Have you ever prayed one of those prayers where you just lay it all down and ask God to have His way in your life? Tell Him that you want Him to outwork His plan and His purpose? At one time or another, most followers of Christ have prayed this prayer. And the next day, of course, you heard a booming voice from heaven say: “I want you to go reach the lost Amazonian tribes with the gospel. Take up your cross, follow me.”
You heard that, right? You didn’t? Of course you didn’t, because for the vast majority of Christians being open to God’s plan for us doesn’t mean He’s going to loudly call us out of society and into the Amazon.
We can sometimes focus on being open as though it all comes down to one moment of decision, the moment that the booming voice comes and tells us God’s plan for our lives, but what if we’re looking at it wrong? What if being open is actually more about following than waiting for a specific instruction? What if sometimes we’re sat expecting instructions in a booming voice while forgetting that we have a book full of them?
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
– Psalm 119:105
Being open to God’s plans and purpose for our lives has to start with being open to His word. As King David wrote in the Psalms the word is what illuminates the path our feet are walking on. The bible isn’t just a book full of history; it’s a book full of wisdom and knowledge. When we spend time absorbing it we’re preparing ourselves for the journey.
I remember one time I decided to walk down from Sacre-Coeur to Shakespeare and Co on the left bank. I set out entirely trusting my internal sense of direction, no need for maps or instructions from a local – this boy has internal sat nav. Only I didn’t. I soon found myself walking away from the city rather than towards it. Before I knew it I was wandering lost. I had to find a map to get myself back on track. I had set out with the best intentions but what I had really needed was some instructions to throw some light on the paths I should take.
I had set out with the best intentions but what I had really needed was some instructions to throw some light on the paths I should take.
We can look at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and see this colossal moment where, sweating blood, He says: “Not my will, but yours be done.” However, if we follow the story up to that point we see that He lived His whole life by the word of God. That moment of utter submission to God’s plan for His life only comes about because He has walked through life in accordance to the word.
In Matthew 4:1-11 we see Christ walking without food in the wilderness, hungry and physically drained He is faced with temptation. Each time He has a decision to make He starts His response with the words “for it is written”. Jesus was completely soaked in the word of God and His every choice reflected the fact that His life was both guided by, and fulfilling, the word. It’s in this that we find complete openness to God’s plan and purpose.
Maybe we’re waiting for that Gethsemane moment where we submit our will to God’s and His plan and purpose are unveiled for our life but we never arrive in the garden without walking down the paths guided by His word. So often in life we come to decisions and choices and take them as though the only option is to flip a coin or stick a finger in the air and go with the prevailing wind; we are by our very nature prone to wander and to miss the markers that would help and guide us. If we’re digging deep into the word, however, we find ourselves with a light in those times.
We never arrive in the garden without walking down the paths guided by His word
When making a decision, instead of waiting expecting a booming voice from the sky, why don’t we pick up the bible? Or call to remembrance the things learned in a lifelong pursuit of knowing His word? We can be sat there begging for an answer when it’s already written and we just need to open ourselves to it.
God has given us this book filled with His word, His story, His wisdom, He wants us to read it and pursue Him within its pages. As we do that we find answers and guidance in the way that He wants us to live, we find the day to day wisdom that allows us to make sound decisions and each time we do we’re stepping along the path of His plan and purpose. If we weigh up our choices and make them stand or fall on whether they’re in line with His word then we soon find we’re moving in the right direction. If we want to know and be open to His voice? It starts by looking at His words.
This post was originally published on Audacious, April 22nd 2013; edited May 28th 2014 for this blog.