I began this week with my 65th birthday. Christian came up north to meet me
for lunch and a tour of the new Scheels Sporting Goods store in Loveland/Johnstown. It was a better day than five years ago when I marked my 60th birthday just to the east of where we were in Northern Colorado Rehabilitation hospital.
BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. “Now I am on my way to Spain, so I hope to see you when I come your way. After I have enjoyed your company for a while, I hope that you will support my trip to Spain. Right now I’m going to Jerusalem to bring help to the Christians there.” Romans 15:24,25 GW
Solomon observed in his wisdom, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV) We can readily observe that life is filled with uncertainties. At times the “best laid plans” just don’t work out the “best” way we have in mind.
The above verses reveal Paul’s plans for what he expected to take place next in his ministry. We see in 2 Corinthians Paul’s instructions to the believers about giving financially to support the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. He is now writing to the Roman Christians and tells them of his desire to come and visit them in person. He tells them that he will go to Jerusalem to take the gifts from those in Macedonia believers there. He then had plans to travel to Spain and to stop in Rome on his way.
As we read in the Book of Acts, all did go the way Paul had planned. “…Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the temple courtyard. They stirred up the whole crowd and grabbed Paul. Then they began shouting, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere to turn against the Jewish people, Moses’ Teachings, and this temple.” (Acts 21:27,28 NIV)
A mob erupted resulting in Paul’s arrest. This resulted in over two years of trial, imprisonment and efforts to avoid the plans and tactics of his accusers. Oddly, Paul did end up in Rome. But it was under house arrest. It doesn’t appear he ever made it to Spain as he planned. Yet in it all we see the Lord working. It may have been Paul’s “Plan B” but seemed to be the Lord’s, “Plan A.”
Seven letters we have in the New Testament were written while Paul was in prison. His arrest allowed him to present the gospel and his testimony before the masses in Jerusalem and before religious and political leaders of the day. When Paul (then Saul of Tarsus) encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, the Lord spoke to Ananias these words: “I’ve chosen this man to bring my name to nations, to kings, and to the people of Israel. I’ll show him how much he has to suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:15-16 NIV)
I think of the perspective Job had of his life. “I thought, ‘Surely I will die surrounded by my family after a long, good life.” (Job 29:18 NLT) Suffering was not in Job’s plans, just as it is not in any of our plans. We anticipate a smooth road through life enjoying the blessings of the Lord.
However, we certainly are made aware of the uncertainties of life and how that our plans and our trajectory in life can change in a moment. There were way too many times during my ministry when a church member was in a Sunday service and before the week was over, I was standing at their grave, the marking conclusion of their life on earth.
I recall when I was battling illness less than a month after moving to Fort Collins. Even though I was in the hospital, I was still telling Debbie that we might be able to keep our plans for the upcoming weekend. Little did I know that what I thought might be a few days, would turn into several months and a journey that would change the trajectory of my life.
It seems the words of the Apostle James ring true. “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.” (James 4:13-15 NIV)
It is important that was not live our lives in fear of the unexpected. We can live life with confidence, purpose and a commitment to pursue all that is in our hearts. Yet we must hold our plans and life loosely. We must know that the Lord is with us regardless of what takes place. He will see us through and He will use all of our experiences to build our trust and confidence in Him and to place our focus on that which is eternal.