The Five-Year Plan
by Barry Rodriguez
What does it mean to follow God?
Growing up, I always thought it meant living like a Christian: doing the right things, not doing the wrong things, end of story. It was a status. Once you crossed that line, you were following God. You were a “Christian.”
The lifestyle was simple: make enough money to be secure, get married, buy a house, take a few nice vacations here and there, and also serve God whenever possible. A completely normal plan for an upstanding American Christian, right?
But the more time I’ve spent traveling the world and meeting amazing Christ-followers doing incredible things for the kingdom of God, the more I realize that what I thought of as “normal” may actually have been pretty far from the truth.
Take Sammy Dau for example. Sammy is a student at the Christian Leadership Institute of South Sudan (CLISS). Sammy and I got to talking about the future one day. He told me he didn’t know what the future held, but that he was going to follow God.
“Following God” didn’t strike me as a very concrete action plan, so I asked him to be more specific. How, exactly, did he plan on following God?
He spoke about his dream to stop tribalism, his love for peace building and his heart for sharing the gospel with others. But when I pressed him for details, he danced around the question. He simply said, “I have to have a vision, but not my will but God’s will be done.”
At first I though he was just being ambivalent about the future – the way I might sound if I said I didn’t know what was next. But as we spoke, I realized that he wasn’t ambivalent in the least. In fact, it was just the opposite; he was thrilled to see how God would use him. He just didn’t want to put God’s plan in a box. He felt that if he talked about his plan, it would mean potentially closing the door on God’s.
At one point I asked him, “What about money?”
“Money is sometimes a blessing, sometimes a curse,” he responded. He went on to explain that he didn’t really care about money. God would provide.
It reminded me of the teaching in James 4:13-15.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
This passage makes so much more sense to me after meeting Sammy. To him, following God is not “living out his own plans in a godly way.” No. To Sammy, following God means giving it all up: laying his plans, his dreams, and his desires at the foot of the cross and surrendering it all to the will of Christ.
His attitude is to serve God with every fiber of his being and to be ready the moment God calls him to act. To Sammy, the rest of it – the house, the wife, the job, everything you and I spend so much time striving for – is secondary to following the call of God.
It really got me thinking. What if we all lived like Sammy?
What if we abandoned our five-year plans and lived with a palms-up approach to God’s promptings? What if we started our day not with, “God, here’s what I’d like to do today,” but with “God, what do you have for me today?” What if, instead of asking the Holy Spirit to bless our plans, we chose to simply jump in wherever the Holy Spirit was moving?
It might be scary. It might be uncertain. But man, would that be an adventure!