Have you ever heard it said, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”? There is an abundance of truth in this statement. God certainly does love you and his plan for your life is indeed wonderful. It may have been this very statement that God used to first draw your attention to him and his wonderful plan.
What concerns me is that this statement tends to give the impression that God’s love for you is ultimately focused on the events of your particular life. It’s as if he has a collection of cards in heaven, one of which has your name on it. His priority is to get you to connect with what’s on that card. Once you come into right relationship with him through Yeshua, your next task is to get his wonderful plan for your life figured out. At the same time, as you begin to enjoy the comradery of other believers, you get to meet other similar individuals who are also yearning to discover God’s perfect will for them. This kind of individuality is foreign to the Scriptures. While you as an individual have value, the me-and-God mentality that these kinds of statements fuel, actually will distract you from God’s wonderful plan.
Paul makes a statement, familiar to many, that wonderfully encapsulates the connection between God’s love for us and his plans: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). I am always wonderfully overwhelmed when I ponder these words. To think that for those of us who genuinely love God, every single aspect and circumstance of our lives work together to produce good. God is so positively disposed to his children that there is nothing that can happen to us that will undermine his ultimate good intentions for us. In fact, it’s not just that negative things have no impact, they become ingredients of goodness. Accepting this truth should give us a most positive perspective on our lives.
But notice who qualifies for this wonderful perspective. “Those who love God” are also described as “those who are called according to his purpose.” This is not exactly the same as having a wonderful plan for our lives; it’s way bigger than that! God has a purpose and he has called us to be part of it. That’s why we can count on him to work everything in our lives for good. God will accomplish his purposes in the world. Once we know we are part of his purpose, then we can also be confident that the result of our lives will be good.
I remember being told years ago that I could personalize John 3:16 by putting my name in it, so it would read “For God so loved Alan, that he gave his only Son, that if Alan believes in him Alan should not perish but have eternal life.” I appreciate that this is an attempt to help us to personally and actively engage God and his offer of salvation. There have been times when people have wrongly thought that it was sufficient to be a member or adherent of a congregational community without an intentional personal faith. This kind of correction is important, but it also creates a self-focused approach to God, something that Scripture never intended.
John 3:16 actually reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The “whoever” is the invitation to the individual. But “the world”, “cosmos” in Greek, is a reference to the entire creation, not just the people in it. From the very beginning, God purposed to rescue the creation from its sinful, cursed state. If individuals trust in God’s Son, Yeshua the Messiah, they too will be part of his wonderful rescue operation. So it is not so much that God has a wonderful plan for our lives, but rather that he has a wonderful plan and invites us to be part of it.
This is not to say that God has no concern for the parts we play within his overall purpose. I would encourage you to seek God as to what he wants you to do with your life. At the same time, I believe that the more you get a vision of his grand purpose, you will be better equipped to discern what your part really is.