Bill Bright is famous for writing a number of tracts and books that featured four spiritual laws. The first one is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29: 11
Used by modern “Wonderful Plan” evangelicals, this verse is often used to promise vain temporal blessings to potential converts. A person is ‘won’ to Christ with the promise of God’s great plans. The reason these great plans have not come true is the present sin in a person’s life. Once the sin is removed, God’s plan can be put into motion and the blessings will come in full measure.
How come nobody quotes Jeremiah 21: 10, “’For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good,’ declares the Lord. ‘It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire’”?
Context in the case of understanding Jeremiah 29: 11 is vital. Chapter 29 is very specifically written to a people in a particular time. Verse 1 reads “These are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet wrote from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Verse 11 is part of a promise of restoration (v. 10-14) that will come after a time of discipline. The people were to submit to the rule of Babylon and some 70 years later they would be freed.
The story illustrates the differences between God’s thinking and Man’s thinking (Prov 16: 9; Is 55: 8). When all planning seems futile, God has a plan for his people but God also has a trying time of discipline for his people too. It is God who directs these things and not the actions of mankind.
The sick and twisted doctrine of the prosperity gospel can be seen in this reading of the verse. No matter what you do: pray a prayer, get baptized, accept God’s offer of salvation in faith, God will never be obliged to act in some way as a result of your actions. You can never put God in your debt. Jesus doesn’t simply offer you a life that is better, Jesus is better. You are to chase after the giver of the gifts and not the gift itself. God’s plan for you may very well be for you to suffer for the cause of Christ. A life without wealth or prosperity isn’t necessarily the result of a person’s lack of faith. Life without wealth could very well be the plan God has had for you all along.