I say it to encourage others. I tell myself the same thing when I need to be encouraged. It is repeated by Christ followers as if it sums up the entire Bible, and it does. Still, what it really means and what we want it to mean are not the same thing.
God has a plan for your life.
God has a plan for my life. God has a plan for everyone’s life and He will use us for His good purpose. These words echo through churches as the pastor brings a message of hope that often leads people to think that all they have to do is hang on and God will make it all better. They convince themselves that they are currently in a low part of His great plan that will eventually be completed and all will be right in the world once again.
From the beginning of time God has had a plan.
At first glance reading that God has had a plan long before I faced the situation that now occupies most of my thoughts is a ray of hope in a dark time. As long as I never read my Bible but rather pick and choose the verses that best suit me; I can live life looking forward to the day everything gets better because God has a plan. If I read my Bible from cover to cover, I can also live life looking forward to the day everything gets better because God has a plan, but my perspective on what that means will change.
Would the statement God has a plan still encourage you if you knew it would cost you your life?
Paul knew God had a plan for his life but we often forget how much he knew about what was coming. His confidence in God and his willingness to move forward under the direction of the Holy Spirit knowing what he knew would stop most of us in our tracks but he pressed forward. Paul used the metaphor of running a race when talking about our lives as followers of Christ. He instructed his readers to’ “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24(NIV) and yet he knew the prize, the fulfilment of God’s plan would cause him to suffer.
“Go!” said the Lord [to Ananias]. “This man [Saul who became the Apostle Paul] is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings, and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name.” Acts 9:15-16 (NIV)
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 (NIV)
I don’t know about you but to say this knowing that suffering was going to be a part of my life and most likely lead to my death would not be easy and yet Paul made this very statement in his letter to the Philippians. I’ll be honest, I’m not afraid to die, it’s the pain that might accompany it that scares me. I guess the same can be said about life, I’m not afraid to live, it’s the pain that might accompany it that scares me. If this is true then I must also recognize that the plan God has for every follower of Christ will include pain – we live in a sinful world. The plan God has for all people, Christ follower or Christ denier, will include death – we all die.
I find much more encouragement when I view my life in the context of the entire Bible.
God has a plan that does not guarantee that things on this earth will get better. Following Christ does not remove hardship and living out God’s plan won’t balance out the good and the bad experiences. Our faith exists in spite of what we experience, and our hope is placed in what will come after this life is over. That being said we do not have to live with a faith and hope that only applies to the perfection of eternity. We do not have to look to the future to be able to face the present. God has a plan and those who obediently follow that plan will receive their reward in heaven which in itself should be encouraging, but there is more. We are not living in hope that God will one day (after we die) show up, He is with us every step of the way as we carry out His plan.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)