|He unchangeably ordains|
Right now, as I write, it's so far, so good. The plan has unfolded almost as I anticipated, with only one short phone call to interrupt. But this could all change on a dime, because each item on my list of things to do depends on other things outside my control. For one, it's a toddler I'll be caring for. They're not known for helping plans go smoothly.
God's Plan for the Universe
God had a plan, too. Before he created our world, he decided what was going happen in it, from the moment of creation on into eternity. The Westminster Confession of Faith, in the section on God's eternal decree puts it like this:
God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass . . . .God's eternal decree is his all-encompassing plan for the universe. That God ordains things simply means that he planned for them to happen. According to the WCF, God planned from eternity past for everything that will happen to happen.
The Westminster Divines got this truth from scripture. God's plan is mentioned in Ephesians 1:11:
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will … . (ESV)The counsel of God's will is his plan for the course of history and, Paul says, he works everything according to this plan. Whatever you call it—God's decree, his purpose, his plan, the counsel of his will—God has one, and he's unfailingly bringing it to pass.
God's Plan and My Plan
There are ways my plan for today is little bit like God's plan. I chose the actions and events I put on my list, and I had reasons for each of them. I had a few small goals—this post is one of them—and if things go according to my plan, I'll achieve them.
God has goals, too—or, more properly, purposes—and his plan was chosen to accomplish his purposes. God's ultimate purpose is to display his own glory (Romans 11:36). The universe was made to "declare his glory" (Psalm 19:1); God planned to save people to show his glory (Ephesians 1:3-14). Everything in his plan—and his plan included every single thing that has happened and will happen throughout the unfolding history of the universe—works toward the goal of making God's glory known.
But my plan is different than God's plan in so many ways that they're not really comparable. While I tried to be wise when I planned, some of the choices I made may be foolish in hindsight. God, on the other hand, has perfect wisdom, so from the start, his plan was perfect for accomplishing his purposes.
What's more, everything in my plan depends on things I can't know for sure, and things I don't control, so my plan will undoubtedly change as the day progresses. But God controls everything and knows everything, so nothing can foil his plan. His plan never changes because he knows how to arrange the chain of causes and effects to accomplish his purposes, and he has the power to bring all the causes and effects into existence.
God's Plan for My Life
If God planned everything, then he planned my life, too. To use the language of my favorite psalm, every single day of my life was written in God's book before I existed (Psalm 139:16). Right now, God is unfolding his plan for my life, working in every circumstance to conform me to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29)—and this work of sanctification fulfills God's ultimate purpose, too, by showing his glory, especially the glory of his grace (Ephesians 2:7, 10).
And now, as I write this paragraph, my day is ending. It went, more or less, according to my plan, although my granddaughter's nap was shorter than usual so I did less writing during the day than I'd hoped. But one thing is certain: My day was exactly as God planned it way back in eternity past. Nothing catastrophic happened, but if something tragic had occurred, it, too, would have been what God had planned for me.
This truth gives me comfort and hope. It means no matter how I feel about my day (or week, or year), everything is in control—God's control. Everything is working according to God's plan; every circumstance is accomplishing his purpose. There is meaning in every minute of a toddler's nap, and in every single tear, too.
I won't know all of God's reasons for any particular circumstance, but I know this: The ultimate purpose for every circumstance is his own glory. And for those who love God, all circumstances are working to form Christlikeness within. For those who love him, these reasons are enough.
Here are a few ways to learn more about God's eternal plan:
- Read up on God's decrees in your favorite systematic theology. In Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine it's section D in the chapter on God's providence. Section C on God's government is useful, too.
- Check out A Doctrinal Study: The Decrees of God by James P. Boyce.
- Study Chapter 3: Of God's Decrees in the Westminster Confession of Faith (pdf).
- Read the first three chapters of Ephesians to learn about God's eternal plan to save and what he is accomplishing through it.