Over the past two days I have been looking at whether or not God has a specific plan for our lives. I started by examining how Jeremiah 29:11 does not teach that God has specific plans to prosper us and then moved on to how Romans 8:18-30 teaches us that God does have specific plans that have an eternal scope. But that still leaves us with the question of whether or not God has a specific plan for us in regards to our making everyday choices. Does God have a specific plan that we need to figure out when it comes to marrying the right person, going to the right college, choosing the right job or our church choosing the right direction to go? So far my answer to that has been:
"At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I don't think that God really cares what we do in these situations unless there is a Biblical or moral reason involved."
Now that I have laid the foundation that God has specific plans for us that are eternal in scope I need to start to nuance what I mean by my statement.
First and foremost I need to start with what may seem like a contradictory statement. God does care about what we do in every situation. He cares intimately about us and what happens to us. Matthew 10:26-31 tells us that Jesus said this about God's concern for us:
"So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."
God cannot care that much for us without caring about the decisions that we make. Whenever we are faced with decisions we should always look to make the best possible choice. Sometimes we are faced with decisions that contain good, bad and better choices. Sometimes we are faced with decisions that only seem to contain bad ones. So how do we know what to do?
Do we need to listen to God's voice in order to make the right choices?
It is absolutely essential that we listen to God in order to make right choices. But what does that look like? Should we expect God to speak to us through an audible voice like he did with Moses at the Burning Bush or Samuel in the middle of the night? Is he going to speak to us in the still, small voice like he did with Elijah?
It is essential that we do not confuse examples of how God has worked in the Bible with the Bible teaching us how to expect God to usually work. We understand this almost reflexively because most of us would be appalled by a church teaching that we should expect God to speak to us through witches or donkeys. So in order to gain a better understanding we turn to the Bible which, incidentally, is the Word of God. What better place to turn to hear God speak than the place where God's speech has been recorded?
Jesus tells us all that we really need to know about hearing God's voice in John 14 & 15. It would be too long to quote both chapters here so I would encourage you to read them before continuing with what I am going to say next.
Ok. Both Thomas and Phillip ask Jesus some very good questions in John 14 that are very similar to what I am looking at here. Thomas asks:
"Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"
To which Jesus replies:
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
Phillip follows up by asking Jesus to reveal the Father. Jesus goes on to state that his words are the words of the Father and that the Holy Spirit will come to remind them of all that Jesus said and taught. We have the words of God in written form and we have the Holy Spirit to remind us of those words. If we want to know the will of the Father we need to be obedient to God's Word. Jesus then says in John 15:
"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
This isn't a magic formula verse rather it means that if we are consistently within God's will as spelled out in the Bible then our prayer requests will be answered. The hard part is consistently abiding in God and allowing God's words to abide in us. So when we are listening to God's words as found in the Bible we will make right decisions. We don't need God to speak to us through burning bushes, donkeys, or even in a whisper when we have God speaking to us through his written Word.
This doesn't mean that God does not speak to people in these ways today but it does mean that we shouldn't expect God to speak to us in these ways. We don't need to sit down and try and figure out God's specific (and hidden) plan for our lives. He has already spelled his plan out for us. He wants us to acknowledge the salvation provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, trust in him and to be obedient to his Word. This doesn't mean that we won't face very difficult decisions that we might need to wrestle with for a long time. But when we are abiding in God and his Words are abiding in us, we can rest assured that we will be making solid decisions that have good eternal consequences.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.