September 4, 2011

Straight Paths and Detours

An online class I’m taking requires making a careful plan, then taking all the necessary steps required to carry out that plan and complete the project. This morning, when I read Jesus’ words I am reminded of the importance of good planning and how it feels to carry it to completion. 
I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. (John 17:6)
Jesus simply tells His Father that the job is done. This verse does not describe how He felt, but that the plan had been made and now it was finished. The Father had given Jesus a few disciples. Jesus made the Father known to them and they responded by obedience to His Word. Done.

Jesus was not surprised. He may have been excited and was no doubt deeply gratified at the power of His Father and that His plan had worked.  What joy to see these few men, who had no special training or qualifications, become so loyal to Jesus that by their obedience the world would change forever.

Then I stop to think about my own life. I’ve also been given to Jesus. He also has manifested the glory of God to me. Yet the last part stops me. Have I obeyed His Word? In the sense of believing it for salvation, I have.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8–10)
I have that first part, the gift of faith given through the grace of God. However, the second part has question marks. Verse 10 says that I am His  workmanship using a word that can also mean “poem.” I know enough about poetry to hesitate and say, “Who? Me?”

But even more on my heart are priorities and what I should do with the rest of my life. This verse says that He has created me for good works that He has prepared beforehand. This is a plan. When Jesus came into my life, He brought with Him a blueprint, or perhaps a to-do list that was just for me. However, for some time I’ve been bombarded with thoughts that I’m not doing enough, or that I don’t know what I am doing, or that my to-do list is too long, or difficult, or cluttered. I also struggle that I’ve never figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

These verses expose the foolishness of such stewing. God planned what I will do. I can make lists, set goals and fuss over such things, but He is the Savior and Lord of my life. His plan stands over any I might make.

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
All this flapping about is a waste of energy. While I might not be too sure what each day holds, the Bible is clear about Who holds the day. I need to trust Him to take me along the path that He has planned, guiding me to do the good things that He has ordained for me to do.

God does not forbid the making of plans. Instead, He says, “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3). Walking by faith isn’t about seeing the path, but about trusting the One who made the path. This includes my daily schedule. I can write on paper what I want to accomplish, but must commit that to the Lord. He will help me with my plans, even instigate them in my heart, but I need to hold them loosely — for He may have other ideas.

Lord, You have taught me not to fret over interruptions, but to see them as opportunities. You have also shown me that unexpected trials might be in Your plans for me, and I’m to face them with joyful endurance, learning whatever I can from them. Now You have answered my questions about my to-do list. It is okay to make it, but not to be upset or anxious if my plans don’t make it to fruition. The most important thing is remembering that whatever You have prepared for me beforehand, I will walk that way. Your plan will work, not because I know what it is or was in on the planning, but because You know how to direct my steps.

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