I like a plan. I like knowing the general direction the course of life is going to take. When I was a High School football coach, we never went into a game without a game plan. The game plan wasn’t rigid. Things could change along the way but our game plan offered us the basic direction we would take in order to win a game. As a teacher, I made up lesson plans. Military leaders devise battle plans. Someone once said, “To fail to plan is a plan to fail”.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a PLAN like this – a method devised for making or doing something or achieving an end. PLAN always implies mental formulation and sometimes graphic representation.
I don’t think for a minute that God is against planning. In fact, I believe He is in favor of it. What would life be like if we didn’t do financial planning, time planning, even planning in keeping our priorities in place?
But if our plans are rigid and without any flexibility, this I believe, creates problems in our relationship with God. Just look at the majesty of creation, the power in a thunder storm, the unpredictable nature of wind and rain and the strength of a river that has left its banks when flood stage is reached. Nature tells us that generally life goes on according to normal patterns, but there are times when the unpredictable happens.
God enjoys dropping life into 4-wheel drive and going off-road. God likes to take us spontaneously away from our plan and invites us to fly by the seat of our pants. Planning is helpful and even essential but if everything always went as planned, life would lose the dynamic excitement that comes from experiencing the unexpected.
James 4:13-15 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Last Sunday, our pastors met for prayer in the Chapel as we always do an hour before our first service. We worshipped and prayed. It’s a rich time. We always have friends and church members joining us so feel welcome to join us Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. for pre-service prayer.
After prayer concluded, it is our practice to go over our “game plan” for the day. We review a sheet that lays out how our services are to flow. This pre-service review of our plan helps us to accomplish the worship of our God, greeting our guests, announcing important events, receiving our offering, teaching the Bible and then closing our services with time for God the Father to minister and love His people, all in a time-frame that doesn’t exhaust our children and children’s teachers. Again, I believe God expects us to do some planning. However, we didn’t know that God was going to take us “off-road” a bit in our second service.
You see, our plan was to close our service with three to four songs of worship and while our church family was worshipping, we would baptize those who had indicated to us they wanted to follow the Lord in water baptism. There were two people being baptized in the first service and three in the second. They had all completed our baptism class and prepared a testimony that they had shared earlier in our service.
First service went as planned. Second service was progressing along nicely as planned. But after the third person was baptized and we were ready to throw in the towel (pardon the pun), two young women whom I had never met came up on the stage. One woman was weeping and the other seemed to be supporting her. I thought, “Hmmm, this is not a part of our plan”. I stepped forward to meet the young woman who was weeping and I asked, “What do you want?” She said through tears and runny eye make-up, “I don’t want my life to be this way anymore. I am receiving Jesus today as my Lord and I want to be baptized”.
It’s funny when God takes you “off-roading” that it can require a moment to figure out what to do. I looked at her in her street clothes and finally said, “Ok, let’s help you into the tub”. I could see God the Father’s love resting on her. She was expressing true repentance and God was welcoming her into His wonderful Kingdom. Though she had not prepared a testimony or completed the class, it was as if Father was saying, “Come on Dan, let’s have some fun, trust me as we go off the script”.
The joy of watching those two young women step into the baptism water with street clothes, not even bothering to take off their shoes was incredible. Neither one of them seemed to have any self-conscious thoughts or feelings of embarrassment. They were just following God’s lead, their eyes were on Jesus. We pastors were trying to keep up with the dance. It was beautiful.
Later, as I thought about what had happened, I realized that God is appreciated as holy, righteous, merciful, and mighty and He is all of that. But I am realizing that God is happy and He is fun. And He invites all of His kids to play with Him. As we say in the Vineyard, everyone gets to play. Just hang on. Some of God’s best and most exhilarating stuff happens when things don’t go as planned.