Plans and Power: Our Limits and God’s Goodness
“Plan your work and work your plan.” That phrase is great – in theory. Usually, it carries with it a practical application. But sometimes those plans are suddenly laid aside.
That’s where our churches found themselves in March of this year. We planned our work ahead of schedule – but then weren’t able to work that plan. Coronavirus took the lead role in our play called, “Think Again…You Actually Thought You Were in Charge?”
Actually, yes; we did. If not us, who?
Well, that would be God, of course. Proverbs 16:9 makes that clear. “We may make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps.” (NLV)
James wrote about this when he said, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)
It could not be any clearer. In this play, no one sits on the throne but God. It’s not that God is against our making plans. But God has always been the One in charge, and despite the feeble attempts of humans to control history, our choices ultimately fall under the good wisdom of God.
In the South, where southern fried chicken is a staple, we grew up knowing that if you have a pulley bone – a wish bone – at the dinner table, then two can pull that v-shaped bone with all their might, but only one will get the long part when it snaps. That one gets to make a “wish.” Silly little nonsensical talk. However, be very sure that no wish – no plans or intention – can override the power of God. If we can understand this, we can move forward with a sense of security and deep thankfulness.
How this actually works – how God directs our steps – is often a mystery. Let’s consider what it is not. God does not direct your steps if you are willingly walking away from your Creator. God does not direct our steps into sin. That comes under your free will, an unbelievably generous gift from our sovereign, loving God. God is not directing your steps if you decide to purposefully hurt someone.
Napoleon, at the height of his career, is reported to have given this cynical answer to someone who asked if God was on the side of France: “God is on the side that has the heaviest artillery.” Then came the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon lost both the battle and his empire. Years later, when he was in exile on the island of St. Helena, completely humbled, Napoleon was reported to quote the words of Thomas à Kempis: “man proposes; God disposes.”
During this time of a far-reaching pandemic, it is easy for us to throw up our hands and completely give up, with questions like, “Why is God doing this?” or, “Why did God let me put all that work into my plans?” or even, “Is this the beginning of the end of time?”
In answer to the first question, God does have purpose in allowing this virus to infiltrate our lives. Not one person on earth, even the wisest of scholars has the perfect answer. God’s power to weave tragedy for good is far too wide and too high for our finite minds. In answer to, “Is this the beginning of the end of time?” the answer would be, “Absolutely not. It is a continuing of the beginning of the end of time that entered our lives 2,000 years ago. Jesus ushered in the last days. Since we are 2,000 years into that ushering, it seems that God is not in any hurry to bring this truth to its final purpose.”
Maxie Dunnam captures this in succinct explanation: “The coronavirus is not the will of God; this is not his deliberate judgment upon a sinful nation and an unfaithful church, and it is not any sort of announcement about ‘end times.’ Listen to me now, listen carefully. I am not questioning God’s power. Even the winds and the waves obey God simply through the word of his Son. This is not God’s will, but God has a will in the midst of it.” (Where is God in this Raging Coronavirus? March 27, 2020)
And one more thing. When our plans go out the window and upheaval stirs anxiety, recognize who your enemy actually is. The very real ruler of this world is out to steal and destroy. Don’t let him. If you are a believer, then the Power that created the world lives – in you. The enemy has already been defeated. Read this truth in the following scripture: “Greater is he that is in me than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
What do you see as God’s will for you right now, today, in the midst of this virus? Maybe God is pointing out a need for a recharged moral compass or sense of discernment. Somewhere in these past years, have you lost yours?
Our solutions are fairly simple when we search for God’s will when our plans come to nothing – simple, yet decidedly difficult to carry out: Open our eyes. Speak out against injustice. Make our presence known to others.
Where we find our limits, we also find God’s power and goodness.
Featured image by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash