Maybe you've heard it when everything is going wrong, and somebody was trying to encourage you. To give you hope.
Perhaps in a time of frustration or devastation, somebody quoted Jeremiah 29:11to you where the prophet records God as saying "For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
Or maybe it's not even out of crisis or loss that somebody talked to you about God's plan for your life, but simply because you're dealing with the mundane mediocrity of everyday life. Working at a job that doesn't feel like its advancing God's kingdom in this world.
It's encouraging to believe that God not only has a plan for us, but that it's a good plan. A plan that will be fulfilling and meaningful.
The problem we run into is in trying to figure out what that plan is. We're okay with "trusting" God when we know what's going to happen (or at least we think we know) - but when we don't have the full picture, when we have no idea what God is up to, that's when it's difficult.
The word for that is 'faith', and it's really tough. It's much harder than you would expect with how much people talk about faith.
In an effort to help us as we seek to incorporate this faith into our daily lives, I have included some practical steps for engaging your faith in the area of figuring out God's plan for your life.
Now, I need to clarify that prayer throughout this process is critical. To quote Martin Luther King Jr., "Prayer is a marvelous and necessary supplement of our feeble efforts, but it is a dangerous substitute."
With that in mind, here are three things you can do to find God's plan for your life.
- Try different things.
There's a verse in the book of Psalms that says, "Be still and know that I am God." (46:10)
There's value in knowing that sometimes we need to be careful not to replace devotion to God with doing stuff for God. But on the same hand, sitting around and waiting for your ship to come in isn't very biblical, either.
Being obedient to Jesus means you need to know what obedience looks like. By trying different things -trying different groupon events, volunteering on a team at church, going on an outreach, etc; you can figure out things which you are passionate about. Art? Music? Social Justice? Education? Kids?
Because God isn't going to automatically call you to do stuff that you hate. Sometimes we have this idea that God wants us to continually suffer and we can't enjoy ministry or serving God, but that's not God - that's a bully.
God is a loving Father who wants us the best for us. Sometimes that means facing challenges, but it also means learning to use our gifts.
If you find the intersection of what you're good at and what you care about, you will have found your calling.
Make a list of things you're good at. Now make a list of things you care about. Circle places where the two can collaborate.
Love kids and are good at music? Get involved in the kids ministry at church using music.
Love people and are great at leading discussion? Get involved in a small group at your church.
In order to do this, you need to know what you're good at and what you care about, so try anything and everything you can until you have these answers.
If your church doesn't have a class about finding these things out about yourself, I'd encourage you to read the book S.H.A.P.E. by Eric Rees to help you figure some of these things out. In order to know what God is calling you to do, you have to understand who he has made you to be.
- What makes you mad?
Martin Luther King Jr also said "If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." In other words, figure out what you are willing to die for, and live for that purpose.
God doesn't need men and women to make a difference in this world. He's God. He could blink and change everything, but God has chosen to work through people like you and men to make a difference in the world.
I don't know why God has chosen to work through us, imperfect and broken as we are, but he is very clear about it. What areas of brokenness in this world are you simply not willing to ignore? Throw yourself into bringing the restoration and redemption of Jesus into those areas.
Does social injustice make you mad? Is it kids not having a support network? Domestic violence? Refugee camps? Sex Trafficking?
You have one life. If you can use it to make a difference on one issue, what would it be? Bill Hybels calls this 'Holy Discontent'. You find something that makes you so upset that you simply won't allow it to go on without doing something about it.
Our natural reaction is to look away from places of pain and hurt. Instead of looking away, start to research and explore places of pain to see which of them where you simply have to make a difference.
- Do what makes sense
King Solomon, in the book of Proverbs, tell us that we make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps. (16:9)
In other words, get moving, and God will get you where he wants you to be.
If you go through the first two steps and feel like you have several options, and don't feel that God is clearly telling you to choose one of them, then start with the one that seems to make the most sense to you.
We can become paralyzed by indecision, worrying that 'I might find myself doing something completely different than what God wanted me to do.
Again, let's remember that we're dealing with loving Father here, not jerk boss.
Thomas Merton once wrote a prayer that included the following line: "The fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you."
Let's assume that if we are seeking to please God, he loves it. and if he wants us to go a completely different direction, he'll make it happen.
In the book of Revelation, God defines himself with this phrase: "What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open." (3:7)
If God wants to get you somewhere specific, he can simply open and close certain opportunities and possibilities to get you there. He's not worried about whether he can guide you.
If you simply seek in obedience to fulfill the purposes God has put in your heart, he will make sure you end up in the right place.
I hope that these steps encourage you. You will not stand before God one day and be berated because he was calling you to move to Lichtenstein and become a goat herder and you totally missed what he was saying.
God made you for a purpose, and while you may not see how you fit into the overall picture for this world, God sees it; and if you seek to honor God in all you do, he will accept that as worship, and he is not cruel to anyone, let alone those who worship God.
Continue to seek to please our Father, and you will certainly accomplish your purpose.