OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #190 Making Plans for the Future
Jan and the boys had a good trip to Shelburne and Halifax. On Tuesday Ian had an appointment with the kidney specialist as a follow-up from his e-coli poisoning last year. The doctor was very impressed with Ian’s health and growth. He will continue to track Ian for the next 3 or 4 years as a matter of precaution, but he seems to give every indication of a full recovery.
I wish I had a dollar for every time a plan came undone. I remember a youth mission trip that unravelled several times. First we were taking them one place, and then another, and then I got a fateful phone call from a friend to tell me they wouldn’t be able to host us. Here it was, in May, and we didn’t have a place to take our youth team. We were already training and fundraising, and the plan was up in ashes.
Our senior pastor had a friend outside Boston and we somehow managed to pull things together in a month. Some of the youth from that era still consider it their best trip. I still consider it one of my most challenging years of ministry.
Plans can be fun to put together. Jan loves planning our vacation trips. She’ll research places and destinations online and by the time we go, we have a pretty good idea of what is in the area and what we will be able to do and afford.
Plans are also notorious for changing. We encounter difficulties we didn’t anticipate. Things cost more than we estimated. Circumstances change. There are bazillions of reasons why plans can change, but the fact remains. Plans change.
James reminds us that life and faith are about more than the plans we make. Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there,..." (James 4:13*)
We can become preoccupied with our plans. We make a plan and then feel settled and secure because now we know what the future holds. But then when the plan doesn't go quite the way we wanted, we begin to worry about the future. Here's the funny thing about worry. We don't know the future, and having a plan doesn't change that, so it is rather ironic that having a plan makes us feel better. It makes me think that sometimes we place more trust in the plan than in God.
That doesn't mean we should wait each day to decide what we are going to do. Plans are necessary, but our attitude toward them needs to change to let God in. "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." (v. 15)
I once asked a fisherman friend how he determines where to set his lobster traps. I expected some semi_scientific answer, but he said, "First I pray." I was impressed. Based on his knowledge of the sea floor in the area, a good lobsterman may sometimes predict where lobsters are more likely to be, but no one can predict if there will be lobsters in the area of a specific trap. He recognized that his ability and knowledge only carried him so far, so he had to rely on the Lord. Its the same with us.
My experience is that a plan is often only the beginning of what God will actually do, and so we can't get too alarmed when things don't go according to our plan.
God's plan may actually be different from ours, and so we have to be open to the changes that God brings along. Here is where we need discernment. Some things are distractions that take us away from a godly goal, but some are God-given and we need always to pray for wisdom and direction.
It can be very upsetting when plans change, but let’s always be open to the fact that God’s plan is really the one that counts, not ours.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published June 4, 2009. *Bible references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com Blog located at http://onfireletter.blogspot.com/