This past Sunday we did a bit of an experiment. I quoted what is half the world’s favorite life verse (Jer. 29:11) and asked the students what it meant. After hearing the responses, I simply had them answer the questions: Who? What? Where? When? I then sent them off for a few minutes to figure it out. After they identified the Who: God, the people Babylon and Judah (the Jews); the What: Judah was being judged in exiled captivity, also being told to settle there for the time being, even to pray for their enemy captors and the well-being of their land; the Where: exiled from Judah into Babylon; and the When: they would be there for 70 years—after they answered those questions, I asked them the same question I had started with: What does Jeremiah 29:11 mean?
Needless to say, the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 has a depth of meaning that is more often than not hidden when it is ripped out of the context of judgment and put into my pocket for use at my discretion. It was neat to see how the kids were able to get the bigger picture, though, which includes: (1) the warning against idolatry, which we identified anything that we put our hope in/live for above God, and they identified idols in our own culture; (2) the good news of promise within the bad news of judgment–that even though most of the hearers of Jeremiah would die before this promise was fulfilled, it was still good news to them, because what mattered most was not that God had a future for their people [which they would not see], but that God had not abandoned his people, even though they had abandoned him; and (3) the call to repentance–this beloved life verse orients the reader to the expected response: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:12-13).
Last year during one of our Vision Team Leader meetings, one of our visions for the Youth that God laid on my heart was that they would become a group who not only hears the truth, believes the truth, but that they would be a group that speaks the truth. I can’t tell you how much joy it brought to me seeing the kids digging into the Word on their own, getting excited, challenged, and offering their own insights and applications—speaking the Truth. I was reminded of that meeting and chalked it up to God’s faithfulness in answering the prayers born out of the burdens that ultimately come from him.
That said, for the next five weeks we are going give our favorite life verses back to the Bible, so that the Bible can in turn give back to us what it intended to give in the first place. I’ll follow this blog with the schedule for all those students who are willing to come prepared!