I’ve always had trouble accepting God’s unconditional grace in my life. In fact, for most of my life, I’ve felt as though God was barely putting up with me. “One more screw up and you’re out of here!” The concept of God as the Father running to meet his prodigal son never really applied to me.
Most of us have probably read Jeremiah 29:11, probably quoted it, probably used it as a “life verse.”
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
“Yeah, that’s great, but not for people like me,” I’ve thought. “I put myself in this position. People who mess up as much as I do don’t deserve a hope and a future, we deserve to pay something for our sins, right?”
But go back to verse four of this chapter, to the beginning of God’s message,
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:
This is a message to the captives of Judah who were carried away by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. Why? Because of their sin, idolatry, rebellion and general wickedness. These were not the “good people”, but the rebellious children of God who had either been unable or unwilling to get it right. They were exiled as punishment for following other gods.
This is great news for the failures, the losers, the screw up’s and prodigals. This is great news for those sitting in their own prison, serving a sentence they have pronounced on themselves. This is awesome news for those on spiritual death row. They were in captivity because they deserved it. Yet God, in His unending mercy was already telling His wayward people of His plans to bless them and bring them home.
Maybe, like me, you feel like you deserve to be in the spot you are in, and have no right to claim this promise as your own. Maybe you feel like you have a little more payment you owe for your sins, a little more time behind bars.
And maybe, like me, you have to lay that down and just accept God’s mercy at face value. He loves you just like you are, even in captivity, even in sin, even at your worst. But you don’t have to stay there.
God has plans for you!