14 May, 2013

God has a Plan

Many of you have heard Jeremiah 29:11 quoted to you, seen it on a coffee mug or on a pretty poster on Pinterest. “‘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.’” 
This verse, although delivered with good intentions, is taken out of context (as many verses are).  Like so many Christians, I have been fearful about making decisions, hoping God would just tell me what to do... fearing that I would choose wrong and not be on the right path to God's plan. When I decided to go work for a company called Plaid after college, I prayed about it and very happily accepted the job.  Once I started, I was miserable there and started even making myself sick by the stress it caused me. (Stress is pretty powerful stuff!) I was depressed, I developed an allergy to dairy, and at the end, my doctor told me that he recommended me take a leave of absence... to which at that point Cody told me to leave and never return (my knight in shining armor). After that ordeal I found myself asking if I just went forging on and made my own plans without God.  Did I make a decision outside of "God's Plan" and reaped the consequence?

I hear many Christians pray, when faced with a crossroads, “Lord, close the door if it’s not Your will.” In other words, “Lord, I really want to know Your will. Stop me if I’m wrong and bless me if I’m right.” It's kind of like covering your bases, don't you think, like we prayed that prayer so now we can proceed and no harm should come. I've done it too, but God is not obligated to stop you or me from making a mistake!

Actually, this verse isn't about us at all.

Jeremiah was speaking to Israel in this passage and they are in exile under the Babylonians. This means they were seized from their homes, ripped from their families, and exported to Babylon. If you read a little before, you understand right away that this verse is not for individuals making difficult decisions. This verse was Jeremiah writing the people and letting them know that God has not forgotten them; that he sees their pain. This verse is not about God giving us prosperity if we live in the plans God has for us. The problem is God did not promise us prosperity.  God never promised you a life that would be easy. You will face difficulty: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV

However, God did promise to discipline us, to refine us, to grow us in our faith. "Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?" (Hebrews 12:7, NRSV)

I do believe God has a plan for our lives.  It's pretty simple. God’s plan is for us to be in relationship with him.  Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40). Jesus didn’t die to make you happy and successful.  He died so you can be in relationship with him. If you want to know God's plan for you, love God by loving your neighbor, love those that talk bad about you, love those that are most difficult to love. Love your coworker who cheats, respect your boss when no one else does, love your spouse the way Christ loves us and let your marriage be one of grace and self sacrifice. Take care of his orphans and widows. Doing these things sets us apart and that is God's plan. Followers of Jesus—this is our path.  

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