“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11
I watched the movie “Unplanned” Saturday morning. I have to say, other than “The Passion of the Christ,” it is the hardest movie I’ve ever watched. My insides were tormented watching some of the scenes. Abby Johnson worked for Planned Parenthood and became the director of one of their clinics. What she saw in a single moment in time turned her whole life upside down. Here is what I want to write about today . . . God did end up changing Abby’s heart and mind, but He changed her in His time . . . His perfect time. To Him, nothing was unplanned, it was all planned.
Many (and I mean many) of today’s Christians won’t give people any time to change. For the most part, if you aren’t at least half as far along in your walk with God as they think they are in theirs, they are very judging and condemning. Believe it or not, Abby was a believer in Christ. She attended church services and convinced herself she was doing a good thing despite most people in her life telling her otherwise. To me, the champions of the movie were her parents. They hated what Abby did for a living. They knew that she knew that they disapproved of her career choice. When her job came up in conversations, they would only say things like, “You know how we feel.” They never once condemned her to hell or told her that she was a bad person. They just kept on quietly believing and praying for their daughter. As she moved up in those ranks at Planned Parenthood, you know as well as I do that things seemed to them only to be getting worse, not better. You know it had to feel as if God was not listening to their prayers at all.
That is, until the single day that it all changed. Abby was called in to actually witness one of the procedures. She couldn’t handle it. She ended up joining the Coalition for Life immediately, the very group she thought was against everything she believed in. In an instant, she was changed. And because she had such a high position in the Planned Parenthood organization, and because nobody had ever done what she did, hundreds of thousands of people know about her and her story . . . including me. It was planned.
I say all that to say this: Give people time! Give God time! I know He can change things in an instant . . . but for the most part He doesn’t. He knows the plans He has for us. He knows the exact moment that He is going to unleash His presence on a situation. He also knows the faith, the patience, and the perseverance that is developed in the waiting. He knows how to receive maximum glory from any given situation. He knows how to make sure the maximum number of people are informed and affected by these stories. He just knows . . . He’s that good!
As I apply this to my own life, I have prayers that I want God to answer. I have people in my life that I want to be saved. I pray for them very often. I also have people in my life that are saved but are not living or acting like they are saved. I could use some Bible verse from the Word of God and pound them if I wanted to. I could let them immediately know how wrong they are, how dire their situation is, and exactly where they are headed if they don’t change. Is that really the way to go? No way! As long as I know that they know how I feel and where I stand, I’d much rather pray and wait. I’d much rather get in the presence of my Heavenly Father and say, “God, I trust You! In Your time, will You move on ______’s life in a way that is just crazy awesome? I love You, Lord. Bring _______ to a place where they love You, too! There is no one like You! Only You can change the hearts of people. If I am to say anything, Lord, give me the exact words and the exact timing. Let Your Holy Spirit flow through me. I can do all things through You!”
Think about the way you treat people . . . especially people not like you. Those are the ones for whom you will give an account to God. This is why the warning against passing judgment is there in Matthew 7:1, God will use the same measuring stick on you that you use on other people. The verse is not there so you can say, “You don’t get to judge me!” It is there so you will know that the way you treat people who are not like you is the same way God will eventually treat you if you don’t cut it out. This is terrifying to me because there are people right now that I can’t stand. People I know that believe in the same God that I do. When I think of them, I think of the religious Pharisees in the Bible. I have wanted to “call down fire from heaven on them” just like James and John wanted to in Luke 9:54. But here is the thing: I know and am very aware that I am wrong for thinking like this. Jesus didn’t die for me to be like that. He came so that all would come to repentance. I don’t want to judge them publicly because I know that God could easily show me some religious attitude in my heart and mind and judge me just as harshly on the day that I stand before Him. I really don’t want that! I’m terrified of that!
So, what do I do?
Lord, for thousands of years you have been in the business of performing the greatest miracle that still happens on this planet: Changing the hearts and minds of people who hate you, your ways, and want nothing to do with you. I’m learning that it is an even greater miracle to change the heart and mind of the Pharisee who thinks he is doing it right. Keep me childlike. Keep me innocently believing in you and do not let some religious system creep into my heart. If it is too late and I am deceived, show me, and show me how to kill it, Lord! You’ve changed me so much. Continue to change me in your way and in your time. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me. Help me not think the way I think towards some Christians. I pray that you would bring your people together. You said that the world would be changed based on the fact that we love each other. The world doesn’t see that. Just start with me. Help me to love my enemies. Help me to pray for those who have no patience for me or my family. Help us all to be longsuffering and really give people time to change and time for you to work on them. I do love you, Father. I pray that you will always help me to obey the greatest commandment . . . to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Through that, will you help me to love my neighbor, all of my neighbors, as myself? Help me to believe that absolutely everything is planned and works out for good if I truly love you and am called according to your purpose.
You know the plans you have for me.