Star Word: Plan
by Carl Helmich, St. Paul Member
Christians have a glorious inheritance in the faith passed down to us, but we still have to discover it for ourselves before we can truly possess it and pass it on. We believe that God has chosen every one of us−for service, not privilege. God has a plan or purpose for each of us to fulfill, and he will work with us if we give him our cooperation. Several moral and spiritual lessons from scripture come to mind.
Beginning in Genesis 25, Jacob seems to have had God’s favor resting on him. As a young man he took his firstborn twin brother Esau’s birthright by devious means, but he was in fact the more gifted of the two. Jacob still had to go through hard, even harrowing, experiences and tests of his character on his way to becoming a useful instrument in God’s hand. His mother, Rebekah, saw his future possibilities, but others (including Jacob) needed hindsight to discern the plan of God working itself out in his life. Jacob, despite his faults, accepted God’s leading and became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
On the other hand, later in history, there was a promising young man named Saul who was anointed king of Israel because God chose him. But again and again God was disappointed in the choices Saul made. Finally (through the prophet Samuel) God judged him to be unfit (1 Samuel 15). In this instance we see that God had a plan B. Having used up his options for guiding Saul, God chose David to replace him. Samuel said to Saul, “You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”
This is a sobering story. We can understand something of what God meant when he said through the prophet Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55). The Hebrew word translated here as “thoughts” is translated “plans” in Jeremiah 29: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
When God says to us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts; your plans are not my plans,” we need to discern more clearly what God requires of us, and to correct our ways of thinking and our plans accordingly. We can do this by listening to what we are told by scripture, by the church, and by our most trusted spiritual guides, present or past. Then, “freed for joyful obedience,” we can serve as instruments of God’s peace.
In short, God has a plan or purpose for my life, but I have the ability either to fulfill it or defeat it, with predictable consequences for either choice. One other choice might be to make a lukewarm, halfhearted response. God’s reaction to such a response is described in Revelation 2 and 3, where in seven letters the risen Christ evaluates or judges the possibilities and performance of seven early Christian churches. We can measure ourselves against these brutally honest letters, remembering that, while we yet live, grace is available through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, who works in us, helping us fulfill God’s plan for our lives and for the church. That is the good news and the source of our hope. Praise the Lord!