Here in the first sixteen verses of Genesis thirty-one, we learn a very valuable lesson concerning following the Lord’s plan. As we begin, it is important that we distinguish between the will of God and the plan of God. The will of God is that which God desires for everyone. For example: it is God’s will that no one perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). It is God’s will that all who believe on Him are conformed to the image of Christ. It is God’s will that we grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Word. It is God’s will that we go into all the world and preach the Gospel. God’s will is made clear to us in His Word. However, running parallel with His will is His specific plan for our individual lives. God has a plan for you and He has a plan for me. God directs our steps and leads in the direction that He wants us to go. Sometimes we are living within His plan, other times we may not be. Living within the plan of God for our lives is a choice that we make. We must choose to do and live as God has designed for us. This is why principles of decision making are so important.
As in the case of Jacob, it is God’s plan for Him to return to his homeland. In considering this, we are able to answer two answer important questions: How do we determine what is God’s plan for our lives? What must we do to follow His plan?
How do we determine what is God’s plan for our lives? Determining God’s plan for our lives is threefold.
- God puts the desire in our hearts.
For Jacob, God put within him a desire to return home. The Lord even appeared to Jacob and told him to go back home. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” When we delight in the Lord and live in obedience to His will then His desires become our desires and those desires are then fulfilled in our lives. God puts in us His desires as we delight in Him. As we grow in our faith, we begin to develop certain desires. The more you grow, the more you will desire to serve Him. God will then give you desires for specific areas of service. There was a time in my life when God gave me the desire to serve as a pastor. He has also given the desire to use the leadership skills He has given me to develop and strengthen the ministry of the church. God has given me certain talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts to be used for His glory. With those things, He puts in me the desire to utilize those things. Several years ago, I was pastoring a wonderful church in the beautiful state of Maine. I loved it there and loved the people that I served. However, the type of ministry that it was did not fit with the skill sets and desires that God had given me. It was simply not the type of church where I could meet my full potential as a pastor and a leader. Therefore, God put in me the desire to be in a place where I can use what God has given me to its potential. When determining God’s plan, He puts the desire in our hearts.
- God works in our circumstances.
Jacob was in a position that was becoming increasingly difficult. His father-in-law changed in his attitude toward him. The circumstance demanded a change. In addition to the desires of my heart, the circumstances of where I was pastoring and the doors that were opening, brought me to a place of making a change. It became clear to me that in order to be the pastor that the church needed me to be, then I had to be something I was not. Though I adjusted to what the ministry required, it did bring about some tension within my heart. After several years in that circumstance, God began to open a door. An opportunity presented itself to return to my homeland and pastor a church that I was a part of as a child. It was also a church that was ready and ripe for a pastor with the skill sets and desires that God has given to me. It was through that circumstance that God showed me that a change was needed, not just for the good of my family, but for the good of the church I served in Maine and for the good of the church where God was leading me to.
- God speaks through His Word.
A major move such as Jacob made, needed to be confirmed by a Word from the Lord. God spoke directly to Jacob and told him to go back to Canaan. For us today, God may not speak audibly, but He does speak through His written Word and through confirmation with other believers. For me, I knew through God’s Word that God had called me to be a pastor. I also knew, through the written Word, the spiritual gifts that God has given to me. The desires I had were confirmed in my heart as I studied the Word of God. Before Jacob made a final decision, he sought input from his family. In verse 16, his wives told him to do whatever God told him to do. For me, I am blessed to have a wonderful wife who loves the Lord and who did the same thing for me. She trusted me as the man of the house and she said that if God is leading me then we need to go where He leads. With all three of these things: the desire of my heart, the circumstances of my life, the Word of God, and the confirmation of that Word from other believers; I knew that there was only one choice to make. I must go and follow God’s plan.
What must we do to follow His plan? Following God’s plan can be difficult. However, there are two things that we must do to follow His plan.
Jacob had to separate himself from Laban. My friend, when God says go, you must go completely. You cannot hold on to anything. When I transitioned from pastoring one church to another, I had to separate from my previous church. In other words, I am not the pastor of that wonderful church in Maine. I had to go on my way and let them continue what God had for them without any interference. Now, we still love the people and we visit them every time we visit Maine. They have an amazing pastor now who is the perfect fit for them. Therefore, I have no say in the work of that local church. I am now responsible for the church I am pastoring, FBC Decherd. I am available to provide counsel and help for anyone who calls me, but when I moved on to a new place of ministry, I separated from where I was. In order, to follow God’s plan for your life, there must be a separation, there must be an element of leaving. It’s the same in marriage. As you follow God’s plan in whom you will spend the rest of your life with, you must leave your father and mother and cleave to your spouse. There must be separation.
No doubt, Jacob had some good times working with Laban. His wives were also there in the place they grew up. There were good times and bad. However, I am sure it was difficult for Jacob’s family to pack up and leave. There was a sacrifice. When our family left Maine it was full of mixed emotions. We were excited to follow God’s plan on this new adventure. However, we all loved where we lived. Just like for Jacob, there were good times and bad. However, the good out-weighed the bad. For our family, it meant leaving my wife’s family. We enjoyed several years of living close to her parents and grandmother. We also enjoyed living in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It was a sacrifice to leave.
When we follow God’s plan, there is always something wonderful and good that comes out of it. Coming to serve as Pastor of FBC Decherd was certainly a ‘God thing.’ He continues to bless our ministry. We have seen many come to know the Lord as Savior. We have seen spiritual growth in many people. The church has added 22 new members in less than a year. The outreach into the community has expanded greatly. We are in a place where I am able to use the skills and gifts God has given me and also to fulfil the desires God has put in my heart as we work to build a powerful ministry in southern Tennessee. Being in the center of God’s plan for your life is the best place to be! What about you? What does God have for you? What desires has He put on your heart? What are your current circumstances? What is God speaking to you through His Word? You can never go wrong by being obedient to God’s plan for your life.