Very few things are considered established truth these days. Someone is ready to disagree with just about anything you say, even if they don’t know anything about the subject, but there is something I think is pretty well established at this point, no matter what anyone else thinks–I am a planner. I like having a plan. I love having a plan. I want a plan for work and a plan for vacation. I want a plan for today and a plan for the next year, decade, and so on. Obviously, my plans for today are a lot more detailed than my five year plan. I’m not a monster. But that doesn’t diminish my appreciation for plans, an appreciation that can sometimes create some tensions. If you’re a planner or just have a family member or friend who is a planner, then you know this tension well. It’s that sense of unease that arises when the plan suddenly shifts or is shattered altogether. This is another pretty established fact of life–plans change. When they do, how do we respond?
Among other things, Acts 15-16 show us a man on a mission. Paul and Barnabas led the team taking the decision of the Jerusalem council to the believers in Antioch. With their mission a success, Paul was ready to move forward. So was Barnabas. There was just one problem. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them. Paul wasn’t having it. So they went their separate ways, Barnabas with John Mark to Cyprus and Paul with Silas to Derbe and Lystra, where they were joined by Timothy. Plans change. Paul’s team wasn’t who he expected, but their work stayed the same. Nothing could stop Paul from sharing the word with everyone he met. Except…
Plans change. The Holy Spirit forbid them to speak the word in Asia and wouldn’t allow them to even enter Bithynia. They passed right by Mysia and made their way to Troas. Instead of continuing their journey west into the region known then as Asia, Paul’s team took an abrupt turn to the north and then to the west around it. It wasn’t the route any travel planner would have suggested, but it was the way the Holy Spirit led them until a man from Macedonia appeared to Paul in a vision saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
When plans change, how do we respond? Paul’s team immediately sought to go to Macedonia, but if I’m being honest, my response to changed plans isn’t always so immediate. Is yours? It can be hard to let go of the way we thought things were going to go, even though holding on to changing plans is as futile as chasing the wind. When the Spirit intervened to change the plans of Paul and his team, it wasn’t the end of what God was doing in their lives. It was merely a new chapter, one they would have missed if they’d insisted on the way they expected things to go. Let’s not miss the journey God is calling us to join. Where is God leading you to let go of old plans and embrace the calling to share the good news in a different place or with different people?