Just One Plan? (Part 1 of 3)Blog / Produced by The High Calling
"Is there really only one person God wants us to marry?" a young man once asked during a workshop. "What if I pick wrong? Or what if somebody else marries her first?" These aren't rare questions, either. In various forms and forums, I've answered them dozens of times. This is the domestic version of calling: Does God so order the details of our lives that we're to walk a tightrope to be sure we're "in his perfect will."
The "desktop" version of that question usually comes from one of two groups. Largely over fifty, the first group is composed of workers who wonder if they've wasted their work lives, having missed the "one true path" God meant them to take when they hit the first fork in the road. The second group tends to be under thirty, and they write because they're seeing and hearing the doubts expressed by their fifty-something counterparts . . . often their parents. "How do I make sure I'm not miserable like my fifty-year old coworker/parent? How do I know what God wants me to do with my life?"
As with nearly every big question in life, the answer carries with it some very good news and some very bad news. Let's deal with the good news first: Is there only one plan?
At least not for most of us. In fact, there's good reason to believe, from Scripture, that the majority of God's children are completely free to choose how they want to serve him, with certain universal biblical constraints. For those not free to choose, it's because he has a specific task in mind—and he never leaves any doubt when you aren't free to choose; he makes it abundantly clear. God never plays head games with his followers.
Call it the Moses-Abraham difference, with a dash of Jonah tossed in for good measure.
Moses or Abraham? The Moses Group First
Let's deal first with those of us who aren't free to choose, but who instead have a particular path charted for us by God. For want of a better term, let's call this the Moses Group.
One of the remarkably inexplicable things about God is his decision to work through humans instead of working around them. I've always said if I were Jesus, I'd have done a post-Resurrection victory lap around Caiaphas, Pilate, the Roman soldiers and just about every other naysayer if I was in charge of this Redemption process. But no-o-o-o! Instead, Jesus hands off the most important assignment in history to a bunch of average Joes—fishermen, tax collectors, homemakers, etc. Lo and behold, that tiny group turned the world upside down!
So it's no surprise God does lay out specific assignments for some people. Doing so ensures his Word will get accomplished, while still leaving intact the incredible gift/curse of free will. Men like Moses and women like Ruth become lynchpins and link-points, agents of certainty in a fallen world, accomplishing pockets of activity that make it possible for the rest of us to act freely—without altering the inexorable march of the Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation meta-narrative to its ultimate conclusion. Scripture is full of samples for us to examine, with Moses a perfect poster boy. From the moment Moses was conceived (and likely before), God mapped out how his life would be lived, and then he supernaturally acted to be certain Moses knew and obeyed. So goes the story of David, of Paul, of the judges, prophets, disciples . . . even Lazarus had his now-famous, dead-body role pre-ordained to accomplish God's purposes.
"What if I refuse?" someone frequently asks. Consider Jonah; refusing isn't a good idea. Ever the reluctant servant, Jonah even pouted when God offered mercy to Nineveh through him. Still God forced the matter. When God plans to use us, he will not be thwarted by our weak refusals or even our blind indifference to his call. In other words, you can't miss it.
This realization should be freeing to those Christians who sincerely want to live obedient lives: If He's going to use you in a specific way, He won't leave you hanging.
Given the evidence of Scripture, this specific call to a specific path is very likely the exception rather than the rule. While Scripture points out many men and women who were picked by God (and thus had no say in the matter), it also points to men and women left to choose either path when they came to the fork in the road. Abraham fits this pattern. In part two, we'll examine the biblical evidence for this freedom the vast majority of humans have to pick the way they want to serve God. We'll also examine why so many flounder in this freedom, and then, in part three, we'll explore God's supernatural ability to redeem the work and service of even those who failed to pay attention to serving him until most of their lives have been lived.
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Have you worried that God has only one plan for your life? Do you believe you are free to choose how you might serve God?
- How do you understand the broad will of God for all Christians? How does your work fit into God's broad will?
- How have you seen God work through people in your life?
- For related material, read "Discover Your Gifts, Discover Your Calling," "Life Calling: Are You Afraid of Getting It Wrong?" and "Is All Work a High Calling?"
Photograph "Tightrope" by Eke Miedaner used with permission.