Sunday, September 10, 2017

Don't Just Survive...THRIVE

Yesterday, my church held an event for the women of our community called Together With Hope. I gave this devotional at the start and I hope it gives you encouragement.

Don't Survive - THRIVE
Our theme verse for today is Jeremiah 29:11 – (NKJV) "'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,' says the Lord, 'thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.'" I think we’ve all heard this verse many times as an encouragement when we are going through a hard time. And we all go through hard times, right?

But I wonder how many of us know the context and history of the verse? I was sort of familiar with it, but I wanted to know what God’s heart behind saying this really was, so I started reading Jeremiah. Here is what I have learned.

The people of Israel were in rebellion against God. God pleaded with them over and over to repent and turn back to him. Many prophets were sent to Israel telling them to turn back to worshiping their one true God. However, when the people continued to refuse, God warned them that they would be exiled to Babylon for 70 years, one year for each of the Sabbath years they had ignored.

Well, the people didn’t like this, and many false prophets arose telling the people that they would not be serving Babylon, that the captives who had already been taken away would return and the temple articles that had been stolen would also be returned.

We hear that a lot, don’t we? I’ve been told many times that God doesn’t want me to go through difficult times. But is that true? Well, in chapter 28 of Jeremiah, God said straight up that this was a lie, that they were not going to have peace and prosperity, but captivity – and then Jeremiah uses my favorite means of telling an obvious truth: sarcasm. “Of course! You are so right! That is exactly what is going to happen! God isn’t going to let you go through a hard time. What could you possibly learn from that?” And then Jeremiah tells this particular false prophet that because he’s telling lies, he’s going to die. And so he did.

Then Jeremiah writes a letter to the people who were carried away into exile in Babylon. He tells them to build houses, plant gardens, marry, have children and grow in number, and to also – strangely it would seem – to pray for the peace of the city which held them captive; because if their city had peace, they would have peace. (hmmmm. Something to think about.)

God told them not to long for the good ole days, and not to listen to the false prophets saying that the exile wasn’t God’s will. Because God had set a certain amount of time for them to be in exile: 70 years. And when that captivity was over, God would visit them and return them to Jerusalem.

Then comes our verse: (International Standard Version) "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope.'" But I'll get back to this verse, because what follows is just as beautiful.

God then says, "Call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find me, when you search for me with all you heart." However, those who rebelled against their captivity would die, or have famine and disease. God wanted them to listen to him and thrive in their captivity rather than fight it and be miserable and die. Next comes this beautiful love letter in chapter 31 where God tells Israel his plans for them and makes a new covenant with them.

Now, back to our verse that was written to the people in captivity under Babylon: (New English Translation) "'For I know what I have planned for you,' says the Lord, 'I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.'

Filled with hope.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I don’t know about you, but I often have the mindset of just getting through the day; just surviving the current difficulty I am facing. But I have to conclude from my study of this scripture that God doesn’t want us to just survive, he wants us to THRIVE in our struggles.

Are there still hard times? Of course. Did God know the people were suffering in Babylon? Yes! BUT…he wanted them to thrive while they were there - to settle down and marry, build a house and plant a garden.

The Israelites were feeling defeated and worn down because they had been carried away from their homes, family and friends. God wanted them to make new homes for themselves. He wanted them to THRIVE in the lonely place they were living.

Why? Because he knew his own thoughts towards them. He wasn’t thinking thoughts of destruction. He wasn’t thinking evil towards them. He wasn’t thinking about how to harm them or the most evil way for them to experience disasters.

What was he thinking? Our verse tells us. He was thinking thoughts of peace. He wanted things to go well with them. He wanted them to prosper. The King James Version says his thoughts were to give them an expected end. An expected END. Hope! He wanted to give them a future filled with hope.

Are you filled with hope for the future? Are you struggling right now? I know sometimes it’s hard to have hope when you are in the middle of the war. I know it’s hard to just survive, let alone thrive through the difficulties of life.

My dear friend, Charise McNutt, is going through a hard season with multiple sclerosis. She recently said something that resonated with me:

"Oh, what a lie we believe when we think suffering and trials are not a part of walking with God." 

There will be an end to your captivity. But God wants you to learn and thrive in the hard times. Your hope is that there will be an end, but your thriving is in the now. Because God has not forgotten you.

But How? How do we thrive? How do we not just trudge through every day surviving by sheer willpower? Because of hope. Hope that God has a better future for us. Now, admittedly, sometimes that future isn’t here on earth. Some of the Jewish captives died in Babylon. But we have to remember, as Christians, we are strangers here on this earth. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and THAT is where our hope lies.

We can endure and THRIVE through anything here on earth because Jesus has overcome the world. He is the anchor of our hope. Without Christ we are hopeless.

If you are in the middle of captivity and feeling hopeless, look to Jesus. Jesus is your hope. Only Jesus can give you hope in the midst of tragedy.


Joy and Rhonda, part of the events team.

Our theme verse.

A huge thanks to Furniture World for helping decorate our stage.

Annie Sotski started us off with her testimony.

Emily Norris

Worship between testimonies was led by Chelsea Schmieg and Stephanie Morgan. 

Camille Cooper

Randa Bush

Marilyn Kyle

We were closed out by Sybil Mohr's testimony.


  1. wonderful. I am so sorry I missed this event. B Garland

  2. Hi Darlin'. Thank you for sharing my quote. I posted a link to this blog entry on my blog. You are a blessing. Keep on bloggin' away!


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