught covid and eventually died from it, but not before bringing some of those with whom he shared a hospital ward to faith in Jesus. Now I believe in healing, and I’m sure there were prayers for that man’s healing, but may be like John the Baptist, who Jesus did not work to release from prison, God decided to take Him home. Gods ways and thoughts are in fact higher than ours. When Jesus was questioned about John, He honoured him saying “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist”, Matthew 11:11. He was not abandoned by God, but in fact God had a very good plan for Him.
These might be dramatic examples, but I just want to distinguish ‘good plans’ and ‘plans to prosper us’ from an ‘everything coming up roses’ mentality. I do in fact believe that God’s plans for us very often include a great deal of joy and many blessings, but our thanksgiving that His plans for us are good, will be important to carry us through those difficult times when we don’t understand. Our thanksgiving will keep us with a heavenly perspective on our lives and keep us remembering the ultimate goal – our reward in heaven – when He says, ‘well done good and faithful servant…. come and share your masters happiness’, Matthew 25:21
The third and final reason for thanking Him for the goodness of His plans and purposes for us, is that our thanksgiving will keep us tuned into our wonderful Heavenly Father and the beautiful Holy Spirit, enabling us to discern in the different situations in which we find ourselves exactly what He is doing, both in and around us. Our thanksgiving will keep us tracking with the Lord, in joy and peace, in all the ways that He leads.