FIRST-PERSON: If you're not dead, God's not done

DURHAM, N.C. (BP) -- Do you remember "Choose Your Own Adventure" novels? They were some of my favorites as a kid.

You'd get to a certain place in the story where you'd have a choice, like, "You're being chased by a flock of rabid wolverines, and an old lady invites you into a house to escape. If you want to accept her invitation, turn to page 210. If not, turn to page 130." And I'd accept the invitation, only to read on page 210, "Turns out she was a witch so she puts a spell on you and cooks you in her stew. The end."

And I would think, "Oh, if only I could have known, I would have chosen differently!"

We often see the will of God like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story: We have two doors in front of us, and one probably leads to peace and prosperity and the other to doom and destruction. When things go wrong later, we look back and think, "If I had only known the right door!"

How do we know what God wants us to do in any given situation? Does He give us some warm, fuzzy feeling of peace when we think about the right decision? Do we learn to see God's hand in strange coincidences or look for signs in our Cheerios?

Psalm 25 is a new favorite of mine, because it is about how God guides us and is a great template for how to pray for guidance today. There are two particular promises in Psalm 25 that are precious to remember when we seek God's guidance for our lives.

1. The sin of others does not disqualify you from God's will.

All throughout this psalm, David talks about enemies who are trying to ruin his life. He declares, "My God, I trust in you. Do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. No one who waits for you will be disgraced...." (Psalm 25:2–3 CSB).

Many people look back on their lives and see how somebody messed them up -- a parent, sibling, business partner or ex-spouse. David had those people, too, and he said, "I trust that your promises are greater and more powerful than any of their evil intentions against me."

It's hard here not to think of Joseph, whose brothers' sin brought him a level of suffering few of us can imagine. But ultimately God used those things in Joseph's life as a way of fulfilling his destiny. At the end of his life, Joseph was able to say to his brothers that all the things they did to him were meant for evil, "but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20).

It is this belief in God's goodness that enabled Joseph to forgive his brothers. When he realized God had a greater plan, he was able to let go of the bitterness that comes from thinking someone else had ruined his life.

If the sovereignty of God is real, that means no one can ever ruin your life. They can wound you, abuse you and betray you, but they can never ruin you. God's goodness toward you remains.

2. Your own mistakes do not disqualify you from God's will.

At least two times in this psalm, David asks God for forgiveness for past mistakes. Once is in verse 11: "Lord, for the sake of your name, forgive my iniquity, for it is immense."

"Immense" is certainly right. David was talking about heinous stuff that makes us cringe. And yet he still prayed for God's guidance and perfect plan for his life because he believed God's promises were greater than his own mistakes.

You may think that God will let you continually suffer for your mistakes because you brought it on yourself. But while sins and mistakes bring consequences into your life that can be painful -- and sometimes permanent -- even those sins don't disqualify you from God's ultimate plan for your life.

Look at Jacob, who sinned against his brother Esau. That sin led him into exile. But while estranged from his family, he met the woman from whom would come the line of the Messiah.

Was this plan B? Did Jesus come out of the wrong plan? Not at all. It's not OK that Jacob sinned, and that sin affected him the rest of his life. Yet the Messiah still came from his line.

The apostle Paul said, "If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). You can count on God's faithful, consistent love because that love isn't based on your goodness. It's based on His. He doesn't give up on you, even when you give up on Him.

If you're not dead, God's not done.

J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention; pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and author of several books including "Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send."
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