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Has God Changed Your Plans?
by Lani W. Finley
An old Yiddish proverb says, "The
best way to make God laugh is to say, I have plans".
Our lives seldom work out as we planned. We dream of a "Leave It
To Beaver" type lifestyle where Ward, June, Wally and the Beaver
lead charmed lives in a perfect setting of family values, love, peace,
health and prosperity.
We generally start out in life with a
carefully planned and charted course for our future. Seldom do we allow
for detours, interruptions and unsolicited changes, but they inevitably
disrupt our peaceful journey through life and quickly bring us back to
This appears to be especially true for
the Christian who has surrendered his life to God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
It seems that just about the time we get too comfortable and snuggle down
in our cozy and secure nest of dreams, that devastating and unwanted changes
come rushing into our lives. These changes hurl us into a life that we
neither desired nor expected. The direction of our life has been permanently
altered and it will never be the same again. Will these frightening changes
make the Christian doubt God and His love, or will they send the Believer
on a journey into a deeper relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ?
Pastor M. Craig Barnes uses terms like
"unwanted changes" and "abandonment" to help describe
the life-journey of a Christian. In his book "When God Interrupts",
he defines these terms for the struggling Believer as follows:
Spouses die or depart. Friendships wither.
Health fades. Children grow up and leave home. We move to new jobs and
new towns. The dreams and securities of the past are shattered, hopes
for the future disappointed. Nothing stays the way it was or turns out
exactly as we had expected. Life, it seems, is necessarily dotted with
loss, marked by abandonment.
But all this should come as no surprise to
Christians, those who are called to lose their lives in order to find
them. So if we try to follow Jesus, we can count on a great deal of
abandonment. The good-but hard- news of the gospel is that abandonment
can be embraced as the opportunity to receive new life. Will they clutch
at something else for their salvation? Or can they leave their hands
open long enough to receive the life Jesus was dying to give them."
Jesus never deceived us regarding the Christian Walk.
He clearly explained the cost that following Him would exact (Matt 16:25-26).
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever
will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited,
if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall
a man give in exchange for his soul?
Too often, we want to stay where it is
secure and safe. A place that we recognize as emotionally, financially
and physically comfortable. We try to hold on to everything that we have
built. The "little gods" that gives us our identity, security
and a sense of self worth. We usually hold on to these things with a grip
so tight, that only Jesus can pry them from our hands. Although Jesus
is constantly trying to lead us into a deeper understanding and relationship
with God and Himself, we usually resist with all of our strength and violently
fight to return to the security of the world that we have created for
The Christian Conversion
"It is impossible to follow Jesus
and not be led away from something. That journey away from the former
places and toward the new place is what converts us. Conversion is not
simply the acceptance of a theological formula for eternal salvation.
Of course, it is that, but is so much more. It is the discovery of God's
painful, beautiful, ongoing creativity along the way in our lives".
Conversion always occurs en route to places we do not wish to go. We can
get there only if we have abandoned hope of returning to the place where
we would rather be" 1.
Conversion is not the act of repentance
or baptism. Conversion is a life-long journey with God and Jesus. A journey
that God uses to transform us into the "image of His Son, Jesus Christ".
It is fraught with loses, unsolicited changes, trials and hardships. It
is the heat from these fiery trials that begin to melt and soften us,
so that God can begin to mold His new children into the His Son's image.
Too often, we want to be perfected in Christ
and brought to the fullness of Christ, but without
Always On the Move
We might as well face it. If we are going
to follow Jesus, then we are always going to be on the move. Changes,
losses and abandonment will definitely be a part of our lives. It was
no different for Christ and the apostles. They were constantly facing
new and unexpected challenges. I do not believe Jesus knew each day where
the Holy Spirit would lead Him, or what losses and dangers He faced around
each corner. Many scholars say that Jesus owned two homes, but during
His ministry, He stated, "the Son of man had nowhere to lay his head"
(Matt. 8:20). Jesus abandoned the comfortable things in life, in order
to fulfill the will of His Father. He continued to accept and adjust to
the changes. He was willing to give everything back to God when called
upon to do so. He was faithful unto death.
The apostles faced a barrage of changes that would have
challenged the average person's mental stability. They were called from
their professions, then told to leave all and follow Jesus into an unknown
destiny. They followed Jesus for over 3 years, saw countless miracles,
and then witnessed the murder and destruction of the One they had trusted
as their Messiah. Frustrated, devastated, confused and hopeless, they
started returning to their former professions, until met by the resurrected
Christ. They were
instructed to wait at Jerusalem until the "power of God" descended
upon them. Then they were persecuted and eventually killed by their peers.
These are examples of how God sometimes interrupts the lives of the ones
He loves. Growing means change - and change always moves us to a new (and
sometimes unwanted) place.
Pastor Barnes makes another insightful statement about
our Christian walk.
One of the most frustrating things about Jesus
is that he just won't settle down. He is constantly moving us away from
the places where we would prefer to stay, like Galilee, and moving us
closer to Jerusalem, where we do not want to go. ...He keeps pushing
us toward a promise we cannot yet see. ...Along the way, Jesus will
invite us to drop the things we are carrying that are heavy but deeply
cherished. But don't look back. The loss is simply another step toward
We should try to follow the examples of Christ and the
apostles. They understood that all things in life are a gift from God,
and one day we will be called upon to give them back to God and our Creator.
We must be willing to part with them.
Coping With Unwanted Changes
Many of us are suffering from the loss
of a loved one, chronic and terminal illnesses, the loss of our home,
church, job or friends. We cannot deny the pain that these interruptions
bring to our lives. However, there is one vitally important thought that
the Believer must embrace and plant deep within his heart. "If God
wounds you - it is only so He can heal you in a much deeper way"
Only a loving and merciful God could wound
us out of an act of love. We must always remember what the apostle
John said, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). King David testifies
to the endless mercies of our God in the Psalms. "The LORD is gracious,
and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is
good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works" (Ps.
Mankind is only granted a 70-year life
span on this earth. That is not much time for God to call, educate, train
and mold a future family member. He is trying to teach us deep things
that we can carry with us throughout eternity. The lessons that teach
and train the Christian mind and heart have to be powerful and profound.
God has given several gifts to help the
Christian in Training through these difficult times. He has given us His
Spirit, through Jesus Christ, to comfort us. We have Christ's promise
that He will never leave nor forsake us and He has given us His Holy Word
to strengthen us. However, God expects the church,
or rather, the body of Christ to bring support, acceptance and consolation
to His hurting children.
The Body of Christ - A Sanctuary
The Lord intended for His "Body of
Believers" to be a refuge of comfort for His hurting and wounded
followers. It should be a ""hospital for the spiritually sick
and wounded". It should be a place where we can come and bleed,
and share our wounded lives with our brethren
in Christ, without fear of condemnation or judgment. A place where we
can receive understanding and help for life's devastating problems. A
Christian needs to know that they are not alone in their struggles. That
other people have experienced the same need that their particular problem
is not unique and has not isolated them from
the Love of God.
However, too often the church has become
a place of judgment, where we are measured by
a set of rules and our ability to meet these
standards. This kind of judgmental environment only nurtures an atmosphere
where members feel they can never share their losses
and besetting sins with their fellow man. This
makes us feel that we have to hide and cover our hurting lives, to appear
as if everything is okay. As a result, the congregation never hears our
cries for help. The only yardstick we should ever use to evaluate another
Brother - is the grace of Christ.
The Wonderful "One Anothers"
The Holy Spirit has given instructions
to the body of Christ concerning the sharing of burdens. There are over
58 references in the New Testament where the phrase "one another"
can be found. These scriptures instruct us to love one another, comfort
one another, forgive one another, edify one another, serve one another
and to bear one another's burdens.
The word in the New Testament translated
"one another" is allelon. It is a Greek word and is a reciprocal
pronoun. This means that both parties will experience the action of the
verb. For instance, "love one another" means that both will
experienced being loved by virtue of both doing the loving. "Comfort
one another" means that both will be comforted by virtue of both
doing the comforting 3.
The "one another" in the New
Testament communicate God's intention for us to be involved in each other's
lives. Every "one another" is for the purpose of growing stronger
spiritually as a result of functioning in relationship with other members
of the body of Christ 3.
Intercessory Prayer is another way we
can show love to our fellowman, and to give help in times of need. Intercessory
Prayer should not involve our needs, or us. It is an unselfish act of
taking another person's needs before the throne of God. It
is totally centered and focused upon the person
for whom we are interceding. Some clergymen have called Intercessory Prayer,
"Love on It's Knees".
Called To Be Judges
We have all feared the Judgment
of God, but what does God have to say about our judgment.
"For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto
the Son" (John 5:22). However, Christ has handed down the job of
judging the world to the saints. "Do ye not know that the saints
shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye
unworthy to judge the smallest matters? "(1 Cor 6:2).
God, in His infinite mercy, knew that
He could not impartially judge mankind because He has never been tempted
by the weakness of the flesh. Although the flesh tempted Jesus - He never
bowed to its sinful pulls. He paid the penalty for our sins, but He never
lived the life-long consequences and scars that sin produces in mankind's
Therefore, God has called people with
all kinds of problems and bondage's, so that they can be merciful judges
in the world to come. He has called those who have been touched with every
form of loss, sin and bondage that can be imagined. This kind of love
and forgiveness shows us the depths of God's wonderful grace.
God calls people into the Body of Christ
that have experienced the price of sin. Baptized
members still struggle with the pulls of lust, adultery, homosexuality,
drug addictions, pornography and every conceivable sin that is known to
mankind. What more understanding judges could God and Jesus have prepared
for the judgment day?
This is another reason that God has allowed
unwanted changes to infiltrate our lives. He is preparing His
first fruits to become wise, understanding and merciful
Yes, God's plans for our lives are seldom
our plans. Changes will come - and they always mean that we have to let
go of something. Many times we do not understand and try
to fight God's will for our lives. Sometimes we try to swim against the
strong current of His plans - only to become exhausted and swept back
into the current of His will. It might be easier to accept the unwanted
changes in our lives if we would always remember that, "God will
only wound you - so He can heal you in a much deeper way".
1 M. Craig Barnes, When God Interrupts,
2 Erwin W. Lutzer, How To Say No
To A Stubborn Habit, Chariot Victor Publishing
3 Jeff VanVondern, Good News for
the Chemically Dependent, Bethany House Publishers.