March 26, 2020

The Only Guaranteed Plan

associate pastor

associate pastor

Ken Rathburn

There are two kinds of people: those who plan and those who go with the flow. We tend to put every person in the world (including ourselves) into one of these two neatly defined groups. On one side, we have those who meticulously plan every portion of every day. Calendar appointments are carefully scheduled and even more carefully followed. Vacations include color-coded itineraries from which one dare not waiver. On the other side, there are those who fly by the proverbial seat of their pants. The evening’s activities remain a complete unknown when it’s only mid-afternoon. Vacation trips involve spur of the moment shifts from one unexpected adventure to the next.

Well, guess what these past few weeks have shown us? These categories are nonsense. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world and our plans completely upside down. A microscopic organism has seemingly undone the whole world order humanity has striven so hard to build. Through the current lens of required social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, even the most free spirit looks like an extreme planner whose every plan has been either changed, cancelled or put on hold indefinitely. This robs us of any sense of control over our lives, which leads to fear and angst. We’re left to wonder if we can really plan for and count on anything at all.

The Bible actually speaks to this, but not in the way you might think. God’s Word neither forbids us from planning nor does it tell us to plan everything. It does, however, warn us against making plans without the proper perspective of who is really in control. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Proverbs 27:1 God is the one in charge of each and every day, especially these upside down days. He alone is in complete control. (See Isaiah 46:10) We may plan, but his is the plan that all the world ultimately follows. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9.

Think about how many plans we make on a daily basis, without even realizing it. We plan lunches with friends, worship at NAMS on Sundays, routine doctor appointments, and grabbing toilet paper and bread from the store. Those plans have certainly come unraveled apart. In a little over a week from now, my dad and I were to be headed to the Masters Tournament for his 75th birthday. Now, despite all my grand plans, that isn’t happening either. “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.’” James 4:13-15 Our plans fail, but God’s plan will come to pass.

Our plans fail, but God’s plan will come to pass.

Can we know this plan, the only guaranteed plan? Well, yes and no. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 That verse is one of the most famous and also one of the most misunderstood verses in all of Scripture. When the Israelites received this message from the Lord, they were in exile—living in less than ideal conditions, far away from their homeland and missing all they held dear. God came to them and promised rescue, but guess what he said to them in the immediately preceding verse? (v.10) He told them this rescue would not happen for another 70 years. Imagine that! In the midst of circumstances they desperately wanted to end, God tells them for now they must stay put. But he knew exactly what he as doing. The Israelites continued to worship God and they put down roots in this foreign land. As a result, people of other nations began to turn away from their false idols and worshipped the one true God. The Lord used their undesirable circumstances as a way to broaden the scope of the rescue he promised—bringing more people to himself. Of course, this plan culminates in the death and resurrection of Jesus himself. The darkest day of history, the death of the Son of God, was the means by which God’s love shined more brightly than ever before. On that day and through that darkness our Lord brought salvation to people from every tribe, tongue and nation. Might some small piece of that be happening right now, even through the mess of COVID-19?

Last Sunday, we had over 230 connections during the livestream of NAPC’s worship service. Assuming 2-3 people per connection, that means more people heard the Gospel than normally attend our worship services. Many more have tuned in since then. Think about that. In some ways God is using our isolation to reach more people with the good news of his saving grace. We have heard many stories of people participating in last Sunday’s worship who have never set foot in our church. Look at the spiritual hunger this crisis is causing in the hearts of people across the world. When the world is turned upside down, the world cries out for a place to turn. May we call them to turn to Jesus.

Read God’s Word. Pray and cry out to our King. Take comfort in the fact that he alone is in control. Reach out with the love of Christ to those whom the Holy Spirit places on your heart. Invite people to tune into the livestream of worship this Sunday with NAPC. The link is right here. We may not know how everything will end as we walk through these troubled times. We may not know every detail of how God will work all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). And yet, we do know that the ultimate rescue will indeed happen. The only guaranteed plan—his plan—will come to pass. 

Laboring with all of you until that glorious Day,

Pastor Ken