In 1952, Bill Bright wrote The Four Spiritual Laws, an evangelistic tract that became the calling card of Campus Crusade for Christ. While this was three years before I was born, I probably didn’t encounter it until my late teens.
When I started college in 1973, I got to know people from the main Christian groups on the UND campus: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and of course, Campus Crusade. I was pretty clueless about denominational differences, and saw nothing odd about being Lutheran. I was pretty accepted by the InterVarsity folks, but I couldn’t understand why the Campus Crusade kids kept wanting to go through the Laws and pray “the prayer” with me. My telling them I was a Christian wasn’t enough; I had to jump through their CC-shaped hoop in order to be accepted by them.
This trite, cookie-cutter approach to evangelism became something of a joke to me, and I recall beginning conversations with kids on campus with the first of the Four Spiritual Laws, “Do you know that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?” Perhaps twenty years later, it would occur to me that God has a rather ironic sense of humor, as my primary message had become that God indeed loves us and has wonderful plans for our lives. As God says to Israel in Jeremiah 29:11,
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)
While I can’t recall why I understood this as a young child, I did understand that God loved me and, yes, had a plan for my life. Perhaps it was from the many Bible stories I learned in church and Sunday school about people like David, Samuel and Moses, chosen as children to serve God. Whatever the reason, I not only knew that God loved me, but also knew that I was destined for great things.
The world around me, of course, did everything possible to destroy this sense that I was loved and special. The message that the world gives is that we have to perform to certain standards to receive any love or respect, and that we will never, ever really be good enough. As with shame, this sense of needing to do more and try harder keeps us controllable by the powers that be.
As I left college and entered the corporate nightmare, this became all too clear. No one out there loves you unconditionally, and their plans for you are not necessarily for your own benefit. The message that God loves us and has wonderful plans for us is crucial; I believe this is one reason why Joel Osteen pastors what I understand is the largest church in the country. People don’t hear this in the world (or in many churches), and they are literally dying for it.
Jesus’ message to children was, “You’re special, and you’re loved.” Jesus’ message to Zacchaeus was, “You’re special and you have a purpose; can I hang out with you?” To the sick and the sinners, he said, “I know you, and you’re worth a miracle. There’s a better life waiting for you.” To the least, he said, “Come up higher. I love you and have a wonderful plan for you.”
I relished this message as a young child. I cling to it today. God loves me, this I know, and He has a wonderful plan for my life. And guess what? He’s got a doozey of a plan for you, too.
- What was your reaction the first time you heard, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life? What is your reaction today?
- If you had one message to share with the world, what would it be?