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James MacDonald: Lean and Mean in 2017

This message was preached by Pastor James MacDonald at Harvest Bible Chapel on December 31, 2016.

Lean and Mean in 2017

Lean and mean = free from foolish and futile distractions

  • Foolish — things that I know better than to give my time and attention to
  • Futile — things that have been proven to yield no benefit

Jeremiah 29:11-14 (ESV)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 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. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

These verses are about God’s will for you. These verses are declaring, without equivocation, that God has a plan for your life.

“For” is the Greek translation in the Septuagint for “gar,” meaning “because” — because the children of Israel are currently living captivity in Babylon. The children of Israel are questioning God’s plan for their lives and His control of their lives. Sound familiar?

God’s Plan for Me

  • It’s a reasoned plan
    • For [gar, because] I know the plans I have for you…”
    • It’s “because” of something that He controls, not me.
    • Jeremiah 29:8-10 (ESV) — For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in My name; I did not send them, declares the Lord. For [gar] thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you My promise and bring you back to this place.
    • God is saying, “In the darkest of nights, I was always working.”
  • It’s a divine plan
    • “For I know the plans I have for you…”
    • It’s God’s plan, and no one else’s
  • It’s a specific plan
    • “For I know the plans I have for you…”
    • God has a specific plan for you. We can take comfort from this.
    • Nothing is happening in my life that He hasn’t allowed. Everything that happens in my life had to pass over God’s approval desk.
    • God’s plan has little or nothing to do with the areas we generally focus on:
      • Geography — where I live; which house I buy
      • Work — where I’m supposed to work; which job offer to accept
      • Marriage — who I should marry
    • Ephesians 5:17 (ESV) — Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
    • 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 (ESV) — We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
    • 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 (ESV) — For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.
    • The will of God is the Word of God. If God wanted to tell me, He would have put it in His Word.
    • God’s will for me is about the kind of person He’s trying to make me into.
  • It’s a personal plan
    • “For I know the plans I have for you…”
    • Just because it isn’t specific doesn’t mean it isn’t personal. Personal = God knows where I’m weak, where I’m deficient, where my character is strong and where it’s coming up short, where I will be tested and challenged in the coming days. God’s plan includes my preparation for victory on those points!
    • God is trying to change me so that He can prepare me for the specific things I will face in the year to come. That’s what the will of the Lord is.
  • It’s a settled plan
    • “…declares the LORD…”
    • When God speaks, everyone listens.
    • God is not making suggestions or offering things for consideration — “I know the plans I have for you!”
    • Someone’s in charge; it’s not me. Have I resigned as chairman of the board of my life yet?
  • It’s a beautiful plan
    • “…plans for your welfare…”
    • Welfare here means wellbeing, or peace.
    • It’s not a plan for evil. James 1:13 (ESV) — Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.
    • God’s plans for me are not evil.
    • This doesn’t mean that His plans for me are not hard or frustrating at times, or will require waiting in faith.
    • God’s plan is to give me a future and a hope, because my commitment to God’s plan in my life will be tested.
  • It’s a plan that produces praise
    • “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you.”
    • This is a statement of praise!
  • It’s a plan that produces surrender
    • “You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.”
    • In 2017, God has a plan to get you further down the road of total surrender to Him.
    • Things that you think are over, are not over. Things that you think are done, are not done.
    • Ezekiel 37:1-6 (ESV) — The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And He led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
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