I have long admired the builders of the cathedral in Seville, Spain, for they put over their doorway, “Let us build here a church so great that those who come after us will think us mad ever to have dreamed it.” That’s God’s plan for us.
And, God has a plan for your life. For your home, your family, your country, your future. This is the promise of his Word.
Are we free to choose?
If God has such a plan for our lives, then are our lives already determined, our future set? Some theologians and churches say that it’s so—that God has already determined who will be saved and who will be lost, and his grace is irresistible for the chosen ones. Some believe that God’s sovereignty precludes our freedom. Is this true?
Did these exiles still have choices to make, whether or not they would build their homes, raise their families, and pray for their captors? (vs. 5-7) They could still listen to the false prophets and reject the truth of God (vs. 8-9). They must choose whether or not they will call upon God and come and pray to him (v. 12); whether or not they will seek him with all their hearts (v. 13). The choice was theirs.
God created us to worship and love him, and love requires a choice. And so God has given us free wills, and the freedom to abuse our freedom. Adam and Eve made a tragic choice in the Garden; Noah, Abraham, Moses and Joseph made right choices. Peter made a cowardly decision when he denied Jesus and a courageous decision later when he preached his gospel at Pentecost. Paul chose to follow Jesus on that Damascus Road, and John on Patmos. Each time, the choice was theirs.
75 people chose to follow God when they met together for the first morning worship service in the new Park Cities Baptist Church, and gave a combined offering of $36.35. The next Wednesday in a prayer meeting, they adopted our church’s name and gave the first dollar to the building fund (the church was less than a week old!). This was their choice.
God has a plan, and we have freedom to choose. This is indeed a paradox, but so is most of orthodox Christian doctrine. God is three and one; Jesus is God and man; the Bible is Spirit-breathed and humanly written. In the very same way, God knows the future and yet we are free to choose. I don’t understand the paradox, but I don’t have to. God’s ways are not confined to my finite, fallen mind and understanding.
Why choose God’s plan
Here’s the practical question of the morning: If God has a plan, but we are free to choose, then why choose his plan for your life? Here are some facts to consider.
First fact: You don’t know the future. These exiles had no idea that God would use Cyrus and the Persians to defeat the Babylonians and return them to their homeland. They didn’t know the future. Neither do we.
Several months ago the model Cindy Crawford was on an airplane which went through terrible turbulence. She was very frightened until she turned around and saw John F. Kennedy Jr. sitting a few rows behind her. “Everything’s all right,” she said to herself, “JFK Jr. isn’t going to die in a plane crash.”
We don’t know the future.
Second fact: God’s plan is better than ours. He always gives the best to those who leave the choice with him.
These exiles had no idea that God would use their Babylonian captivity to produce the books of Daniel and Esther, and to prepare them spiritually for the coming of the Messiah. His plan is always best.
I didn’t know that God would use my father’s heart condition to keep us near his doctors in Houston, in part, so that I could hear the gospel at College Park Baptist Church and meet Janet at Houston Baptist University. When First Baptist Church of Midland, Texas asked me to become their interim pastor in 1988, Janet and I had no idea God was leading us from the seminary faculty into the pastorate. But God did.
Not one major decision in my life, marriage, or family has been the result of my plans or strategies. But every turn in the road has led to something better than I would have planned for myself.
Those who dreamed of our church could not see this sanctuary, these ministries, this $8.3 million budget, and the millions given to missions around our city and the world. We cannot see our future, either. But God can, and his plan is better than ours.
Last fact: You can know God’s plan for your life, today. We’ll say much more next week on finding the will of God, but know today that you can know God’s plan for your life. In Jeremiah 33:3, he says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
You can call on him, and he will hear you and answer you. If you will seek to know him personally, intimately, deeply, you will. And as you know him, day by day you will know his plan for that day and for your life. The better you know him, the better you know his will for your life. If you want to know him, you can. He wants us to know his plan for us, more than we want to know it. And his will never leads where his grace cannot sustain.
Where do circumstances find you today? Are things good, or hard? Does it seem that God’s in control, or that life has no purpose? Unless you’ve lost your home and country and find yourself enslaved in a foreign land, you’re no worse off than these exiles. And God invited them, as he invites us, to believe that he’s still on the throne of the universe. And to put on him the throne of our lives as well. He is on his throne—is he on your throne?