God Does Not Have a Plan for Your Life

By Jennifer Johnson

“God’s plan for your life isn’t a map you see all at once, but a scroll unrolled a little at a time, requiring faith,” Rick Warren recently tweeted.

“God will accelerate his plan for your life as you put your trust in him. God is giving you victory sooner than you think,” says Joel Osteen.

Less prominent Christians champion the theology as well. In responding to a new believer’s question about his career, a contributor to Bible-Knowledge.com writes, “God will now be the one to fully guide you into whatever jobs he will want you to have. . . . The choice is no longer yours! In the meantime, God will make sure you have enough money and support coming in to keep you afloat until this next job comes through.”

It is comforting to believe God has mapped out our future. It is exciting to think he’s bringing me victory. And I would love for God to make sure I have enough money while I passively wait for it to happen.

But unlike pastors Warren and Osteen, Mr. Bible-Knowledge, and many Christians I know, I don’t believe God has created a plan for my life—or for yours.

 

Problems with “The Plan”

• We take verses out of context.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a cherished verse, frequently used for encouragement in graduation cards, post-breakup pep talks and, yes, job searches. (Well-meaning believers have recited it to me in all three contexts.) Along with The Bachelorette and people who refuse to vaccinate their children, its yanked-out-of-context use is one of the biggest pet peeves of my life.

Somehow we forget the grim reality surrounding this verse: amidst oracles of doom and judgment against Judah, Jeremiah says these words to comfort the people (as a group) with promises of eventual restoration and return from exile.

This is a bit different from claiming it as a guarantee of a fulfilling job, wonderful spouse, or ministry “call.”

Moreover, for every verse we quote to support the presence of a divine plan, there are others suggesting God is not super concerned with our understanding of it.

Throughout the Bible we encounter people frustrated and confused by life. Abraham is challenged to sacrifice Isaac. Joseph is jailed in Egypt for speaking the truth and behaving honorably. Hosea is asked to marry a prostitute. John the Baptist is imprisoned and beheaded; before his death he questions the point of his entire ministry. “Are you really the one?” he asks Jesus.

Most of the “Bible heroes” experienced huge setbacks with little explanation. As for the “ordinary” believers, Jesus spoke in parables his followers didn’t understand and weren’t supposed to (Luke 8:10).

From his caution about trees in the Garden to the mysteries of Revelation, the Bible consistently communicates God’s love, his wisdom—and his apparent unconcern that we figure him out.

 

• It can harm, not help.

For years I believed God not only had a specific plan for my life, but he was keeping it from me. As I struggled to choose a major in college, I wondered about all the other 20-year-olds in my dorm. Did they have it figured out? Why would God enlighten them and not me? As I made the first steps of my career I pleaded with God to show me his will. “You know I’ll do anything you want,” I once prayed. “Why won’t you tell me?”

My friends have struggled, as well. When I explored these concepts on my blog, one commented, “Doesn’t God lead us if we spend enough time in his presence? Isn’t a lack of ‘calling’ really a sign of an immature Christian?”

If we don’t see The Plan, it’s easy to feel forgotten or ignored by God. The belief in a heavenly micromanager almost guarantees feelings of anger and resentment when the answers don’t come.

Or, like my friend, we assume the communication problem is our own lack of faithfulness. Perhaps if we prayed more fervently, fasted more frequently, or read the Bible more regularly God would finally break down and give us a glimpse of his will.

The God-has-a-plan theology must also encompass our heartaches. Does his plan really include sexually molested children? If God “gave you” your spouse, why does your equally faithful friend remain unmarried? If we believe God has a detailed plan full of good things for every person, we must also have an answer (better than “everything happens for a reason”) for that devastated child and lonely single man.

 

• It ignores the freedom God gives us.

“The choice is no longer yours!” exclaims the website writer, apparently delighted at his loss of options.

Yet the Bible consistently points to God giving us many choices; from asking Adam to name the animals to allowing our rejection of his Son, God offers humanity a staggering amount of freedom.

We love to talk about God as Father when it comes to his love, care, and compassion, but if we are going to use the metaphor we must accept its full ramifications. My own father does not control my life. He does not make decisions for me, tell me where to work, or insist I marry a specific person. He did not tell me what to write in this article. He raised me to think critically, develop my character, and use good judgment.

If good earthly fathers do not dictate life for their children, why would a perfect heavenly Father?

 

All Stars

So why is the belief in God’s master plan still so prevalent?

For one thing, it’s a spiritual way to abdicate responsibility—if I can figure out what ministry or profession I’m “called” to, I don’t have to risk making a bad decision on my own.

If God has already planned our majors, careers, spouses, and futures we can bypass the hard work of dating, auditioning, interviewing, researching, moving, learning, and failing. (It’s interesting that while many of us will reject Calvinist theology in matters of salvation, we embrace the idea of a predestined personal life.)

By the way, my childhood dream was to become a belly dancer, which I consider irrefutable proof that your first “calling” is not always the best one.

Many of us also believe life is a movie and we have a starring role. Have you ever noticed God always calls people to plant a church, start a ministry, or launch a speaking career? No one ever gets called to work as a maid at the Best Western in Altoona, Kansas (population 454). No one “has a passion” for less excitement or less attention. As the popular Monster.com commercials remind us, no child ever said, “When I grow up I want to file all day.”

But believing God has a specific (and blessing-filled) plan for their lives lets American individualists feel special. Preoccupation with oneself seems more holy if wrapped in Christianese language.

The problem is we aren’t all special. There was one Moses and millions of followers, one Mary and a country full of unremarkable Jewish girls. For every Billy Graham there are stadiums full of “ordinary” Christians.

Do we not feel “called” to be one of these nameless, obedient believers, or does it just offend our sense of importance? As author Donald Miller says, if you are a pregnant virgin or an angel wants to wrestle with you, God may have a plan for you. Otherwise, it’s likely you are a not a main character in the story he’s writing.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure

Because we’ve tied a belief in God’s plan to our understanding of his love for us, a sense of loss can accompany this realization. Some people feel scared or alone; others confuse it with lack of faith in God’s sovereignty. When I once told a boyfriend I didn’t believe God had chosen a specific person for me to marry, he sputtered and stammered, “Are you really a Christian?”

Yes, I am a Christian (one who is glad she ended that relationship). I believe God is firmly in control of his creation, accomplishing his work of redemption and salvation through (and in spite of) us, and inviting us to partner with him. I believe the call to every believer is the same—to become more like Jesus and to serve him in our own small corners of the world.

But he allows us to choose how we obey this call, and for me this is proof of his great love. He promises to direct our steps, but not to dictate them. He doesn’t say we’ll always understand, but he promises we won’t be abandoned. Jeremiah’s assurance of “a hope and a future” is not a guarantee of career fulfillment or marital bliss; it’s the promise of real relationship with a faithful, mysterious Father.

 

Jennifer Taylor, one of CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s contributing editors, lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Read her blog at www.seejenwrite.com.

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85 Comments

  1. Tony Springer
    June 27, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Excellent! Unfortunately, we Christians lack discernment and critical thinking. We need to know what to do. Specifically! Instead of loving God and others, walking humbly with God, and delighting in the law of the Lord (and many other Biblical ways of living), we Christians want to know who to marry, where to work, and what car to buy next. Life is hazardous to only love, walk, and delight without some inclination of what to specifically expect.

  2. Scotty
    June 27, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Fantastic! One of the very best blog posts I’ve read in a long, long time. Thanks!

  3. June 28, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Amen Jen! You have articulated something that I have thought for years. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is true, but His plan is general rather than specific. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. June 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Spla-Dow! Great post Ms. Taylor. The only problem I have now is the challenge of erasing the mental image of you doing the Dance of the 7 Veils.

  5. anthony florence
    June 28, 2011 at 10:52 am

    “abdicate responsibility”. I dont have to risk making decisions on my own. there is a LOT there…at least in my life.

  6. Kathy E. Comp
    June 28, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I’m glad you put these thoughts into words! It’s taken me many years to come to the same conclusion: that God calls each of us to become more like Jesus and to serve him wherever we are. I think if God had a specific calling and plan for my life, He would’ve revealed it to me plainly after years of my asking and trying to figure it out. He’s always made his will very clear in his Word; there was no need to guess what it was.

  7. Mike
    June 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I agree

  8. Jack Cottrell
    June 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Knofel Staton’s little book, “How To Know the Will of God” [I think that is the title] decades ago presented a similar view. In my Book “What the Bible Says About God the Ruler” (1984), there is a whole chapter on “The Will of God,” also presenting a similar view in Biblical detail.

  9. Katie Cartwright
    June 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    What Jennifer has written is exactly what I was talking to my husband, Byron, about tonight before I even read this article. I had been reading a book about “relieving your anxieties” and I had to put the book down because I was becoming very anxious. The thrust of the book was that “God knows everything that is going to happen to you. He knows it all before it happens.” Well I say to that…. God doesn’t plan for a man to murder his wife. God doesn’t plan for a child to be molested. The list goes on and on. God has given all of us a free will to choose. There are consequences and victims as a result of bad choices. On the other hand there are also wonderful consequences from wise choices. What God does promise is that His strength is sufficient (even if we don’t feel it sometimes), His grace is given freely to us and ultimately, the battle belongs to the Lord. That is what gives me comfort, joy, and a peace that surpasses all understanding. In the end…the devil loses. Really, really loses big time! I couldn’t say it as eloquently as Jennifer did but “thanks Jennifer!” I am not so anxious right now. We won’t even talk about “why was I reading that other book in the first place!”

  10. Mike B.
    June 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Although at times I differ with the doctrinal views expressed in the Christian Standard, I have never before felt as though the viewpoints being offered were unbiblical – until now. This comment thread does not allow the opportunity to articulate all of the reasons that this article does violence to Scripture and to the sovereign character of God. To believe the observations of Ms. Taylor, one must believe that Romans chapter 8 is a falsehood (or applies only to a select few, as expressed by Donald Miller); that Bible prophecy features opportunities for happenstance (a great number of people who were not “main characters” were necessary characters indeed in the lives of the pregnant virgin and the one who wrested with the angel); and that only “main characters” and “all-stars” are recipients of a “plan”, while ordinary folks are left to meander through life in an attempt to make some sort of meaning of their Christian existence. The Enemy’s first and primary lie is that we can be our own gods. Denying God’s plan for our lives is an dangerous move in that direction.

  11. Darrell W.
    June 29, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Jennifer’s article rings true and I appreciate God using her to “illuminate” His truth to us. For us to believe He has chosen a “career path” or friends or health or whatever doesn’t not match with His character…..He allows us “free-will” and choice. Yes, He “gifts” us with talents and we should submit to using them for His glory, but we still can decide on our on what to do. Bottomline……God wants us to love Him with all our mind and heart…..and neighbors as ourselves…..

  12. June 29, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    The Bible doesn’t address this as an “either-or” question.

    The Bible contains doctrines held in tension. For example, theologians have long debated the merits of election vs. free will. Yet the Bible clearly speaks of both God’s sovereignty AND human responsibility. How do we reconcile the two? In our finite minds, we can’t. But the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers didn’t seem to have a problem with the peaceful co-existence of both truths, and neither should we.

    Related to that, God does have a plan for us – among other things, His plan includes His children growing and maturing in the faith, developing a growing intimacy with Him, and sharing the gospel with others. However, we have the choice to obey or not, to die to self or not, to share the gospel or not. Once again, two positions held in tension: God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.

    Regardless of these tensions, it is always dangerous to interpret God’s blessings for obedience as financial provision. God’s blessings could be much greater than money – the most important one that comes to mind is intimacy with Him.

  13. June 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    It is amazing how we desire for God to be in control of our life and the way it lays out. When it goes our way, we take all the credit and then when things do not go our way, we blame God, even get angry at Him for the bad choices we make. When our two month old, Nicholas, died in January of this year, there were many people that came to Karen and I and tried to comfort us that God plan it this way so as to keep him from harm or the bigger and more hurtful comment, “It was God’s plan to strengthen your faith and he is with Jesus.” What a crock..God is so much more in love with us than we could ever imagine. Why then we he intentionally hurt us and our baby so as to strengthen our faith. The truth is that we are born into a fallen world and we have a sinful nature. Thus, Nicholas’ little heart was just not strong enough to keep pumping. There is comfort in knowing that our child is with Jesus and there will come a day we will be reunited, but that is a response of a loving God. Thank you for a great article established in truth.

  14. Charles ''Corky'' Riley
    June 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    A most interesting essay. If nothing else your article stimulated my thinking. I have never thought of myself as being on the side of our more spiritual brethren. I have never concerned myself believing that God wanted me to be focused in on the details of life such as what color socks I should wear or if I should wear socks at all. It the Bible teaches us that God has the hairs on my head numbered, he cares for the birds and flowers and says what father would give his son a snake when the son needs a fish, then God is very involved with individual. I understand that quoting Scripture is not evidence for God’s will or purpose but in general why are these statements and the stories in the Bible if they are not important? It is obvious that God deals with and reaches the whole world and especially through his son Jesus Christ and yet we have story after story after story of his dealings with individuals. I would like to think that God has a specific plan for me and within that plan I have freedom to make choices and decisions. Maybe part of his plan is to give us the desires of our heart and be free to succeed or try again. The main thing is that we can obtain salvation through our Lord and Savior and live under his mercy and grace. That’s a great plan. An old professor of mine at San Jose Bible College(William Jessup University) once told me if you want to know God’s plan or will in your life check it out in Scripture and if what you’re doing doesn’t conflict with what Jesus or Scripture teaches then go ahead and do it. This still seems like safe advice.

    After all these years I really am convinced that God has a very specific plan for my life. I believe that we are left with choice and responsibility and these choices and responsibilities should not detract from God’s plan in our lives. Charles ”Corky” Riley

  15. June 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Good observation, Jennifer.

    At the risk of stripping another quote of it’s context, Paul writes to the Ephesians: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    I think God has a plan, but it’s not a plan for “my” life. Paul suggests elsewhere that I don’t really have a life anymore, just Christ living in me.

    God’s plan is to build himself a dwelling, prepare a bride for his son, and rescue children for his family. None of this is really about me and my life. Rather, God invites me to join him in the completion of his plan. I think he prepares “good works” for me that will advance his plan and gives me the choice to do them or not. If I choose not to do one of the works he’s prepared for me, he is gracious and gives me more chances. Perhaps not endless chances, but so far he’s given me more chances.

    The cool thing is that as I capitalize on these God-prepared “good works”, God gives me more chances, and trusts me with greater works in proportion to my faith and obedience. Along the way, I think he keeps me as employed and healthy and prosperous as he needs me to be to complete the good works he’s prepared for me.

  16. Glen Elliott
    June 29, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Right on Jennifer. Thank you for writing what so many of us have said in private conversations.

  17. Ian Farnsley
    June 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Jen,

    Nicely put and I agree totally. However, with my newfound freedom, no longer calling upon the will of God, I will continue to refrain from immunizing my children 🙂

  18. July 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Well said Jennifer. Garry Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God (Jack Cottrell put me on to this source years ago), has an in-depth treatment of every Scripture related to this matter. It is well worth a look if you have never considered this view before.

  19. Dave
    July 1, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Great article, Jennifer. I agree with 99 percent of what you are saying, however, as a minister, I have often felt the “burden” or the “calling” of preaching. Even when I took a hiatus, the Word of God burned within me, to the point I had to find a place to preach. The Spirit would not let me rest until I preached. That being said, I am humble enough to realize I am not the main character (that distinction belongs to Jesus), or a major player. I am simply a willing player. (And I share your pet peeve of those who rip Jeremiah’s words out of context).

  20. Deborah Dessaso
    July 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Good perspective on a controversial issue.

  21. Bill Parker
    July 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Jennifer – I believe you are right, but have you considered the Scripture where Paul wrote that God foreknew and predestined those to the likeness of His Son. God’s plan for our life is to make every effort to submit ourselves to God to be more like the Son, Jesus Christ.

  22. Bonnie Hoskins
    July 5, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I, too, was very distressed by the frequent use of Jeremiah’s words to a particular people at a particular time being used to fit into the life of today’s believer. A similiar thing happened more than a decade ago with the “Prayer of Jabez” and billions of dollars lined a few pockets. Thankfully Larry Pechawer did a real indepth study of the Hebrew and wrote the book “The Lost Prayer of Jabez” showing that the prayer was for pasture land not being kept from evil.

  23. Warren Christianson
    July 6, 2011 at 3:32 am

    That God’s plan is for us to be more like Jesus is not bad. I will go along with that. The problem is when some say that God has a preplanned plan for your life that includes education marriage and work, I have a problem with that.

  24. Robert C. Shannon
    July 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    This comment came into the Christian Standard office through the mail.

    The article is superb. It is well reasoned, greatly needed and right on target.

  25. Brian
    August 17, 2011 at 3:58 am

    I don’t just believe that God has a plan for my life, I know God has a plan for my life as I have seen it unfold for the past 35 years. God called me to do very specific things in my life and anytime that I’ve tried to do the things I’ve wanted to do rather than what God called and planned in advance for me to do, I’ve failed.

    God called me to be a Pastor and I am. God did not call me to be a High School History Teacher, nor an accountant nor a funeral director. There are people whom God did call to do those jobs. but I am not one of them.

    God has gifted me with what I need to do what He has called me to do. So not only did God give me a very specific call that I answered and find immensely fulfilling, God also blessed me with an amazing wife whom He gifted to live and serve as a pastor’s wife. That’s what God called my wife to do, to support her husband and stand beside him as He leads the household and the Church.

    I know it’s difficult for a single person to understand such as the author and would require someone who has lived it to be able to accurately explain it to others.

    I would say that if you’re not living the call God has given you then you won’t find fulfillment and satisfaction in what you are doing.

    Did God call you to write a “so-so, mundane” blog? Did God entitle it “Write about now?” I doubt it

    You say, “But believing God has a specific (and blessing-filled) plan for their lives lets American individualists feel special. Preoccupation with oneself seems more holy if wrapped in Christianese language.”

    I don’t have any preoccupation with myself. My preoccupation is in reaching a lost and hurting world with the life changing, soul saving message of Jesus Christ. My preoccupation is in equipping the Church I pastor to do ministry in order to fulfill the great commission/ I Don’t wrap anything I do in any language for I know exactly what God has called me to do and how do I know? Through much prayer, Bible study, fasting and just pouring over the Word of God.

    Then this quote really made me laugh out loud, literally, the dog thought I was nuts, “The problem is we aren’t all special. There was one Moses and millions of followers, one Mary and a country full of unremarkable Jewish girls. For every Billy Graham there are stadiums full of “ordinary” Christians.”

    This sounds like the statement of someone who has been emotionally hurt many times in their life. Everyone is special. Me, you, the people in Pittsburgh or Peoria are just as special as those in Montgomery or Killarney, Ireland. Everyone in the world is special and everyone in the world is beloved and called by God.

    I don’t need to be Billy Graham or Rick Warren or Joel Osteen or whomever in order to be special. I don’t need to have 500 or 5000 or 500,000 people follow me on twitter or be my friend on facebook or even read my website to be special. Don’t need to be on tv or radio either. Billy Graham had the ministry he had because God called him to it, same with Warren and Osteen. Just because they don’t give you the time of day doesn’t mean they aren’t called to what they are doing.

    Most of your posts are dangerous to believers who may not know the Bible. To those who have a slant towards what you put out there….you’re a queen of all bloggers. To those of us who have lived what your saying doesn’t happen, you’re simply wrong

    You can’t argue or go against reality and the reality is that God called me to do something specific just as he calls everyone to do. My first ministry in the Church was cleaning the toilets. Was it glamorous? Nope. Did it get my name in lights? nope. But God did call me to do it and I answered the call. When God saw I was faithful in doing that and did it all for Him all the time, He enlarged my territory. Soon I was changing light bulbs 50 feet above the sanctuary floor and waxing the fellowship hall and cleaning the bapistry…all before God allowed me to pastor a Church.

    I could and will one day write a book about those experiences and how God used them to mold me into the pastor I am today. All part of His call.

    God has called you too, he’s just waiting for you to answer.

  26. Al Forthman
    August 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

    What’s interesting to me about this topic is that we all agree on some things. At one extreme, we know that it is absolutely and specifically God’s will that we live morally pure lives (“…for the Bible tells me so…”). At the other extreme, I’ve nver heard anyone claim that God directs which of two work shirts they should wear on a given day. The tenor of Paul’s words about getting married in I Corinthians 7 seem to imply a free choice among believing prospects. It’s always seemed to me that we should use the tools of wisdom God has given us (and has graciously allowed us to hone through hard life experience), while being open to His gentle over-ruling.
    What I would say, is that the limits of God’s detailed instructions are not explicitly defined in Scripture. Can we not be charitable toward each other and recognize that we will know the “rest of the story” soon enough?

  27. Seth
    December 18, 2011 at 1:53 am

    I am really confused about God’s will, faith, and miracles. I have cancer and I have been thinking a lot about life and what really confuses me is if God preplans our life, and God’s will is for me to die from cancer, then how do faith and miracles come into play? If anyone could help me understand this I would be forever grateful.

  28. December 21, 2011 at 10:38 am

    This is an outstanding article that, I think, our Restoration forefathers would be proud of. A text without a context is a pretext. Jen has brought up a popular text and has revealed its proper context. There are so many other popular texts that need to be treated in the same fashion. The sacredness of Scripture demands such treatment and I am pleased to see this done so in dealing with this text that is nearly always taken out of its context.

  29. December 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Seth, I doubt too many people read through all these comments and so your question might be missed by most.

    I don’t believe God gives us diseases; he is our healer. I believe what his word says, that he uses everything that comes into our lives for our good and for the good of others, according to his plan, and that he never leaves us. This can be difficult to accept when we’re given circumstances we wouldn’t choose for ourselves and when horrible things happen. I believe faith comes into play when we must choose whether to walk through the horrible things with God or without him, when we must decide if he is truly good. I think we should always pray for healing, while also praying for God’s will–his overall plan–to be done here on earth as it is in heaven, and that also requires faith.

    I have a friend whose husband is extremely ill right now. As she blogs about what her family is experiencing, she keeps emphasizing that their faith is in God, not in outcomes. If you would like to follow her story, here is the link: http://www.noelgreen.com/Dan

    And I will pray for your peace and your health!

  30. kk
    May 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Ora et labora… Pray and work… Both are necessary!

  31. Caleb
    May 2, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    The problem with this article is it assumes God’s Plan has to look like a human plan: singular, unbranched, with one goal all other outcomes being failure. I don’t believe that. God having a Plan does not have to preclude choice, or be permanently ruined by making the wrong ones. I believe God has a Plan for my life that accounts for free will; I believe God’s Plan for my life includes multiple paths depending on choices He Plans to give me. I recently went through an awful divorce, fought like heaven to save my marriage and ultimately failed. I don’t believe God intended or wanted that to happen. I believe He Planned for me to stay married. Does that mean I’m off the track, doomed now because I’m off God’s Plan? No. Because God’s plan doesn’t have just one track; you could say His Plan includes an infinite number of contingency plans. My wife was not supposed to leave me, but God had a Plan for my life in which that happened, just in case she did. God knows everything that can happen; I don’t believe He necessarily knows what we *will* choose, but He certainly knows everything we *can* choose. We cannot take God by surprise, on that I think most Christians will agree. God Himself is three in one, He is familiar with the idea of multiplicity. Why wouldn’t He have multiple Plans for us, in branched form, and still call it One Plan?

  32. Peter
    May 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    The author draws a lot of conclusions based on broad and false assumptions. She sets up the following idea as a straw man: “If God has a plan for me, then it must be plan for material success.” She assumes that all those who believe God has a predestined plan for them believe that God’s plan for them is one of success. This is totally false. She then blows the straw man down by giving the example of Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery, which actually serves to refute her argument that God does not predestine people’s steps.

    Joseph, in Genesis 45, says to his brothers, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”

    Joseph claims it was through terrible circumstances that God was providentially working in his life. And yes, God in his providence allows for “sexually molested children.” Romans 8: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”

    The author doesn’t ever make mention of verses such as, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30 ESV). And yes, the working in our life includes things that may seem good to us and may seem bad to us; however, our good, according Paul, is that God would be glorified to the utmost, both in our pleasure and pain. And those who believe God’s providence and predestination in a believer’s life is permission to “abdicate responsibility” (as the author suggests) must ignore verses such as “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12, 13, ESV).

    Paul makes clear in Romans that a Christian’s salvation by grace does not permit licentiousness (which would include laziness or slothfulness). It seems that the author merely sets up a bunch of scary Calvinistic straw men, in order to knock them down and strengthen her own views about personal determination (an idea that has its roots more in American democratic ideals than in Scripture).

    In a publication like CHRISTIAN STANDARD, whose readers mostly do not need to be persuaded to believe personal determination against predestination, such logical fallacies are not going to be readily questioned or combated. I suspect, but may be wrong, that the author was trying to question the legitimacy a Christian pursuing the American dream (a la “Prayer of Jabez”). Which I, along with the author, would question. There just seems to be an overwhelming tone of vituperativeness in the author’s words, especially toward those who believe in predestination.

  33. kathryn
    August 23, 2012 at 2:13 am

    i have never believed that God has a plan for any of us except the one that not should perish and everlasting life
    none of that it was gods will for so so to be a teacher or doctor etc
    God cant be manipulative let alone take away free will he gave us
    im not sorry but one cant really have free will at all if God is calling every shot and not allowing us to choose what we want to do with our lives

    God is – well not sure but do know hes never been real to me and even if he had a plan for my life – i will never know what is and have moved on from it – im not going to guess what it is but at the same time dont believe there is one – i also dont buy into that gifts and talents etc

    god did not make us remote controlled robots or cars to where he has the controls

    there is no specific plan and i would second guess any christian who tells you otherwise

  34. kathryn
    August 23, 2012 at 2:15 am

    i personally have never felt called by god to do anything
    heck i have never felt called by god or heard his voice and certain i never will in my lifetime
    salvation is not based on whether or not i hear a voice or feel a call
    what jesus did in my place on the cross is what i base my salvation on – thats it

  35. Don
    October 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    If you determine “salvation of the LORD” is absent God’s predestination, then you have determined you play a part in salvation. This appears to be your stance since you discount those that identify with John Calvin’s teachings from the Bible.

    If this is the premise of your belief, it is no wonder that you would conclude that God does not have a plan for you. This wrongfully held premise assumes you can limit God. God can not be limited. Otherwise He is not God. It is wrong to compare God to an earthly father by saying the earthly father does not manage every part of your life. You are right, an earthly father cannot manage or watch every move we make. God is not a man and cannot be brought to that level except only in our finite thinking (which is in error). There is no shadow of turning with God; He does not have a blind spot. Therefore, he sees the sparrow when it falls (falling down to feed and back up to rest or prepare for the next fall to eat or land elsewhere), the hairs of our head are numbered and so on. Reference Psalms 139 and get a sweet taste of how God is sovereign and providential in the lives of His chosen ones.

    Whom God saves he keeps. God and God alone saves. And He does not change his mind. I had nothing to do with my physical birth, nor did I with my Spiritual birth. God’s grace alone through Christ Jesus by His Spirit.

    My words are not meant to be harsh. I just hope and pray you realize that God is God and itty bitty man is man. The earth is God’s footstool and He has no problem keeping up with us and managing our lives to meet His will. The prayer that we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus exclaimed “Thy will be done in Heaven and earth.” I may not be swallowed by a large fish in any rebellion to God, but He has a way of carrying out His will or His plan for me. And I thank Him for that.

  36. Jeff Robbins
    December 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I’ve heard it said, “If you are seeking God’s plan for your life, you’re in it.” That being said, I started to write a long discourse, but thought…”why bother.” To think God does not have a plan for one’s life is comical to say the least. I could spend a couple hours swatting at some of these preposterous “points” the author posted, but I feel it would be a waste of time.

    Blessings,

    jeff

  37. Jack
    May 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I believe the author is absolutely right. I can’t tell you the number of embittered Christians in the their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s I’ve read about on blogs such as this who prayed, fasted, got down on their knees until they were bloody praying for God to send them the right spouse and are still single, alone, lonely and worst of all, angry at God to point of giving up their faith and becoming atheist. They did everything except go out and make an effort to find a spouse through their own efforts. To me life is a crap shoot in this area. A few lucky ones get the spouse of their dreams, but the vast majority of us get anything ranging from disappoint to an absolute nightmare. I don’t have the vaguest explanation for why. What we have to do is trust not that God will get us the spouse of our dreams because He most likely won’t—He never promised to anywhere in the Bible. What we have to trust God for is that whatever happens in our lives whether good or bad will ultimately be for our own good, even if we end up living and dying alone, lonely, poor as a church mouse and no one to take care of us. We see through a glass darkly and God’s will (notice I didn’t say “plan for us”) is often shrouded right up to the time we take our last breath. But we have to have faith that after we cross that threshold of death everything will be revealed to us as to the “why?” .

  38. GraceAnna
    August 8, 2013 at 12:26 am

    I may be a little late to this post, but I agree with what you are saying. I’ve always wondered if God is really all that concerned with what I do for a career as long as I honor Him. I look at verses like “my determined purpose is that I may know Him,” “give thanks to God in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” and ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

    From these verses, it seems to me that our relationship with God and each other is far more important to God than our marital status or specific career path.

    I always figured the reason for the disappointment in romantic relationships/marriage was that we as humans are in a fallen world and we’re each dealing with our own degrees of brokenness or possibly unrealistic expectations for our spouse. I figure some have healed their brokenness more thoroughly through their relationship with God and are lucky enough to meet someone else who is equally whole and compatible.

  39. Tim williams
    August 16, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Choice is a powerful thing! God having a specific and purposeful plan for each of His children is another powerful thing that demonstrates His tremendous love for us! However, what is just as powerful is that the two these exist in perfect harmony!

    God has a plan and purpose for us and he desires that we make the choices need everyday to follow his plan. Many times we don’t experience this harmony because we don’t know how to hear what God has planned for us, not because God is not telling us. We listen with our eyes and ears as we view the circumstances of life thinking that this is the way God speaks.

    We have not mastered the art of hearing the still small voice of God in our heart that provides his clear timely direction to the challenges of life that can distract us from hearing the plan he is attempting at all times to communicate to us. We dont study the word if God enough so that we truely understand Him, His Heart, and His ways so we can be familiar enough with Him so that when He does speak his plan and direction we recognize it is Him, although we may not fully understand all that’s spoken.

    God is constantly speaking, we just don’t listen or know how to. Lets not blame God or create a doctrine that God does not have a plan for our life simply because our own spiritual frailties don’t allow us to fully recognize it. Again this is blaming God for our imperfections and assigning false characteristics to Him based on our limited understanding, of His superior understanding.

    God does have a plan and purpose for each of. to say he doesn’t based on the weight of scripture is falsely describing God. However to say that man is not responsible for the choices he makes including those God desires that he makes is also a false thought inconsistent with the examples of scripture.

    Let’s not use our own experience with God to define God. Because we fail with God doesn’t prove anything except we are still in need of spiritual growth and swvelopment. Let’s use what we learn from the word and fellowship with God to define what we can expect and to experience with God and then have faith to exoerience it. What God says is truth not the flawed proned experience we have. Let’s walk by faith and not by sight and realize that we have to decide that we have to choose to take the steps down the path that God has planned for us. He will tell us the path if we truly listen with our heart! God is awesomely Good!

  40. Nikki
    August 18, 2013 at 2:35 am

    This just might be why so many people have a problem with this paper or blog or whatever it is. It’s really very simple, be saved, read your Bible, follow what it says, stay close to God, pray, love Him and one another. It’s really that easy, that is God’s will, along the way He will guide you if you let Him. If you don’t pay attention to what He says, what His word says, that may be why you have a mess. Take a step back, re-evaluate, and seek Him. I have never not received an answer, may not have been the one I wanted, but I got an answer. I find most people that balk at the idea of God’s will leading their life are usually doing it because they do not like the answers they are getting. I think the key here, also from the Bible, you don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible you believe and pretend the rest of the verses don’t exist.

  41. Gary
    September 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    An excellent and bold article. As a Christian Orthodox, I no longer believe in the divination, fleecing, and testing of The Almighty to determine things that “wise counsel” should provide.
    That’s why we have the Wisdom Books in the Holy Scriptures (including Wisdom and Sirach). There’s nothing whatsoever in Scripture that encourages divination to determine our vocation or who our specific spouse should be. As a Protestant, this false doctrine decimated my faith. It’s NOT a doctrine found anywhere in the writings of the historic Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant Saints. In fact, even Protestants as recent as Rev. Billy Sunday never hinted at such a doctrine. It’s probably only 40 years old at best. Now, there are times when The Holy Spirit will instruct you supernaturally in very specific ways. But it requires great discernment and maturity to recognize the difference between The Voice of God and our own divination. The writer used excellent examples of Biblical Saints who made errors or suffered persecution and were always in The Lord’s Will. So, we should pray AND investigate AND seek wise counsel to determine our course in Faith. Otherwise, how would it be Faith?! I’ve heard Pastor Osteen also say that “God will help you make the best of your mistakes”. Now that seems more aligned with the Compassion of our Supreme Savior Jesus Christ.

  42. Jim E Montgomery
    September 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    So much of modern misunderstanding on this and similar issuess was not possible 125 years ago. As one of ‘us’ wrote within the past few months, it was in the late 1800s that ‘we’ began to see God and His Word as a for the individual and not as it was written, for the many ‘us’. Personal relationship language was invented back then and has continued to infect ‘us’ ever since…

  43. ronti
    September 13, 2013 at 12:59 am

    Romans 12:1-2 tells us how we can understand the will of God. The Spirit of God in us knows God therefore guides us. If we make bad choices, we don’t have peace about it. We have HS to help us discern the right company. All things pertaining to salvation will only work if we combine studying the word of God with attentive listening to HS when He guides. Most people who agree with Jennifer have disappointments. Some in success, some in marriage, and some have been deceived by clergy. But God’s Word tells us to be careful, using the word so as not to be deceived by winds of doctrine. We are responsible for what we hear and follow. Don’t blame God, He speaks. Otherwise how do you feel uneasy about things you don’t know. Like making decisions on a gut feeling is part of sensitivity to an inner working in us. Let us listen to God and follow His instructions, that way we will not be so hurt. And when we do fall into situations, we turn to Him and see His faithfulness, like Joseph saw. I would like to be a doctor and heal the ailing, but I know I’m a gifted teacher rather. Mind you, I have never studied as a teacher, but when I teach biology to students they can’t believe I’m not teaching coz they come away with more understanding. When I explain the word, I receive comments that qualify what I know, I can help another understsnd. I dont think I’ll ever be a professional teacher, but when opportunity presents, I do a better job explaining and even do the research.

  44. Tim
    September 27, 2013 at 2:25 am

    It’s unclear what it is exactly that you’re saying. Are you suggesting God isn’t sovereign? That He doesn’t have a plan and He just reacts?
    Or are you sayin Gods plan isn’t for everyone to know what specific thing they should do?

    I certainly reject the notion that God has a plan for us all to be successful Earthly residents but I also reject the notion that He isn’t in control of everything that happens.

    I am a strong advocate that Gods plan for us, as far as we understand, is to obey His word. That’s it. That entails using our gifts, both spiritual and not, to glorify Him. How we do that is up to us but were all commanded to obey (John 15) and, as you implied, our circumstances have no bearing on how much we obey and in turn how much glory we bring to our Creator.

    I just ask for clarity on what you’re saying. He has a sovereign plan (Esther, Ephesians 1, Acts, Revelation, Romans 9) and denying that is not only silly but heretical. So I hope you’re not saying that because the rest of what you said has great merit.

  45. Kathryn
    October 7, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    This really encouraged me as I too don’t believe in the plan . I’m single and really glad you brought up the part on the unmarried friend .

    I was told by absolute clueless people that God must have called me to be single to serve him Instead but that was based totally on an assumption due to me being single.

  46. Doug
    October 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    If God is good all the time and He is directing my every action, then it seems reasonable that all of my decisions would be for the good. I assure you that at least some of my life decisions have been and likely will be for the bad. At the same time, the most influential life direction changes in my life have been the result of decisions that at the moment, seemed inconsequential. I see God’s hand in my life but it is a guiding hand, not a directing hand.

  47. Kathryn
    October 13, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    A relationship with God is what exactly ?
    The word relationship seems so human and no way can anyone have that kind of relationship with God . I’m not in a relationship with God
    not is he in a relationship with me
    It takes two and there is nothing on God end
    Christians absolutely ruined God for me
    but I Also just don’t care anymore
    God just isn’t real to me

  48. Thomas
    October 22, 2013 at 3:26 am

    @Kathryn Then you have made a big mistake there, sister. The object of your faith must always be Christ. What He has done for us on the cross. If your faith was shaken because of other Christians, then I dare to say that your faith was never built in Christ. “no way can anyone have that kind of relationship with God”, are you trying to limit the power of God? He is sovereign, nothing is impossible to Him. If you really choose not to care anymore, then I am afraid that you are not on the right path. May God have mercy. God bless you.

  49. Perry
    November 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    It’s all about me… (selfish thinking… not kingdom thinking)
    that’s the problem with this opinion. For you to believe that there is no Godly plan, for anyone is dangerous at best. Jesus (Emmanuel – God with us) knew… not only the plans of men, but the choices before they happened. Case in point: Peter’s denials…Judas’ betrayal…his own death on a cross. For there to be no planning on God’s part is to say that Moses was a happy mistake, or the OT law was just a happening that fall well into place… or the redemptive plan of salvation was not purposed. What I do know is that we try to put God in our own little box of understanding. Yes… this helps us to put our arms around it, especially the younger Christian… when in fact we have no business trying to understand… and never will know the fullness of his foreknowledge for anyone or anything. God is God… (Therefore faith is needed even in this topic) Faith should NOT rest on the wisdom of man… but on the power of God. 1 Cor. 2:5
    Now QUIT UNDERESTIMATING OUR GOD! Let’s move on from these wasteful discussions and go outside and witness to those that are without the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Satan ultimately wins in these discussions because Matthew 28 is not happening… or, no wait… maybe Christ said… Go ye therefore and argue crazy points with one another… and get distracted from witnessing. I’m sorry, but I’ve seen too many young Christians spend way too much time arguing over topics like this… to no avail. Our God is not being glorified… through it… I know that when He returns… (when the trumpet sounds) I want to be in worship… sharing His great work… bringing someone to Christ’s saving grace. Take care my brothers.. In Christ’s love…

  50. Dee
    December 25, 2013 at 2:29 am

    Studying critical thinking & practicing open minded thoughts, I found this blog very helpful .

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