Read an ExcerptGod Has a Plan for Your Life
The Discovery that Makes All the Difference
By Charles F. Stanley Thomas Nelson
Copyright © 2008 Great Commission Media
All right reserved.
The Big Picture
Does God have a plan for me?" the young man asked. His face was etched with worry and regret. He had come to know Christ as his Savior years before during a youth rally, but now, sitting in my office, he was not only on the verge of doubting his salvation but also God's love for him. He could not see past the sin that was in his life, nor could he accept God's forgiveness, and this was choking the spiritual life out of him.
I reassured him that while there were consequences to sin, God still had a plan and a purpose for his life. He never gives up on us. Even though he had made mistakes, and at one point ignored God's leading, the Lord loved him and heard his prayers. God would not ignore him or push him aside.
A Future and a Hope
"God loves you," I reassured him (Jer. 31:3; John 3:16). "He created you, and He is not about to give up on you-not now-not ever. You can depend on this." Instantly, silence filled the room. I could sense that God had broken through, and for the first time in a very long time, this young man's mind and heart were tuned in to the voice of God. Then I repeated a familiar verse to him-one that most of us have come toknow by heart, Jeremiah 29:11: "'I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"
Leaning forward, I looked straight into my young friend's eyes and said, "You realize this is not Charles Stanley talking. This is God speaking to you. I don't have all the answers, but there is one thing that I do know and that is this: God knows exactly where you are at this very minute, and He understands your every struggle (Ps. 46:1). He is the one who has all the answers you need, and each one is found within His Word. He may not like where your life is right now, but He is not going to abandon you (John 14:18). If you will trust Him, He will begin to work in your life. Then you will see His plan and will for your life unfold in a mighty way. This is His promise to each one of us."
My words were hitting their right mark because the young man relaxed and drew in a deep breath. "You mean there is hope for my life?"
"Absolutely," I said without hesitation. "With God, there always is hope, and He has a plan in mind for our tomorrows."
There were another few minutes of silence; finally, he looked up at me and asked, "Okay, where do I begin?" Then I knew he was ready to start an amazing journey with the Lord-one that, if he held to the right course, would allow him to experience God's love and provision in a way unlike anything he had ever known. That afternoon, as I closed the door to my study, I wondered how many other people were facing exactly what this young man was facing-a sense of hopelessness and a longing to know God's promise and purpose for their lives.
Discovering God's will hinges on two things: a desire to live your life for Christ and not for yourself, and your ability to understand the nature of His will and purpose. These two aspects affect every area of life. First of all, we need to understand the fact that God is committed to our success-not in a financial sense, though He is not opposed to a person making money. He is the one who gives us the ability to make wealth (Deut. 8:18). His objection comes when the desires of our hearts are set on something other than Him. This could include a material possession or an employment position. It also includes people, hobbies, and goals or dreams that simply are not God's best for us. In fact, anything that takes His place in our lives as number one is subject to His scrutiny.
The apostle Peter would have understood perfectly what my young friend was facing. When he first met Jesus alongside the Sea of Galilee, he was nothing more than a fisherman who had a net full of dreams and very few fish. Within Peter's life, Jesus saw amazing potential, and as He stepped up on the bow of Peter's boat, He surely noticed the rough intensity that filled His future disciple's eyes. Can you imagine Jesus smiling? I can, because He knew the plans He had in mind for Peter, just as He knows the plans He has for each one of us.
We should never allow the enemy to stop us at the doorway of opportunity by tempting us to struggle with feelings of doubt and low self-esteem. Instead, we act wisely when we obey God's command just as Peter did when Christ instructed him to sail out into deep waters (Luke 5:4). Think about it for a moment. Peter was an expert fisherman. Yet he had been out on the Sea of Galilee all night and had not caught a single fish. How could he possibly know God was setting the stage for his call into a ministry that would impact the world with such force that it would never be the same again?
Each one of us can probably remember a time when we have argued with God. We could sense the Lord leading us to do a certain thing, call a certain person, or trust Him in a certain situation, but we did not know if what we were hearing or feeling was the right thing to do. Peter was no exception. He was ready to debate Jesus' request and to begin to list the reasons why it was senseless to return to the same place he was the night before. However, at the same time, Christ's request touched something deep inside of him, and suddenly, he had a desire to obey Jesus simply because he knew the One who was doing the talking. The Lord instructed Peter to "put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch" (Luke 5:4). Christ's words to Peter were really not a request. Requests offer options, but Jesus did not offer another plan.
Fishermen with any experience, especially on the Sea of Galilee, knew that fish were caught in shallow water and not in cool and unpredictable deep water. However, Peter obeyed the Lord's command, and it was the best decision he ever made. You will never go wrong obeying God. You may not know exactly where you are going, but you can be sure of one thing: when you get to the place He has called you to go, you will experience a miraculous blessing.
The Right Choice
We can imagine that for a few tense moments, Peter's eyes locked on the Savior's eyes. The sun was beating down, and Peter was exhausted. He had listened to Jesus teach to those who were gathered around the shoreline. Deep inside, perhaps, all he wanted was to go home and fall into his bed and sleep for a few hours before returning to his boat and work. Drawing in a deep breath of the sea's air, he nodded slowly and then agreed to Jesus' command.
Peter's response was perfect and right on track for an extreme blessing. "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as you say and let down the nets" (Luke 5:5). If you are looking for the key to Peter's success, here it is: "But I will do as you say and let down the nets." Obedience always is the first step to discovering God's plan for your life.
Jesus did not step up to Peter's boat and say, "If you will allow Me to climb on board and speak to the crowd, we'll go for a boat ride that will change your entire destiny." Instead, He asked Peter if He could use his boat. He needed a platform not only for the miracle that was about to take place, but He also wanted to speak to the people who had gathered. Wherever Jesus went, a crowd of people followed. These were men and women who were hungry for truth and for a Savior. Peter was among this same group. He longed for Messiah to come just as others did, but at that very moment, he had no idea that the answer to his prayers was now standing in his small fishing boat.
Once his fishing boat was away from the shore, he lifted the sails of the small vessel and headed out for deeper water. He was living in obedience to God's will and did not even have a clue that this was what he was doing. His simple act of obedience was positioning him for a great blessing.
As he dropped the net over the side of the boat, he probably glanced back to the distant shoreline and wondered what his friends were thinking. One thing that can block us from fulfilling God's promise for our lives is becoming entangled in what others think about what we are doing. If God has positioned us in a certain place, we must leave all the details to Him. With total abandonment, Peter obeyed Christ. Imagine the emotion that went through him a few minutes later when his nets began to fill up with fish. In fact, the catch was so large he immediately shouted back to his friends-James and John, whom Jesus later called the "sons of thunder"-to come and help him. Then he fell at the Lord's feet and said, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!" (Luke 5:8).
Blessings for Obedience
Here is the beauty of God's intimate love for you, especially if you have ever been concerned about how He views your life. Jesus responded to Peter in a way that turned his life upside down, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men" (Luke 5:10). The New International Version of the Bible says, "You will catch men." In other words, you will catch men for My heavenly Father's glory and no longer be caught up emotionally and mentally with the things of this world.
At the close of the scene, we are left with a memorable image: "When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him" (v. 11). It was not the end of the story. Instead, it was just the beginning of God's will being revealed to Peter and those who chose to follow the Savior.
We live in a society that wants instant results-instant food, instant access to computer programs, instant service. If it can't happen quickly, we will usually be tempted to become frustrated and walk away. If we see something we want, we can find a way to purchase it. However, experiencing the fullness of God's will is not something that happens immediately. It takes time-a lifetime. He may give us an idea as to what His will is, but it takes a life of devotion to uncover His complete purpose and plan for our lives. Peter could only handle what Jesus revealed to him at the moment. There will be times in our lives when God will instruct us to step forward. His express will is for us to obey Him. We may not understand what He is calling us to do. However, at this point, His goal for us is obedience. Therefore, we must step forward, trusting Him for the future.
God has a plan, and it should be our goal to live out that plan to the best of our knowledge and ability. Without a doubt, there will be times when we get off course. Later, we will see how Peter did just that. However, we'll read how the Lord moved quickly to get His disciple back on track and back into the center of God's will. Many people mistakenly believe that Jesus is too busy to walk with them through difficult times. They forget that He is their ever-present Advocate before His heavenly Father's throne.
Jesus prays unceasingly for us. The author of Hebrews writes, "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (7:25). When we yield to temptation, Christ is our advocate before God's throne of mercy and grace (1 John 2:1). You may feel as though you do not have a friend you can turn to for help and encouragement. However, you do. Jesus Christ promises to listen to your every prayer, and He will never leave you. Instead, He will remain even closer to you than a brother (Prov. 18:24). This is why we long to fulfill God's will. Once we draw near to His presence and experience His goodness extended toward us, we will want to be with Him every day.
We also will want to spend time with Him in prayer and studying His Word. I often tell people who truly want to know His will for their lives to study His Word, pray, and seek His wisdom for their situations. When we do, He will answer our prayers and reveal the portion of His will that we need to know.
God sees the big picture of our lives and knows all that it will take to get us to a place where we will fulfill His will. He knows how He wants the events of our lives to end. He also knows how to position us so that we fulfill His plan and glorify Him. The purpose of our lives is not to serve ourselves by focusing on what we feel is important and holds value. From God's perspective, this is a very narrow view of the life that He has given us to live. Instead of thinking, What about me and my desires?, the right question to ask is, "Lord, what is Your desire for my life? Please show me Your plan, and make Your will absolutely clear so I can do it."
Excerpted from God Has a Plan for Your Life by Charles F. Stanley Copyright © 2008 by Great Commission Media. Excerpted by permission.
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