What are your plans for the New Year? As 2012 begins, many people make resolutions—old habits they want to break or new ones they’d like to develop. Others assess the upcoming year or more. Regardless of your particular agenda, however, if you’re a Christian, God has a master plan that supersedes all human designs.
“Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Ephesians 1:5)
When I was a child, my mother would quote the saying, “Mensch denkt; Gott lenkt.” Its literal translation is “People think; God directs,” but it basically means that while human beings lay out elaborate plans for their lives, God determines the actual path. And even though most of us will not know the exact specifics of our lives, God has revealed the overriding umbrella plan.
We know, for example, that whatever else happens, we belong to Him. He has adopted us into His family—into the world and reality of those forgiven through Christ who can now freely choose to make right, God-pleasing choices, not foolish, sinful ones. We no longer have to cower in shame or fear because of anything we have done, but can approach the Father confidently because of Jesus. Hebrews 10:14, 17, 19-22 says, “For by one offering [His death on the cross] He [Jesus] has perfected forever those who are being sanctified [made holy; us!]…’Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’…Therefore [because we’re forgiven in Christ], brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest [the presence of the Holy God] by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil [a reference to the heavy veil separating sinful man from the presence of God in the temple], that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest [Jesus] over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience…”
We also know that nothing—ever—can separate us from His love. Romans 8:31b-39 tells us, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge [an accusation] against God’s elect [us!]? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God [the position of influence], who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When life is easy this might not mean much, but it can be a lifeline of hope when things are bad.
We also know that regardless of where we find ourselves in the structure of this world, we are to be busy doing what God wants us to do. It matters less what we do for a living than that we love Him and are busy actively serving Him and pursuing His purposes there. Ephesians 2:10 tells us “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God has work for us—things He wants us to get done while we’re still alive. Even Jesus said [clearly referring to Himself in this context, although this is true for everyone], “I must work the works of Him who sent Me [the Father] while it is day [while there is still time]; the night is coming when no one can work.” (John 9:4) Our human lives are not infinite; they have an ending point. It is our business to find out what God expects us to accomplish and get busy doing these things.
Finally, we know that regardless of what happens to us God has one over-riding purpose to our life—that of making us like Christ (see Galatians 4:19). Our desire is that our lives be pleasant and easy; God’s is that we become like Jesus, typically accomplished through difficulty. That is why we shouldn’t be surprised when bad things happen, but rather recognized them as a time of testing—to see if we handle it in a way that honors God—and of growth. Whether an illness or the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or home, or anything else, these are the things that perfect us—they make us better, if we let God use them in our lives. They’re like the fire that the silversmith uses to refine silver—it burns away the bad, the dross, and leaves the silver more pure than before. In the same way God uses the difficult situations of our lives to grow us—to cause us to mature and become stronger Christians, better able to help others who will eventually experience similar pain. Romans 8:28 holds the beautiful promise, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Nothing that happens is random if you belong to Him; it is all for His purposes, and we can firmly rest in the knowledge that these purposes are good.
So what is God’s plan for your life? Romans 8:29-30 gives the ultimate answer:
“For whom He foreknew [‘to recognize or know beforehand’ (Zodhiates)], He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son [His plan is for those who are His to be made like Christ]…
whom he predestined [to become like Christ], these He also called;
whom He called, these He also justified [made right through Christ]; and
whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
God’s plan is complete, from start to finish. The particulars may play out differently in everyone’s life, but the goal, being glorified, is the same for all who are His. “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Thank You for Your master plan through Christ, and that I am part of it. Thank You that I belong to You, that nothing can ever separate me from Your love, that I have a purpose in this life, and that no matter what happens I can securely rest in Your promise that all things work together for good for me because I love You. Thank You that You will complete the good work You began in me! Amen.