The great architect Daniel Burnham is reported to have said, “Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” These words are hardly surprising coming from a man famous for being one of the first to develop skyscrapers. He is right. A large, ambitious plan can inspire us and spur us on to action.
One of the Old Testament’s most commonly cited verses is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” In fact, I have a coffee mug and a journal with this very verse imprinted on them. These are too often taken out of context and used to teach that God wants to bless you; that he wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and happy all the time. Aside from glossing over parts of the Bible that talk about persecution and suffering, the problem with this application is not that it promises too much but that it missed God’s much bigger promise.
This promise made to Israel in Jeremiah 29:11 was fulfilled. They returned home from the Babylonian exile, yet when we see this passage in light of the big picture that God has a plan of salvation for the nations, we see that what God’s promise is far better than what we can dream.
As we read the pages of the Bible we discover a plan that is far greater and more inspiring than any other. God has big plans that ought to stir our blood!
1. God’s plan is older than we can imagine.
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to two men as they walked to the city of Emmaus. They were deeply engrossed in conversation, so Christ asked them what they were talking about. Astonished that he had not heard, they told him they were discussing Jesus, what he taught and did, and his crucifixion. They hoped that he would be a savior, but the fact that he was dead definitively put an end to any chance of that…yet they had heard rumors of an empty tomb and stories that Jesus had been seen alive! As they explained this to Jesus, they failed to recognize that the man they were talking about was the man they were talking to.
Jesus responded, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 23:25-26). The two men should have known better. They had the books of the Bible that predicted the sufferings of Jesus, yet they did not understand. So Jesus went back to the beginning of the Old Testament and worked his way through the Pentateuch and all the Prophets to explain that everything points to him. On every single page in the Bible God reveals his age-old plan to save sinners through Christ.
Our salvation is not something God figured out at the last minute. He didn’t wing it; he had a plan from the beginning. In fact, the Bible tells us that God’s plan existed from eternity. Paul writes, “he chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4).
If you believe in Christ for your salvation, you are not an afterthought to God. You are his beloved son or daughter, chosen to walk in newness of life. You are a part of the story of redemption; your life is woven into the tapestry of God’s plan. God had a plan to save you, and he has plans to bless you.
2. God’s plan is far better than we can dream.
The land of Canaan was never meant to be the ultimate resting place of God’s people. God always had a better plan in mind. Hebrews 11 lists many of the godly men and women of the Old Testament, then says,
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
The truth is all Christians are exiles in this world (1 Pet. 1:1,17, 2:11; Eph. 2:19; Jer. 29:4–7; and Rom. 13:1–6). Just as God brings the Israelites home from exile in Babylon, he will bring believers safely to the New Heavens and New Earth. Verses like Jeremiah 29:11 aren’t telling us we can have an amazing life now; they are telling us we have eternal life to look forward to. From beginning to end the Bible reveals that this is God’s incredible plan for his people! His plan is to bless us eternally, not temporally. The spiritual blessings we receive in Christ causes any earthly and material blessing to wither in comparison.
3. God’s plan is far more expansive that we can grasp.
God’s plan is that the good news of salvation by faith in Christ would be proclaimed to the entire globe. Jesus tells us, “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Jesus is not coming back until we have carried the message of the gospel to every group of people in the world. Currently, over 40% of the world is considered “unreached.” In other words, over a third of people groups in the world have no realistic access to the gospel.
As believers we have been commissioned by Christ to go to the ends of the earth sharing the gospel with the lost, baptizing, and making disciples. In the book of Revelation, John has a vision of what will be the result of this work:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)
What a glorious picture of our future as Christians! One day we will worship and praise God for his goodness, grace, and mercy with brothers and sisters of every ethnicity from every corner of the planet.
4. God’s plan is far greater than we can fathom.
Why does God save sinners? Why come up with and enact the plan of redemption? The ultimate reason God does this is for his glory.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Emphasis added, Ephesians 1:11-14)
God’s plan is greater than anything we can fully fathom because it is all designed to bring him the maximum honor and glory. God’s sovereignty, knowledge, wisdom, love, and justice (to name a few) are all displayed in his plan of salvation. The more we grasp this, the better we understand our own finitude and reliance on God.
God’s grand plan for salvation unfolds throughout every single page of the Bible. The more we study, understand, and marvel at it, the more we are moved to praise and worship God. As the two men who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus reflected on his teaching, they exclaimed, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 23:32). God did not make a small plan when he decided to save sinners. His plan is older than we can imagine, better than we can dream, more expansive than we can grasp, and beyond our ability to fathom. It truly is a plan that causes our blood to stir!