Recently, at our Life Group we were discussing God and whether or not we felt that He had a purpose for our lives, and more importantly if He did, how we were supposed to know it. I thought that I would take a moment and try to gather our thoughts on the subject.
The whole conversation seemed to center around 5 questions:
1. Does God have a plan?
2. How do you know?
3. Do you want to participate?
4. How do you participate?
5. What does it look like - how do I know when I'm doing it?
Pretty loaded questions, huh? I bet that each of us has some strong opinions, if not feelings, on each of those questions. I'd be amiss to try to completely deal with each one of those here at this time, but let me see if I can at least give some background as to what conclusions we came to before jumping into the last few.
Obviously, to ask a question, "Does God have a plan?" one would have to make the concession that the person asking, and the intended audience, already believes that there is a God. More specifically, we believe that there is a Creator God, or a God by which all things are created. Before Him there was only Him, and He created everything "ex nihilo" or out of nothing. You can decide for yourself, but for me - having believed that - believing that He did so randomly or unintentionally just doesn't compute. Not just this world, mind you, but even me. I was created with a purpose; I was created with a "why" I am here. Jeremiah 29:11 in the New International Version translation of the Bible says, "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.
The question is, do I want to participate?
I have heard it said that the two greatest days in a man's life are the day he is born, and the day he finds out why. I'm one of those why people. Why this? Why not that? Yup, I was that little kid that always kept asking why.
"Why is the sky blue?"
"Because it is."
"No, but why?"
"Because God thought it would be best that way."
"Yeah, but why is it best that way?"
and on and on and on.
I still find myself in those little discussions with God from time to time. I'm the kind of person, when asked a question that I think I should know, will immediately try to find the answer. The Internet, Google, Wikipedia, and HowStuffWorks.com have all intimately become familiar with this little boy that always asks why. And I believe God wants me to know the answer to "why am I here?" But I must first answer the question, do I want to participate? If so, how do I do it - what does it look like to follow God's plan?
God Has a Set of Blueprints
Recently, I had the privilege of overseeing the construction of a multi-million dollar construction project on behalf of the owner. It was amazing. Just the coordination and communication necessary to even begin to accomplish such a daunting task was incredible. Dozens of different companies played a role in the execution of the feat. Nearly 2 years of planning and 2 years of construction culminated in one of our city's most beautiful buildings - thousands in our community have visited and thousands regularly attend - it's remarkable. But none of that would never have taken place if there wasn't some way of communicating to everyone involved what part each was going to play.
I learned that a lot of what goes into a construction project isn't fabricated on sight. Even as they are breaking ground, pushing dirt and digging holes; off sight - often across the country - others have begun the fabrication of large steel beams while others have begun making the doors that will mount on the cabinets inside. Fascinating to me is how the plumbers know where that toilet is going to be so that the pipe can be put in place before the concrete is poured, yet the toilet won't be installed until nearly a year later - and it will fit perfectly.
All of this coordination, all of these efforts, all of these steps, all of these additions to the building are reflected in a set of plans, or blueprints. Each page shows the next step in the process, and if executed correctly, will allow the next steps on the next pages to occur the way the Architect intended. Often times, it is necessary to flip back a few pages and see what has happened in the past in order to make sense of the current step involved; but the blueprints allow them to do that.
I believe that God has a set of blueprints for each of our lives and reflected in those plans are the numerous circumstances, people, additions, subtractions, and events that will ultimately coincide in His purpose for my life. I believe He wants me to know this purpose, but often times, I'm only able to see one page at a time; one step, then another. But I trust that right now, there are things in the works that will be added to me as time goes by; things that are purposed for me; things that are designed for me.
Turn the Page!!!
It might be difficult for many to relate to a construction project illustration or perhaps you've never seen a set of blueprints on a job that large. Have you ever assembled furniture before? I've never bought furniture that needed assembly that didn't come with a set of instructions. (Now, I might not have always used those instructions, but they were there. :) ) One of the most frustrating things that could happen to you while assembling your furniture would be to discover that there is a missing page from the manual. Could you imagine that?
Here's one that's worse, and yet its all too familiar. Could you imagine assembling your furniture, and following the directions on the first page and never turning the page to find out what the next step was? Never! Well, maybe. What would the furniture look like at that point? Definitely not all that it was intended to be. Yet, many Christians today are living their lives, partially assembled in the plans God has for their lives because they've never turned the page! They've never realized that getting saved or trusting in Jesus was only page one of the plan God intended. Simply coming to church every week isn't God's complete plan, there's more for you. Turn the page. You have to want to participate; there's another page waiting.
What Does it Look Like?
What does it look like when someone is living God's plan for their lives? How do you know if someone is doing a good job at following God's plan for their life? Gosh, I wish I knew that. My searches of Google and HowStuffWorks.com haven't helped in this arena. I think it would be easier if it were more like driving. I know I'm driving well when I can successfully navigate my car between the lines. I'm a good driver when I operate my vehicle in a way that complies with the law and more importantly, I know when I've gotten off the road. Even if I choose to ignore it, there's an officer that is quick to remind me I'm not a good driver. But there are not traffic cops in the pages of God's plan that I've found. So how do I know? I definitely can't know for you or for someone else. But how do I know for me, what does it look like when I'm following God's plan for my life?
I'm not claiming to be the expert. I'm still learning. But I'm willing to share what I've learned so far. I believe that at least three things are involved when I (or we) are correctly following God's plan and purpose for our lives.
1. It involves others - I'm not expected to figure this out alone, and I'm not designed to keep to myself along the way
2. It involves one step after another - its progress. its movement. It's one step of faith after another.
3. It involves my growth - Its "I'm not who I was, but I'm not yet who I'm going to be." Its God adding to me. Its more. Grow = More
If you can look at your life and honestly see that your pursuits, the things you do, or the things you occupy your time with do not match up with those three things, you've likely gotten off course. The danger here is you're probably pursuing something that isn't worth catching. I recently heard a story of a guy whose dog wouldn't stop chasing cars. "What would he do if he caught one?" the guy would ask. One day the guy tied a rag to wheel of his car and slowly drove through his neighborhood. Sure enough his dog began to chase his car. This time, the dog caught the rag as it slowly rolled with the tire. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! around and around the dog went as he clenched the rag in his teeth. Immediately, the startled dog let go. The guy said that his dog never chased another car from that point on.
My prayer is not just that God would show me His plan for my life - I believe He wants to show it to me and that He takes every opportunity to do so.
My prayer is, "God, don't let me chase something that isn't worth catching." I believe that should be your prayer, too.