When God Changes Your Plans

When God Changes Your Plans

There is an art to writing a résumé, where you find a way to brag without looking like you’re bragging.

No one explained that to me the first time I prepared a résumé. I thought it was supposed to be an essay about how awesome you are, so mine was 17 pages long and included every place I’d ever spoken and everything nice someone had ever said about me. Miraculously, I got the job. My first week there, I was told that my résumé was passed around the office, and everyone got a good laugh out of it. Needless to say, the aforementioned résumé is now kept under guarded lock and key.

In Jesus’ day, your genealogy was like your résumé. And just like résumés today, genealogies included the best parts and omitted the unflattering details.

When someone was campaigning to be ruler, he’d publish his résumé to show how his bloodline qualified him for the job by being nothing but a string of awesome.

Herod, who was the king when Jesus was born, is a great example. When he published his genealogy, it was missing anyone who was at all shady—and you know a guy like that had to have some crooked relatives that he took after.

When the apostle Matthew wrote Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17, perhaps in response to Herod, he included a bunch of people that would not have helped Jesus’ case for being king. Jesus’ genealogy is filled with moral failures and mess-ups. The broken and the weak. Those outside the circles of power. Moral outsiders like Judah, a drunk with a penchant for prostitutes and David, whose lineage to Jesus included an adulterous affair. Ethnic outsiders like the Gentile, Rahab. Social outsiders like Ruth.

Nobody saw that coming. The Jews wanted their Messiah to be a perfect king, a mighty conqueror, a judge who would end all oppression.

If that’s how Jesus had come, he could not have helped us. He would have crushed us. It would have left us all without hope. But a Christ coming with the blood of adulterers and murderers and Gentiles flowing in his veins can identify with us and save us. He was a King who shared in our humanity.

Jesus came in a totally unexpected way—but that was not for our frustration. It was for our salvation.

If that’s what God did back then, isn’t it possible that when God does something unexpected in your life today, it may not mean that he has forgotten you or neglected you? Could it be that he’s working on a better, grander plan that you don’t see yet? Doesn’t the coming of Jesus teach us at least this?

God says in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV). This verse applies to our salvation: God would not save us in the way we expected, but that’s because his ways are higher and better. It’s also true for how he continues his work in our lives today.

I am a planner. I actually hate to plan, but I hate even more not having a plan, so I plan. And I hate it when things don’t go according to plan.

In a sense, I think we’re all like that, whether or not we are planners. Doesn’t the phrase “There has been a change of plans” just make you cringe? I used to hate hearing that phrase from my parents: “I know we said that we were going to Disney World over spring break, but there’s a been a change of plans.”

Here’s the thing: Some of the greatest things God did in the Bible happened when he deviated from the expected plan.

Just think of Mary. She was not planning to be pregnant. She was planning to get married. She was planning for a wedding. But God was planning to change the world. His plan was better.

In the same way, God pursues a plan in your life often in unexpected ways. But his plan is always better.

Think about your life as being like Jesus’ genealogy. Maybe it seems to you like it’s filled with dysfunction, chaos or bad luck.

But just like he sent Jesus to Earth in an unexpected way as part of his perfect plan, God is working out the unexpected and seemingly chaotic developments in our lives to fit perfectly into his good plan for us.

I’m 43 years old. Compared to God’s plan for history, those 43 years are like one millisecond of a five-hour movie. I can’t explain from my one millisecond how everything ties together. But Matthew shows us that it does tie together. It is, in fact, like a tapestry that looks and feels chaotic on one side. But when you flip it over, it is a perfect picture, without a single strand out of place.

God is weaving the details of your life into something beautiful, with Jesus at the center. You may not make sense now of the unexpected and discouraging circumstances you’re experiencing. But you can be assured that sometimes the best things come through a change of plans.

For more, be sure to listen to the entire message here.

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J.D. Greear
J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.