Friday, 26 January 2018

Seeking God's Plans and Purposes--for Me?

Yesterday, I was reading the words of the morning hymn, Awake My Soul, And With the Sun, and the following lines stood out to me:

...Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.
Direct, control, suggest, this day
All I design, or do, or say;
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
- Thomas Ken, 1695, 1709

And then this morning I was reading a prayer that I have been praying for the past year or so, adjusting the words from time to time to reach its present form:
Lord, I pray for your plans and purposes in my own life. Help me to follow you, obey you, love you. Please guide me in my business, too. Help me to make right decisions. Show me how to focus every part of my life, including my writing--with God, and tutoring--with God, and speaking--with God, and church--with God, and family and friends--with God, and so on, knowing, obeying, loving, trusting and serving You. "With God." Thank You. Please be with me as I prepare for the new engagements You have planned for me--and may all I say honour and point to You, no matter the audience. Thank You for Your help and guidance, and Your amazing surprises and adventures! Your will be done always! Thank You for Your rest provided in surprising ways. Amen.
Like many--if not most--believers, I was taught early to seek God's plans and purposes ... for MY life. What career (and ideally, "ministry") should I plan for? What education (ideally, involving Bible School and/or seminary) should I get? Who is the mate You have planned for me? And so on  ... the "big plans."

Later, I came across a poem that reads, in part:

He does not lead me year by year 
Nor even day by day 
But step by step my path unfolds 
My Lord directs my way. 
Tomorrow's plans I do not know, 
I only know this minute; 
But He will say, "This is the way; 
By faith now walk ye in it." ...
What need to worry then or fret? 
The God who gave His Son 
Holds all my moments in His Hand 
And gives them one by one. 
- Barbara C. Ryberg 

And that was helpful because I realized that God's leading is in the small, everyday decisions, activities, thoughts as well as in the big plans of life--and I realized He really does care about each of MY moments. 

But this morning, as I read that morning hymn and as I reread my daily prayer, I began to wonder if "God's plans" are really so centred on me so much? I wrote the following thoughts in my journal...

What does it mean to follow God step-by-step, my path unfolding through His direction? Is it a detailed plan of His for my every step in life, or is it more a matter of just my life unfolding naturally--and in that, making moment by moment decisions based on what I've learned of His will and commandments, with His Spirit giving me deeper enlightenment and understanding of that? With an openness to His Presence and guidance: mainly spiritual, moulding my heart into the image of Christ, as mercifully He loosens me from my old sinful nature moment by moment?  And that change in my inner being then being reflected in my outer, physical and mental and emotional aspects of my being ... with the possibility then of unexpected, distinct changes of "big" directions and plans from time to time?

And though these are changes in ME, does that mean that "I" am the centre, the reason for it all? Yes, He loves me individually. Yes, He cares for me as much as for each of His children? But am I perhaps being more "ME-centred" that I should be? The words in my prayer stood out: follow, obey, love, know, trust, serve--and oh! What about "glorify God"?  Scripture's focus is always God-ward, isn't it! Read and meditate on the Psalms. Yes, the Psalmist cries out for help--but always, in the end, his focus returns to glorify God.  Is God's light shining in my heart always for MY benefit? Or is it for His glory? "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus." (2 Corinthians 4:6)

And then there is "loving your neighbour". Are "His plans and purposes for me" sometimes more about His plans and purposes for others, for all mankind, for all His children, for my "neighbours" to whom I can reflect and demonstrate HIS love and mercy? Are "His plans and purposes for me" very often (most often, even?) about His plans and purposes for others, and for His glory, more than about "MY journey, MY life, MY purposes, MY plans"? (And if so, that does truly make my journey an adventure and surprise, doesn't it, as the focus moves to Him and all those He has created and loved.)

The ancient prayers of the church--and the prayer taught us by Jesus--do demonstrate His care and purposes for me ... but each of them ultimately points me back to Him as the Centre, as THE Purpose and Plan. We've often pushed away the "old-fashioned prayers and hymns and scriptures" in favour of ones (which we, perhaps ironically, call "worship choruses") that are really, when we admit it, ME-focused. It would do us well, I believe, to become a little bit more old-fashioned, realizing that those old-time prayers and hymns and scriptures have lasted for hundreds or even thousands of years because their focus is where it belongs! 

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power
and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning,
Is now,
And ever shall be, world without end.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

Oh Lord, save Thy servants
that put their trust in Thee.

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