I saw this today and thought it was interesting. Bible Gateway is the on-line Bible that I use most of the time in preparing these devotionals. I can search things in various versions, and they have related resources that I often use when I am studying. It seems they keep track of the verses that people look for and at the end of each year tally them up. So here are the most popular verses for 2011 they say these are pretty much the same top 5 most years but the order varies.
“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.” (NIV)
2. John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
don’t rely on your own intelligence.
Know him in all your paths,
and he will keep your ways straight. (CEB)
5. Romans 8:28
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. (HCSB)
Most of these are very familiar verses you may even have them on a magnet or wall decoration or bumpersticker. I have to wonder why these are the most popular verses of our time? It would seem that people are looking for hope and encouragement. We want to know that God is in control as the world we live in seems to be a crazy, frightening place. I suppose John 3:16 makes the list because of all the signs at football games. I can imagine people google searching "what is John 3:16" and following the path to Bible Gateway. I just did that search to see what comes up. You get a wikapedia explanation, http;//bible.cc which I also use because it pulls all the parellel versions at the same time. Then the third on the list is Bible Gateway. After that there is stuff about Tebow who has printed the verse under his eyes. It appears from my photo search that he uses other verses. You gotta wonder how may people have gone searching to see what those verses are. I'm not much of a football fan, its on in the room during our feeding of the homeless each week. I've heard folks talking about this Tebow guy. I must admit, its a pretty cool use of his public platform - so way to go Tebow.
The other verses are ones that I would pull if I was troubled, or feeling confused, or needed to be reminded that God is working all the crazy stuff in our lives and in the world we live in. I have to wonder do people click the button to read them in contest? Jeremiah 29:11 was written to the exiles from Jerusalem who were in Babylon. The stories of Daniel and his buddies are from this time period. It seems there were false prophets rising up to try and tell the people that they would be back home soon. God clearly is telling them through the prophet Jeremiah in verse 10 that they will be in Babylon for the next 70 years. Pretty much he is telling them you need to make the best of this. In verses 4-8. He is pretty clear that they need to settle and make a life there. They are to pray for the peace of the city where they are exiled "because if it prospers, you too will prosper. So how does this verse apply to us. Perhaps read in context the message of this verse is more one of except where God has you and make the best of it. Yes his plans for you are good but this hardship that you are in isn't going away anytime soon. In the case of these people it would be their children and grandchildren who would go back in 70 years. If you were in your 40's and you add 70 years you are going to die in Babylon.
Its hard news to accept but it is better than living with your bags packed thinking any day the tide is going to turn and you will be back to life as it is supposed to be. There are many examples of the downward path to God's Jeremiah 29:11 type promises. You may be wondering why things are so hard. How can Jeremiah 29:11 be true in light of your present circumstances. So you stand on that verse thinking that if you just have enough faith that everything will change. There is a danger of taking verses out of context. You can make them say what ever you want to hear just like the prophets of that time were telling the folks that everything was going to be ok. Most often there is a long journey to growing Godly character that we must walk through that really only happens as we learn to walk with Jesus through the difficulties and the trials of life.
It is easy to think you just need to slap a popular refrigerator verse on every problem. We want to put a bandaid on things that need major surgery. Take the Romans 8 popular verse in context. If you go back to verse 18 you get Paul saying that he considers his present sufferings not worth comparing to the glory that is going to be revealed to us. So Paul and the rest of the disciples their lives were not a gory filled walk in the park. They suffered beatings, and ship wrecks, trial, hardships and persecutions. In just about every case they died some horrible death but never denied their faith in Christ. What about you are you along for the bless me Jesus ride or will you endure hardship in His name. So some things to keep in mind about this particular verse. It is written to believers and there is a kind of condition with it. "those who are called according to His purpose" So if you are living life on your own terms this verse may not be doing you much good. The idea is that we get in line with God's plans for our life. Not we stand and stop our feet and quote verses because our way is not working out and we are demanding that God make it all better. Its time to grow up and get out of diapers, don't just take a verse out of context there is rich stuff to be found if you take the time to search it out.
Even John 3:16 with out the following message of John 3:17-18 you miss a big part of the message. You are already dying in sin. God is not condeming the lost. We are all already dying from the poison of sin. We will die unless we get the needed antidote provided by Jesus. There is nothing we can do on our own that will fix that deadly sin problem. You will not ever get good enough to approach a Holy God on your own. Jesus is the antidote sent by a loving God to a sick and dying people.
I'll leave you to search out the deeper meaning of the other verses on your own.
I pray you make your people hungry for your word. I pray that we would go beyond pat answers and refrigerator verses and beging to really study your word. To find in it the treasures of wisdom and even more so to begin to know your heart. It is the author of the book that we need to come to know. Reveal yourself to us as we read and study your word. Help us to want more than bandaids but that we would desire to know you and to be known by you. Your plans are good but the road to growing character is often long, and at times painful. Thank you that you would be with us in that journey if we would invite you along.