It tends to elude us, hiding just around the corner of life with all the “if onlys” that torment us:
“If only everything would turn out okay.”
“If only my loved one would get better.”
“If only I could find a spouse.”
“If only my candidate had won.”
“If only I had more money.”
“If only I didn’t have this disability.”
“If only so-and-so would treat me better.”
“If only I were prettier. Or taller. Or stronger.”
Our thinking seems to be that if these things were true, life would be good and we would have peace. Only to discover, when some of those things do come to pass, that peace is still absent. What are we missing?
The missing piece is faith — knowing with assurance that God has a plan and purpose for our lives, and that He will provide for that plan and for our every need. True peace isn’t dependent on our circumstances. But when it seems everything has gone wrong from what we’d hoped and dreamed, it’s easy to lose faith, and peace vanishes.
If peace comes from faith in God’s plan, purpose, and provision for us, where does faith come from?
Faith comes from choosing to believe what God says, even when everything seems to indicate just the opposite.
So let’s unpack this a little more and look at proof in Scripture that God does have a plan and purpose for us, and that He will provide for us and give us His peace. We will just be scratching the surface, though. There are many more references in Scripture to these truths, which I’ll let you dig into further if you’d like.
But for right now, let’s take a peek into the book of Philippians, a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi while he was imprisoned and facing possible death. If Paul found peace in the midst of these undesirable circumstances based on his faith in God’s plan, purpose, and provision for him, then surely we can, too.
God’s Plan for You
Paul starts out his letter by stating his confidence in God’s work in the Christians at Philippi and His faithfulness to bring His plan for them to completion:
“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3 HCSB)
Not only was this true for the Christians in Philippi, it is true for you and me today. God has begun a good work in us. He has a plan for our lives. He will work everything together for good to bring it to completion, not just in spite of the “bad” things happening in our lives, but in many cases because of them.
Remember Joseph in the Bible. As the late Christian singer Rich Mullins pointed out, God used Joseph’s ten jealous brothers selling him into slavery and later into prison to eventually bring him before the king of Egypt, who appointed him second in command in Egypt. In that position of power, Joseph saved the lives of thousands because he had kept faith in God and His plan, purpose, and provision for him, even in the midst of horrible circumstances. In a moving act of forgiving his brothers, Joseph told them,
“You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people.” (Genesis 50:20 HCSB)
God’s Purpose for You
In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul assures them that
“It is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13 HCSB)
I love this verse because it tells me that God is at work in me to fulfill His purpose for me. It’s not all up to me. I’m a flawed human being, and yet God is working in and through me. Not just in spite of my flaws and failures, but sometimes because of them.
Consider Samson in the Bible, a man who had a weakness for Philistine women whom God had instructed the Israelites not to marry. And yet God worked through Samson’s moral weakness to get him close to the Philistines, and in that proximity used him to defeat the enemy of His people. I believe that Samson did recognize and repent of his moral failure with forbidden women, and in the end God gave him the desire and will to fulfill His purpose in one final courageous act, and he did!
God’s Provision for You
This promise for God’s provision is even more poignant when we realize that Paul wrote it while sitting in prison:
“My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 HCSB)
Paul knew this from personal experience. He had experienced God’s provision for him over and over and by many different means.
Someone recently pointed out to me that God’s promise to provide should be the easiest for us to believe, because it is repeated so often in Scripture, and because there are so many accounts of God providing for people’s needs: food falling daily from the sky, clothes and shoes not wearing out, food multiplying on several different occasions, and money to pay taxes found in the mouth of a fish! Those are just a few of God’s physical provisions. Many other times He provided relationally (Acts 10), emotionally (1 Kings 19), and spiritually (Acts 8:26-39).
God’s provision happens today, too. I’ve experienced it over and over and over again! I believe there are also many times we don’t even recognize when God is providing for us. How is it that month after month, despite our worries, there is money to pay our bills? That we have a roof over our heads and food on our plates? That just the right people show up at just the right moment just when we need them? That the encouragement we need is in a song on the radio when we turn the ignition in our car?
God is real and these “coincidences” don’t “just happen.” He does provide — strategically and specifically many times over. Sometimes, looking back, we realize that the times we thought He’d deserted us, He actually was providing just what we needed all along!
Toward the end of his letter Paul encouraged the Philippians to not worry about anything (including all those “if onlys” that plague us). Instead, he said, pray about those things, and as a result —
“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)
“I have peace, and that’s worth more than anything,” my mother told us on her death bed. It was obvious to us that God’s peace truly was guarding her heart and her mind, giving her freedom to ignore her circumstances and to minister to those who visited and cared for her. She left this world showing us how trustworthy Jesus truly is by her unwavering faith in God’s plan, purpose, and provision for both her and her loved ones, whom she was leaving behind without her.
The peace of God supersedes all other feelings that may be the natural result of earthly experiences. Both Paul and my mother gave testimony to that fact. Both facing death, one in prison and the other in a hospital, and yet both at peace in who they knew their God to be and what He would do for them and those they loved!
When we believe that God is good, that He loves us perfectly, that He is able to bring good out of everything, and that He is sovereign over all – then we, too, can have faith in Hs plan, purpose, and provision, and face the future with peace!