All According to Plan
For the majority of the time I have begun to (loosely) see myself as an adult, my life has been dominated by an abstract concept of living simply deemed, "the plan." Now if you have even an ounce of care or concern for what your future holds you are probably right alongside me on this one. We like to live our lives according to "the plan" or "plans" we stay up late at night contemplating when sleep seems far too distant and unattainable. On the chalkboard of our minds we scratch lines and lines of goals, expectations, and lofty dreams with chalk that seems a bit too short, onto a wall dusted with the remnants of past failures and abandoned endeavors. We orderly stack the boxes we have to check and the bullets we have to cross-out to reach the desired outcome we think will bring fulfillment and happiness. We fine-tune the schedule of classes we have to take, to get the degree that we can frame, to finally land the career of our dreams, to support the wife and kids we one day hope to lead. This life cannot afford to be lived without a plan.
There must always be a plan.
But as we go on in life it seems to me the plans we make and try so hard to stay true to inevitably become too burdensome and too difficult to keep. We give up and the crumpled paper-ball of another missed opportunity falls short of the wastebasket. And when we finally get around to cleaning up the mess we have made, the shame sets in and wonder why things are just not going our way. Why are things not going according to plan?
A point one of my professors made last semester has really challenged and convicted me as I have dwelt on this subject. Right in the middle of a lecture my professor said this:
"Why is it that we can trust Jesus with our salvation and our eternal destiny and yet we cannot trust Him with our day-to-day lives?
There are times in my life when I truly believe God does not know what He is doing. As a result of this deceived state of mind, I slowly draw further and further away from God effectively crippling myself from keeping in accordance with His will for my life. I soon forget this life is not a matter of trying to squeeze my goals and desires into God's will, but allowing His will to permeate the very desires of my heart, ultimately making everything about His glory and His glory alone.
Perhaps being raised in such a self-absorbed culture, we have succumbed to an ideology that sets God at eye-level and tells Him to His face, "It's my way or the highway" and if God wants to be a part of our lives, He is more than welcome to ride shotgun. But where did this sense of equality with God arise? Why do we falsely believe God works around our schedules and planners?
This past week for my Acts class I was assigned the first of three readings of the entire book. While reading, I felt chapters 10 & 11 convict me of my lack of faith in God's plans. Below is a summary of those chapters.
After receiving a vision, Peter enters the home of a Gentile and devout God-fearer named Cornelius, who had sent for Peter after receiving a vision of his own. It is difficult for us to really understand today, but for Peter, a Jew, to enter into the home of Cornelius, a Gentile, was a seriously grave offense in the eyes of the Jewish community. As Cornelius was part of the Roman Empire that was at the time occupying Israel, Gentiles were even more despised by the oppressed Jewish people. But Peter, being led by the Spirit, followed the men Cornelius had sent to find him. While Peter was preaching the message of the Gospel to Cornelius and the Gentiles that were with him, the Holy Spirit fell on all in attendance and the Jewish believers who were with Peter were amazed at the happening. (Again, it is difficult to adequately explain how big of a deal it was that the anointing of the Holy Spirit had fallen on the Gentiles, but be looking for a future post where I address this topic).
Peter then returns to Jerusalem and explains the vision he had to the Jewish party who was condemning his meeting with Cornelius. Peter recounts essentially the same event that took place at Pentecost taking place in the home of the Gentile, Cornelius. He concludes his explanation saying in Acts 11:17,
"And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?"
I'm sure Peter was just as surprised as the Jewish believers who were with him, but all that time spent with his friend Jesus likely left an impression on him. While the Jewish believers sat in amazement at the falling of the Spirit on the Gentiles, the gears began to turn in Peter's head. Peter finally understood his plans to spread the message of Jesus was not going to be limited by racial boundaries or religious stipulations. He came to the realization that his plans were not the same as God's plans but could not help but humbly admit, Who was I that I could stand in God's way?
As we go about life struggling to clutch every aspect of control we can get our hands on, I pray you remember the words of Peter and understand that we must firmly be established in God's will concerning every detail of our lives. When you feel as though you are trying to tighten your grip on the wheel, I pray you remember that God's will for our lives is so much better than any dream we could ever conceive. I believe when Jesus said His burden was light and his yoke was easy He was encouraging the people to trust in His power and rest in His provision. We were not meant to worry or concern ourselves with every detail of our futures but instead must believe that whatever God has in store for us is what is best. For His love for us is so much greater than we could ever comprehend and His desire is to see us live life in the fullness of His grace.