“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. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14
It started with a promise. God said He would be found by me. But now I see. I have found Him… again and again. Because invariably, I begin to lose sight of Him. Inevitably, something will displace Him from my view. Something will claim all my attention, and ultimately, hold me captive. And it could be a good thing, or, it could be a bad thing. But ultimately, it makes no difference whether it’s good or bad, because if I’m holding to it tighter than God, then I will lose my grip on Him. And this is when I fall into captivity. When I loosen my grasp on God, I fall back into the pit of whatever it is that claims me. And there I stay… held down. Until, I remember. Him. For He has plans for me. I do have a future. And when I remember, I go to Him and I pray to Him. And He promises to listen to me.
God said that when I sought Him with my whole heart, He would be found by me. And this is true. Because when I turn to Him with my whole heart, He leads me back from my captivity. And this is my revelation. First, I must die. Because I am flesh and blood. And the flesh wants what the flesh wants. And if it’s sin I crave, then that sin leads to a spiritual death. And if misguided passion turns into obsession, then I have an idol I place above God. And if fear holds me down, then fear is my master… not God. Always, always, something begins to hold me captive. But the key that unlocks the the chains of my captivity is death… I must die to the want, I must die to the misplaced passion, and I must die to the fear. I must die… and there will be many, mini deaths in my life. For I have seen it. But behold, there’s beauty in my death throes. For with each occurrence, God brings me back to life. He never fails. Each time, He breathes fresh breath into my heart and soul. With each agony, He revives me. He never lets me go utterly.
And each time God revives my heart, there’s an opportunity. This is part of God’s plan for me. Because someone may witness my death. Someone may notice the change in my demeanor. Someone may even wonder what set me free from my captivity. And that someone is the whole point. For they may need to know the truth… the truth that they may need to die, too. Many, mini deaths may ultimately set them free. And do you see? My death only mimics what happened over 2000 years ago when a tomb lie empty. What someone else witnesses through my life can point the way to the cross, to the tomb, and to everlasting life. Because many, mini deaths lead to many, mini revivals. Someone will see a life, my life, resurrected.
And so it’s clear to me now. See, throughout my many years with God, I may have gotten “carried away” by something. And really, it’s happened more times than I can count. But God has been so faithful. Because with each banishment, I began to wither and die. And the longer my captivity, the drier I became. And eventually, I became so parched, I had to cry out for His living water. And that’s when I neared death, spiritually speaking. And when you’re that close to a spiritual death, you realize what’s really important. You don’t want to stay there, and so you realize you must die to whatever it is that holds you down. At least it happened that way for me. And so, I called out. And He kept His promise for He heard me. He listened out for my cry, and He gathered me from where He banished me. He brought me back to where I was first carried away captive – into exile. And He brought me back to life… again and again. Each time I neared a spiritual death, He picked me up and carried me… all the way to the cross. It’s at the foot of the cross where I find my life renewed… again and again.
And someone will see this… that’s the whole point. For it’s part of His plan. For me and for you. It’s through our many, mini deaths that someone will be led to new life. And my hope and prayer is that all who see will be carried to the cross… right there with us.