Direction in Our Life Through God's Sovereignty - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonArticles on the Christian Walk, Systematic Theology and Practical Theology
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Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”
Of all the theological questions a person can ask in their lifetime, the greatest question pondered and prayed over is “What is God’s will for my life?” Now do not be deceived, the Bible does not hold a personal record of everything we ought to do day by day in detail. Yes, it houses everything we need for life and godliness, but that is not what is meant here. We are a people that like lists. It would be most helpful, we think, if God would simply send down a list for us to follow. That list would tell us what to do and when to do it. God is more mysterious than that, and in order to conform servants into His Son’s image and will, not to just stamp out robots, He gave us prayer instead. Instead of consulting a list of “do’s and don’ts”, we are directed to submit our will to His providences through prayer.
The Proverb quoted above is very interesting to me. It says that a man plans out his ways, but God directs his steps. What exactly does that mean? We plan out our way. This seems easy enough to do. We do this everyday. We choose what to wear, what to eat, what time we will make it to work (hopefully on time!) and sundry other things. Maybe we even plan out our entire week, or plan out what will happen in the next 6 months based on our financial situation. Our inner man (our will, mind and heart) plans out or devises the steps we would like to take. Yet, it is God who directs our steps. It is interesting that in this Proverb the word “directs” (that which the Lord accomplishes) is to “set firm or establish.” In other words, though a man, in the inner recesses of his heart, mind and will “plans his way” it is the Lord who actually establishes the path on a solid foundation upon which he is to walk. That means that if we plan something he does not establish, we are fighting against the divine will, maybe even unknowingly. Again, we do not have a list that says “at 35 years of age you will take such and such a job.” And “at 40 years of age, you will buy this or that car, and move to this or that city.” All of those decisions fall under the realm of Christian prudence, and rightly applying principles that we glean from the Bible to direct our life in wisdom and truth.
Sometimes God directs us on paths we do not necessarily like. We are Joseph in prison, or Moses in Midian. We are hiding out in Egypt for a while like Mary and Joseph, because circumstances dictate such. Sometimes God brings us through dark days on purpose, and sometimes He brings us through beams of heavenly light.
Whatever the providences that God brings us, we ought to take consolation in that He is looking out for our best interest as His beloved children. Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Do we “know?” Or are we just acquiescing to the Stoic disposition of a frowning providence when trials come along. Do we really “know” God is looking out for our good? Do we really know He loves us? Do we know that He has our best interest in mind if we are called according to His purposes? Sometimes we live as though we do not know. We think that because we have planned out certain steps, and want to take a certain path, that when such a path crumbles before our eyes and that hard and trying circumstances come our way, that God has forsaken us. Christians are fickle people. They are tossed too and fro in the winds of God’s direction and they feel like a buoy thrown around on the waves of indifference. They forget, though, that the buoy is chained to the bottom of the ocean and will not really be moved, though it may feel like it at the time.
As one brother said to me, “We must make a difference between plans that are godly, and plans that are God’s.” Oh my! How true this is. It may be a godly plan that you have devised. There may be no sin in it at all. Maybe you are contemplating a new job. Maybe you are thinking about having children. Maybe you are thinking about teaching in Sunday School. It could be just about any godly thing a Christian could plan out to do. But there is a great difference between what is a godly plan, and what is God’s plan. Would it have been a godly thing to do for Joseph’s brothers not to throw him in a pit or sell him into slavery? Would it have been a godly thing for king Solomon not to take for himself many wives? Would it have been a godly thing for Paul to go into Phrygia to preach the Gospel? Men can plan out godly plans, but that does not mean such plans are always God’s plans. Rest assured, all of God’s plans are godly plans, but not all godly plans are God’s plans. That is somewhat of a tongue twister, but it should also be a heart wrencher for the Christian. We are not simply to follow godly plans, but God’s plans for us. He is the One who establishes our plans and makes them stand firm. He is the one who providentially oversees the continuity of those plans.
This brother also said something else quite helpful, “We search the scriptures and learn and live the principles they teach. Holding fast to those principles we form a godly plan. We are sure God will bless it because it IS godly. This is what we ought to be about and brother you have been faithful to this duty. However, the second is God’s plan and as you well know it lies in the deepest, most secret place. Your godly plan may be nothing like God’s plan. Your plan has a destination that you are seeking, a payoff, success, fruit – and there’s nothing wrong with that; but the purpose of God’s plan is to change our character. We are being transformed into the very image of Christ. We will think and act more like Him, we will realize that the reason we acquire money is to feed the hungry, and we acquire knowledge to reach the lost, and we will eventually hold onto nothing except Christ and him crucified.” How loudly can we say “Amen” to this?
A sister said this in terms of the same kind of situation:
When you are the neediest, He is the most sufficient.
When you are completely helpless, He is the most helpful.
When you feel totally dependent, He is absolutely dependable.
When you are the weakest, He is the most able.
When you are the most alone, He is intimately present.
When you feel you are the least, He is the greatest!
When you feel the most useless, He is preparing you.
When it is darkest, He is the only Light you need.
When you feel the least secure, He is your Rock and Fortress.
When you are the most humble, He is most gracious.
When you say that you cannot, remember that He can!
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
“My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2
“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us.” II Corinthians 1:9-10
“God is our refuge and strength, a very pleasant help in trouble.” Psalm46:1
“…greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” 2 Corinthians 9:8
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12
“And he said “the LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;” 2 Sam 22:2
“Humble ourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time:” 1 Peter 5:6
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13