“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
I was 23 when I first heard this scripture at a youth meeting. Although I was raised in a Christian home, by godly parents whose faith was a central part of our lives, I had never heard this verse until that youth meeting in our church. I sat listening to the preacher absolutely dumbfounded that the God of the Heavens even cared enough to chart a plan for me.
Waves of his love and mercy revived my dead soul back to life. If I said that this was the scripture that started my journey with Jesus, I wouldn’t be exaggerating. I was certain back then that I was on the ship where Christ Jesus was the Captain and no storm would dare come my way. Of course, I was wrong!
The ship of life started rocking violently with all its strength and I began to question the authenticity of my journey with God and the promises which he gave me years ago.
My understanding was that if God gave a scripture promise in January, it would be fulfilled by February. What I learned from the scriptures was the exact opposite.
When God gives a promise, what follows immediately is not the fulfillment of the promise but rather tests that teach us to persevere in faith clinging to his Word and trials to build our character, to carry the promise with humility and the character of Christ.
There are many examples of people in the scriptures who passed the character test with flying colors and many who missed the opportunity to inherit the promise because of their rebellion against God.
Joseph is one among those who persevered through to the very end. He was a teenager when the promise came to him in a dream. He was promised by God, that he would be exalted high above all the nations and princes of the Earth.
Joseph, like me, must have thought that no harm would dare come his way. After all, he was favored now by God Himself, besides his earthly father. His faith must have rocked violently, when he was dragged away as a teenager from his father, who meant the world to him. Everything must have looked bleak. But, through all the harrowing experiences he faced, there was a dimly burning wick of faith that must have burned night and day deep within his soul, which God, I believe, was faithful to keep alive.
“A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.” Isaiah 42:3
Israelites on the other hand, although they had an incredible promise of inheriting a land flowing with milk and honey, grieved God day and night and at every turn. We read from the scriptures that God was deeply grieved about how they handled their tests.
“Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’” Hebrews 3:10
Perhaps, the Israelites also expected to reach the promised land, the month after they left Egypt.
Only when we read the scriptures, do we get a glimpse into the nature and heart of God. Our God indeed is a good Father with great things in store for us. But above and beyond that, the one thing he seeks to establish in each of us, is his character and image.
And this, he does by allowing trials and tests in our lives. What we may think is “breaking” us, is in fact, “making” us. No diamond gets its luster without pressure beneath the several layers of the earth. All the tests and trials that God brought upon the Israelites in the wilderness, was to “make” them as a beacon of light to the world by causing his image to shine forth through them. So it was with Joseph, and so it is with us.
For many of us, when God gives us a promise, the promise becomes our god. We eat, sleep and dream about our promised land. It takes the hands of the potter to break us, mold us and make us, to bring us to the place where finally our promised land takes the back seat, and our walk with the Promise-maker is all we live for.