Psalm 40:5 “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us–none can compare to You–if I proclaim and declare them, they are more than I can count.”
I was talking with a friend the other day and he told me a story about a wonderful woman he once knew. She was the wife of the senior pastor of the church he attended and was loved by many. Her motto that she continually encouraged others by was “God has a wonderful plan for your life”, and my friend as well as his family were greatly blessed by her continual encouragement. One day it was discovered she had cancer and many of the people who had been touched by her love prayed earnestly for her healing. Each time the congregation would come together, they would give encouragement back to her and express how much they were praying for her. Believing that God wanted her to be healed and caring about her life, the encouragement was overshadowed by the news that the cancer had continued to grow. With every subsequent encounter the response was the same until eventually this dear sweet lady was overtaken by the cancer and died.
My friends sadness is amplified by the fact that very little is spoken of that lady today. Her legacy of love was far reaching but the memory of her has seemed to fade.
This story invokes all sorts of questions in my mind.
- Did God’s “wonderful plan” include dying from cancer?
- Did the prayers for healing fall on deaf ears or did God have a different plan?
- Did she die prematurely?
- Why didn’t God answer their prayers?
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.”
This is Berean study bible version but several other versions include words like prosperity or goodness. In the Hebrew, the word used here is Shalom which in its simplest version means peace.
Do you see what this is really saying?
- God knows His plans. He doesn’t make them up as He goes, they aren’t a surprise to Him when they conclude. He is very aware of what He is doing and why He is doing it.
- God’s plan is to give us peace. He doesn’t say that He is going to remove us from trouble or heal us every time we get sick. He says that He will impart peace to us which is a condition that carries us through regardless of the situation we are in.
- Evil cannot usurp God’s purpose. When something befalls us while God is in control, it doesn’t mean Satan has gained the upper hand. We can often attribute any condition that is outside of our plans as being evil.
- All that God does is good. The prospect that God desires a kind and compassionate woman to live a long full life is based off our view of what good looks like. Our future is found in God, not in gaining this world but in gaining Christ.
- Hope is strengthened when it is placed in something that endures. Our bodies will not endure. Our lives and the things we own will not endure. God establishes our future because He is from everlasting to everlasting. Whatever He does—has no end.
What do these promises mean for a people that endured such loss?
Jesus prayed to the Father in Matthew 26:42 “may your will be done”. In John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
Ultimately, it is the will of God that is paramount–not our will based off our preconceived notions.
If we pray for someone to be healed and God has plans to take them home–we are praying contrary to God’s will.
Although our intents are meant to be kind and loving, we are actually creating a a situation that places God in a position of being unloving and unkind since He didn’t acquiesce to our desires. It is this type of spiritual practice that ruins the faith of others. If we allow our emotions to influence our perspective, we will think we know God’s will but find the contrary. When others who are weak in their faith see this exhibited in christians, it gives them the impression God is a liar, that His promises are not true.
Since our ambitions for long life and good health seem noble, we must be in the right. This is the philosophy of the world and the world is the one who is judging all of these actions as they unfold. We are called to be Christ to the world and if we represent Him incorrectly, we tarnish God’s revelation of Himself as He meant it to be.
God does have a wonderful plan for our lives, but His interpretation of what is wonderful doesn’t always align with ours. This motto is a very pleasant way to encourage others but it is a very poor way to present the gospel. If people come to God with the ill fashioned idea that God has wonderful things in store for them, they base this view off a world view of what is wonderful.
–God’s wonderful plans include dying to this flesh, being extricated from family that disagrees with our faith, ridicule from colleagues who think Jesus was just a man, or possibly martyrdom for living out a faith before others who hate you.
This is the history of the church…persecution, hunger, beatings, imprisonment, and all forms of death.
The wonderful part is what these faithful martyrs are inheriting as a result of their faithfulness.
Mark 11:23 “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.”
This scripture is a focal point of many who think that God answers all prayer in the affirmative. It is the scripture just previous to this that is key:
Mark 11:22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus said to them.
It is faith in God’s purpose and plan that gives power. If God says to “go” and a mountain stands in your way, God will move that which tries to hinder His people. There are a lot of mountains on this earth that have been in their place for thousands of years….they have never moved. These mountains have always been right where they are. Do you suppose that there have been people who needed to go up or around those mountains to share the gospel at some point in history?
…Of course there has.
Just like Jesus proclaimed to the disciples that Peter’s declaration of faith would be the rock by which He would build His church, the rock and the mountain are symbolic representations of a spiritual truth.
Anything that appears as impossible to overcome is a mountain in your life. If the Lord has instructed you to go and a worldly mountainous obstacle stands in your way, the Lord will remove it and cast it back into the sea of the world by which it came.
Death of the Saints
Do you know what the Bible says about God’s people who die in the flesh?
Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints”
Revelation 14:13 “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
Psalm 17:15 “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”
Philippians 3:21 “Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.“
1 Corinthians 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:42 “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.”
Do any of these sound like God is lamenting the death of His people?
Do any of these sound like they died prematurely?
Does it sound like Satan gained the upper hand by inflicting a disease?
The answer is a resounding NO! To the contrary we see nothing but victory–
Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
We must measure our response to God’s truth in everything. We cannot allow the inclinations of the world to infringe upon the ideals that God has established. A right perspective is a Truth based perspective, it may not be what we always want but it is always good.