As the people of Israel approached a time of exile, the prophet Jeremiah spoke these words from the Lord: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf...” (Jeremiah 29:7).
This was a specific word from the Lord that was spoken to a particular people in a particular time of history, and therefore and we have to be careful about carelessly applying it to our day. But having said that, I think there’s some wisdom here for Christians who are living in this world because, like Israel, we are sojourners. We are living in a land that’s not our home. And yet, unless Jesus returns before we die, we’re going to live here for the rest of our lives, and so it seems to me that we too should seek the welfare of the towns and cities in which God has placed us.
And make no mistake about it – God has placed every Christian exactly where they live.
Early in the book of Acts we learn of a time when “a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they [the believers] were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1). Outwardly this persecution seemed like a great defeat for the gospel and the church, but just three verses later we read that “those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). So indeed, the people of God were “scattered” from their homeland and their many comforts, but they were not randomly scattered. Rather, like seeds sown by a master farmer, these precious, chosen people were deliberately placed in many towns and cities that they might exalt the glory of Jesus Christ and call people to saving faith in him. What seemed like a great defeat was actually a divine strategy for global victory!
Surely, this is in part why the Apostle Peter wrote his first letter “to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1), that is, of the “scattering” (same Greek word as in Acts 8:1). The people of God are chosen by God and sown like seeds by God in particular places for the glory of his name and the advancements of his purposes. God does not randomly scatter his people, rather, he deliberately places us exactly where we’re at. Of course, we can walk in disobedience and be out of God’s will and all of that, but even in our rebellion the grace of God in Christ will make something of our wanderings. Generally speaking, God’s people are where they are, because God has planted them there.
My fellow Christians, we can advance much in joy and fruitfulness in Christ if we will let this truth sink in, and then begin to seek the welfare of our towns and cities. So I write this brief blog to say let us seek to see and savor the purposes of God for our particular town or city. Let us pray for that place day by day. Let us bless that place day by day. Let us serve that place for the glory of Christ day by day. Let us go about preaching the word of Christ in that place day by day. Let us advocate for justice day by day, remembering the poor even as the Lord remembered us.
And let us rest in the hope that God prospers what he plants. He has sent us, he has planted us, he will use us, and we will rejoice as we bear the fullness of the fruit he’s destined us to bear.