Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our Plan, God's Plan

Life is a culmination of experiences that derive from our calling, culture and choices. We are each created for a divine purpose, born into a particular cultural setting and given the freedom to make a series of choices along the way that either cooperates with or frustrates God's plan for our lives.  From the creation story through to the birth of the early church Scripture reveals how God's plan constantly collides with human will, causing unintended speed humps and detours along the journey towards God's intended purpose for His people. 

God's plan for Adam and Eve was to live in the perfection of the Garden of Eden, but they chose the tree of knowledge over the tree of life resulting in their banishment from the garden and the curse of death.

God's plan for the Hebrews was to deliver them from slavery in Egypt so they could take possession of the promised land, but their disobedience left them wandering in the desert for 40 years before the next generation received their inheritance.

God's plan for Israel was to love the Lord God with all their heart and soul and to be obedient to His commands, but they rejected God as their King and asked for a king like the other nations to rule over them, ultimately leading to the division and exile of a nation.

God's plan for the early church was to go into all the world to make disciples of all nations, but they remained in Jerusalem provoking an outbreak of persecution that scattered the disciples throughout Judea and Samaria to advance the Great Commission.

It seems to me that God's plan for our lives is far more direct than we give Him credit for and any deviation along the way is more often than not to do with human attitudes and actions than divine arrangement. Whether that be the impact of our own choices or the choices of others or the influence of our culture, our divine calling is diverted when our humanity obstructs God's intended pathway.

I was therefore interested in a diagram I saw recently on Facebook that suggests our plan is a direct pathway to our chosen destination, whereas God's plan takes us over and through many obstacles to reach His desired destination. The second part of the diagram (b), supposedly representing "God's Plan," may indeed be more closely aligned to the reality of life than the first part (a), but I'm not convinced that it reflects God's intended REALITY or plan.  To do so would suggest that it is God's plan for us to take the long and hard way to accomplish His will on earth and infers that He intentionally puts obstacles in our way or makes the way unclear!

In contrast, the psalmist prayed, "Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies - make straight your way before me" (Psalm 5:8).  The wisdom literature exhorted, "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:6).  The prophet declared, "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3).  The gospel records Jesus saying, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). The apostle writes, "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fall" (2 Peter 1:10).

It seems inconsistent with God's plan for humankind for Him to make the pathway so difficult and uncertain.  However, it is entirely consistent with God's pattern for Him to use the difficulties and uncertainty, caused by the fallenness of humanity, to demonstrate His grace and mercy.  Despite ourselves God's plan cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2, Psalm 33:10-11, Proverbs 19:21) and "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).  Scripture also tells us that these speed humps and detours in life can be used by God as a laboratory for learning and growth (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 2 Peter 1:3-8).  

So, when we experience reality that looks a little like the pathway in diagram (b), let us be careful not to accredit to God something that is more likely to be the result of our choices and/or circumstances.  Let us instead acknowledge God's presence within that reality and realign ourselves with His intended REALITY (Romans 12:1-2).  Let us pursue the plan God has chosen for us (Philippians 3:13-14) and remember that it is "the thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy" but Jesus has "come that [we] may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

"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."  (Jeremiah 29:11)

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