Opening Prayer: Father, my plans for my life have often failed. Please show me more of Your plan for my life, and give me the grace to accept it.
God's Plan For Your Life"...Love the Lord and follow His plan for your lives. Cling to Him and serve Him enthusiastically." Joshua 22:5
"I don't understand: why doesn't God just TELL me His plan for my life?"
Ever hear somebody say that? Was it YOU saying that?
You're not alone. We've all experienced that same frustration when it's time to make a difficult decision. We pray (a little bit) for God to give us guidance and we start looking around for burning bushes. Surely on a matter this important God must want to give us direction. Why doesn't He just tell us what He wants?
Those thoughts went through my head recently as I read the Scripture quote you see at the top of this page. How can I follow God's plan if I don't know what it is? Obviously it was time for more research.
I started the research by looking up Joshua 22:5 in a different translation:Only take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
You tricked me! The passage is talking about God's commandments, not His personal plan!
Not at all. Too many of us in the Church talk cheerfully about "God's plan for our lives," and our listeners get the wrong idea. They begin thinking in terms of "Whom should I marry?" or "Which house should I buy?" or "Should I buy more technology stocks?" or "When should I retire?" Please note that these questions concern OUR plans for our lives. And it's human nature to believe that God's plan for my life involves more of the same stuff. Unfortunately for this line of reasoning (but fortunately for our long-term interests), God's ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.
OK, His plans are not the same as my plans. But how can you say that His commandments are the same as His plans for my life? Aren't His commandments too general to give me much insight into His plan for MY life?
Think about it. Suppose God actually gave you a minute-by-minute script for the rest of your life and said, "If you really want to know my plan, memorize and keep this." What would your response be?
I'd run screaming in the other direction.
But isn't there some happy middle ground, where God can give me some clues about my future?
Absolutely. God has provided just such a procedure. It's called "prayer." You should try it. It works best if you apply it at least twice daily, in generous amounts.
OK, but I'm still not sure how "commandments" equate to a "plan" for my life.
Simple. God, in His mercy, gives us a lot of freedom. Maybe YOU can handle detailed directions from outside yourself, but I'm too absent-minded to remember all the details, and too rebellious to want to try. Just point me in the right direction and give me a few clues; let me work out the details.
So let's start looking for direction and clues in Exodus 20, verses 2-3:2 I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
Recognize that quotation? It's the first of the Ten Commandments (also known as the "Ten Words" in Hebrew).
How can that be part of MY personal plan? The Ten Commandments are plain vanilla. When I was a kid, they even had posters with the Ten Commandments in the public school hallways. What's personal about the Ten Commandments?
Notice that it begins, "I am the Lord THY God, who brought THEE out of Egypt." God is telling you He is YOUR God, not just the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He's calling you to enter into a close, warm, personal relationship with Himself. And He's reminding you that He rescued you from Egypt.
But I've never been to Egypt!
Yes you have. There was a time in your life BEFORE you knew the Lord personally and BEFORE you received the Lord Jesus as your Lord and your Savior. Whatever your situation was BEFORE salvation was your personal Egypt. You were dead spiritually, in bondage to your bodily desires, a long way from the Promised Land. Maybe you were just a little kid. Or a teen, or young parent, or grandparent. The Lord rescued you FROM Egypt, and welcomes you TO a personal relationship with Himself, the Creator of heaven and earth. Sobering thought: If you have no concept of what you were rescued from, and have no concept of a personal relationship with God, maybe you haven't yet been rescued. But you can be. I suggest studying at least the first four chapters of the free discipleship resource that you can read here: Durable Joy Book.
Let's continue with verses 4 through 6:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness [of any thing] that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me, 6 and showing lovingkindness unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
Notice God's personal interest in YOU. God isn't merely concerned about whether you make statues of golden calves or angels (although now would be a good time to dump all the angel paraphernalia your Aunt Rose sends you every Easter). God wants a personal relationship with you. He wants you to love Him and thirst for Him -- more than you hunger and thirst for money, houses, cars, TV, computers or earthly romance. These are the real graven images of our culture. And any of them can be a snare to you.
Remember, God is not like your day-job boss, who (usually) only cares about your activities during working hours. God is not impressed that you show up somewhere on Sunday with your culturally acquired happy face in place. God wants top priority in your heart, and He deserves it.
Now verse 7:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.
Remember how the kids in school made fun of your name? If it was long, they truncated it. If it was short, they embellished it. And heaven help you if your name actually rhymed with something. Remember how you felt? Now imagine how God must feel when people use his name as a swear word.
And do YOU ever say, "Oh my God!" in any context besides prayer? Please don't make any excuses like, "I don't mean anything by it." That makes it even worse.
There's another, less-obvious way that we can take God's name in vain. That's when we set about to do something WE want to do, and we deflect criticism by saying, "This is God's will," or "God told me to do..."
There's an amazing lot of this in the Church world today. Some godless men and women dress themselves in theology degrees and develop careers for themselves. Some of them are in pulpits. Some of them are lay persons on Church committees. Some twist God's Word to promote their "new" program. Others distort God's Word to squelch the genuine working of the Holy Spirit in their congregations. Some are on religious television, begging shamelessly for donations to support their lavish lifestyles. Our Lord confronted these religious hypocrites, saying,"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." (Matthew 23:13).
Closer to home, we can also be guilty of this when we set out to do "the Lord's work" before we receive a clear direction from the Holy Spirit on how, when and where to proceed.
And now one of my favorite subjects, in verses 8 through 11:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the Lord thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
God says that we should take at least a 24-hour break from our regular work each week. Sure, we could make more money if we worked seven days per week. But God repeatedly tells us to trust HIM to provide our physical needs (although not necessarily our wants). It's realy a matter of faith: do we trust God or do we feel the need to "help God out" by pushing ourselves to exhaustion?
The commandment says that this act of faith, this day of rest, is to be holy (dedicated and special!) to the Lord. Furthermore, it breaks the rules if we take Sabbaths for ourselves by making our spouses, kids or employees work extra to make up for our slothfulness. Does your business need to be open seven days per week? Be sure your employees get to take their Sabbath rests, too.
Another point. Don't be stuck on which day of the week is your particular Sabbath. In Biblical days, the Sabbath Day was Friday evening to Saturday evening. Our culture usually thinks of midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday as being the Lord's Day. That's because early Church leaders went to their Jewish synagogues on Saturday and held Christian services on Sunday. Remember that Sunday is never called the Sabbath Day in Scripture. Just set aside a day of Sabbath rest, and try not to frustrate the grace of God by scheduling all your at-home chores on that day.
Let's continue with verse 12:12 Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Notice that the first four commandments dealt with our relationship with God. This commandment leads off the section concerning our relationship with other people. Note, too, that it is unique in that it contains a specific promise of blessing.
OK, how does that relate to me personally?
Let me tell it to you straight: After God, family comes first -- ahead of ANYTHING else.
But teacher, doesn't that Scripture only apply to our parents? After all, I've got an important job, responsible for 500 people working in three different states. And my best buddy is a TV evangelist, and we both spend 20 weeks per year on the road, tending our respective flocks. Surely a different standard applies to him and me, right?
Maybe, but it doesn't come from Scripture. You have a duty to your parents, true. But you also have an obligation to your wife and children to model God's love and caring. Remember, God is responsible for billions of people in every corner of the globe, and He still loves and cares for you individually and personally. We owe no less to our kids and spouse. And our kids will have a difficult time keeping this commandment in future years if we DON'T take this responsibility to heart.
Let's finish up with verses 13 through 17:13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.
You can be very sure that God's personal plan for your life does NOT include having you violate any of these commandments.
But how does that relate to God's plan for ME? I wasn't planning to break any of those commandments.
It doesn't matter. For the next few weeks or years, our options are limited -- we MUST live in these fleshly bodies. And our fleshly desires constantly tug at us -- in the wrong direction.
Maybe you're OK with your outward behavior, and would get a grade of "A+" from your friends and neighbors. But you know what you're REALLY made of. You know your strengths. But you also know your weak times, when you feel exhausted, and are just plain weary of the grind of daily life. Same person, different day.
So what should we do? Every day, especially the bad days, we need to start at the top of God's Plan, "I am the Lord THY God..." and actively seek His personal presence and guidance. Amazingly enough, the rest will become clearer to us when we start with the basics.
Closing Prayer: Lord, I know I can't stick to Your plan without Your help. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit this day, to be strengthened and renewed in You. Amen.