A few years ago, 2011, Matt Damon was in a movie called The Adjustment Bureau. I thought the movie was fascinating because it played with the themes of predestination and free will. In the movie the Adjustment Bureau is a group of people who make sure everything happens according to a Plan that was set by the chairman of the Adjustment Bureau. They make sure people’s lives move in the direction of the Plan. One of the messengers gets caught sleeping and Matt Damon’s character, David, gets off of the Plan. When they try to get him back on the right path, David refuses. He met a girl and she is not in the Plan for him. The movie is about their struggle to choose their own future. It doesn’t answer many questions, but it raises lots of them. From a theological perspective, is everything about your life planned out by the chairman of heaven and you just follow the plan, or do you get to choose your future?
Over and over again the prophets said that the people of Israel and Judah had brought a destructive future on themselves because of their actions. But they could change that future by changing their actions.
You find the same understanding in the Book of Jonah. Jonah was told by God to bring a message of destruction to the Ninevites. He didn’t want to go. He hated the Ninevites and was afraid if they found out what was going to happen to them they would repent, make some changes. He knew the plan wasn’t written in stone. He knew that if they turned to God, God would change his mind and bring about a different future for them.
And I believe the same is true for us. That is not how I was taught though. The way I learned it God was like the chairman of the Adjustment Bureau. He had a plan with every decision we ever make charted out in advance. As a Christian it was my responsibility to stay close to God and stay on the plan. Because, if I sinned or quit listening to God then I would miss the plan and mess up my whole life. Following the plan was called, “being in the will of God.” Being outside of the plan was known as, “being out of the will of God.” And if you were out of the will of God anything could happen to you. So you had no choice about your future. Your purpose in life was to just follow the plan.
I guess I have never been a good Calvinist, because even in high school when I was being taught this I struggled with it. If God had my life all planned out then that would include whether or not I was supposed to get married. It would also include who I was supposed to marry. What if I married the wrong person? What if the person I was supposed to marry married the wrong person. Then where would I be? What if I went to the wrong University? What if I chose the wrong vocation? Do angels run around wearing hats making sure we make the right choices?
I no longer believe that is how it works. I do believe God has a plan. And I do believe that God’s plan will come to pass because God is sovereign. But, I believe we get to choose whether or not we participate in God’s plan. We get to choose, with God, what our future is going to be.
I am aware that there are many things about our future over which we have no choice. The economic crash in ’08 was not anything most of us had control over and yet it negatively affected so many people and has affected all of us in one way or another. You don’t have complete control over your health. You can’t control other people’s decisions. So I am not saying that you get a 100% say in your future.
But, I do want you to know that your future is not set in stone. If you don’t like the way you are headed, you can change it. If your relationship with God is not what you want it to be you can change that for your future. You can start making different choices right now. If you marriage isn’t turning out the way you want and you are worried about the future, you can change that. You can start talking with your spouse and the two of you start making different choices right now. If your relationship with your children is not what you want it to be in the future, you can choose to change that. You can start making different choices right now.
And most importantly realize that God’s plan is bigger than you. You see it is not about figuring out God’s plan for your life. It is about figuring out God’s plan for creation and then getting involved in it. God wants you to join Him. You have to choose whether or not you will.
The good news of the Gospel is simple. You can change. Your future is not written in stone. Even the things you can’t control you get to choose how you are going to live with them. Your future is not left to chance or to random acts of the universe. The future is held by our Great God and Father who is working to redeem everything and everyone He has made. He invites us to join Him. We get to choose a future with a God who loves us. Now that is a plan!