Does God have a plan for my life?

December 10, 2023

We should have been talking about football..

My friends and I went for Saturday morning breakfast, and the topic soon took a philosophical and theological turn. My fault. Sorry.

I probably overstated a position, which I firmly believe but couldn’t fully articulate, that life is all planned out. God is sovereign. Good things and bad things happen and God is to be glorified in them.

Is life still to be written or does God already know the future?

One friend challenged my framing, querying that the logical conclusion of my position is that God is the author of evil? There was a bit of back and forth discussing freewill, and the conversation produced more heat than light. Looking back, I think we were both arguing for the same point, but coming at it differently. My friend’s difficulty was if something bad happens to me or a loved one, can I say this was “planned” by God and if God planned it, surely this speaks badly of God?

I believe I am representing his position fairly by saying that he sees a trajectory for life but all is still to play for and that God doesn’t have any specific plan for us. Our lives are like a blank book yet to be written in, and God helps us respond in the moment to whatever life deals to us.

The Christian fear of being outside the will of God

I agree with him on his point that there isn’t a plan that we can choose to deviate from. His difficulty was with all the Christians who spent sleepless nights wondering if they were in the will of God. Wondering, does God want me to take path A or B? What if I chose the wrong path? Can I get back on it? How will I know I am on it?

As the Lord’s prayer reminds us, God’s will, will be done. I believe what happens, happens, and that is the plan. It happens because that was what was supposed to happen. Can we be disobedient to God? Yes! Can we can correct our ways? Yes. If we do this, then this was always the plan.

Theological indigestion

The conversation over breakfast weighed on me for the rest of the day. What if I’m reading this all wrong, so I have taken a moment to write out my thoughts and explore this more carefully in writing, as this helps me understand and I want to get to the heart of it. I want to think this through, as this is important. What we believe matters, it shapes our life and our decisions.

“Rubbish in, Rubbish out,” as the computer programmers say.

At the breakfast table, I didn’t state my view articulately, but after taking a moment on the drive home, I believe I can say:

God is good, God is sovereign and God is all-knowing. We are finite and he is infinite. Our ways are not his. Bad things happen, but he allows these to happen within the framework of his greater plan. I believe God has decreed from eternity past what will happen. If something bad happens, it does not mean that he is not good, but it is all part of a larger understanding of how events, even difficult ones, fit into his ultimate purpose.

Personally, I find this a liberating theology. God is in control. Not me. Things are going to happen, but somehow God is going to work it for the good and his glory. It is unnecessary for me to understand. I believe that I have free will in my actions, but God has foreknowledge of this. (Concurrence). My responsibility is to act morally and obediently. I can’t avoid problems, but when they do come, it is the gift of God to endure and find joy in the uncertainty through faith, despite life’s circumstances.

This last bit is easy to write as times are good but I have to believe that God will supply the grace we need when we need it.

Is there a point to life?

I have spent the last few years considering the meaning of life. I see its hope, tears, vanity and despair and we are only left to wonder if there is any meaning or purpose to the apparent chaos.

I believe there can only be two responses:

1. Life only offers a suggestion of significance but there isn’t really any. (Nihilism)

2. Life is a “kaleidoscope of a masterful display of an immense and infinite mind,” (David Charles)

As Charles further points out, all creatures and events are part of a grand plan. No event is meaningless. All play a part in the outworking of a larger, more glorious goal, and one central element to this is the restoration and redemption of man.

The cosmic spiritual battle

For we are involved in a cosmic struggle between good and evil. Something much bigger is going on. I know I am guilty of thinking that life is all about me and only about me. My needs and my wants and when things go wrong, I get bent out of shape too easily.

However, over recent years, I’m realising we are just participants in the chorus of life seeing restoration playing out before our eyes. Sometimes it is wonderful and at other times it really hurts and while we might lament what seems to be done unto us, nothing comes as a surprise to God.

Ephesians 1 v 11 “In him [Jesus] we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (NIV)

Isaiah 46  is also worth checking out, “Only I [God] can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (NLT)

Everything is included in His all-embracing plan.

The difference between God's Decree and God's Providence

The last point I would make is that God’s decree is his plan that was drawn up in eternity past and God’s providence is the execution of that plan in history. Whatever God has planned will come to pass. Nothing will happen by blind, mechanical chance but only by the sovereign predetermination of God and in this providence we can be assured that there is "meaning mercy and hope". (Jim Domm). We can even go further and say that if we believe that God's plan is being rolled out, this gives us courage and demands that sinful anxiety be checked.

Whatever God has planned will come to pass. Nothing will happen by blind, mechanical chance but only by the sovereign predetermination of God and in this providence we can be assured that there is meaning, mercy and hope.

Ok, I have said a lot - Putting forward a position I believe to be coherent. I can probably summarise it by saying:

God operates differently to us. He is eternal and independent of, and outside the system. He cares for us and despite our rebellion, has made a plan to put things right. That plan is in full swing right now. Nothing is happening by accident and through a complex arrangement of methods, God governs sinful actions to accomplish his perfectly holy purposes. (2LBC). We can’t expect to understand how God works; this It is like a beetle insisting that quantum physics be explained to it.

So how do we respond to God's sovereignty?

Simply by faith and in obedience.

Don’t over think life. Pray about your problems, then do the next right and moral thing. Incline your thoughts and actions daily towards heaven rather than hell.

Know that you will sin and make mistakes, but always be looking up towards the author and finisher of our faith.

Trust that God knows what he is doing and even if you can’t see or understand it, pray that he will give you the courage, wisdom and faith to live in the benefit of it or to endure it.

Image by flickr - creative commons 2.0