One of my favorite television shows as a kid was the corny action adventure show “The A Team”. At that time I would have loved anything that had Mr. T as one of the stars but when they added car chases and explosions they had the perfect formula for a 12 year old fan. At the conclusion of each show, as the mission was being accomplished, the main character, “Hannibal Smith”, would use his catch phrase, “I love it when a plan comes together.” The first 45 minutes of each episode detailed how the plans would go terribly awry, nothing went as planned and yet, in the last 5 minutes the mission was always accomplished, leaving the teams leader to act as if the outcome was in fact exactly as he had planned it.
If we will be honest, most of us live our lives in the midst of plans that did not go as we have hoped, planned or expected. I can tell you that the place I sit today in my life is not where I had expected to be at this stage. I can take that truth and do one of a few things with it, I can push and fight and try to force my plans to come to pass; I can become depressed and look back in retrospect and try to figure out how I got here or even more, why I have not gotten to my desired place; or I can find peace by believing that God has plans for me that can not be thwarted and that have led me to the exact spot that I am sitting in. Through Jeremiah God told Judah, “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We quote this verse often but what we often miss is the context of the “plans” that God had. Jeremiah was being told that Judah was about to be taken into 70 years of captivity because of their sin and rebellion. They had been given opportunities to repent and turn to God but had refused and so now they were to be disciplined. And yet, these were the plans of hope and future, these were the plans of prosperity and not of harm. God is able to rightly plan for our future because He is the One that produces our future. He is not merely a farmer planting seeds, He is also the seed being planted!
Through a series of dreams God told Joseph that he would one day be the leader of his family, that they would come to him in need and that he would be a ruler over them. That was God’s revelation to Joseph about His plans for his life. No one agreed with the promise and no one was going to help him plan for or accomplish this outcome. Instead of leading his family Joseph ended up being despised by his brothers. They sold him into slavery. As a slave he did all that was asked of him but was falsely accused of crimes that led him to being put in prison. Even in prison he did all that was asked of him and was elevated to as high a place of leadership as an inmate could have only to be forgotten and even forsaken by those he helped. I am sure that Joseph had moments along the way in which he wondered how on earth these plans could lead to the fulfillment of God’s promise. How does slavery lead me to prosperity? How can imprisonment open doors for leadership? How can my families hatred of me ever lead to their desire for my help? There are times in all of our lives in which the plans don’t seem to match the promise. This is why Jeremiah’s words are so important, we are often good at believing in God’s promises for the future, but we often struggle at trusting that the circumstances of this moment could be a part of God’s plans.
When God speaks promises, direction or calling into our lives it is not for us to go out and fulfill it but rather for us to know what God is fulfilling in our lives with each step that He leads us into. God did not give Joseph dreams of leadership so that he could go out and be a leader, it was so that Joseph would know what God was doing with each step of his life, that Joseph would believe that there would be a hope and a future, prosperity and not harm. If we are believing God to fulfill a promise we must also give God control of all the plans and be led by the Spirit. It is in this place that we need to begin to realize that many of our plans actually oppose God’s promise rather than fulfill it. When Joseph had his dreams he immediately went and told his brothers about them. What older brothers want to hear that a day will come in which they will bow down to their younger brother as he sits on a throne? I am not sure what Joseph expected them t do in response, or even if he should have told them but what I do know is that God’s plans were not ready to be fulfilled, they had a perfect timing, a perfect purpose that would lead to a perfect hope.
One of the biggest detriments to God’s plans in our lives is that we get tired of waiting. It is in this weariness that we are tempted to make plans ourselves. We begin investigating how we can make it happen, speed things along or get the ball rolling. We have all heard the saying “God helps those that help themselves.” This statement is false and I believe that it is the main song of those that have taken plans into their own hands. What God actually says is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” God says, do not trust your own understanding or discernment. You can not make the right plans if you are not even supposed to trust how you perceive the situation to be. In all of your ways simply means in every step that you take, every choice, every direction, every move or manner of life; “acknowledge” Him. This is the part that I find the most important. The Hebrew word being translated “acknowledge” is yada and it simply means “to know”. So in every move you make, know God. In every plan you attempt, know God. In ever change you want to see happen, know God. We have all heard that the “steps of the righteous are ordered by God”; I believe that the righteous know God in all of their steps because they choose not to move on their own plans but rather wait and trust in His.
If we are going to be people that believe in God’s promises for our lives, for our communities for our nation then we are going to have to be a people that choose to trust God to hold all of the plans. The promise and the plans often look different through human eyes. Abraham’s promise was to father a son, with Sarah, that would become a great nation, but the plans were to wait 25 years before this happened. Joseph’s promise was to be the leader of his family, but the plans included slavery and prison. Moses’ promise was to lead Israel into freedom, but the plans involved Pharoah’s hard heart, the Red Sea and a people that were not only bound by chains but by slavery mindsets. David’s promise was to be the king of Israel but the plans involved several years of hiding from King Saul, living outside of Israel and being a wanted man. John the Baptist’s promise was that he would prepare the way for the Messiah but the plans were that he must then decrease so that Jesus could increase. Paul’s promise was that he would take the gospel to the gentiles but the plans involved shipwrecks, stoning, prisons and even deadly vipers. Jesus was the Promised One, the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Kings and even His plans were not as we expected them to be. The plan for His life was that He would have no place to lay His head; that He would be falsely accused and disbelieved; that He would endure persecution and rejection from the very people He breathed life into; that He would choose to submit to the cross so that He would then overcome hell, death, the grave and the world. Thank God that He does not give us promises and then leave us to make a plan. We will all be able to walk in more trust of God when we realize that we are not capable of making plans that could fulfill His purpose.
Where I am today is not where I had planned to be, but I am growing in confidence of this, it is exactly where God planned for me to be. If you are like me, and your current circumstance is not what you had intended or planned for I want to submit something to you that has been helping me. Henry Blackaby wrote, “We never know the truth of our circumstances until we have heard from God.” What is God saying to you about where you are right now? Don’t confuse that question with “What are you saying to God about where you are right now?“ Remember, what you are saying to God is not nearly as important as what He is saying to you. Don’t make plans, and even more, don’t try to change the circumstances until you have heard God speak to you about them. What if Joseph had tried to find a way to get back to his brothers, to get word to his father that he was still alive? What if Paul had followed the advice of the churches that begged him not to go to Jerusalem? What if Jesus had listened to those that wanted to make Him king or those that tempted Him to prove His power by coming down off the cross? We can not rightly act on or understand any circumstance until we hear God’s voice in the midst of and about it.
My encouragement today is this, trust God with more than the promises, trust Him with the plans. If our plans could fulfill God’s promises then we would be instructed to lean on our understanding and to trust our ways. We are have been instructed the exact opposite because our plans fade, our understanding changes and our ways seem to be every changing. We need a Leader that does not fear opposition, that can turn attacks into prosperity and that never changes the way that He has set from the beginning. When we trust God’s plans what we find out is that His promises are much larger than we ever dreamed. Josephs dreams came true, but not merely for him, but for his entire family. His leadership was not about his greatness but about his families salvation. Your God given dreams and promises are exactly the same, they are not about you nearly as much as they are about God’s desire to use your life to bring salvation and redemption to those around you. I pray today that we would not be so focused on the awaited outcome that we overlook the perfect plans that we are living in and living out. Don’t believe that God is only in the fulfillment, He is present in the midst of the path. Every step of the plan is covered in His blood and is followed by goodness and mercy. Trust that the promises of God are not merely Him telling you the future; they are His invitation for us to join Him in His plans.