I know the plans I have for you Jeremiah 29:11-13

“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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
These verses have given encouragement and inspiration to God’s people for more than two thousand years. They say two things. They remind us that whatever is going on in our own lives or in our church or in this troubled world, God is in control. God has a plan! God has a plan for each of our lives, and for His church, and for our community, and for our nation. And God is Sovereign. God is in charge. Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And then these verses tell us that we need to pray. The way to make sure that we are in the centre of God’s will living out His plan is to seek God with all our hearts in prayer.
Sometimes we can’t see God’s plan. We really can’t understand what is going on, It is at those times when it seems like our world has been turned upside down and we don’t have a clue what is happening, it is then more important than ever for us to pray. God will always listen to us. And God has promised that we will always find Him, as long as we are seeking Him with all our hearts. These promises are just as much for us today, at three levels. They are for us and our nation following the decision reached through the Referendum last Thursday that Great Britain will leave the European Union. They are for us as individuals, however our lives may be turning out just now. And they are for us as a church as we seek God’s direction for the future. God has a plan. And we should be praying. But what does that mean?
God’s plan for the United Kingdom in the decision to leave the European Union
The prophet Jeremiah was preaching just after 600 BC to the Jews who had been taken into exile by the Babylonians. If anybody has ever faced an uncertain future it was those exiles, in human terms anyway. The Israelites had every reason to feel discouraged and depressed. They had been defeated and invaded and deported. They were in exile in Babylon. They needed reminding that God’s plans for his chosen people are always ultimately for our best welfare, to help us not to harm us, to prosper us and give us a future and a hope.
A number of Christian writers are comparing Britain leaving the European Union to the Israelites being taken into Exile in Babylon in the days of Jeremiah. Many people feel as if they are being dragged away from their homes to go somewhere they did not choose and really do not want to go. But in reality for most of our us, our lives have not been ruined or turned upside-down by the decision to leave the European Union. Nevertheless, the whole world around us has just become a much more unpredictable and uncertain place. The value of the pound as a currency has dropped significantly and because of that, fairly soon we are all going to notice the prices of many imported goods increasing, not least the price of our food. Some regions of the United Kingdom and some parts of the economy such as farming have been relying for years on substantial grants from the EU. They are now worried about what will happen when that money stops coming. Many people’s pensions will be affected. Everybody who has booked a holiday in Europe this summer will notice that their pounds are not worth nearly as much abroad as they used to be. And despite the promises of the Leave campaigners, most of us are going to discover that we are a little bit poorer, at least in the next year or two.
At the same time, deciding to leave the European Union will not solve straight away any of the problems which the Referendum has highlighted. Migration. The future of the National Health Service and our schools. Youth unemployment. Establishing new trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world. The threat of terrorism. The important challenge for us all will be to press on to find solutions which are just and fair and compassionate. And nobody can predict who will be Prime Minister in three months, We live in troubled times. Some people are describing Brexit as a catastrophe. It really is not that disastrous. Overall, for most of us, life will go on pretty much as before. But there will be changes. And as people are worrying and upset about the implications of Britain leaving the European Union, we need to hear God’s message through Jeremiah.
“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.
God knows the future. God holds the destinies of empires and nations and of every individual in the palm of His hands. God has a perfect plan for all of our lives and for our country. And whatever may be happening around us, God is still in control. God is Sovereign.
However, there is one very obvious lesson we can learn from the Israelites’ years of exile in Babylon. God’s perfect plan does not always happen immediately. The Israelites were going to have to wait a long time for the blessings God had promised them.
Jeremiah 29:10 This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.
The Israelites would have to wait seventy years for God’s promise. That whole generation who had sinned so much that God sent judgment on the nation would have to die out. Those decades of exile were Israel’s punishment for neglecting and rejecting God, to cause them to turn back to God again. God is faithful and He always keeps His promises. But God was not going to set them free and bring them back to Jerusalem until they had learned their lessons and put their trust in God again. God’s blessings were waiting for the Israelites to pray to Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly. God has a perfect plan for every nation and for each of our lives and for every church. But that perfect plan does not always happen immediately. Sometimes God wants to teach us something first. Sometimes His plan is waiting for other events or other people. Sometimes God’s perfect plans are waiting for our wholehearted obedience and prayer.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
We cannot always see what God is doing in our lives or in the life of our nation. We may not understand what God’s mysterious and eternal purposes might be. But it could well be that the dramatic changes which leaving the European Union will bring to our country are one of God’s ways of bringing the people of the United Kingdom back to Himself. Perhaps part of God’s purpose in this time of change and uncertainty is to bring first His church and then the whole nation to prayer. If nothing else, Brexit is a call to seek God with all of our hearts for all Christians, whether we voted to Remain or we voted to Leave.
God’s plan for each of our own lives
What does the future have in store? Where is life leading? What will I be doing next year? In five years and ten years’ time? Facing an uncertain future can challenging and even terrifying. Some folk here are facing illness or bereavement or family problems and wondering whether life has been changed forever. This sermon is especially for you. At the same time, we should think about the many individuals and families who are wondering what the future holds for them in the light of the outcome of the Referendum. The decision for our country to leave the European Union will have a huge personal impact on the lives of particular groups of people. We all have friends in the church and also neighbours or work colleagues who are citizens of other European Countries who have made their homes in England. They are probably feeling hurt, unwanted or even rejected right now. They are also very worried about what might happen to them and to their families. Will they need work permits? Will they even be able to stay in England? My old flat-mate Bill’s company does a lot of business with mainland Europe and his company will be very badly hit by this decision to leave the European Union. Many people who work in Chelmsford, and many more who commute to London, are employed by international companies and have real concerns that their jobs may relocate across the channel or disappear altogether. Our son David is doing research on Alzheimer’s disease at University College London. Many working in science and medicine are really worried that Britain leaving the EU will undermine international co-operation in those fields. And David’s girlfriend Carmen comes from Madrid. Will Carmen be able to continue living in London as an Au Pair and a student? Would David one day be able to take a job in Spain if he wanted to? We must be sensitive to the needs and the feelings of those individuals whose lives will be dramatically affected by Brexit.
In the middle of all this upheaval, let us all hear again God’s words to each one of us. 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.
God’s plan is not for us to be worried or afraid or sad or struggling or suffering. God’s cosmic master-plan is to bless His children, to take care of us and fill our lives with good things. Whatever challenges we are facing in our own lives, God is still on the throne. God is still in control. Jesus is still Lord. God has a plan for each of our lives. Similarly, even before the Referendum, God always knew exactly what the people of the United Kingdom would vote to do. God’s plan for everybody’s lives never depended on whether we had all voted to Leave or to Remain. God still has a hope for each one of us and a future for each one of us. Whatever new challenges we may have to wrestle with in the years ahead outside the European Union, God is still Sovereign. And God still has in mind to prosper His people and not to harm us. We can receive a deep assurance of this as we seek God in prayer.
Philippians 4 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In everything that is happening, God does not want us to be worried or anxious. God wants us to put our trust in Him and to pray. And God promises to give us His peace. And again for some people it just may be that God has allowed this uncertainty to come upon us so that we will be spurred to prayer. So that we will put our trust more in God, not in politicians or political systems.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
And this is as true for us together as a church as it is for us as a nation and as individuals.
God’s plan for North Springfield Baptist Church
We began 2016 with Ten Days of Prayer and Fasting. Those prayers were answered as we experienced a sense of unity and of the presence of God as we met. And we continue to be assured that God has great things planned for North Springfield Baptist Church.
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.
We have received so many blessings together in recent years. We rejoice in all the new friends God has brought here and in particular we are delighted to have more and more children in the church. We are so grateful for the hard work of so many people week by week, seen and unseen. We are thankful for the provision of these premises and the continuing gifts of God’s people supporting the life and work of the church. And we celebrate all our activities: Toddler Group and Haven Café and Drop In and Sunday Club and Draw Near To God and Bible Study and everything else we do together. We know that God has even more exciting and different plans to prosper North Springfield Baptist Church in the years ahead. But we don’t know for sure the details of those plans. So we need to seek God in prayer.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
We need to pray to make sure we are in the centre of God’s will. To make sure God can do in and through us whatever His perfect plan and purpose may be, we need to seek God with all of our hearts. So we are going to continue in prayer, committing ourselves to prayer and seeking God over the next six months. Again we will be seeking God’s leading for the future. We long for God to speak to us in anything He might want to say. But there are a few areas in particular we will be listening to God about. The first remains our outreach and evangelism. Especially we want to know if we are being led into new areas or forms of witness, so that we can be more effective or so that we can reach new and different sections of the community. Specifically, we will be praying and listening to God for our outreach to the new community which will be growing in Beaulieu Park.
Secondly we will be seeking God’s guidance and God’s blessing for the finances of the church. Members and friends give generously and sacrificially for the work of North Springfield Baptist church but year on year we spend more than we receive and so we have to use up some of our reserves. This situation of a deficit year on year is not sustainable. Our Treasurer Rebekah can give a summary of the income and expenditure of the church and the expected shortfall for 2016 if anybody was interested. We need to be praying and seeking God’s guidance about the finances of the church.
The third area we will be asking God about is our buildings. For a while we have been exploring different possibilities for developing our premises, especially to improve the toilet facilities. We have discovered that the costs for what we would want to do vastly exceed our available resources, even without the deficits we anticipate each year. We recognise that there is no urgency for us to make decisions or start work on any building project. So we will spend the remainder of 2016 praying and listening to God to discover what He may lead us to do next with regard to our premises. We only want to do whatever God wants us to do! Please join in these prayers and don’t hesitate to share with me or with the Deacons what you believe God is saying to us in these days.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

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