Saturday, April 5, 2014

"God's Plan for You"

As humans we say a lot of things to each other, especially in times of stress or grief.  But as Christians, when we say something we need to make sure it's truly biblical and not just the World's version of our faith.  We need to be responsible with our words, because they have great impact. I used to say some of these "platitudes" and thought I was helping.  I believed them too.  I didn't have enough of a knowledge of my own faith not to and I heard them from people I assumed had a great enough knowledge of the bible to know what they were talking about.  Since I've made the mistake myself many times I 'm going to try over time to dispel some of these sayings...because as Christians we need to stop spreading false information about our God and about our faith.

Have you ever heard someone, a Christian or not, say something like "Don't worry, God has a plan, it will work out the way it's supposed to" or "that must not have been in God's plan" or something similar? 

Is it true?  If we just do whatever we choose will God eventually work out His "plan" in your life, despite our lack of effort or even our effort to the contrary?  And how do we know if His "plan" is happening in our lives?  How do we know what it is?

Many Christians and non-Christians alike quote Jeremiah 29:11 when they talk about God's "plan" "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."  Which is an AWESOME passage, right?  But...as happens a lot when we quote scripture, this passage often gets taken very out of context.  Here's the bigger picture of this passage...It's a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles, sent from Jerusalem, with God's instructions and promises TO THE EXILES.  It is a specific letter, from a specific source, to a specific set of recipients.  Not only is it not a general passage intended for all as a promise of God "working things out" in our lives like some sort of puppet master, it is also a passage full of instructions the exiles were to follow before His plan was fulfilled.  Like to build houses, plant gardens, marry, have families, pray for peace and prosperity for their current city, to not listen to false prophets.    God promises that after the exiles have been in Babylon for SEVENTY years, FOLLOWING His instructions...THEN He will come for them and fulfill His plan.  Only then does the infamous "plans" verse come, followed by verses 12-14 "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[b] 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.”  Note what the Lord is saying "after you live in exile, following my instructions...THEN when you call on me and pray, WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART, you will find me".  In other words, He didn't just have a plan for them and carry it out quickly and with no requirements or participation by the exiles! 

This is a passage that makes very specific promises to a very specific group of people.  But it also carries very specific instructions, about how the exiles were to live.  And the promise wasn't right around the corner, it was YEARS down the road.  Hard years, of living in a foreign place. 

So...in reality, quoting that verse to someone and telling them "don't worry, if it's in God's plan it will work out" is ridiculous and damaging.  It leads people to believe we can make choices contrary to God's instructions and that He will just mold a new path to get us where He wants us to be.  He doesn't do that!  He has expectations of us. 

Does God have a plan for our lives?  Absolutely!  He had a plan from the beginning.  He gave it to Adam and Eve.  But did He play puppet master and force them to obey it?  Obviously not.  And when they disobeyed He changed their lives...there were CONSEQUENCES.  God wanted them to have the Garden, He gave them simple instructions how to live there.  And they disobeyed.  He has had a plan since the beginning and since the beginning He has given us instructions on exactly how to make sure that plan happens.  And since the beginning as humans we have ignored His instructions, walked our own path and let Satan or the World convince us to twist God's Word as an excuse to do whatever we want.  Because "He has a plan" so everything that happens must be on it, right?  WRONG!

What is God's plan?  Well...I would say the Bible pretty clearly spells it out.  Delve into it, see what you find.  Read the sermon on the mount, the 10 commandments, all the writings by Paul and the apostles, the letters of King David.  They give pretty clear instruction about how we can live to ensure His plan gets pretty closely carried out.  It's pretty clear what His plan is...and it's pretty clear it's our choice to follow it or not.  But when we choose not to He's not going to pull our puppet-strings and orchestrate everything to fall in line.  He will never leave us but He also won't control us.

Please don't misunderstand.  Does God work miracles?  Every day!  Does God answer prayers according to His will? Absolutely!  Does God work details in our lives to help situations, get us to places we need to be, bring people into our lives for His reasons?  Of course!  But does He sit in Heaven with a big controller, controlling our every situation like a great big video game?  NO!  He gave us free-will.  So that when we DO choose to follow His BIG plan we do so willingly, not because He forced us to.  Because He loves us too much to force us into anything, even loving and following Him.

So...next time a friend is having a hard time...a lost job, a hurting marriage, a child with an illness or is just making bad choices...or any of hundreds of other things...please don't say "if it's in God's plan it will work out".  Because as Christians we need to be more responsible.  Instead suggest they pray, not for things contrary to His word of course, but for His will to be done.  Suggest they choose love, grace, forgiveness.  Recommend they stop listening to those in the World and start listening to the One who made it.  If they are facing a decision support them in looking to God's playbook for His true plan, instead of suggesting it will just "work out the way it's supposed to".  Because since Eve ate the fruit God's plan has been off-kilter.  And He doesn't force us to get ourselves back on His path...He let's us choose.

Ultimately...He will complete His plan.  And some of us will eternally regret believing this World's advice.  So until then it's up to us to choose how we live, based on the instructions He provides in the Bible. 

As someone who has felt the sting of someone saying "if it's in God's plan it will work out" in reference to my marriage being restored I beg of you....PLEASE stop saying these things!   

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