Does God have a Plan and Purpose for Your life?
By John Ambrose
Are our futures mapped out and set in place by God to accomplish His Divine Plan? But where does our freedom of choice come in if at all? Can we move about and abide in opposition to His Plan? How does all this work?
No one likes uncertainty - it can spawn fear and anxiety. It is much better to feel things have been set in place by a loving God knowing that His future for us will be the best ever. And together with the "Once saved always saved" assurance that some claim, all fear and anxiety are gone. There is nothing left to be concerned about - all worry is gone.
Resting in these teachings gives great assurance, but is this what the Bible really says?
To begin, we see that not all events are orchestrated by God. In Isaiah God is speaking and he says,
"If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you." (Isa 54:13)
Here we see that events can overtake us that are not arranged by God. Things may happen as the natural course of events play out. Thus he says "If anyone attacks you, it will not be my doing". But we see also God's intervention when he says, "whoever attacks you will surrender to you". God does not bring on the event but he gives Israel the assurance that he will be there to protect them and give them victory.
And we see as we read further that God does not always appear to know the outcome of certain events. For he says,
"The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled." (Genesis 6)
And regarding Saul it says,
"Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel." (1 Sam 15:35)
So how can there be regret if God knew the outcome in advance
We read in 1 Kings 11:29-32,
"About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, 'Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes. But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe'."
As we read on we see that Jeroboam led Israel astray in setting up two golden calves and telling Israel, "Here are your gods, worship them". Now if God looked ahead and saw that this would happen, would he have given Jeroboam the ten tribes? If so would not God have borne some responsibility for the sin of Israel?
I think it is more likely that, God, seeing that "Jeroboam was a man of standing" (1 kings 11:28), hoped and expected him to follow after Him and not lead Israel into sin as he did. But Jeroboam's free will came into play and God apparently did not know he would turn out to be unfaithful. I think He hoped and expected that Jeroboam would continue to follow after him, doing rightly, so that Israel would continue serving Jehovah God.
In view of this, it seems highly likely that the free will choices of mankind cast future events into the realm of "highly probable" or "most likely under the circumstances". I believe God was not sure how it would go but hoped for the best in Jeroboam's case.
Likewise, I believe that what he expects and hopes from us is that when life's events overtake us, we will respond according to the leadings of the Holy Spirit and the moral teachings and example given in the Bible.
The enemy of our souls, the devil, would like nothing better than to divert us, to lead us astray to our own destruction. If this were not possible he would not waste his time. So our futures are not laid in concrete, our freedom of choice comes into play at every turn; and we have the potential to make bad choices as well as good ones.
We also see in the Bible examples of God's testings. We see Job go through the tribulations brought on by the enemy; we see Abraham tested when told to sacrifice his son; we see even Jesus tested by Satan after spending forty days and nights in the desert. In each case the outcome was not assured, I believe even Jesus could have failed the test.
Circumstances will also test us and we will sometimes fail the test. But thanks be to God that we have a faithful redeemer who waits with open arms to receive us and forgive us our sins as we come to him in repentance. We may lose a battle but the war will not be lost lest our faith fails us and we do not turn back.
James says, "... but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (Jam 1:14-15) "If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us." (2Tim 2:12) Sin only becomes full-grown when faith is fully lost and we continue head-long on the path leading to destruction.
So does God have a plan and purpose for our lives? Yes, His plan is that we be conformed to the image of Christ, and be a blessing and a witness for him to our fellow man. (Rom 8:29) But no, it is not that he lays out his plan and controls our every step along the way. Our freedom of choice is always present and we may decide to go our own way. (Proverbs 19:3, Jam 1:14-15)
Those of us in Christ have a calling and a gift: The spiritual gifts that come through salvation and the call to use these gifts for the good of the Body and those around us. As Christians we are being built into The Body of Christ with our unique gifts and personality. He blends us into the Body and uses us for the common good. And the Body is healthy and functioning best when all of it members are using their gifts as the Holy Spirit leads.
I believe this is God's plan and purpose for us. It is a plan in the general sense, that is, he expects us to adhere to the teachings and principles taught in the Bible and the leadings of the Holy Spirit; and to operate under our calling using our gifts for the common good. But it is usually not specific as to where to live or go to school; what vocation to choose or who to marry, etc. We are, I believe, allowed great latitude to make our own choices while staying within the bounds of Biblical example and teaching; and always being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction. Will He always guide and direct in specific areas? He may, but I think most often He does not. I believe he allows us the freedom to choose our course but expects that we will stay within the bounds laid out for us.
Would you say to a son or daughter, "I have a plan and a purpose for your life that I want you to follow. I want you to choose this vocation, go to this school, marry this woman (or man), live in this place, have these friends, work here and go there, etc. etc."
What do you think the response would be? I am sure you would hear the objection that, "Well dad (or mom) thanks for the input but I think I would like to make my own choices in these matters". And they would be justified in their objection.
We raise our children to understand correct moral behavior and if they stay within these bounds they are free to do as they please. And this is how it should be. We are not puppets on a string. We receive guidelines and direction and operate within these bounds.
But at the same time we must always be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we will receive specific direction - show us someone in need; a ministry position to fill; a calling to do some specific task - any number of things.
At other times we may have the freedom to do as we see fit. I think of Abraham, after Lot left to go his way, God told him to look to the north and the south, to the east and the west, I am giving this land to you and your descendants. Now go and explore the land, walk about in it and experience this good land I am giving you. (Paraphrased from Gen 13:14-17)
Abraham was free to go about as he saw fit - to choose for himself where to go next.
And I believe this is so with us. We operate within our specific calling in the Body of Christ following the leading of the Holy Spirit as we minister one to another. But often there is great latitude in other areas, we have the permission of the Lord to walk about in life and experience the good things he has provided for us, but again staying within the moral boundaries set for us.
So does God have a plan and purpose for our lives? I believe so, but not in the strictest sense. As stated in Scripture, His will for our lives is that we be conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. Therefore, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to blend our unique personalities into that beautiful likeness, each being gifted and operating in our own special way. His desire is that we submit to this transformation process, daily renewing our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom 12:1)
We are not puppets on a string; we do have the ability to rebel, to say no, to follow our own course. But if we acquiesce it is the best life we can live. May we all have the desire both now and in the future to follow hard after Him, thus pleasing Him and finding blessing for ourselves in the process.
Copyright 2016 - John Ambrose
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