Is God For You?


I have heard the statement “God is for you” so many times recently. These words bring much hope to the listener especially in times of difficulty, but I can’t help but wonder if these words are true.

This saying is derived from Jeremiah 29:11. “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.” Yes, this is the verse you often see tattooed on arms, or written in profiles on Instagram. This verse has become the mantra for many. But is this verse understood correctly and can it be attributed to everyone?

Let’s press pause on that question to explore whether we can take promises given to a specific person in scripture and receive them for ourselves. Often when I see a promise in scripture I put it through a simple test. I ask, “Could this verse as I understand it apply to Stephen (martyr), Paul (often beaten, shipwrecked and imprisoned because of obedience to God) or Job? If it can’t, then the promise isn’t plug and play in the way I understand it.

It is really hard to know what promises are true for us if we don’t know the full story of God. We end up with an a la carte God. It is not the “I AM” but our own fabrication. We can’t know how he deals with us, or what he has planned for us if we don’t know Him.

Let’s take for example the promise God gives to Abraham. “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:4). Can we take this promise and claim it for everyone? I think not. Think of the population growth.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5

The book of Jeremiah itself begins in chapter 1 with God speaking to the unique call to Jeremiah. In fact the whole book contains moments of God speaking directly to Jeremiah dealing solely with the life of Jeremiah and his call. In other parts God delivers messages directly to the nation of Israel. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of those. Spoken to a specific people, plan and timeline.

Jeremiah 29 begins with this explanation: “These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” The entire chapter, including verse 11, is addressed to these recipients.

So back to that question, is God for you? Absolutely he is for you. The Gospel screams he is for you. He took the punishment you deserve upon himself while you were still a sinner so that you may know life. If that doesn’t mean he is for you, I don’t know what else he can do.

But is he for everything you do?

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10

God is not for our plans. He is not completely for our thoughts and desires. Many of our desires are harmful for us and he is not ok with plans that lead to death. Often when we hear “He is for you” we receive it as he will bless me absolutely, or in whatever I want to do.

Paul in writing to the church in Ephesus makes a point of reminding the believers God has prepared tasks for us to walk into. He tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) That means it is Christ who commands my steps, who prepares a way for me. We can know these plans are good, but they often differ from our own plans, and at times are not our interpretation of what is good.

Our understanding of God being for us and prospering us is usually applied to how we want to prosper and not viewed through the lens of what God knows is best for us. We hear he is for us and the path of “drinking from the cup of suffering” (Mark 10:38) or “picking up our cross” (Matthew 16:24-26)doesn’t fit that narrative. We may think we will prosper despite acting in rebellion to God. God does not enable us in our sin, but allows us to feel the refining fire that we may repent and turn back to him.

The place to start understanding a God who is for us begins with surrendering our assumptions of what that means. It begins with studying the stories of how he walked with the faithful before us. We need to read the entirety of scripture, not just select stories we like.

Walking in the Lord’s favor means walking in right standing with God. It means walking in repentance and laying down our own lives in obedience to Jesus our Lord. Remember it is not about us. We are living for Jesus. Jesus is not a butler waiting to act at our will and prosper our lives. We are in fact the servants tasked with advancing the kingdom of God through the works he has prepared for us.

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
John 15:20

The same God who told Israel of his plans not to harm them, promised us we would be persecuted. Jesus over and over promises his followers will be persecuted as he was. This does not contradict any other promise he gives us. Our view of God being for us must be defined through this lens. It must be consistent with what Jesus calls us to. It must be understood through how he has walked with his people and not as we desire it to read.

Joshua (in Joshua 5) confronts the commander of the Lord’s army asking whose side he is on. The commander replies he is on the Lord’s side. Life is not about us. It is not our glory we are to seek but God’s. It is not our plans he blesses but his plans we follow. Like Joshua we must decide who we are living for, ourselves or God.

The question we should ultimately be asking is not Is God for me? but am I for Him?

Exiled in a City God Loves


I just returned home from a conference a couple weeks ago and I am fired up. The CAPITALYZE conference highlighted city-reaching movements across the globe to inspire establishing the kingdom of God in our cities.

There was so much to take away, but one passage in particular has stayed with me. It was quoted over and over at the conference and theologically clicked for me. I am now fired up to see the Kingdom of God established in Halifax, and my city transformed in every sphere.

The passage Jeremiah 29:7, takes place after Israel has been conquered, and the people have been taken into Babylon (in exile).

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Jeremiah 29:7

Since advent I have been sitting in the reality that we do not belong in this world. We are anticipating the day of the return of Jesus. We are a people who are in exile, not belonging to this world, but living in it. This is the same state the people of Israel were in when Jeremiah receives this word from the Lord. God equally has a desire to see this land, these people surrounding us, prosper.

This earth we are on is our place of “exile”. It is not our home, and we are waiting for the day when Jesus returns or calls us home. But while we are waiting for that day, God wants the earth to encounter his kingdom. While we are here, we are to seek the peace and prosperity of our land through welcoming the kingdom of God.

We need to be asking God the question, “What would it look like for your kingdom to come to my city?” If we want good soil for people to receive the gospel, we need to be asking this question. His kingdom being established, on a personal and corporate level, is what will bring people to know the living God!

God has always had this on his heart. He actually created the earth as a good, well-functioning place, a land at peace (shalom). As the church works towards a city filled with peace, the glory of God is on display. God is more on display through our engagement in the land than in our separation. To be a set apart people is not to disengage, but to “seek the welfare of the city”.

I am fired up to see what God wants to do in my city. This will take the whole church united to see this through. It is time to see the kingdom of God established and not our own kingdoms grown. I love the local church and the unique expressions of worship they express. As much as I love to see my own local church grow and thrive, there is something larger we are a part of.

The task before us as the church is to see the kingdom of God established in every sphere of our region. The places we find ourselves as believers should be changed by our presence. We should be praying as Jesus taught us to: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is not a prayer for God to work separate from us. We are to know what it looks like to have his kingdom established. We are to pray specifically for those things. We are to engage in practical efforts (together as the greater church) to see things happen. We will not be working at cross purposes from other believers if we are all seeking the kingdom of God to be established here.

So how do we go after this daunting task? It may seem overwhelming. Do you know anyone who loves Jesus on your street? In your neighbourhood? At your school? At your place of work? Why not ask them to pray with you? Say hey, want to pray together for the kingdom of God to come to our shared space? Let’s gather together as believers (not just the same church or denomination, Catholics or Protestants, Charismatic or Non-Charismatic) and listen to what it would look like for the Kingdom of God to come. How can we be a part of this work?

For me, I am excited about what this will look like in Halifax. I want to see his kingdom come in Halifax as in heaven. I long to see all believers together seeking the peace and prosperity of our city. I long to see my neighbours see Jesus as king, reigning over Halifax in goodness and justice.