Episode 1. A Change of Plan – The Holy Spirit
When we have our mind set on something, there’s nothing worse than someone or something coming along and forcing a change of plan on us. After all – our plan … it was a good one. So how do you …
When we have our mind set on something, there’s nothing worse than someone or something coming along and forcing a change of plan on us. After all – our plan … it was a good one. So how do you react when God Himself drops a change of plan into your life, hmm?
So, what do you have planned for today, tomorrow, the next day, next week, next month? We all have hopes, dreams and plans. How we see the future – what we have to look forward to – plays a pretty important part in how much we enjoy our lives today.
This morning, I got up and looked at my diary – for a change, things were pretty clear, normally I have a lot of things in my diary. The reason is that I plan ahead. So – preparing radio programs – I normally have several pretty solid blocks of time during each week to do that.
Time in the studio. Meetings. Admin stuff at the office. Perhaps the odd catch up with a friend. Men’s group Friday mornings. But this morning, it was pretty clear, so after a time with the Lord, I sat down to start putting some thoughts together for another radio program.
But yesterday … yesterday – I had a list of 27 items to get through – got through about half of them, which isn’t bad. But in the middle of some really important stuff, off goes Skype on my desktop, it was one of our team from Africa calling me.
Now, I hadn’t spoken with Joseph for a couple of weeks, and I really wanted to talk to him – but part of me was … well, not annoyed but agitated, because I had all these things planned for today, and yet now I was being interrupted.
Of course, I chatted with him and it was great – but it’s that reaction of having my plans interrupted that’s the really interesting bit. I’m sure you’ve experienced it too – really good plans, and then someone comes along and interrupts them.
It happens in the small day to day things, and it happens too, in the bigger things of life. The plan to get married, to have children, to find somewhere to live, perhaps to buy a house. The plans we have in our minds for our finances and for our careers, for our children, for our families.
Time and time and time again, those plans get turned on their head, as other things, other people demand that they be changed. How do you react when that happens, hmm?
We’ve been chatting over the past week about the idea of following Jesus with confidence. There are plenty of things that come along and shake our confidence in Him day to day, and one of those things is when our plans – good and godly though they may have been – are turned on their heads.
We kind of react with this shock: Hang on, what’s going on?! I had things all planned out and now… this!! Really?! That can’t be right. Maybe I was heading in the wrong direction in the first place. And that sense of maybe I had it wrong shakes our confidence a bit. Would it surprise you to know that you’re not the only one who’s been in that place.?
Have a listen to this … out of the book of Acts in the New Testament, Chapter 16, verse 6 – it’s about the Apostle Paul’s ministry journey.
They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
Now did you notice in there that twice – not once, but twice – we’re told that God Himself stopped Paul and his team from following their plans. I’m sure they’d sat down and thought about it and prayed about it and been convinced to go and proclaim the good news of Jesus in Asia.
And yet, they couldn’t having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. We don’t find out how that happened – perhaps Paul had a really sharp dream in the night. Perhaps one of their team with the spiritual gift of prophecy stood up and said so. Perhaps they’d been praying together and all of a sudden a few of them just got that really sharp check in the spirit, telling them not to go there.
Whatever it was – the Holy Spirit forbade them to go there, contrary to their initial plans.
And a second time. They tried to go to Bithynia … but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Was there some physical obstacle? Was it a sense of spiritual discernment? We’re not told. But again, the Holy Spirit blocked their way.
I was reading a great blog post Finding my Keys by a guy called Luke Collings, where he writes this:
The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian is often portrayed as overwhelmingly “positive”. That is, the Spirit enables the Christian to live in a manner of which they were incapable while they were still under sin. They can be obedient by the Spirit (Rom 8:4). They can understand the things of God (1 Cor 2:12). They can overcome the desires of the body (Gal 5:16). I could go on and on.
The contemporary word to describe the Spirit’s effect on the Christian’s life is “empowerment”.
Well put Luke – in our contemporary social context of individualism and self, it’s easy to get only half the view of the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Almost as though the Spirit is there to serve us, rather than the other way around.
Of course God is our helper – but He’s also our King. Of course Jesus is our Saviour, but He’s also our Lord. And it’s that second part of the equation that we miss at our peril. Luke Collings goes on to say:
What we see instead is that the Holy Spirit is more than just Ministry Rocket Fuel. The Spirit is the one who opens and closes doors for the Gospel to spread. The Spirit doesn’t just Empower, but Directs and Enables mission. Those engaged in the preaching of Jesus learn from Acts 16 that they are not the Captain and Navigator of their own course. Those jobs are firmly in God’s hands.
So … the next time God slams the door shut in your face, this wouldn’t be a bad thing to remember. At the end of the day it’s not my plans or yours that are the important things. It’s God’s plans – because He sees the whole picture.
Notice with Paul, both times He slammed the door shut, God led them in a different direction. The direction that He would have them go; to speak the Gospel to the people He would have them speak to. As well as the “no’s” – there was a strong, positive “yes”.
During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
God leads us in all sorts of different ways – sometimes by closing this door, and then a little while later flinging open some other door that you or I would never have dreamed of even knocking on. That change of plans … sure, our natural reaction is to wonder why. Our natural reaction is to have our confidence shaken.
But the whole point of what we’re talking about today on the program is learning to follow Jesus with confidence. The next time a door slams unexpectedly shut in your face, may the Holy Spirit dust this little chat of ours off and bring it into your recollection. A change of plans doesn’t mean that something’s gone wrong. God is still on His throne. And He really does know what He’s doing.