There is a prayer that I recently discerned to pray: God, may all your plans for me be successful.
The rationale behind this prayer is that I want to position myself and do everything that is in my power to let God fulfill his plans in my life.
Notice that I did not say “my plans,” but God’s. This is a risky prayer by all standards. Basically, I am putting myself at the mercy of God! And you know what – that is the best place I could ever imagine to be.
However, sometimes I make it really hard for God to do this. Can you relate? We delay God’s success in our life. Don’t we? And because of that, we end up losing opportunities to fulfill God’s plans for us.
This message goes along the lines of what Billy Graham said: “End your journey well. Don’t waste your life, and don’t be satisfied with anything less than God’s plan.”
So it is my hope, whether it is today or in the next few days ahead, you too may find your way back to your life purpose and pray the prayer, “may all your plans be successful in my life, God,” because God indeed has a plan for you.
The question we all have asked in this regard is the key: What’s God’s plan for us?
Let’s look into this.
Our Scripture reading today is Matthew 4:1-17. Here, Matthew narrates the story of how, after he was baptized and recognized by God as his beloved Son, Jesus is taken by the Spirit of God to the desert, to the wilderness to be put to the test. After this time of trial, – 40 days to be precise – he then inaugurated the beginning of his ministry here on earth by proclaiming: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
In this story, Jesus faced three tests or temptations. I believe there is a powerful connection between one of them and the proclamation of repentance and God’s kingdom that speaks to us about this idea of God’s plans for our lives.
Of the temptations, one dealt with hunger, another with trust in God’s provision, and the last, with love or faithfulness to God. The first one is the one on which I am focusing today because I believe this one in particular is relevant to the proclamation of Jesus about God’s kingdom.
This first temptation went like this:
[Jesus] fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
After 30 years of preparation, Jesus was almost ready to begin his ministry. Only one more thing was needed. To be completely ready to bring healing and salvation to this world, Jesus needed to be tested. And in this first test, we have the devil basically telling Jesus: It has been 40 days since you tasted any food, why are you starving when you can easily feed yourself?
Of course, the devil couldn’t care less about Jesus’ needs; he wanted to talk Jesus out of his purpose, out of God’s plans, into trouble, and even worse, into sin.
What we see here, then, is that the purpose of Jesus’ temptation or test was about challenging his trust in God’s plan and his complete dependence on God.
Would Jesus take a shortcut? Would he stay faithful to the Father’s will? Would he fall into doing things the devil’s way instead of God’s way? It would have been so easy for Jesus – the Son of God – to turn stones into bread. But in doing so, in choosing the bread, he would have compromised God’s plans for him.
My friends, how many times does bread get in the way of God’s plans for us?
Let me explain.
I believe that in this particular story bread represents a compromise of God’s plans. It is choosing something else before what we know God has said about us or has asked about us. It is the yielding or given up too soon because we can’t wait or endure God’s processes in our lives any longer.
What’s your bread? Is it comforts, satisfaction, or pleasure? Could it be wealth, fame, recognition, or any other? Just like actual bread, these are not bad, but if they take precedence over God’s plans for us, they will become a stumbling block in our lives.
Of course, all of these have merit and are valuable, and they may very well be part of God’s plans for us in one way or another; they are not intrinsically bad. However, they are finite endeavors that provide temporary comfort. Any of these, sooner or later, will need to be replaced with a new something else.
You see how difficult it is to refuse the temptation to feed on the bread because we can. But by doing so, we delay, interrupt, or miss altogether the plans of God for us. What is even more sad about this is that sometimes without even realizing it, our relationship with God is only a means to get the bread; we couldn’t care less about God’s desires and will for us.
But the bread did not get in the way of Jesus, for he said, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
This is what I want for me, my family, and I pray you may have it too: I don’t care if I am tempted with bread, crackers, or tortillas, the Word of God comes first, and I won’t compromise my relationship, witness, faith, and character for what is a mere temporary comfort.
This is what we can learn from Jesus’ temptation with bread: sometimes God will make us sacrifice something we want in order to secure our heart for the greatest good – himself and his purposes. What we will be given instead is much more valuable than any goal or plan we could have created for ourselves.
The point is not that God wants to keep us away from the things we want or need, but that we are willing to sacrifice them if they get in the way between God and us. When we submit ourselves to God’s Word, everything else falls into place and all the good plans God has for us become a reality. It is then that our prayer, “may all your plans for me be successful,” begins to take shape and becomes a tangible reality.
Now, what comes out God’s mouth? Words, right? But, what is God saying? I know God has unique words for each one of us just as God has particular plans and purposes for all of us. But there is a universal and constant word that God speaks that defines God’s plans for each one of us. This is the basis for everything that God wants to do in our lives, and without it, nothing can be done.
Here is where Matthew 4:17 helps us to discern this.
God’s plans for Jesus were about saving humanity from death and sin. And the first action Jesus took after being tempted by the devil was to proclaim this simple yet profound revelation, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is what the devil wanted to keep Jesus away from: the proclamation of God’s kingdom and its arrival. This is what Jesus would have had left undone if he had chosen the bread when he was tempted early on.
This proclamation of repentance and God’s kingdom was a calling to people then as much as it is a calling for us today: to realign themselves with God’s Word and live in a new kingdom of heaven kind of life.
This proclamation is simple yet profound: “Repent!” he said first.
To repent is to make a radical reversal in life and realign with God. To repent or realign is a dynamic term that is more than a one-time event. Of course, there must be an initial turning to God, but repentance is not only a one-time crisis moment but rather an ongoing way of life.
We could more accurately capture Jesus’ message by translating 4:17 “Realign your life continually to God’s ways.”
Jesus’ words are an invitation and command to make sure our lives are in alignment with God’s character. This realignment involves turning away from obvious evils and sins, but more important than that, it also involves an ongoing assessment and shifting to virtues that represent the character of God and his kingdom – things like being kind and compassionate (Ephesians 4:32), living above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2), attending to the needs of others, especially the least fortunate (Proverbs 19:17), giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18), praying for our friends and even enemies, loving our neighbor as ourselves – basically, everything we see Jesus doing and saying in the gospels. This is what aligning with God means.
So, when Jesus was tempted to eat the bread when he knew it was not the time to do that, he was for all practical purposes keeping himself in alignment with God’s plans. Because of this, Jesus blessed all humanity for all eternity because he himself was the greatest follower of God the Father.
Perhaps our challenge or struggle to see God’s plans for us fulfilled is not a lack of faith, but a lack of obedience and alignment with God’s Word.
My friends, this word is for all of us. Can we learn from this? Your life, everything you are, your thoughts, your strengths, your dreams exist for a purpose greater than yourself. Your greatest achievement in this life is to leave a mark of blessing in people’s lives, to leave this world better than you found it. And all of these can happen if we let God be successful in achieving his plans in our lives.
What we see in Jesus is the key to understanding what God wants for us and from us in order for God’s plans to be successful in our lives as they were with Jesus. If we sow in faithfulness and obedience, we will reap in blessings, in God’s promises.
Whatever your career, your education, your skills, and your dreams in life are, glorify and honor God through them by letting him be bigger in your life than everything else.
Now, I recognize how this may be challenging and perhaps even scary to do: surrender everything to God? Don’t be afraid to surrender your most wanted dreams, desires, and possessions to God. I know some people fear, if they give to God, what will there be left for them? What they don’t understand is that when you do surrender to God and confess, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God…” God is going to multiply the blessings in your life, and your cup will be overflowing.
Don’t believe me? Here is the proof: So, Jesus was tempted with bread, right? How ironic is that, because later we see that Jesus’ ministry was heavily centered around bread, feeding it to people and multiplying it miraculously.
What you are surrendering to God today may be the very thing that God will give you in abundance to bless many.
Don’t make the mistake of believing that if you submit yourself to God in all that you are and all that you have that somehow you are going to lose. When you unleash the Word of God in your life, pray to God, “May all your plans for me be successful,” and follow him as your shepherd, and you will lack nothing.
Jesus said best when he said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”
This is the invitation today: stop eating the bread that is getting in the way between you and God. Get back to the path. Get yourself together, and realign with God’s plans for you. Has it been a day, a year, maybe five or 20 years since you gave up on what you knew in your heart God wants to accomplish for you, in you, and through you? Well, you can start making it right today. Yield to God.
What is your calling? I pray for you: May all God’s plans for your life be successful. Amen.