Is God’s Plan For Your Life a Blueprint or a Game Plan?

In the modern religious world it seems almost heretical to think that God doesn’t have a specific plan for each person (by specific plan I mean that He has planned details of our lives). In everyday conversation and on social media, people attribute events in their life to the specific fulfillment of God’s plans and comfort themselves regarding tragedy considering it was sent by God for a purpose and was not mere chance. Some people anguish trying to discover God’s will for their lives or wonder why God’s plan is bringing them such trials and sorrows. Some interpret many events or Bible passages as signs or messages from God guiding them on this supposed road-map.

What does the Bible say about God’s plans and our lives?

God Had Specific Plans For Some People

Before we study the issue we must make it clear by stating that God did have specific plans for some people in history. The Old and New Testament are filled with people whom God used to accomplish His will. Using words like “I have chosen you” or “you have been appointed” He describes plans for people like Moses, Pharaoh, David, John the Baptist, and Paul (among others) to accomplish specific objectives. He even used nations to accomplish His purposes. Even within these exceptions most, like Pharaoh, He used for a limited purpose and there is not mention of further plans for them outside of that defined need.

Also, with the nations, Pharaoh, and the Jews who killed Jesus God used their evil motives and personal ambitions to accomplish His purposes. He accomplished His will in spite of their wickedness or disobedience. With others, like the apostle Paul, the plans were not obvious or revealed to them even though they spoke other things by inspiration (see also the future of Peter and John in John 21:20-25). God, as sovereign ruler, can use His creation as He wills to accomplish His purposes, Romans 9. But a distinction needs to be made between a specific detailed plan for their whole life or a specific plan for a part of their life that moves His master plan forward. In other words, just because God had a plan for Pharaoh during the time of Israel’s bondage and their release does not mean that He had a continuing specific plan for Pharaoh once Israel left Egypt.


Blueprint or Game Plan?

When thinking of God’s plans in our lives, I think Don Truex explained the two approaches best in an excellent sermon asking if God has a blueprint for our life or a game plan. A blueprint is a specific detailed plan with a defined outcome. There is no room for choice because if you diverge from the blueprint you can’t build what was designed. A game plan, by contrast, is a general approach or strategy that allows a lot of flexibility for choice and many possible outcomes that are in harmony with the general objective. As Brother Truex notes, “with blueprints, there is no ‘Plan B’.”

Discovering the Blueprint

The crux of the problem is revealed when we try to discover God’s plan for us. God’s word was written to a universal audience so I find passages that apply to me but not only to me. My name is not listed in scripture with a unique plan for my life. Therefore, if God has a blueprint for our lives,  His will must be revealed outside of scripture. The central problem is that we have no guidance in the New Testament on what signs to look for in our lives, how to tune into the messages of God, or how to discern what is a message from God pointing down one path or from Satan leading me down another path. We have no scriptures telling us that God speaks through feelings, promptings, or a sense of peace to direct our decisions as He navigates us through life. We are not told to expect the leading of the Holy Spirit or instructions on how to discern it. Yet many Christians interpret (and that is the key: they interpret) events and feelings as indications from God that He wants them to take a certain action, make a decision, or is satisfied with their choice. Some have called this the “third revelation.”

Though foreign to the New Testament, this “third revelation” is described as God’s leading through emotions, impulses, and “speaking to/putting upon your heart” to fulfill God’s specific plan for your life. This is idea, rooted in mysticism,  is popular in Christian bookstores, but is foreign to God’s word. Though a former believer in this idea, Reformed writer Gary Gilley, in an enlightening podcast answers biblical arguments offered in support of God’s inner leading and the absence of  Bible instruction about  listening for God’s voice in our heart or how to detect His prompting. He also addresses what proponents do not: why is the “prompting” not considered binding or obligatorily and disobedience considered a sin?

The last question is quite important because if God does have a blueprint, what if we ignore it or choose another path? Proponents argue that many of the choices are not moral choices but are lifestyle choices (should I choose this job or that or live in this city or that) but if God is giving us signals that we should live in Atlanta but we choose to live in Tampa, why would we not be rebellious sinners for circumventing His plan? Any divergence from the plan means we cannot build exactly what God planned! Will God then force us to do His will and take away our free will? I think it might surprise some who teach that predestination is not taught in scripture to realize that they are contradicting their view of man’s free will by promoting the blueprint concept.  When we talk of people that God has planned for us to marry, jobs He has planned for us to have, etc. we are promoting this blueprint concept whether we have realized the implications or not.

Discovering the Game Plan

If we understand that the Bible does not have a specific plan for a mate, job, place to live, or the minute details of life we understand that God could still have a general plan for us to follow. We are faced with the same dilemma described above: discovering the plan. Since this plan is not “personalized” we are given general direction and boundaries and the flexibility to choose within those boundaries. The New Testament is filled with general guidance for the Christian to be holy in his life, edify his brethren, be a light in the world, abstain from immorality, teach the lost, etc. These commands and expectations are bound on all Christians. Some specific life decisions that blueprint followers look for feelings or impressions from God to guide them,  game plan followers look to the principles of scripture to guide their judgment. Consider these examples:

  • How much should I give to the contribution? Whatever you determine is appropriate, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.
  • Who should I marry? Whoever you want to as long as they have a scriptural right to marry, 1 Corinthians 7.

In a book I highly recommend, Is that You, Lord?, Gary Gilley listed several decisions of Paul in his missionary planning and travel that were not attributed to God “laying something on his heart” or some prompting but were completely Paul’s discretion: Titus 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Philippians 2:25, 1 Corinthians 16:3-4.

To find the game plan, we study the New Testament instructions for all Christians. We follow general plans such as Titus 2:11-14:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

The challenge here is not to try to find God’s will through some mystical and mysterious promptings but to submit our will and our desires to the will and desires of God expressed in His word.

My View: God’s Game Plan

We understand that “all things work together for good for those that love God” (Romans 8:28). It is not for us to figure out what He is doing through His providence, but to obey His will so He can accomplish His purposes through us. Instead of wondering where God wants me to live or what job H wants me to take, I must make those choices using wisdom taught by God’s word and in whatever city I choose to live and what career I pursue, live to His glory. God can use me where I am even though He has left the decision making to me.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6) ESV

Instead of attributing events to the direct hand of God, I take the Mordecai attitude of “PERHAPS you were brought here for a reason” because PERHAPS it was just chance but you can use the opportunity to serve God. Unless God explicitly reveals His actions, I feel it is presumptuous of me to say “God did THIS.” Give glory to God that whether by chance or His purpose, the action took place but in humility remember that “His ways are past finding out.”

To take the game plan view, we realize that God has given us boundaries in which to act, guidance on decision making, authority to make choices in our lives, consequences for our choices, and acts providentially to take care of us and make all things to work together for our good. It does not diminish His role in our lives but recognizes that God has a role and has created a role for us to accomplish His will. I do not have to anguish that I may have married the wrong person, lived in the wrong place, chosen the wrong career, or messed up other choices because I wasn’t in tune with the vibrations of the Spirit or hearing the voice of God in my feelings or some signs. If I am obeying His will I am accomplishing His will.

Your View

Your view will largely depend on your view of predestination and free-will. However, there is confusion when people teach that God has given us free-will to act but then speak of trying to find God’s specific plan for our lives. Thinking through your view, based on what God’s word teaches, will help you be more consistent in how you think and how you speak.

Regret 2: Missed Much by Working Too Much

Several years ago, a former palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, wrote a widely circulated article, based on her discussions with dying patients, describing the regrets they shared with her in their final period of life. The top five were featured in an article on her site and she has since turned the article into a book.  Last week the web site addicted2success listed 10 Regrets In Life By Those About To Die. This week I am discussing five of those regrets.

I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. (Ware)

Poorly Focused Career Life

office web

Some people have to work hard and unsatisfying jobs to pay for a lifestyle that requires a lot of money. They sacrifice joy of a delightful career in order to have a certain type of car, a second home, or other signs of  wealth. If a person wants to make this sacrifice, they are free to do it. However, many older people, especially men, wish that they would have pursued a career that they enjoyed and not one that required long hours of unpleasant work. Even working your dream job has many tasks and requirements that are not pleasing but overall the job brings satisfaction. Considering the average person works at least forty hours a week at a job (often more), one should pursue a career they enjoy with people that they are pleased to work with.
I don’t think work should be the central part of our life but a means to help us accomplish more important goals. Serving God should be the center of our lives and work can help us accomplish that heavenly work. Ecclesiastes 2:10 and 18-26 speaks bitterly of the hard work one does while he lives only to leave the things he bought with the money he earned to others who might not appreciate or take care of those things. This was work that was performed under a hot sun and often with sorrow and problems that kept him awake at night. Instead, the writer encourages us to enjoy the work at hand, the simple pleasures of life, and a relationship with God. Working hard for money we cannot spend or enjoy is emptiness.

Non-Career Work Priorities

Even outside of the job world, we can keep ourselves so busy that we do not simply enjoy life. We can get involved with very good charities, social organizations, government, and outside activities and not spend adequate time alone or with family. There are many people and organizations that will take as much time as we will give them and ask for more. It is great to get involved with a charity or organization that helps others because of the impact you can have on other people’s lives in making the world a better place (link). However, you need to determine how much time you will give so you can have time for yourself, your loved ones, and other obligations in your life. As in the previous post, you have to learn to say “no” to good things in order to say “yes” to better things. People will not always understand or appreciate your decision but they don’t have to. They have the responsibility for their choices and consequences, you have a responsibility for yours. They may want more out of you, but you must feel free to give what you want and say “no” to what is beyond those bonds.
My kids are involved with band and so my wife and I are involved with the band boosters. We have a great group of parents and a good band. My wife and I were treasurers and I served as vice-president for a couple of years. The booster club really wanted me to be president but I knew the MANY responsibilities of the job. I declined because to do the job well would take away from my work preaching, writing for this blog, work with two camps close to my heart, and time with my family. I had pressure to be president but a stronger desire to do these other things. If I would have taken the job due to guilt or pride, I don’t think I would have done a good job and all of these other areas would have suffered as well. As it was, I determined to be a good booster club member and supported the president who did a great job.

Godly Direction

For a satisfying life, consider the teaching of Ecclesiastes 9:7-10:

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol [the grave], to which you are going. (ESV)
 The advice is to enjoy the pleasures of a simple life. Enjoy the simple pleasures earned through work that you do with your best effort. Enjoy the people in your life. The book of Ecclesiastes points out how trying to find meaning in life in fame, great wisdom, wealth, or pleasure will only result in sorrow. The real life experiences of people in every generation continue to reinforce the wisdom of this book. Remember this the next time you hear of a beautiful (or handsome), wealthy celebrity who is suffering from substance abuse, alcoholism, depression, or who committed suicide because these things did not bring them happiness. What a contrast when you see some who live in poverty who are smiling because the things they value in life are not things.
Remember the words of 1 Timothy 6:6-10:
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (ESV)
Other posts in this series:

Regret 1: I Sacrificed My Dreams to Please Others

Several years ago, a former palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, wrote a widely circulated article, based on her discussions with dying patients, describing the regrets they shared with her in their final period of life. The top five were featured in an article on her site and she has since turned the article into a book. Last week the web site addicted2success listed 10 Regrets In Life By Those About To Die. This week I’m discussing five of those regrets.

This week I want to look at each of the regrets and some lessons we can learn from them. I would urge you to read the full length article on her site for additional information.

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. (Ware)

Disciples of Christ live a life that follows His teachings and example, reflecting His glory, which includes loving and serving others. Either through guilt or misunderstanding, we can sometimes allow others to have unnecessary influence in our lives or we yield to what they want in our lives instead of what we want. As long as we are following God’s commandments we have great liberty to choose what we will do in life and how we will live. Parents and friends may have ideas on how we should live our lives, where we should live, what career we should pursue, and other matters. We must not forget that our lives were given to us by God and we can make the choices on how to live. Even people who love us dearly may give us terrible or outdated advice.

Career Choices

For example, a young person may say that they want to pursue a particular type of career. Often the reply will be, “You can’t make money doing that” or “You may have a hard time finding a job doing that.” I’ve told young people going into unique careers that older people often respond this way when they don’t know anyone who does that type of job or do not know much about it. In fact, I have heard older people give young people advice to go into a certain career field that was undergoing massive job layoffs! In the past they knew that this kind of job paid well and was stable but their information was outdated. I’m not saying don’t listen to the advice but take it as advice, not the absolute truth. Investigate career paths for yourself. Learn what you have to do to make it succeed and pursue your dream. Perhaps your dream job doesn’t pay a lot but if you can conform your life to live within that pay then you will be successful. There was a career path I would have loved but didn’t pursue it because I listened to the “experts” in my life telling me that it wouldn’t be a good choice. Sadly, I listened to them and gave up something I would have really enjoyed instead of trying to see how I could make it work.


Sometimes parents will drive their children to live out the dreams they didn’t pursue. A father may have been a good athlete but didn’t play at the college or professional level but pushes his child to do this. The child may want to please his father but does not have the heart for sports that his father did and will be miserable playing. Some people, following the dreams of their parents, pursue careers as accountants, lawyers, business owners, or other high profile jobs and are miserable in those jobs because they wanted another career path. If you are in this situation, discuss your dreams with your parents, be prepared to deal with the objections mentioned in the last paragraph, and share the career path you want to pursue.

Personal Dreams

Sometimes we do not fulfill our dreams because we are so busy trying to please others. We can help other people carry their burdens but each of us has the responsibility to carry their own burdens, Galatians 6:1-5.  Some people will let you carry all of their burdens: do their work, make lots of demands on your time, etc. They might try to make you feel guilty for not doing more but remember they are responsible for their own lives. Many years ago I spent several hours at the house of a husband and wife with marital problems AND problems raising their kids. I gave them some practical things to do to help in both situations. A couple of weeks later they called during the middle of some family time saying, “You need to come over here. We’re having problems.” I asked if they had followed the advice I gave earlier. They said “no.” I told them to discuss these things because I wasn’t going to come over repeat the advice they ignored. I didn’t feel guilty because they had ignored my help before. I would have sacrificed precious time with my family because these people were making poor decisions in their family and until they made different choices they would continue to have the bad consequences.

Your dreams may include time writing, drawing, performing music, gardening, sports, etc. but you are denying enjoying those dreams because of the demands others are putting on you. You need to feel confident telling people “no” so you can tell yourself “yes” to enjoy this life. This is a life in balance that serves and honor others but also honors yourself and your dreams. A quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes (and Benjamin Disreli…but I think it is Holmes) says, “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” You do not know how long you have to live, enjoy today. Serve God, serve others, enjoy life yourself.

The Will of God: Pursue Your Dreams

Perhaps you think that wanting to fulfill your dreams is selfish and you must always do things to please others. A comedian once asked, “If we are to serve others, what are the ‘others’ supposed to do?” It is not selfish to pursue the desires of your heart, but it is the will of God. Consider this wisdom from Ecclesiastes 11:9-10:

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. (ESV)

The inspired wisdom of Solomon encourages the young to pursue what is in his/her heart as long as they are not sinning in pursuing it. If the ways of our heart and what we desire with our eyes is not evil, God says to enjoy it, not to stress about it, and to pursue it while we have the health to do it. In the next chapter he says we are to “fear God and keep His commandments,” reminding us that our desires must be good.

God has blessed you with special characteristics and gifts and you are unique of all people who have ever been made. Follow your dreams and glorify God in your life. Some will rejoice in the life you have chosen and some will never understand. One lesson you must learn early is that anything worth pursuing will have its critics, in achievements you will have people who are jealous, and some will never understand. Let them misunderstand and be critical: you do not have to please them. Ultimately you only have to please God and the person in the mirror.

Do you have regrets for dreams you didn’t pursue or success stories where you pursued your dream even when others could understand? Share those stories or other observations in the comments!

Other Posts in this series:

Regret 2: Missed Much By Working Too Much
Regret 3: I Wanted the Courage to Express My Feelings
Regret 4: I Miss My Friends
Regret 5: I Wish I Had Let Myself Be Happier

You Are Loved At Home

The final thing that young people leaving home should remember, is that they have people at home who will always love them and rejoice when they return. You are blessed if that is your physical family but it may be that such a family is made up of friends and brethren.

When you are away from home be sure to maintain contact. Send emails, texts, letters, or other messages to let them know you love them and care about them. It may be tough as your schedule becomes busy but always make time to communicate with those you love.

When you get tired, sad, or confused they can be a source of strength and guidance. Sometimes home is just a great place to rest and reflect. When you return you will be different. You will be more independent and mature and so expect that sometimes there may be some conflict or discomfort but this is usually temporary and, if you communicate with those at home, you can work through any difficulties.

This blessed experience looks forward to a heavenly home where God will welcome His faithful children to live with Him forever. Live so that you enjoy the blessings of God on this earth and the joys of His eternal home.

Other Articles in this series:

Live Worthy of Your High Calling

As described in an earlier post, you must resist the call to live according to the foolishness of this world. You should live a pure and holy life, not only to avoid the negative consequences of foolish living but also to honor God who called you out of this world to be His child.

Walking After The Flesh Will Destroy You

Proverbs 5:7-14 warns against living an immoral life and suffering the consequences of giving your honor to others, losing your wealth to wickedness, and having a tired sorrowful mind and body worn out by poor choices and disease. I have known people who looked older than their age because of the stress that immoral living puts on the body. Some suffer diseases for the rest of their life because of poor choices. I knew a man that said he lost several businesses and fortunes due to “drinking, drugs, and partying.” He told me with tired, sad eyes to “keep living like you are living” and “don’t make the mistakes I made.”

Iniquity ensnares us and binds us to our foolish desires, Proverbs 5:20-23:

Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD,
and he ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray. (ESV)

As Galatians 6:7-9 teaches, we will reap a harvest of the life that we have sown. We must not deceive ourselves to think that we can escape the consequences of our actions. Likewise, if we sow good things we can live a good life.

Live Worthy Of Jesus’ Sacrifice
In Ephesians 4:1-3 Paul urges Christians to live worthy of the high calling of Jesus. As Jesus was holy and died to save us, so our life should reflect an appreciation of such a great sacrifice and a desire to live like Him.

Paul also told the Colossians, in Colossians 1:9-14, that working worthy of the calling reflected a life abiding in God’s power, doing good works to serve God and others, and increasing in the knowledge of God. Since God called us from the foolishness of sin and the darkness of the world, our lives should reflect the wisdom of righteousness and the light of God.

A Description of the Worthy Life
Proverbs 4:20-27  provides a great summary of the worthy life a young person should live:

My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.
(Proverbs 4:20-27 ESV)

Other Articles in this series:

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