What If . . . God Has Other Plans?: Finding Hope When Life Throws You the Unexpected

What If . . . God Has Other Plans?: Finding Hope When Life Throws You the Unexpected

by Charles R. Swindoll

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Overview

What if your life hasn’t turned out the way you dreamed it would?
Popular Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll invites you on a journey through Scripture, exploring the hope the Bible offers to those who are dealing with life’s unexpected detours. Life can be humming along as usual, and then in a matter of seconds, everything falls apart. Maybe you have experienced sudden loss. Perhaps there is a heart-breaking betrayal. Maybe you are taking care of a family member with a disability and you never imagined in a million years that you would be doing such a thing. Life rarely follows our rules for it. There are U-turns and S-curves none of us are prepared to endure. This book is Chuck Swindoll at his best, opening Scripture and finding hope and wisdom for those who are struggling with the unexpected situations life has thrown at them.

What if . . . God has other plans for your life?

What if . . . you are designed for something more?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496431134
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 09/03/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 119,705
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

What If ... God Chooses You to Do Something Great?

God's Word for When You Feel Inadequate

AMY NEVER WOULD HAVE DREAMED God would choose her to do something great. The shy lassie, born the oldest in a family of seven, grew up in beautiful Northern Ireland, but not without pain. She and her siblings lost their daddy when they were young, leaving the family virtually destitute. Eventually she was adopted by another family who had the means to clothe and feed her.

She saw herself as "a little, ugly, shy girl." In fact, she felt so unattractive while growing up that she shunned having her picture taken. As a teenager, she was diagnosed with a degenerative nerve disease that stayed with her the rest of her years. Ultimately that disease led to a serious struggle with arthritis, a battle she would fight the rest of her life.

Then something happened that changed her entire life. At the age of twenty, Amy was attending a Keswick Convention in England, listening to a man named Hudson Taylor share the story of his mission work in China. The year was 1888. The great missionary statesman told of what God had been doing in China and what he anticipated God would do in the future. He mentioned several times how good God was to choose him, of all people, from among the outcasts of England. By God's grace, he had learned another language and blended into a culture far different from his own.

Amy sat there thinking, What if God could use me to do something such as this? And from that moment, God began to do something great through the shy, retiring Irish girl.

After a chain of events sovereignly orchestrated by her gracious God, Amy wound up at the southern tip of India, only a few miles from the ocean. She spent the next fifty-six years as a missionary in that faraway place. Her calling was to invest in the lives of young boys and girls caught in the grip of human trafficking. They were part of a horrifying slave trade that ravaged the lives of innocent, unsuspecting children.

In those days, the trafficking was done under the guise of religion. Young girls were required to "service" the Hindu priests and those who worshiped with them. Their bodies were used, and in the process, their spirits were broken. Boys and girls alike became helpless victims. Amy's heart went out to these broken little lives, and she invested the remainder of her years reaching out to them with the love of Christ as she freed them from prostitution.

Before her death, Amy rescued and ministered to more than a thousand victims. The Irish woman was Amy Carmichael, who ended up publishing thirty-five books. At her request, not one originally bore her name. In fact, before she died, she made certain that her name would never be etched in granite. Instead, the children she had rescued, now adults, placed a birdbath over her grave, which remains unmarked to this day. It seems appropriate: an unmarked grave over a woman who was virtually unknown in her day. That is, until you read her words and discover that they are filled with profoundly impactful statements.

From prayer that asks that I may be Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free Thy soldier who would follow Thee.


From the subtle love of softening things From easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O, Lamb of God, deliver me.


Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

What makes Amy Carmichael's words so magnificent is that many who read them likewise view themselves as little more than worthless "clods." Somewhere along the way, per- haps you have systematically talked yourself out of anything great God may wish to do through you. Maybe it's because you feel woefully inadequate or you lack training. Perhaps you're shy and entertain thoughts of being completely insignificant.

You look at yourself in the mirror and ask, How could God ever choose somebody like me? I mean, it would be unlikely for God to notice me, to say nothing of using me greatly. I'm simply not qualified.

Be honest, now ... does that sound like you? Every time you look in the mirror, do you talk yourself out of something great God wants to do? But what if God has other plans? What if He wants to choose you to do something great? Are you willing? Would you respond in faith, or would you run in the other direction?

If you think you'd shrink from such a call, then welcome to the club! You're not alone. In fact, you're in company with one of the greatest individuals God ever chose to use greatly. This man's name was Moses.

One Day ... God Steps In

Originally, Moses was an unlikely prospect for the Leadership Hall of Fame. The good news is that God doesn't search through the Hall of Fame to find candidates for greatness. God often starts with losers. Washouts. Those with broken lives and downtrodden spirits. That's where Moses found himself the day he became aware of God's plan to use him to deliver His people, the Hebrews, from bondage in Egypt.

Upon first realizing God's call on his life, he rolled up his sleeves and took matters into his own hands. The scene is sketched for us in Exodus, the Old Testament book that chronicles the epic story of God's deliverance. Travel back with me to Egypt, where Moses grew up as the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter.

He is forty years old as the story unfolds in Exodus 2:

When Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.

Exodus 2:11-12

That's Moses, acting in the flesh. Taking matters into his own hands, he rushes ahead of God and makes a mess of everything. To make matters worse, he is guilty of murder. Once he's found out by Pharaoh, he winds up a fugitive in the Midian desert.

The story continues with Moses, a guilty, broken man, sit- ting by a well in the desert. There he meets a young woman, who leads him to her home. Ultimately, he marries one of the daughters of the priest of Midian. He spends the next forty years of his life tending his father-in-law's sheep, obscure and forgotten, living like a Bedouin shepherd.

Now Moses is eighty years old. He sees himself as finished, never imagining that God still has a plan for his life. There he is, a leather-skinned old man, stuck in the remote desert of Midian, an arid, dreadful place. He's no doubt convinced the desert will be his final resting place. Nothing significant lies ahead. Until one day ...

On that epochal day, everything changes for Moses. It begins just like any other day. He returns to his monotonous routine, much like you do when you sit down at your computer or go to work in your shop. Or when you're walking up the steps to your school. Or when you're fixing supper for your family. Or when you're boarding a plane to take the next leg of a business trip. Same song, forty-first verse. Until one day ... God steps on the scene.

This is a good place for me to pause and point out three common mistakes people make when attempting to take life into their own hands, just like Moses did when he was a proud prince in Egypt.

We Run Before We're Sent

There are times when we allow the intensity of our vision to shove us prematurely into our own agenda. Moses felt the need to act and begin the process of delivering God's people from oppression. Yet that's not what God was leading him to do. He ran ahead before he was sent. The result was an impulsive act that led to a colossal disaster.

We Retreat After We've Failed

After we've blown it, our tendency is to retreat. We start to lick our wounds. We know we've made a mess of our lives, so our insecurity bursts into full bloom. In our insecurity, we begin our retreat. It's in those times that we begin to doubt God could ever use us again. Better stated, we become convinced He won't. Whether you've served time in prison, gone through a divorce, or committed an act of unfaithfulness in marriage, your shame may lead you to believe the chance for God to use you is over. Regardless of the reason for your insecurity, it may lead you to retreat after you've failed.

We Resist When We're Called

As was the case for Moses, God has a way of stepping in and surprising us. In His grace, He chooses to use us even after we've failed. God may be speaking into your situation at a time when you feel most unprepared or wholly inadequate. Perhaps you feel that way because of your age — you're either too young or too old. Or maybe you struggle with a physical disability or you battle depression or you have a dark period in your past that you're ashamed of. You'll do anything in your power to keep all that from being exposed. Whatever the cause, those feelings of inferiority block your ability to hear God's voice. So you resist because of inferiority.

Moses sat stalled in the desert for forty years, tending the same flock of smelly sheep. His skin was brown from the sun, thickened by the wind, and hardened from the continual blast of desert sand. His attitude matched the chafed exterior of his sun-beaten brow. Alone, washed up, out to pasture, long past his prime. An eighty-year-old has-been.

Yet that's when his real story begins ...

As I mentioned earlier, it was like any other day. There was no angelic skywriting: "Pay attention, Moses! God will show up and speak today. Watch out for burning bushes — God is in the flame!" Nope, none of that. Moses hadn't been warned the night before in a dream. Instead, the sun rose that morning just like it had for the past forty years of his life in the desert. Another sunrise, another hot blast of the scorching desert wind. Then, suddenly, something happened that captured his attention:

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of the bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn't burn up. "This is amazing," Moses said to himself. "Why isn't this bush burning up?

I must go see it."

Exodus 3:1-3

In that unexpected moment, God stepped in. That's how it works. God doesn't make preannouncements. He doesn't shout at us from some divine pinnacle. He uses "one day" moments to say, in effect, "Hey! Are you there? Are you listening?" That's His way.

Unfamiliar Territory

In the desert, bushes frequently burst into flame in the heat of an intense sun. It's likely that Moses had witnessed this startling phenomenon numerous times. But this time was different. This particular bush kept burning, but it was not consumed. That's what held Moses' attention. He went to inspect the situation.

Once God had Moses' attention, He spoke. There are times when God wants to stab our curiosity, so He shocks us out of our routine. Routine is a subtle enemy. We fall into a mental rut, like stumbling into an open grave. And in that mind-numbing routine, we miss God's call. In those times, He often jolts us out of our mental fog and arrests our attention. Only then do we wake up and listen.

Moses was in for a major surprise. He heard his name: "Moses! Moses!" The voice came from the burning bush.

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, "Moses! Moses!"

"Here I am!" Moses replied.

Exodus 3:4

Wait a moment! Moses answered to his name, having no clue who was calling him.

Now it's time for a brief Hebrew lesson. After God called Moses by name, Moses responded by saying, "Here I am!" But in the Hebrew, there's a nuance that gets slighted in the English translation. Moses said, "Hineni!" a Hebrew idiom meaning, "That's me!"

In other words, Moses must have felt utter amazement after hearing his own name coming from the burning bush! Can you imagine? For decades Moses had been serving his father-in-law in virtual obscurity, having long ago left the prestige and renown of his royal life in Egypt. He was a for- gotten man. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he heard his name. In the remotest part of the desert wilderness, an audible voice spoke his name.

That's often how God works. That's how He calls people to periods of great impact.

It all happens one day ... when you're least expecting it. When you're feeling the least prepared and completely ill equipped to handle it. It's then that He calls your name. Never forget that!

I don't believe God speaks audibly today — at least not typically. But in Moses' day, because the Bible wasn't complete, God spoke to His servants in dreams or through appearances by angels — or in this case, supernaturally through an object of nature (see Hebrews 1:1).

Today God may bring to your mind something you learned from the Scriptures. Or He may speak to you through a mentor, a godly friend, or a parent. Or perhaps you'll hear His voice through a compelling sermon or even the lyrics of a song. He certainly reveals Himself in the quietness of your times alone with Him as you read and search the Scriptures and pray. Regardless, He still speaks. And in those moments, He reveals His plan for you to do something great.

God stopped Moses in his tracks, captured his attention through a supernatural occurrence, and then revealed to him His plans. Perhaps Moses' heart began to beat a little faster, because the message was all about the Hebrews, who were still in bondage in Egypt. But what Moses was not prepared for was what he heard next from that same bush:

Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh.

You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.

Exodus 3:9-10

Now, if you look closely at verse 10, you'll see skid marks in the margin (actually, they only appear in the original!). Suddenly, Moses realized that God was talking about him. God had Moses in mind to carry out this master plan to deliver Israel from bondage. He was choosing him to lead the people to freedom. What followed was a classic example of resistance by a reluctant servant. Remember, we resist when we are called ... because of inferiority.

Anatomy of Resistance

Resistance comes from our belief that we know the situation better than God does. We're happy to have God take care of situations for us. We just don't want to be His primary instrument. Why? Because we think we know better than He does what's required for the job. Pay close attention: the best ten years of your life may still be ahead of you, but maybe you've already begun to talk yourself out of what God has planned for you. Like Moses, you have mounted a calculated resistance against God's clearly stated will for you and for your family.

If that's you, I know exactly how you feel. I was the least likely candidate imaginable to do something for God. I wasn't a great student or athlete as a boy. I wasn't very significant on my high school campus. I certainly didn't distinguish myself as a hero during my years in the Marine Corps. I was just another Marine. Yet out of a bush came a voice calling me to ministry. My first response was, "I've heard this before — but from my wife, not from You, Lord. She has urged me toward the ministry, but I've resisted." (I didn't think I was qualified, and my inferiority prompted my resistance.)

So often when God chooses us to do something great, our initial response is to resist. To push back against His plan. To doubt our readiness and qualifications. Moses was no exception. He responded with four common excuses for resisting God's clear call.

I Don't Have All the Answers

Moses feared he wouldn't be able to answer the inevitable questions that would come from his fellow Israelites:

Moses protested, "If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' they will ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what should I tell them?"

Exodus 3:13

The first common excuse for resisting God's call is that we don't have all the answers. Moses protested God's plans by saying, "They're going to ask me things I won't know. I'll be dealing with issues way above my pay grade! Remember, I've only been talking to sheep for these past forty years!"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "What If ... God Has Other Plans?"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Charles Swindoll.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

Introduction
Chapter 1: What If . . . God Chooses You to Do Something Great?
Chapter 2: What If . . . You Suddenly Lose Everything?
Chapter 3: What If . . . a Longtime Friend Betrays You?
Chapter 4: What If . . . You Need to Confront Someone?
Chapter 5: What If . . . Someone Kicks You When You’re Down?
Chapter 6: What If . . . You Need a Second Chance?
Chapter 7: What If . . . You Struggle with a Disability?
Chapter 8: What If . . . a Person Is an Unrepentant Troublemaker?
Chapter 9: What If . . . Your Boss Is Unfair and Disrespectful?
Chapter 10: What If . . . You’re Being Stalked?
Chapter 11: What If . . . You Were to Die Tonight?
Notes
Discussion Guide
About the Author

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