Luke 21_5-19 I got a plan
Just because we got a plan, doesn’t mean we will get the results we expected. It is said that “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” And yes, that is true in many ways. However, as you saw on the power point, our plans often come undone by unexpected results! In fact the opposite of what we expected can happen, and when they do, we think all is lost.
The disciples were marvelling at the great Temple in Jerusalem. They would have been impressed by how each giant stone was intricately placed, one upon another, layer upon layer, just as planned. Each stone a testimony to the detail that went into its planning and how all this great work was all dedicated to God. Things were also going to plan for the disciples. Their plan to leave everything and follow Jesus, were going well. They were becoming well known, Jesus was having an impact upon the established religious orders, and many others were dedicating their lives to Jesus as their Messiah. Surely, you do your best and God will do the rest.
God did indeed do the rest, but God does not stick to our plan. In fact, he does it all. The Temple which the disciples admired so greatly, saying how it was all dedicated to God, was destroyed only a few years later, as Jesus foretold “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” The disciple’s plans for Jesus also soon tumbled. When Peter witnessed Jesus being whipped and beaten, his plan “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”, fell in a heap, denying knowing him three times. And the rest of the disciples ran in fear of their lives from the garden of Gethsemane.
Their plans backfired and came to nothing, because Jesus had other plans. In the middle of everything falling apart, they must have been wondering what could come of all this; where is God in all this; how could God be working to plan through their crucified and dying Lord? We now know and believe, and have the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the very words of those disciples who endured their plans being destroyed, as Jesus hung on the cross, that God, through the cross and suffering of his Son Jesus, was indeed working according to plan. In the midst of their confusion, the prophetic words of Isaiah were being fulfilled “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
In the very midst of our unravelling plans and hopes, God works wonders, and not only that, he also thrusts us into his plan of salvation, as Jesus did for the criminal in the midst of his failed plans “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
God’s plan and vision to redeem the world of sin, death and the devil was originally cast in the midst of Adam and Eve’s toppled plan to be like God. It was right in the middle of their hopelessness and confusion, that God thrust Adam and Eve into his plan and said to the devil “the child of the woman will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” God’s plan of salvation was recast when Joseph’s brother’s plan to kill him by selling him as a salve toppled. God, through Joseph explains, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
We like Adam and Eve, like Joseph’s brothers, and like the disciples, all have plans for our life and plans for others; plans for the way we think God can and should work in our life and in the life of others. How often have your plans worked out just as you anticipated, and prayed for? Whose walk with the Lord has workout exactly as you thought the day of your confirmation? What about the plans you had or still have for your children…have they grown up and made the choices and lived the lives just as you wanted? What about you own life, would you say “yep! Just as I planned.”
And the plans we have for our church. We could almost say, “what haven’t we planned and tried?” Surely God wants to work through our ministry and bring about his purposes of salvation through our plans and visions. Yet right at this point, I together with you, am thinking “We had a plan Lord, why is it seem like it is toppling, why has it changed?”
Wouldn’t things work out better if only God stuck to our plans?
This is the problem we have with God…he seems to say one thing and do another. To us, he is a God of paradoxes, of contradictions. God says one thing in Jeremiah 29: 11 “I have plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Yet many who heard that message died in exile, never to see a future. And even today this promise is spoken to Christians being persecuted, tortured and even killed for their faith in Jesus…yet where is their hope and future? Stephen was chosen by God to be a herald to the good news of Jesus, that he died and rose again to pay for the sins of the world, yet he was only days into his ministry when some men stoned him to death during his maiden speech.
(Video if works) Martin Luther King, after a famous speech about his plan for equality between blacks and whites, was assassinated the next day. Many black people in America at that time would have been calling to God, asking “why…how can this be, we had plans.” Yet, look what has happened, look what God has achieved in the midst of death and toppled plans.
In today’s gospel reading Jesus reveals how God’s plan to prosper us, and to bring hope to others through the gospel of Jesus Christ, is often enacted in the midst of our failed and toppling plans. The disciples are planning for glory, admiring the Temple, however, Jesus warns them saying “the time will come when not one stone will be left on another.” God’s salvation comes through another way and the cross of Jesus shows this, when he made satisfaction for the sins of the world, then rose in glory on the third day.
It is often in and through our own suffering and the toppling down of our selfish plans and desires that God brings change, hope and salvation to us, and others we never even imagined. It is in the breaking down of our plans that God’s plan is enacted and we are thrust into his plan of salvation, as witnessed throughout the bible. Jonah had a plan. There was no way he was going to call the Ninevites to repentance. Even when he was cast over board in the storm, did you know that Jonah’s admission that God was to blame for all the trouble, the sailors then repented and believed? “At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.”
The gospel speaks most clearly into our lives and to the lives of others when we are embroiled in the unexpected. Have you thought about this? John the Baptist got it, when his disciples complained that everyone was suddenly going over to Jesus, John said “He must become greater; I must become less.”
The writer of Hebrews says “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” And there is no better time to have faith than when we do not see how our plans can work, when we do not see how God could be at work; there is no better time to expect God‘s plan of salvation to be working in and through our lives, than in the midst of our own tumbling down plans. For right in the midst of what we think is a disaster and an end, God thrusts us into his plan, giving us, as Jesus promises, the words to say at this time “For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” Jesus says he will give us his words, when our own have failed; that he will give us his wisdom when our own wisdom has failed.
He has a plan when our plans fail.