Realigning Ourselves with God's Plan

I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness,  but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)

The world most of us grew up in is gone.  It’s hard to fathom how quickly it happened but it did happen.  We long for a sense of normalcy to be restored but our “normal” of the past is unlikely to return anytime soon, if at all?  This constant of life forever changing, that is so front and center now, has always been true of course.  But the pace at which it is happening now has clearly accelerated.  The COVID pandemic, natural disasters, governmental dysfunction, political infighting, media hype, the continued flow of misinformation, the general sense of distrust among people groups, and the increase in violence, all have coalesced into massive disruption of everyone’s life.  

Maybe, more importantly, it’s hard to know what the rest of today will look like, let alone what tomorrow might bring?  And then there is the ever-present battle of fighting off the temptation of becoming preoccupied with the chaos, evil, and instability around us.  Like the apostle Peter when he was called out of the boat, (Matthew 14:30), we are tempted to take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to sink into hopelessness and despair. 

Clearly, Jesus has a different pathway for us.  The very human desire to have things return to normal, however you want to define normal, is proving to be an elusive target.  If it should be a target at all?  It is anybody’s guess what the future will look like exactly and how quickly that might actually happen?  Many have general thoughts, of course, some of which are grounded in Scripture, but nobody really knows for sure where it will all end, or when, which adds to the fear, anxiety, and frustration.  

So, what are we to do with it all?  With all the media attention it is hard not to be captivated by all of the bad news and a sense of hopelessness.  But we know this is not where Jesus would have us live, for with God all things are possible.  There is always a reason to believe in the future, Jesus is our living hope. 

In the paragraphs that follow I would like to share some of what God has revealed to me over the last couple of months. Some of it I have written about before in different ways, but I think is worth reviewing. Other thoughts are more recent.  My hope in it all is that we will prayerfully consider it all, examining the Scripture passages where I have referenced them.  Also, we would prayerfully consider our own personal response if the Holy Spirit bears witness to any of it.  As always, I am sharing with you what I believe God is saying, based on the witness of Scripture and personal reflection on what God has revealed directly to me. 

Replacing anxiety and despair with hope.

In these days of uncertainty, I believe there is a truth we can know for sure.  It is a truth that is grounded in the nature and character of God and revealed by His Spirit that helps us navigate the ever-changing landscape.  Truth enables us to discern the enemy’s lies, answer our fears with sincere faith, and to bear spiritual fruit consistent with our personal calling.  The invitation of Jesus is the same as it has always been “follow Me.”  Stay close, pay attention to My voice, and trust what you are hearing from Me, rather than what you discern from your 5 senses and human reason.  God is shaking the heavens and the earth, resulting in discomfort and uncertainty, but it is purposefully meant for our ultimate good and His glory.

A good verse of Scripture to keep close right now is John 8:12, where Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me does not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”  It is not only a declaration but an invitation that is connected to a promise.  The invitation is to follow Jesus, to go where He goes, and enter into what He is doing.  The promise is we will not walk in darkness but will have the light that leads us into life.  Proverbs says it another way but it is the same idea, “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” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Today, probably more than ever, anxious free living will come as we stay close to Jesus, paying attention to what He is saying and doing.  Hope can be found nowhere else.

God is sovereign over all of life, even when it appears that He is not.

A running theme throughout all of Scripture is that God, as Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth, is completely sovereign over all of life. He rules over nations, determines their boundaries, exalts and deposes leaders, and ultimately controls the course of human history (1 Chronicles 29:12).  He is sovereign over all of creation, giving life and breath to human beings while numbering their days.  He laughs at His enemies (Psalm 37:13-14) and sickness, death, even Satan and his demons must bow to His authority and power.

God’s sovereignty, even in the midst of what appears to be an unspeakable tragedy, is clearly seen in the crucifixion of Jesus.  For the disciples it was an unimaginable turn of events, Jesus’ betrayal, flogging, and death on the cross appeared to be the end of their hopes and dreams.  But Peter later records the truth of that event, that God’s sovereign plan ended Jesus' victory over death and the salvation of all humankind. 

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God, with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know, this Mandelivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.  But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. 

The early disciples witnessed these events and believed them to be an out of control tragedy from which they may never recover.  The truth was God was always in control.  And it is just as true today, our good and beautiful God, the Lord Jesus Christ is still in control.  He has pledged Himself, by virtue of the new covenant, to provide for and protect His own, as the Good Shepherd to the sheep (John 10)

God is working out His plan of salvation history.

As just stated, our current circumstances must be understood in the context of God’s greater purposes and plan, namely Him reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).  Jesus the King came to earth and became a man and the Kingdom of God came with Him.  His purpose in coming was to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). His 3 ½ years of public ministry 3 years on earth were all focused on proclaiming the Kingdom, healing the sick, and casting out demons, evidencing His divinity through His authority and power over sickness and evil.  This culminated in His crucifixion, death, and resurrection and the commissioning of His first disciples at His ascension into heaven, a commission that now rests on us.  The Resurrected Jesus continues His work through His body, the church.

I will have more to say next month about the times we are living in right now but I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts until then.  I personally believe the sooner we let go of the past the better off we will be.  The way things were and what worked in the past for the most part is gone.  I received a verse of Scripture back in 2006 that has even greater implications today, “do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new. Now it will spring forth, will you not be aware of it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19a).  God is doing something new and if we don’t take our eyes off of the past it is likely we will miss what He is doing today.

Finally, I would add we each have a unique role to play in the fulfillment of God’s plan.  God is always purposeful and uses all circumstances to accomplish His larger purpose of reconciling the world to Himself.  He is not the author of chaos and human suffering but He is sovereign over it and redeems it for His purposes in the earth.  With that in mind, we can take our eyes off what is difficult and uncomfortable for us and begin to look for what God is doing in the lives of those around us right now.  Are there conversations to be had that we couldn’t have before or are there ways to meet needs for people that they didn’t have previously?  God has a purpose for our lives that hasn’t disappeared because of the COVID pandemic and all its related consequences.  God wants to use us today, we just need to realign ourselves with God’s plan by asking Him to reveal to us what He is doing right in front of us.

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