The Scripture says, “Everything serves His plan.” We’re not going to understand everything that happens, but faith says, “God, this doesn’t make sense to me, but I trust You. I know it’s serving Your plan.” Nothing happens without God’s permission. Just because He put a dream in your heart doesn’t mean there won’t be delays, opposition, bad breaks. There will be times when it seems like the enemy got the best of you. That’s when the lies come. “It will never happen now. You’ll never get well, never see your business succeed, never meet the right person.” No, God has not changed His mind. Despite the delays, the opposition, what wasn’t fair, He’s saying, “It’s still going to happen.” You’re still going to accomplish the dream, you’re still going to get well, you’re still going to have that baby.
What does the Bible say about God’s plan?
We’ve all had those times where we’re scratching our heads and wondering, “What next?” Maybe you’re in that place right now. If you’re in high school, you might be wondering whether to go to college or pursue a trade. Perhaps you believe college is in your future, but which college? And what major? Maybe you’re single and wondering if God has that special someone for you. Perhaps you need to make a significant career decision and wonder which step to take.
Many of us wonder what God’s plan is for our lives – in general, and specifically. David wrote that God planned our lives while in the womb: “Your eyes have seen my formless substance; and in Your book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:16)
Let’s unwrap what God’s Word says about God’s plan for us. What is His ultimate plan for the universe, and what part do we play in His plan individually? How can we know His specific plan for us?
“God’s plans will always be greater and more beautiful than all your disappointments.”
“Nothing can stop God’s plan in your life.”
“God’s plans for your future are far greater than any of your fears.”
“God’s plan is bigger than your past.”
“He has a plan and I have a purpose.”
“God’s plan has a greater purpose.”
“Vision is the ability to see God’s presence, to perceive God’s power, to focus on God’s plan in spite of the obstacles.” Charles R. Swindoll
In the words of John Piper, “God’s ultimate plan for the universe is to glorify Himself through the white-hot worship of a blood-bought bride.”
Jesus came the first time to set right what went wrong in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin and death entered the world. In His foreknowledge, God’s ultimate plan existed from the foundations of the world – before Adam and Eve were even created. (Revelation 13:8, Matthew 25:34, 1 Peter 1:20).
“This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:23-24)
Jesus came to die in our place, purchasing salvation for all who would put their faith in Him. Part two of God’s ultimate plan is His second coming.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
“For the Son of Man will come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will repay each one according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:27)
During His 1000-year reign with the saints on earth, Satan will be bound in the Abyss. At the end of the millennium, the ultimate battle with the devil and the false prophet will ensue, and they will be cast into the Lake of Fire along with anyone whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 20)
Then the heaven and earth will pass away, to be replaced with God’s new heaven and earth – of unimaginable beauty and glory, where there will be no sin, sickness, death, or sadness. (Revelation 21-22)
And this brings us to God’s ultimate plan for the church and believers. After His crucifixion, and before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave His Great Commission:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
As believers, we have a key part in God’s master plan – of reaching the lost and bringing them into the kingdom of God. He’s put us in charge of that part of His plan!
And this brings us back to Piper’s “white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride,” exalting and glorifying God. We do that now, hopefully! Only a church alive will attract the lost into the kingdom. We will be worshiping through eternity, with the angels and saints: “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!’” (Revelation 19:6)
1. Revelation 13:8 (KJV) “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
2. Acts 2:23-24 “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
3. Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
4. 1 Timothy 2:4 (ESV) “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
5. 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.”
6. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
7. Romans 5:12-13 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— 13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.”
9. Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
10. Ephesians 1:10 “to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”
11. Isaiah 43:7 “Everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”
God has a definite plan for all believers – specific things we need to be doing in this life. One part of that plan is the Great Commission, mentioned above. We have a divine directive to reach the lost – those nearby and those unreached worldwide. We should be intentional in fulfilling Jesus’ commission – it might mean holding a seeker’s Bible study for your neighbors or serving overseas as a missionary, and it should always involve praying and giving for the work of missions. We should seek God’s specific guidance for what we can individually do to follow His plan.
Our sanctification is a second intrinsic part of God’s plan for all believers.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Sanctification means the process of becoming holy – or set apart for God. It includes sexual purity and a transformation of our minds so that we reject the world’s standards for God’s standards.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:4)
You might be thinking, “Well, okay, so that’s God’s general will for my life, but what is His specific will for my life? Let’s explore that!
12. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
13. Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
14. Acts 16:9-10 “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
15. 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
15. Matthew 28:16-20 “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
16. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.”
17. Ephesians 1:4 “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
18. Romans 8:28-30 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
What to do when you don’t understand God’s plan?
We all have those times in our lives when we don’t understand God’s plan. We may be at a crossroads and need to make a crucial decision, or circumstances may be hitting us, and we don’t know what’s going on.
Some people just want to open their Bible and have God’s specific plan jump out at them. And yes, part of our plan is found in God’s Word, and God wants us to be pursuing that with all diligence – loving God and loving others, taking His Gospel to the unreached, walking in obedience to His commands, and so on. It’s unlikely that God will reveal His specific blueprint for your life if you aren’t following His general will revealed in His Word because they are tightly bound together.
But while God’s general plan for you and me and all believers is the same, the specifics differ from person to person. God has gifted us with different spiritual gifts. The endpoint is the same – to build up the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12) But each of us is going to do that uniquely. God also gave each of us unique personalities and natural abilities. And we all come from divergent backgrounds with different experiences that give each of us a diverse knowledge base. Therefore, having a good understanding of your spiritual gifts, natural abilities, education, experience, and skill set – considering all these factors can help you understand God’s plan for your career and ministry in the church.
Prayer is crucial for understanding God’s plan. If you are perplexed about your next step, entrust it to God in prayer. You’ll be surprised at how praying to God about your situation will make a difference. Be tender and listen to the Holy Spirit’s soft voice guiding you. It’s especially likely to happen when you are praying.
One Christian man had been applying for jobs, and although he had extensive experience and good references, nothing was happening. He’d been invited to a job interview early on, and it went well, but the company’s situation had changed, and they only had a part-time position. Two months later, the man and his wife were praying, and suddenly the wife said, “Contact Tracy!” (Tracy was the supervisor who had interviewed him earlier). So, the man did, and it turned out that Tracy now had a full-time position for him! While praying, the Holy Spirit nudged.
Seek godly counsel! It helps to have a Spirit-filled person with whom to discuss your situation. It might be your pastor or a firm believer at church, or it might be a family member or friend. God often will speak to you through another person who is wise, tender to the Holy Spirit, and can help you consider your options.
19. Psalm 48:14 “For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.”
20. Psalm 138:8 “The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.”
21. 1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
22. Jeremiah 42:3 “Pray that the LORD your God may inform us as to how we should live and what we should do.”
23. Colossians 4:3 “Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned.”
24. Psalm 119:133 “Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil.”
25. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
26. Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
27. Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.”
28. Matthew 14:31 “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You have little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
29. Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”
30. Isaiah 55:8–9 (ESV “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
31. Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
Bible verses about trusting God’s plan
We can understand God’s plan and trust it through being familiar with God’s Word. The Bible won’t give you all the specifics, but if you know the Bible well and how God worked through different people and circumstances, you can gain insight into your own situation, strengthening your faith.
To build up this Biblical trust, you need to be in the Word daily, meditating on what you’re reading. Ask yourself questions: What are the implications of this passage on my current situation? Why did God say that? Where did that Biblical scenario lead? How did that Biblical person demonstrate trust, even when he or she didn’t understand what was going on?
32. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
33. Psalm 37:5 (NKV) “Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.”
34. Psalm 62:8 “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge.”
35. Psalm 9:10 (NASB) “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, Lord, have not abandoned those who seek You.”
36. Psalm 46:10-11 “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
37. Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
38. Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT) “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
39. Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
40. Psalm 9:10 “Those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have never left alone those who look for You.”
41. Isaiah 26:3 (KJV) “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
42. Psalm 18:6 “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.”
43. Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
44. Proverbs 28:26 “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.”
45. Mark 5:36 “Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
This relates to the trust factor above. Sometimes, we’re afraid to “let go and let God” because we worry it might end up in disaster. Occasionally, we don’t even bring God into the picture at all – we just make our own plans without consulting Him. God’s Word warns against doing this:
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
We’ve got to remember that God is for us!
“We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Think about it – we have no idea what the future will bring, so any plans we make are constantly subject to revision – as we have all learned in the pandemic! But God knows the future!
We should remember, when making plans, to lay them out before God and seek His wisdom and guidance. These might be big plans, like marriage or career, or “minor” plans like what to put on today’s “to do” list. Big or little, God delights in guiding you on the right path. You’ll find that when you start seeking His plan, instead of doing it all on your own, that doors open for you, and everything falls into place.
46. Psalm 33:11 “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
47. Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
48. Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
49. Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
50. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
51. Proverbs 16:3 “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.”
52. Job 42:2 “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”
53. James 4:13-15 “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
54. Psalm 147:5 “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”
Waiting on God’s timing
Waiting on God’s timing doesn’t mean passively doing nothing in the interim. When we wait on God’s timing, we actively acknowledge His sovereignty in our circumstances and our obedience to His plan.
Think about King David – the prophet Samuel anointed him as the next king when David was a teenager. But King Saul was still alive! Although God revealed his destiny to him, David had to wait years for God’s timing. And he had to wait when on the run from Saul – hiding out in caves and living in the wilderness. (1 Samuel 16-31) Many of the Biblical Psalms are David’s heart cry, “When?????? God – when????”
Nevertheless, David did wait on God. Even when he had the chance to take Saul’s life – to manipulate events – he chose not to. He learned that waiting on God is depending on God – rather than self. He realized that bravery and strength come from putting trust in God’s timing, and thus he could say, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24)
And while David was waiting, he was learning more about God, and he was learning obedience. He immersed himself in God’s Word. God’s laws brought comfort in his wanderings and waiting:
“When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord. …Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.” (Psalm 119:52, 54-55)
55. Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”
56. Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”
57. Isaiah 60:22 “The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the LORD, will make it happen.”
58. Psalm 31:15 “My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!”
59. 2 Peter 3:8-9 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
60. Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
61. Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”
62. Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
Yes! And no – because God’s sovereign plans go on regardless. God is not surprised by anything that we do. A prime example is Samson. (Judges 13-16) God healed Samson’s mother of infertility and told her His plan for her son: to save Israel from the hands of the Philistines. But when Samson grew up, he kept getting romantically and sexually involved with Philistine women – against his parents’ warnings and against God’s law. Despite his sin, God still used him to accomplish His purposes against the Philistines – giving Samson great strength to overcome the cruel overlords of Israel.
But eventually, Samson’s weakness for the wrong women caused him to lose God’s supernatural strength. He ended up getting captured – the Philistines gouged out his eyes and chained him up as a prisoner slave. Even then, God restored his strength, and he killed 3000 Philistines (and himself) by pulling down the temple’s pillars and crushing everyone.
Samson is an excellent example of God using us despite ourselves. But it goes so much better for us when we cooperate with God’s plan and keep our focus on that, not getting distracted with the things of the world – “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) Samson still accomplished God’s purposes, but as a blind slave in chains.
63. Isaiah 46:10 “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
64. Isaiah 14:24 “The LORD of Hosts has sworn: “Surely, as I have planned, so will it be; as I have purposed, so will it stand.”
65. Isaiah 25:1 “O LORD, You are my God! I will exalt You; I will praise Your name. For You have worked wonders–plans formed long ago–in perfect faithfulness.”
66. Hebrews 12:2 “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
67. Job 26:14 “And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”
You will remain in God’s will when you daily die to self and present your body a living sacrifice to God. You will stay in God’s will when you love Him with all your heart, soul, body, and strength and love others as you love yourself. You will remain in God’s will when your chief focus is on knowing God and making Him known – to the ends of the earth. You will stay in God’s will when you choose to let Him transform your mind rather than accepting the world’s values.
You will remain in God’s will when you use the gifts He has given you to serve and build up the body of Christ. As you commit each day to God and seek His guidance, you will remain in His perfect will and receive the beautiful blessings He longs to pour over you. When you hate evil and pursue sanctification and holiness, you please God – even if you occasionally stumble. When you walk in humility and honor toward others and God, you fulfill His will.
68. Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
69. Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
70. Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
71. Galatians 5:16-18 “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
God Created you with a destiny. He equipped you with everything you need to accomplish His plan for your life. If you feel like you lack the wisdom to know what to do, ask our generous God – He wants you to ask! He rejoices when you seek His guidance. God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect. (Romans 12:2) As you submit to God and allow Him to transform your mind, you will fulfill the plan He has for you.