People are often concerned to find what God’s plan is for their lives. I get the impression that many think that there is some great thing that is waiting to be revealed and that they should be seeking it out. Should I give up secular work to be in the Lord’s work (as though those two things are mutually exclusive)? Am I missing something big that the Lord wants me to do? How do I know? Let us go to the scriptures for guidance in the matters of employment, family, marriage and serving the Lord in other ways.
One scripture that gives me part of God's plan - Paul writing to Thessalonians (1 Thess. 3:11-12) tells them - and by inference us also – to “work with your own hands, even as we charged you, that ye may walk reputably towards those without, and may have need of no one”, [or “of nothing”]. Paul speaks of something similar in 1 Corinthians 7:20-24. If the Lord has called you by his grace, then stay in the occupation or condition that you are in, provided that you can be with God in it. Numerous servants of God are described as being called into service while diligently employed. Moses and David were shepherds; Amos was a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; Elisha was ploughing; some of the apostles were fishermen, and two were called while repairing trawl-nets; another was called from his tax office.
Scripture gives me directions also in family relationships. Paul teaches Timothy (1Timothy 5:8) that we are responsible for the care of our relatives. “But if any one does not provide for his own, and specially for those of his house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than the unbeliever.” Even after enduring the cross for three hours, and having in those three hours exhausted the wrath of God against sin, at a time when a person would be forgiven for being occupied with self, Jesus gave instructions for the ongoing care of his mother – see John 19:26-27. It is an important principle: our responsibilities are determined by our relationships. In Ephesians and Colossians we get instructions for wives and husbands, children and fathers, servants and masters. In these relationships I am to carry out my responsibilities. In fact “righteousness” has been described as “the maintenance [or carrying out] in integrity of every divinely appointed relationship”. In other words, doing what is right.
Is it God’s plan for me to marry? And who?
Again scripture provides guidance. Remaining single can be better, as one is freer to serve the Lord. But it is left to the individual, either way. Paul remained single. God told Jeremiah not to marry, but that was exceptional.
Does God have someone in mind for me? Again, that is left to the individual – 1 Corinthians 7:29, providing he or she marries “in the Lord”. Even in the period of the law, when the five daughters of Zelophehad came before Moses, God’s word was: “Let them marry whom they please [literally ‘him who is good in their eyes’]; only they shall marry one of the tribe of their father”.
Where does God want me to live?
In general, I believe that God leaves such decisions to our faithfulness. Such decisions test our motives.
How does the Lord want me to serve him?
To find out, start by doing things that are not noticed by the world, things that come your way, things that are “to hand”. Visit the sick, the lonely, the elderly; take a meal to a widow or a neighbour. Look for an opportunity to speak to someone about the Lord. Read to children, play with them, tell them bible stories. In doing a variety of things I believe that you will find out what gift the Lord has given you. In serving those who belong to Christ, we are serving him. Matthew 25:40 sets out that principle: “Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me”. When Saul of Tarsus was persecuting followers of Christ, he was persecuting Him – Acts 9. Of course our service should extend beyond fellow believers. We are to “do good towards all, especially those of the household of faith”. In Romans 12:1-8 we have more guidance about “proving what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” and the exercise of various gifts, “according to the grace which has been given to us”. Notice in verse 8, “he that gives, in simplicity” [or ‘with liberality’, from ‘not avoiding to give on false excuses’, it has come to mean ‘readily and liberally’]; then, “he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness”. A godly teacher once said that last one is as important as any of the preceding gifts!
“He that is faithful in the least, is faithful also in much”.
Another step - ask the Lord to put you to work.
It will bring its tests, but he will give you a work that is suited to you; a role that is suited to your background, your spiritual measure, your character. Romans 12:3 tells us that “God has dealt to each a measure of faith” and that we are not to go above that in our thoughts. For the vast majority of us, it will not be full time. In all religions there is a strange idea that a holy man cannot be involved with ordinary work. The apostle Paul is a great example of one who worked with his hands to support himself and others with him, as well as serving the Lord.
Asking the Lord to give us work to do is not the same as volunteering. It acknowledges His right to direct servants according to his will. The Lord never gave encouragement to volunteers. Notice this in Luke 9:57-62. When the Lord did call persons in that section, they found another claim of higher priority. The subject “volunteer or called” is worthy of a separate article.
There is a desire in the human heart to be publicly recognized. That is the Lord’s matter. In Elijah’s time, the ratio of those in public testimony to those who were faithfull, was 1 in 7,000! Seek to serve unseen. He will bring your service into display in “that day”, the day of Jesus Christ. For any who want public prominence - and be in the will of God at the same time - I say that person will have to be prominent in suffering. Take any true servant of God who came into the public spotlight in the scriptures, and note their sufferings and endurance. The apostle Paul was the one used by the Lord to unfold the mystery of the church, hidden in ages past. In Acts 9:16, the Lord said of Paul: “I will show to him how much he must suffer for my name”.
In summary, it seems that God’s plan for us is to do what is right in the circumstances that we are in - provided God can be with us in those circumstances. We don’t need any special revelation, because scripture already gives us the guidelines. Pray for direction; if in doubt, ask the Lord to give you work to do. Serve others and do the things that are within reach. In this way a person finds out what the Lord has given.
Let us be diligent in our ordinary lives and occupations, and if the Lord has something extra for any of us to do, he will surely direct us.
Lord! Let us wait for Thee alone:
Our life be only this –
To serve Thee here on earth, unknown;
Then share Thy heavenly bliss. J.N.D