The short answer is ‘no.’
God does not promise us a “good” life. But we can certainly offer Him a life that is “good,” by becoming a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing” to Him, according to Romans 12:1.
There’s one important thing you learn in journalism school and that is balanced reporting.
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about answered prayers.
I shared how God was refining my character during a time of waiting, and how, eventually, God made a way for that prayer to be answered.
What I didn’t touch on is this: Your prayers won’t always get answered. And if they are answered, it may not be in the form you had hoped.
There’s a common misconception in the Christian community that God “wants” to bless us.
But is that true and, more importantly, is that biblical?
First of all, it’s important to distinguish what that word “bless” means. To one person it means material gain and to another it pertains to spiritual benefits, such as peace, eternal life with God, healing from past sin, comfort in times of trouble, etc.
That latter description would be more accurate.
Does God have plans to prosper you?
An often quoted scripture to espouse God’s desire for blessing is Jeremiah 29:11-14.
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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.
Taken out of context, this is a great feel-good scripture.
In America, we often make the mistake of translating this passage to mean we’ll get that bigger house and fancier car, or that we’ll rarely face a deadly sickness, or that we’ll land that next big career move, etc.
Thanks to the rampant “prosperity gospel” preached today, we are always at risk of applying scriptures to the superficial.
But, be assured of this, when God speaks He has something much bigger, more eternal, in mind: our salvation.
The Jeremiah promise can certainly be applied to modern-day believers, but it’s important to read the passage (or chapters) in its entirety.
The prophetic message was to the Israelites, God’s chosen people, who continuously wandered away from the truth and worshiped other gods.
The prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God to tell the Israelites how they were royally messing up in the eyes of the Lord, and to turn from their wrongdoing — immediately, or else.
Have you ever outright resisted God’s commands?
The people of Judah, one of the 12 tribes of Israel, whom Jeremiah is addressing in this passage, were an obstinate people, resisting God’s standard.
Still, the Lord cared for them. And God continually sent prophets to warn them when they forsook God in favor of a lesser, often handmade, deity.
Jeremiah described it best in chapter 25 verse 3:
For 23 years — from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon King of Judah until this very day — the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.” (emphasis mine)
Did you catch the last part there?
God says to “turn,” “do not follow,” “do not provoke,” and “…then I will not harm you.”
There is a condition attached to God’s protection that is made clear in this passage before we even get to the promise that so many of us like to quote in Jeremiah 29.
What’s the lesson here?
Simply that, in order to apply Jeremiah 29: 11-14 (God’s protection from harm, spiritual prosperity and so on) to your present-day life, it’s imperative to also adhere to Jeremiah 25, which dictates a number of offenses on the part of the Israelites which we are susceptible to doing as well.
Therefore, if you want to slap the Jeremiah 29:11-14 bumper sticker to your life, go right ahead.
But be aware of the conditions, according to Jeremiah 25:
- Don’t ignore God. If you hear His voice, listen, pay attention and do what He says. Where do you “hear” God’s voice? In his Word, of course. The Holy Bible. Simply read it and apply it your life. While you’re at it, be careful not to cherry pick scriptures, but seek to understand a passage in context.
- Turn from your evil ways and practices. (For an overview of specific sins that can separate you from God’s protection, read Galatians 5: 19-21; Mark 7:20-22; Revelation 21:8; 2 Chronicles 33:6)
- Do not follow, serve or worship other gods. Other ‘gods’ include another lesser deity but it could mean yourself, a spouse/significant other, children, a celebrity, material possessions, profession/accolades, a t.v. show, etc. — anything or anyone that takes precedence in your life more than serving God.
- Do not provoke God to anger. Do a search for what may ‘provoke’ God and refer back to the scriptures on sins mentioned earlier. You’ll find that many acts in the Bible incited God’s anger, including casting spells, speaking to the dead, lack of worship, and sexual sins.
As the book of Jeremiah suggests, a “right” relationship with God — obedience to Him — must always precede any kind of blessing.
To live a “blessed” life, you can never go wrong by patterning your life after his son Jesus, who was without sin.
And that, my dear sisters, takes effort, not perfection.