Does God Have a Plan for Us?
Dr. Jim Denison
I was recently given this list of important, essential facts: there are more chickens than people in the world; a cat has thirty two muscles in each ear; an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain; when the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers play football at home, the stadium becomes the state’s third largest city; a dragonfly has a life span of 24 hours; a goldfish has a memory span of three seconds; and the microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar in his pocket melted.
Useless facts, all.
So with the circumstances of our text today, it would seem.
The Jewish king Jehoiakim rebelled against the vastly superior forces of the Babylonians, and was deposed and deported in December 598 B.C. His successor, Jeconiah, withstood the Babylonians all of three months before surrendering the city. Then he was exiled to Babylon, along with the temple treasures and the best of his citizens, on March 16, 597 B.C.
Now, Jeremiah the prophet, living in occupied Jerusalem, writes a letter to the enslaved captives in the far-off pagan nation of Babylon. To us, this is ancient history, of no relevance to the problems we face today. But, is it really?
Here we find answered the question every one of us wonders: Does God have a plan for us? For your life? Your future? Your marriage? Children? Career? Finances? And if he does, are we free to choose? Or is all of life dictated by God?
Today we’ll learn how to resolve an age-old theological dilemma, celebrate God’s providence in our church, and trust God’s plan for our personal lives. All from “useless facts.”
Does God have a plan for us?
Our first question is: Does God have a plan at all? Some evolutionists say that life began as a chance coincidence, with no particular plan or purpose at all. Existentialists say that this life is all there is, and life is chaos. Martin Heidegger, for instance, wrote that we are actors on a stage, with no script, director or audience, and courage is to face life as it is. Postmodernists say that truth is relative and there is no overriding purpose to life. So, does God have a plan for us, or is life a random coincidence? In the words of Shakespeare, are we “sound and fury, signifying nothing”?
In Jeremiah’s letter God claims, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (v 11). How detailed is this plan?
He has a plan for where and how they should live: “Build houses and settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce” (v. 5). He has a plan for the families they should have: “Marry and have sons and daughters” (v. 6).
He even has a plan for the country which has enslaved them: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (v. 7).
A plan for where and how we lived, the families we raise, and the country we inhabit—what is left out? God has a plan for every part of our lives, according to our text.
Did not God have a plan for Adam and Eve—where and what to live? A plan for Noah—how to build his ark, right down to the exact specifications and building materials he should use? A plan for Abraham, including where he should live, how old he would be when he had his son, and even that son’s name? A plan for Joseph, using his slavery and imprisonment to save the entire nation? A plan for Moses, encompassing the very words he should say to Pharaoh? A plan for Joshua, showing him where and how to take the land? A plan for David and Solomon, for their kingdom and the temple they would build for him? A plan for Daniel, even in the lion’s den?
Jesus had plans for his first disciples—plans they could not have begun to understand. He had a plan for Saul of Tarsus as he left to persecute the Christians in Damascus. He had a plan for John on Patmos.
God had a plan for George Washington Truett, when he led his father and family westward from the mountains of North Carolina in 1888. A plan for him in 1890 when B.H. Carroll asked him to head the fund-raising drive to save Baylor University, when Truett was 23 years old. A plan for him when he enrolled as a freshman at Baylor after saving the school; a plan for him when First Baptist Church of Dallas called him as their pastor at the age of 30, before he could go to seminary. A plan for him in that great ministry of some 46 years.
God had a plan for him and for us when, in 1939, he led George Truett to make the statement, “There ought to be a church” in the Park Cities.
And God fulfilled that plan.
God had a plan for the four men who stopped to talk on the steps of the Gaston Avenue Baptist Church in Dallas following a morning worship service in early May of 1939. Their conversation turned to the need for a new Baptist church in the far north suburbs of University Park and Highland Park. God had a plan for their new church when they had no sponsoring congregation, no money, no building, no pastoral leadership, not even a name, as three dozen people met on Thursday evening, October 26, 1939, in the auditorium of University Park City Hall and constituted this church. God had a plan.
God still has a plan for this church. A plan to reach more nonbelievers than ever before through Saturday night worship, media outreach, local missions, and global strategies; a plan to train every member for ministry through LIFEtime, Sunday school and the Internet; a plan to start ministries all across this community and beyond, helping people follow Jesus wherever we can.