Yes, God Has a Plan for You
Often when one’s life seems to have dealt him a severe blow or disappointment, we hear folks offering comfort by saying, "Everything is going to be fine because God has a plan for you." The idea being that God has predestined each person’s life according to a plan that he has for each person. So, if something goes wrong with your life – marriage, career, education, vacation, friendships – it was because you were trying to go against His plan for you. Don’t worry, God is just molding you according to a better plan He has for you.
Does the Bible teach that God micromanages each life in this manner? If so, then it would seem that He has made a mess in some cases. Or, does the doctrine that "God has a plan for you" apply only to those outcomes we deem to be favorable? The truth is that God made us and leaves us to be free moral agents. He gives us guidance, through his revelation, to follow in making the choices we must make in planning our lives – but He does not make those choices for us nor force us into a detailed plan He has had for us from the beginning. He tells us the results of making good or bad choices, but leaves it to us to make those choices. Read God’s charge to Israel:
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. (Deuteronomy 30:15-20 KJV
Consider what Paul said about widows in 1 Corinthians 7:39. What did he say was God’s plan for each of them? Was it His plan that one marry Gaius, or another Timothy, or another John, or another James? No. Each could marry "whom she wishes" – as long as she married "in the Lord." God’s plan left widows free to pick out their husbands from any who might be available for marriage – with one restriction, that it be "in the Lord."
In the day when God dealt directly with men and gave some direct instructions from heaven, He at times did direct one’s path in more direct and specific ways – like when Paul received the "Macedonian Call." Or when the Spirit directed Phillip to the eunuch. But we live in the post-revelation period when God no longer directly speaks to man, but only through the complete revelation in the Scriptures. This is not to say that He does not manage some things through his providence. Nor is it saying that everything that happens to us is a direct results of His direct use of special providence. In one sense, everything that happens is a result of His providential permission. It could not happen unless He allowed it to be. That is far from saying that everything that happens to us is a direct results of providential decree.
Having said all of this, we must recognize that God does indeed have a plan for everyman. It is concisely laid out as the "doctrine of God and our Savior" by Paul in his letter to Titus:
Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:9-14 KJV)
From this we learn that God’s plan for all is that each:
1. Be saved (Grace bringing salvation has "appeared to all men.")
2. Live a good life in this present world.
a. Denying "ungodliness and worldly lusts."
b. Living "soberly, righteously (justly), and godly.
3. Looking to Jesus’ return in hope.
We want to emphasize again that God has a plan for us as we live in this present world, but his plan involves the world to come. It is Jesus’ returning to receive those who are His – those who have voluntarily conformed to His plan while on earth. While we, and our neighbors, will benefit in this life by our following His plan for this life – it is still a life of vanity without the return of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:19). One of the problems with a lot of preaching in congregations today, it mostly addresses how to live in this world so as to solve the problems and relieve the hurts of this life. It is mostly about improving the quality of life here. Who can deny that denying ungodliness and worldly lust along with living soberly (treating ourselves right), justly (treating our fellow man right) and godliness (treating our God right) results to some extent in making this world a better place to live? But that is not the ultimate reason for living right as a Christian – it is the hope for the next life that prompts one to live in such a fashion. It carries us through the hard times as we live as we should in the present world. That hope is not for a utopian society on this earth, but for life after our life here has passed and this present world is no more – to live with Jesus forever.
God has left it up to us to decide such things as whether to marry or not, and if we decide to marry, whom we will marry; or decide to teach school, mow lawns, dig ditches or preach the gospel as our life’s work. All are honorable pursuits. I am not so sure that God is all that concerned about where and with whom we may choose to do these things. His concern is that wherever and with whomever we choose to live our lives, that it be according to the life taught by the grace of God.
God has extended his grace to us in His Son , it is now up to us to respond to that grace by following what that grace teaches in hope of heaven.