Plans are mental constructs.
We might write them down, chart them on a wall, or fill a handy notebook with them, but they are products of the mind with no real substance of their own until we put them in motion.
In The Gift of Asher Lev, the second of his two books about the divinely gifted young artist who comes up in a system that does not recognize his gift as one from God, the author, Chaim Potok, places a question in the mouth of Asher’s wife: “Is there a plan, Asher?”
It is a good question to ask. All too often we feel we have the right plan for our lives, the one the Lord has given us when circumstances seem to turn against us.
A Terribly White Christmas
I remember one Christmas when we worked for months on a beautiful musical celebration of the story by Carolina Christian Arts—our production ministry at the church I was serving. When the planned weekend came a snow storm came with it. We had to cancel opening night and opened instead on a Sunday afternoon when every other church in town was closed because of the storm.
This was disappointing to all of us but my theology was shaken. I planned for every contingency I could imagine but the weather was out of my control. Why would God let us go through the agony of creation without the ecstasy of presentation? All we wanted to do was tell His story.
I still don’t know the answer.
Sometimes we label and sort out our plans:
- Plan A,
- Plan B, and
- Worst Case Scenario.
As we pray and think through this season of Lent, a question often comes to mind: “All this suffering of Jesus on our behalf, was it Plan A, or was it some sort of divine improvisation because of the unexpected entrance of sin into the world?”
It was so from before the beginning.
Be assured, the Plan of Salvation is Plan A. God’s motivations are lost in the blinding light of His divinity and are certainly “beyond finding out” by mortals like us.
We can, however, gain insight into a certain depth of the Creator’s reasons for this plan. Since we are made in His image and since we each have a deep need for fellowship, I believe it is safe to believe that God has a deep desire for fellowship as well.
In 1927, the Poet James Weldon Johnson put these words into the Creator’s mouth:
“And God stepped out on space, And he looked around and said: I’m lonely –I’ll make me a world.”
This is art not scripture but I suspect it is pretty close to the truth.
All that we think about in Lent and in the Holy Week comes from God’s plan from the beginning to create us, to give us free will to choose or reject Him, and to provide a way back to Him.
Is there a plan?—Yes.
Once the evil snake was loosed in the world, the heel of the Seed of Mary had to be bruised so that He could then crush Satan’s head.
We should not think of the Passion of the Christ as another sad tragedy—a brilliant young man of peace struck down by violence. This is the plan of God no longer hidden in clouds of majesty or promised in prophecies of old. This is the plan of God set in motion.
Genesis 3:14-15 NKJV
So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
Ephesians 1:3-10 The Message
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people — free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
Proverbs 16:9; 19:21 NKJV
A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord ‘s counsel — that will stand.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back from captivity.
Lord Jesus, Your throne sits above the realm of time, founded upon eternity itself. Your wisdom is, as the prophet declared, “past finding out.” Though billions of individuals roam this planet, You know each of us by name. We each have a lodging place in Your heart and in Your great mind there is a plan for each one of us. Today, You will turn another page in Your plan for me. Help me see and obey. If I cannot see it, help me do what I know is right anyway. I trust in Your plan for me, seen or unseen, understood or a mystery. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.
Trust and Obey
Words and Music: John H. Sammis
1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
2. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.
3. But we never can prove the delights of his love
until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor he shows, for the joy he bestows,
are for them who will trust and obey.
4. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet,
or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What he says we will do, where he sends we will go;
never fear, only trust and obey.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved