Responding to the Unexpected

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Why does it seem odd to us or feel like somewhat of a failure when our plans don’t work out exactly as we intended? Are sudden unexpected changes of direction a mark of failed planning or a basic element of life in a fallen, yet God-directed world? The Scriptures clearly teach as much.

“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9).

“Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand” (Prov. 19:21).

We do well to remember a change of direction is not evidence that God has lost control, it is evidence that God is in control! We have many plans but only the counsel of the Lord will stand. Do we always plan exactly what the Lord intends to bring about? No! We live in a world in which God is the Sovereign architect of our lives and not the other way around. Often when our purposes seemed as clearly fixed and soon to be accomplished as a five-minute drive to the grocery store, the Divine Architect sends some obstruction, some unexpected difficulty that sends us in another direction—His direction. And His direction is always the best.

Consider that Paul was turned aside from a wide field of labor to preach in a prison cell. How could this serve the purposes of God? Oh what letters were written in those prison cells!

When David obediently traveled to visit his brothers at his father’s request, little did he realize what great test of his faith lied ahead in the form of an individual named Goliath. But what good came to many from that representative victory which resulted from the test of his faith! This one event was used in a very personal and direct way to prepare David for His calling as King. It was also instrumental as a means of instilling faith in the people of God.

Contemplate also the thirteen years Joseph experienced in slavery and imprisonment. Surely this must have felt like a useless and painful change of direction but it was the doorway to becoming Pharaoh’s right hand man and God’s instrument for saving Joseph’s people from starvation and maintaining the promised line (Gen. 50:20).

Christian recording artist Phil Keaggy adapted a line from C. S. Lewis in one of his songs entitled “Disappointment” that often comes to mind when I suddenly face an unexpected turn in the road. I think it’s worth remembering:

Disappointment – His appointment,
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.

This last month our congregation was shocked and disturbed by very difficult news regarding one of our own ministry leaders. This was truly a sudden and painfully unexpected turn if there ever was one. It would be yet another setback in the formation of a leadership and staff infrastructure that could meet the needs of our growing flock.

But sudden providential changes often issue in fruit we would have never harvested otherwise. Sometimes these quick alterations are Fatherly discipline designed to wean us from our own devices, sins or ruts, that we may seek the Lord’s direction and rely upon His help more diligently. I believe , in our case, we have already begun to taste some of the first fruits.

All of these changes may seem sudden and I must admit this is not the way I had planned or envisioned it. But with unreserved confidence I once again yield to our Heavenly Architect. He knows the whole way—every step of the way. He alone knows the “end from the beginning.”

Do you have any plans for the balance of 2016? Sure you do. You might encounter a sudden and unforeseen change of direction. The God who fashions the hearts of all men means for your life, as well as our churches, to display His truth and worth. Often this comes about through the refinement of our faith that takes place through God-sent sudden changes in direction. Plans that become thwarted may be harbingers of better things. Great letters came from prison cells. In the end, I believe we will all confess that these unexpected difficulties “turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

In closing I offer you all the lyrics of “Disappointment” for your reflection.

Disappointment – His appointment,
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.

His appointment must be blessing
Though it may come in disguise
For the end from the beginning,
Open to His wisdom lies.

Disappointment – His appointment
Whose? The Lord’s who loves best.
Understands and knows me fully,
Who my faith and love would test.

For like loving, earthy parent
He rejoices when He knows
That His child accepts unquestioned
All that from His wisdom flows.

Disappointment – His appointment
No good thing will he withhold
From denials oft we gather
Treasures from His love untold.

Well, He knows each broken purpose
Leads to fuller deeper trust
And the end of all His dealings
Proves our God is wise and just.

Disappointment – His appointment
Lord I take it then as such,
Like the clay in hands of potter
Yielding wholly to Thy touch

All my life’s plan is Thy molding
Not one single choice be mine
Let me answer unrepining,
Father not my will but Thine.



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