Summary: Three ways knowing God has a plan can help us in our lives.
On of the TV shows that was popular back in the 1980s was "The A-Team." The A Team was about a commando unit that was wrongfully accused of a crime they didn’t commit, so it was constantly on the run. One of the things I remember most about the A Team is Hannibal Smith chewing on a cigar and saying, "I love it when a plan comes together."
All of us love it when a well thought out plan comes together, but how often does that really happen? In the last nine years I’ve read books, attended classes and gone to seminars on strategic planning, and I’ve come to the conclusion that none of our plans ever end up like we think. I have a feeling Bill Gates’ strategic plan for Microsoft didn’t include an antitrust suit that would break his company into two separate corporations. Whenever we design a plan, it’s a guess of what we hope will happen, because there are simply too many variables that can come up to alter our plan.
In fact the Bible warns us about this in Proverbs 19:21 where it says, "Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it’s the LORD’s purpose that prevails." So although Hannibal Smith might love it when a plan comes together, the reality is that most of our plans turn out quite different than we thought they would.
But God’s not like that. God’s plan stands firm, because God knows all contingencies and takes all the variables into account. The Bible says in Psalm 33:11, "The plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." Elsewhere in the Bible God says, "Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand" (Isaiah 14:24). The God of the Bible is the God who plans.
Today we finish a series we started the week after Easter on God’s attributes called SIMPLY GOD. We’ve looked at God as the God who’s real, the God who speaks, the God who cares, the God who’s 3-in-1, the God who’s holy, and then last week as the God who has no limits. Today we’re going to finish up this series by looking at God as the God who plans. We’re going to see three ways knowing that God has a plan can help us in our daily lives.
1. God is in Control of His Plan (Eph 1:4-6, 11).
Ephesians begins by looking at God’s plan:
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves...In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Eph 1:4-6, 11 NIV).
Now let’s be honest: the idea of God choosing and predestining people makes a lot of us uncomfortable. It sounds like God’s playing favorites, like he’s a grand puppet master pulling the strings of the universe. God choosing people--also called the doctrine of election-- and predestination are fighting words among some Christians. Churches have split over election and predestination, denominations have fragmented, friends have refused to speak to each other.
The heart of this debate is how God chooses and predestines people. Some Christians embrace a doctrinal system called Calvinism, which is named after the 16th century French theologian John Calvin. Calvinists claim God chooses people for salvation purely on the basis of his freedom. God doesn’t choose because some people are better than others or because God knows some people will have faith and others won’t, but God simply chooses some and doesn’t choose others for no reason other than His freedom as God to do whatever He wants. This is the view of election and predestination you’re likely to find in most Presbyterian churches, Reformed churches and some Baptist churches.
Other Christians embrace a doctrinal system called Arminianism, which is named after a 16th century Dutch theologian named Jacob Arminius. Arminians claim that God chooses people based on his foreknowledge of who will have faith in Jesus and who won’t. This is what John Wesley believed, and it’s the view of election you’re likely to find in Methodist churches, Pentecostal churches, and Calvary Chapels.
For generations Calvinists and Arminians have squabbled with each other over this issue. But what does Paul actually say here? It’s certainly true that the word "chose" in v. 4 refers to God’s election, God choosing people. It’s also true that this election occurs before creation, before anything else existed. On that both Calvinists and Arminians are agreed.