In a world where goals are encouraged and discipline admired, many of us have practically become slaves to making a plan. As wonderful as I imagine a detailed roadmap to be, I’ve yet to experience God giving me one. Instead, He gives us vision for the future. He reveals the next step to take. But more importantly, He tells us the purpose He desires to achieve, if we’re listening. Learning to understand God’s plans through the lens of His purpose will help guard you against disappointment, worry, and fear.
You see, God has much more in mind than a plan. Every moment our Father is working toward specific purposes, bringing all things into agreement with His Son. And He will not compromise His purpose for the sake of a plan.
Determined to Stick to the Plan
Have you ever mapped out a vacation, holding pictures in your mind of how the coming days will look — but then life takes a left turn? Did you push on, determined nothing would hamper your plans?
- It didn’t matter if you forgot necessary items.
- So what, if the weather wasn’t cooperating.
- You even tried to ignore that everyone was miserable.
Nothing was going to stand in the way of the plan.
Or… did you make adjustments, recognizing the plan simply served a higher purpose? Perhaps time to be together, rest, laugh, or heal? In the end, were you thankful for a fulfilled purpose, despite an altered plan?
The deal is, we need to see life more through the lens of purpose and not so much through the lens of making plans. Too often we sit at the feet of Jesus asking for details of what job to take or which direction to go. While He will give us what we need to take the next step forward, we can miss the real treasure He wants to share.
When you listen to hear the Father’s heart for a specific time, place, relationship, or season, He will align you with the purpose He wants to fulfill. Then, you can take steps with Him to reach that end. The details may unfold differently than you imagined, but if you know His purpose, you can adjust and continue moving forward.
“I Am a Fulfiller of Purposes.”
On July 14, 2018, the Holy Spirit spoke to me as He often does… in the flow of every day life. I may have been in the kitchen or at my desk. I don’t remember that detail. But I clearly remember His words: “I am not a planner. I am a fulfiller of purposes.”
I’d never heard that specific description of God before, and yet it rang true in my spirit. I’ve experienced many, many times when a particular path didn’t look like I thought it would, but later revealed an overarching purpose God was working into my life or surroundings.
Even Jesus’ life shows us this example. Jesus told the crowds (Matthew 5:17) that He came to fulfill the Law of Moses and the writings of the Prophets. I John 3:8 tells us the Son of God appeared to destroy the devil’s work. During His time on earth, Jesus didn’t simply complete an outline with specific steps. He fulfilled His Father’s purposes as He listened and obeyed His Father’s daily word.
But what about Jeremiah 29:11? Usually I hear it quoted, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” While I know God directs our steps, I believe there’s a greater message to this verse.
A Closer Look at Jeremiah 29:11
Many translations have chosen the word “plans” for the Hebrew word maḥăšāḇâ. Quite a few translations, however, have chosen to translate maḥăšāḇâ as “thoughts.”
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” NKJV
When we look at Jeremiah 29:11 in context, Israel was in captivity. God was giving them direction to correct what the false prophets were saying. He told them to build homes, get married, have children, plant gardens, and pray for the prosperity of the city where God had sent them into exile.
Even in the midst of slavery, God’s purpose was peace, life, and hope — for His people and for their captors. He didn’t specify minute details in His instruction. He shared His greater purpose. Although Israel had wandered away from Him through their choices, God’s thoughts of good had not changed toward them or mankind.
The Importance of Knowing God’s Purpose
Romans 8:28 tells us,
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.“
We quote this verse rather boldly, saying we believe God works every detail on earth for good, even as we see death and injustice all around us. Instead, Paul’s words are meant to assure us — as lovers of the living God — that He is fully present and invested in our future. But also, that learning to understand God’s plans through the lens of His purpose is a crucial ingredient.
God doesn’t want you to anxiously grope for a plan as a place of security. Rather, if you understand His purpose in the moment, you will trust Him to direct your steps. In this place, you’ll gladly relinquish control and assumptions. And you will see His Kingdom purposes bear good fruit. This is a sign of true maturity and sonship.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a planner, as I was much of my life, this can either be freeing or frustrating. I’ve come to see that having a purpose is higher than merely making a plan. If we are only focused on achieving our specific plans, we will crush the people around us — usually the ones we say we love. But if you step back and ask, “Father, what purpose do You want to accomplish?” — today, this week, this year, in my life — you’ll be much more likely to flow with the ups and downs of circumstances, without losing your joy and hope in the process.
What is God’s purpose for you right now? Ask and He will surely show you. But one you can be sure of is life and peace.
No matter where you find yourself, no matter what circumstances surround you, know that He is working to give you a future and hope. He is moving countless pieces together to turn all that would take you toward death and despair back toward alignment with Jesus. Within your own heart and mind, first, and then across the earth through your agreement with Him. This is our high calling.