Following God's Plan
Do you ever think about God's plan for your life? Have you ever wrestled with a big decision, wondering if you might disappoint God by choosing incorrectly? How do you reconcile God's plan with these fork-in-the-road moments? If you've spent much time around the church, your mind might immediately jump to a few specific quotes from scripture:
These are just a few verses we typically look to when thinking about God's plan for our lives—and though they are fundamentally true and good, they aren't always the most applicable. Here's a good example: Jeremiah 29:11. Simply knowing that God has a good plan for our lives isn't necessarily helpful as we decide whether or not to quit our job, accept a new job, as we choose a school, choose a spouse, or make any other number of "big life decisions". Moments like this are where faith most clearly intersects the minutia of our lives, and we would be foolish to leave God out of them.
Now I don't just want to step on toes here, those three verses can be used or misused in countless ways, and none of us is perfect when it comes to Biblical interpretation—but my point is this: When we're looking to apply Biblical truths to the trajectory of our lives, context is crucial.
What if, instead of looking for specific answers to these questions in scripture (because they won't really be there), we sought the principles of Godliness and sanctification lived out by Jesus.
The Example of Jesus
It's common among Christians to use language like "I'll pray about that" when talking about big decisions—but what does that really mean? Clearly prayer plays a crucial role in this process, but what is it we're praying about?
We might pray out of impatience, asking God to reveal the right answer immediately; or we might pray out of fear, desperate to choose the "right thing". In both cases, our end goal is the same—wisdom to help us make this big decision—but both postures lack faith.
To be clear, prayer is absolutely the right place to start—but when we're asking for Godly wisdom, how we pray is just as important as why we pray. What if we, when faced with these big fork-in-the-road decisions, followed the example of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 9? How might these criteria help us choose between two or more paths—especially when neither choice is obviously "wrong"?
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 9:6-13
Hallowed Be His Name
The glory of God is always a good place to start. In fact, glorifying God with our decision-making is part of the plan He designed for our lives (Isaiah 43:6-7). Notice that this is also the firstline of Jesus' prayer—and this should always be our starting point as well. 'Before anything else, to God be the glory'. That's the model Jesus gave us, and it provides great perspective when we're facing a fork in the road.
How can my decision-making bring glory to God?
His Kingdom Come
It's also helpful to think about the kingdom of God when we pray about big decisions. What are we trying to accomplish? Do we want God's help because it's less stressful for us? Are we hoping to hide behind a "higher calling" if people try to challenge our decision? When we start to think about the implications of our decisions, an awareness of God's kingdom is crucial.
There's potential for this idea to become overcomplicated—after all, the kingdom of God is a very abstract idea over which Biblical scholars frequently disagree. We could easily get bogged down in debate, but I'd recommend a much simpler approach.
I like to think of the kingdom of God as the process or restoration going on all around us. God is, slowly but surely, redeeming all things to His original design. We may not see the end of this process in our lifetimes, but nevertheless its carries on. Often God chooses to work through us, usually in spite of our brokenness. This is what I hope we'd recognize as we seek to make decisions. We can, with the trajectory of our lives, join in on this divine mission of restoration, and this is something we won't want to miss.
How can my decision-making contribute to God's restoration process?
His WillBe Done
Often times the greatest contest is between God's will and our own. Godly decision-making means recognizing when those two don't line up, and being willing to follow God's anyways.
This is where the process becomes most intimate—we can learn a lot about God's will from scripture, but there's no guide book to tell us about ourselves. Self-awareness on this level takes honesty, vulnerability, and hard work—and it doesn't happen overnight.
We need to recognize here that Matthew 9 is really trying to teach us howto pray, not just give us 3 easy steps to solve all our problems. The model of Jesus' prayer gives us really helpful questions to consider when making big decisions, but won't ever give us the final answer directly. What's most important here is the posture we assume when praying about big decisions—we should always be ready to submit to God's will.
How can my decision-making submit to God's will instead of my own?
These three questions can help filter out a lot of noise when you're looking for God's plan in your life, but they won't ever give you all the answers. In fact, you might find these criteria don't narrow down your options at all! That's important, because there won't always be one right choice and one wrong choice. Though that would probably make our lives a lot easier, that's not how God has designed our world to work. Answering these questions can help identify sinful motivations behind certain options, but the rest is ultimately between you and God.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word. Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. Psalm 109:105-109