Two of my favorite Christmas time movies (or plays) are It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. You’re probably familiar with both productions … I watch them every year for entertainment and inspirational purposes.
The message of each is similar. A man’s life is evaluated by its effect on others. George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life) sees that his life IS worth living, though it seems to him like he’s made a royal mess of it. Ebenezer Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) sees the end that his calloused, hardhearted ways produce. His “bah humbug” attitude about generosity, Christmas, and all things good has got to change, or else.
As a result, both men gain a new and strong motivation to live and think differently about the true purpose and goal of life. They will never be the same again.
I love this stuff. I’m motivated by it. I want to live a life that matters, I want a wonderful life, and I want these things on God’s terms. In other words, in whatever ways God defines a wonderful life that matters, that’s the kind of life I want to live. I’m quite sure that almost every pastor feels the same way.
Certainly, our Lord Jesus lived in view of these things.
John 8:29 “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”
John 17:4 “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.”
Paul the apostle sought the same sort of life.
Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Thankfully, each and every true believer has the same opportunity to discover the essence of his/her life.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
In my own life, this passion or goal is challenged constantly … challenged by my flesh which is lazy, incorrigible, and wholly unreliable; it’s challenged by the enemy of our souls: who becomes alarmed when we start to center in on God’s purposes for us; it’s challenged by the world which wants a tame sort of pastor, one which it can control.
Today (December 11) would have been my 35th wedding anniversary, had not my first wife ended the marriage in 2006 to do her own thing. Of course I was struck down by that chain of events (I wouldn’t wish divorce upon anyone … it’s a horrible experience).
But I was also desperate … desperate to know if God’s purposes for my life had been derailed. Even though the divorce was based upon Biblical grounds, it was still a faith test for me, for I’d always thought that the whole of my life would be consumed with the ministry of God’s Word.
Please allow me to regress a bit. It all started back in 1976, when I attended the communion service of a charismatic Lutheran church in another city (no one knew me there, and I knew no one). As I knelt and received the bread and cup from two of the church elders, one of them told me he was having a vision concerning my life. He then went on to share about a tree, a tree with no foliage, bare branches, and no visible fruit. But underneath the ground, he saw a large and extensive root system developing. The interpretation was that the Lord was doing a work in my life, establishing me, rooting and grounding me in the faith (Colossians 2:7).
To this my spirit bore witness. I was at that very time in my life involved in an extensive study of the book of Romans—a book I somehow knew would be foundational for me as I grew in the Lord. I could feel happening in me what the vision was picturing.
Well, a year went by, and I decided to go back to that same service. Again, communion was served as I knelt before two elders. Once again, one of them had a vision of my life. This time, there was large tree with full branches and lots of fruit; in the branches were many birds and small animals, and under its shade were many people and larger animals. The interpretation of the vision was that the Lord was making me into a pastor, and that He would bear fruit through my life. As a result, many would find nourishment and protection under the ministry He was giving me.
My spirit once more bore witness. I had already begun pastoring a vigorous and lively home group of 40-60 people, and was sensing the Lord’s hand upon my life. So this vision was confirming to me. Freshly sensing God’s call, we boldly stepped out in faith, moved to another part of the state with $125, some furniture, clothes, and two VW bugs—to start our first church. That happened, and after 27 years of fruitful ministry, my marriage ended.
So back to the question: had God’s purposes for my life been derailed? The Lord Jesus was very gracious as He answered me. “No, they are not,” I heard Him saying to me. “Human choices cannot stop My purposes for your life.” Not only did He remind me of my original calling, He also continued to use me … and each time He did so, I felt like He was kissing me on the cheek. If I love Him, I’m to tend and feed His flock. I’m so thankful for that.
Soon after my divorce the Lord was mega-gracious to bring to me a woman (Sheri), a former missionary who not only loves and serves the Lord but who also loves me. Like me, her previous marriage ended on Biblical grounds. And like me, she believed that God’s purposes for her life could not be thwarted by human choices. As a result, we came up with the following conclusion:
When God’s Plan A for our lives didn’t work out (an ongoing, long-lasting marriage until death do us part), He didn’t create a Plan B; He just made another Plan A!
We’re living in God’s Plan A right now. Because of God’s grace, we have the chance to live lives that are worth living, that will bring glory to the Father, and that will be abundant and wonderful.
I share these thoughts with the hope that others may be empowered by grace and God’s Spirit to move beyond their pasts, and to experience a truly God inspired wonderful life.