This blog post is inspired by today’s sermon: God Has A Plan. As I was listening, my mind took off in different directions from the various points that were being made.
To begin with, I need to note that I am an attorney, and I do estate planning. That is relevant because it explains the first place my mind went. Probate.
Ok, sorry. Let me explain, and I beg your indulgence not to jump off at this point. I know that it may seem a bit boring!
The thing is that I often tell people when explaining estate planning that, “If you don’t do your own estate plan, your estate will be controlled by probate.” That may sound more ominous than it really is (only because most people don’t know what probate is), but the point is that estate planning puts you in control of your estate, rather than leaving your estate to the default rules of the probate statute.
Enough of the legal stuff! (It’s Sunday after all) The reality is this: even when people do estate planning, things don’t always go as they planned. I’m here to testify that they don’t. We don’t foresee changes in circumstances, and we don’t always accurately assess the way things really are. One of the worst family fights I was ever involved in began with a family meeting in which they told me how close their family was!
We put a lot of time, effort and confidence in our own planning. We don’t want to trust that planning to anyone else – not to the state, not to others, and not even to God.
Did you know that God has a plan for you? Don’t you wish you could know what it is? Have you considered that it might be helpful to row with God rather than against Him?
It turns out there is a pretty sure fire way to know and follow God’s plan.
God being God, He has a plan whether we like it or not. He has plan whether we are in on the plan or not. God has a plan whether we agree with it or not. Unlike our plans, God’s plan is assured of being completed the way He intends. God, who sees the beginning from the end, and all the expanse of time in between, who knows the very thoughts in our heads and the words we speak before we even utter them, has the ability to guarantee the fulfillment of His plan.
From our perspective, though, we often feel like things are out of control. Maybe that is because things are out of our control. We don’t like things being out of our control. That’s one major motivator for making plans in the first place! That’s why people hire me to help them with their estate planning after all.
The thing is, though, that God rarely shares His plans with us. Even if He did, we might not be inclined to go with His flow because we tend to want to go our own ways. That’s why faith is so important. It requires that we trust God.
Frankly, if God shared His plans with us, we would likely want to go it alone, without Him. “Thank you very much for the plan, but I want to do it myself now!”
Plans aren’t a bad thing. In fact, God expects us to plan and warns those who don’t: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Prov. 21:5) It’s just that our plans don’t always work out they way we plan (or expect): “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9) Ultimately, whatever plans we make, the Lord’s plans will prevail (Prov. 19:21), and that means that our plans may not.
“So what’s the use?” we might be tempted to say.
As with many things in Scripture, the key to understanding is finding the harmony in the paradox, grabbing hold of one thing without letting go of the other.
Though God has plans for each of us, He desires us to plan our ways, to be diligent in the planning and to work toward completing those plans. At the same time we need to be ever mindful that God is God. God has His own plans and purposes. He has big plans for all of creation and individual plans for each of us.
When we get frustrated, we need to remember this most. God’s plans will be accomplished, though ours may not – at least not the way we think or expect that they should. But since God expects and urges us to plan, He works His plans through our plans (even if our plans go unfulfilled).
In a sense, God calls us to be involved in the process, take ownership of our little part of it, and (in doing so) we learn from God along the way. When a child works with her father in his workroom, she will look over to see what he is doing and begin to imitate it.
God desires that we get to know Him, and, in getting to know Him, to be transformed. In being transformed, we increasingly become tuned in to God’s over-arching plans and purposes and step by step get in line with them in our own lives.
I always tell my children that they need to be moving in some direction. They shouldn’t remain stagnant. A ship at anchor can’t be steered. You may not know what direction you should be going, but you should be going somewhere.
The truth is that we often don’t know or see God’s plan except in hindsight. When we look back, things make sense to us that didn’t seem to make sense when we were approaching them or going through them. Sometimes, even looking back they don’t make sense to us, but that simply means that we don’t see the big picture. We are finite beings, and out perspective is limited by our selves.
The question of meaning becomes all the more acute when something like a death in the close family happens. “What was the purpose in my father dying?” a person might ask. The fact is, of course, that we all will die in these bodies. They are temporary vessels at very best. If there is no God, then it’s senseless even to ask the question of meaning. The existence of God, though, gives us hope.
God made the universe out of nothing, and the life that we see isn’t all there is. “[F]aith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.... By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:1,3) Faith is our connection to God.
Faith is highly valued in the plans of God. Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6; and Romans 4:6) Faith is our entry into relationship with God. Righteousness (right relation with God) is given to those who have faith. (Romans 10:4) Faith isn’t blind believing, but the willingness to trust in and depend on what we know to be true.
When we get to know God, and are transformed, our plans become more harmonious with God’s overarching purposes and intentions. In turn, as our plans become more informed by our knowledge of God and His purposes, they are more likely to be fulfilled. Maybe this is why the writer of proverbs said,
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Prov. 16:3)
Notice that Scripture doesn’t say that God will fulfill our plans; it says God will establish our plans – as in guide us making our plans. We can’t expect to make our own plans and for God to fulfill them. He has much bigger plans than that, much bigger plans for each of us.
We can expect for God to guide us in our planning. He does this as we seek to know Him and grow in our understanding of Him.
We come to know God and learn of His purposes and intentions most assuredly by reading Scripture. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) We are intended by God for the “good works” for which He created us.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10)
But we can’t begin to know that for which God has created us without knowing the God who created us. We begin with Scripture, but we also seek to know and understand God personally by spending time with God in prayer. He gave us the Holy Spirit for that purpose. The Holy Spirit teaches and guides us. (John 14:26)
Reading the Bible and praying is fundamental, but we have to go further. We need to engage with God by responding to what God says to us through Scripture and in prayer.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” (James 1:22-24)
If we read only and listen only, but never trust God by responding and following, we aren’t really engaging God. We aren’t submitting to His plan. If we aren’t moving toward God, we are moving away from Him, and our hearts grow cold. We may know a lot of Scripture and feel righteous about our prayer time, but we may never develop a real, life-changing relationship with God.
The bottom line is this: Goa has a plan, but He doesn’t give us a road map. If God gave us a road map, we would follow the map and forget Him. God wants our hearts. He wants us to want Him and to follow Him. The Psalmist said,
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
God could give us a road map, but He promises only to guide us as we go, like a light in front of our feet. If we had a road, map, then we wouldn’t need Him. We would go about following the plan, never needing God, never developing a relationship with God. If God gave us a map, we would miss the most important thing – God!
God has a plan, but the most important thing is not learning and following the plan. The most important thing is Knowing God and following God who has the plan.
If I had my choice between knowing God and knowing His plan, I would choose God every time. By following God, we get the plan thrown in with it. Know God and follow God, and you are assured of knowing and following God’s plan.