The Place & Power of A Plan
Success is rare without a well conceived plan. God had a plan for creation. He had a plan for redemption. He has a plan for each and every life.
Psalm 33:13—15 informs us that “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees ALL the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on ALL the inhabitants of earth; He fashions (or shapes and molds) their hearts individually; He considers ALL their works.” In other words, God has a divine plan for each human who has ever lived and will train each one for the work he or she is to do. Jeremiah 29:11 confirms this: God speaking says “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” These Scriptures were written for everyone of you attending this conference. God has a plan for your life and He will help you complete that plan. Have courage and keep the faith.
I am speaking to ministers. Some of you are pastors, others are teachers, still others are missionaries or some other designated function in the work of the ministry. You have heard God’s call in your heart. You have responded through the years. Some of you know you are just where God wants you and are happy in pursuing the course you are on. Others are in transition. For some reason you are praying and waiting on the Lord for another assignment. Maybe you need clarification. Maybe you face big problems and don’t know how to solve them—and you may feel like cutting and running. Maybe you need a time of rest for reflection and perhaps redirection. Some are in the twilight years and not many doors are open for you.
I am speaking about the place and power of a plan. Desire without direction will go nowhere. The question many of you have is simply: “How do I get direction for the immediate future—or in fact, for the rest of my life. The great commission is unfilled, so there must be something I can do.”
In the last few years I have passed through this valley. Being active throughout most of my adult life I found myself sitting on the sidelines. It is not pleasant to feel like the church world is passing you by. You may be in a busy, thriving church and see ways in which you can help—ministry that your experience and training have prepared you to do—but younger, energetic, up-and-coming men and women are given the opportunities. Time passes and you wonder if your active days are over.
Oh, there are trifling things you can do like greeting at the door, visiting the sick and those in rest homes. Maybe you can direct traffic in the parking lot; or help keep the building and grounds clean and attractive. All of these are essential ministries at the entry level so to speak—and you have capabilities far above these. There was a time when you eagerly labored at entry-level tasks, and gladly. Doing so fulfilled a need in your life when you were ill equipped to do anything more. But I am talking to God-called and God-ordained ministers today who are at a crossroads of one kind or another and you need to hear from God.
Let me challenge you to have faith. Don’t dwell on the plain of despair. God knows who and where you are. I know it is hard to wait when you want to be doing. But God is faithful and He will complete the plan for your life that He started years ago. Psalm 27:14 instructs us to wait on the Lord and be of good courage and the Lord shall strengthen your heart. And Psalm 92:13,14 declares “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord (that means the Body of Christ) shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.” You know these passages, so I am not telling you anything new. But at times we need reminding so we can refocus and renew our hope.
I am in a church where young men and women are trained and ministering with all the fervency and zeal I once had. I am greeting at the door, leading a prayer meeting attended by a handful of saints, leading a home group and helping at the altar service. There are no plaudits and no name on the marquee, but these are simple and vital areas of church ministry. I am in a place where a smile and a handshake can transform a disgruntled attendee into a happier mode ready to worship the Lord. At the altar I can draw from experience and Scripture memorization to help a seeker move toward a fulfilled life serving the Lord—and I can choose my pace. No more firing all the pistons to gain horse- power; running double time to keep ahead of the pack. No more over-extending myself trying to advance. And I am happy in this role for what it is. The Bible says we should willingly do what tasks come our way, and again—give thanks in every thing. May I remind you that this is an important key to victory and answers to prayer when we seem to be at a stalemate. Let me repeat this key: step into any opportunity no matter how trivial, and joyfully give thanks to God.
Now I am happy to report that God has opened new doors for me on a somewhat larger platform. For years I was a writer for publication. I sorted through reports, condensed them, inserted adjectives and verbs here and there to make them both interesting and challenging. I learned the journalism trade. And for years I went overseas occasionally to encourage missionaries and national leaders. I evaluated the field work and submitted reports for action and prepared articles to promote funds for mission work. It was after some 50 years with this ministry that I found myself on the sidelines and wondering if my days of influence were over. Is there anyone here today who identifies with my experience? Well, take heart, don’t give up and look for better days.
Little did I know that in God’s scheme another door would open so that I could practice my trade again—but at a slower pace. Friends—we don’t know what lies ahead. Only God knows our future. It is our task to be ready when the call comes. I never dreamed that there would be a time and need at AGIF for the very experience I gained through the active years of my life. After attending the San Diego convention for many years, and seldom speaking, just attending, the Lord moved me to San Diego for other reasons. Then several vacancies occurred on the Board and I was invited to serve as a Director. This enabled me to again use the management skills to serve God’s kingdom. Then the need for journalistic talent surfaced and I was in the right place at the right time.
And the Lord did something else I didn’t expect. At my age I didn’t think I would ever travel abroad again. I have logged so many miles, sat in cramped seats, and waited in terminals for connecting flights. Traveling is no longer adventurous for me. And living on Social Security I didn’t have the financial resources. But God did the unexpected.
Unknown to me, I was listed as a beneficiary on a dear friend’s Family Trust and would be receiving a check from the fund. My wife and I dedicated this fund—and the earned interest it may create—to missions and charitable causes. It enables me to return to the mission fields again. I have made one trip to West Africa and two trips to the Philippine Islands. The pastors and leaders know me and want me to share my experiences and Bible lessons with them. So this door of ministry has reopened. Is God good or what? In the Philippines they sang this chorus over and over and it is imbedded in my spirit—and it says: “Our God is great…our God is good…our God is faithful…and He never changes.” I can say a hearty “Amen!”
I named this lesson: “The place and power of a plan”. God has a plan for each one of us, and it is up to us to be in the right place at the right time so that God’s power can bring everything together. I am not scolding anyone. I am trying to bring the right perspective to your circumstances so that God’s plan for the rest of your life can and will be fulfilled. Let it be clear in your mind that circumstances and age have little to do with your future. Well—a little perhaps, but not enough to thwart God’s purposes.
To you who are younger—be patient and be prepared. God knows when and where to use your gifts and ministry. To you who are older, perhaps retired, and the door for ministry doesn’t open as in past years. Look and pray for opportunities that fit your gifting and experience. God might even do something totally unexpected.
There are many success stories of men who launched great projects—even careers—late in life. Colonel Sanders is one. At the age of 75 he launched the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain of fast food restaurants. Grandma Moses began an impressive art career late in life. Look at what Abraham and Sarah accomplished after the prime of life. Hannah was late in bearing children. And the story goes on. Let me relate several stories I remember from the last Century.
There was a woman, I believe in Australia who heard a missionary talk about taking Bibles into Albania. This woman, I don’t remember her name, was a timid person. She had never considered going to the mission field, and certainly not communist Albania. But she could pray. You know—so many things begin with prayer. Well this woman prayed for souls to be saved in Albania. The day came when she learned that a team was being formed to take Bibles into Albania. She prayed for that team. One day the Lord began to stir her own heart to go with the team. This feeling within overcame her timidity and she signed up to go. I don’t remember many of the details, but it was a dangerous, life-threatening experience. She was taken into custody, threatened, then released and God miraculously blinded the guard’s eyes so the woman could take Bibles in—and again when it was time to depart from Albania. What I remember from the story is that God protected this timid woman who responded to the call in her spirit. The miraculous experiences were forever a testimony to God’s faithfulness. But the adventure began with prayer.
Friends—you know what I am going to say: every successful plan begins with prayer. Every ministry and adventure with the Lord begins with prayer. If you want your life to change—pray! If you want doors to open—pray! God knows who and where you are; and He knows just where you will fit into His divine plan for you—as well as his kingdom here on earth . So pray, and believe, and trust, and be ready when the call comes.
There is another story, and again I can’t remember the man’s name. I met him in Kenya several decades ago while conducting a soul-winning seminar. This man came from Tanzania. He was a soul-winner. He wanted to learn more about soul-winning. He told this story. He was praying about how he could win more souls and the Lord impressed on his heart that he should go into the Zulu heartland. He had no car and he prayed for the Lord to make away.
The days passed and he made excuses to the Lord that he had no way to go to the Zulus. The Lord reminded him that He had said nothing about transportation—just go to the Zulus. The call became so urgent that he set out on foot. The journey took several days and led through dangerous lion country. The man said: “ I heard the lion roar, but I just walked along singing and praying. If God is sending me to the Zulu tribe then the lion can’t harm me.” He heard and he saw the lion but the lion did not come near him. Then he heard the buffalo, and again he sang and prayed. The buffalo charged at him and suddenly stopped a few yards away. It turned and went back a ways. Then the buffalo charged again. And again it stopped, turned and bothered him no more.
The man continued the journey until suddenly a band of naked zulu warriors rose from the grass and surrounded him. One of them spoke and asked who he was and why he was in zulu country. The man replied: “God sent me with a message for your chief.” The warriors reasoned that if God sent him with a message for the chief it must be an important message so they escorted him right into the Zulu chief’s village. The chief came out and asked the man who he was and why he was there. The man replied that God sent him there with a message. The chief thought to himself: “If God sent this man to me he must have an important message.” So he told the man to wait until evening, if God had a message for him he wanted the whole village to hear the message. So the villagers gathered at evening time and the man proclaimed the Gospel to them. To his surprise the chief and most of the people readily accepted the Lord and great joy came to the Zulu kingdom.
Again—this adventure began with prayer. But another Bible principle emerges—obedience. We can have a God-given plan and purpose. We can pray it into readiness. But the plan will never succeed unless we obey the Lord’s call and let the Lord guide and direct us. Prayer and obedience go together. In my own life I have prayed long for some doors to open; other times doors opened without me doing much of anything. However, my life was ready for the call because of past decisions, past commitments, past preparation and past experience. When we make commitments to the Lord and faithfully follow where He leads—we may never know just where the journey will lead us, but prayer and obedience are essential if we are to fulfill our mission.
Am I helping anyone gain perspective? Is anyone at this conference who needs the encouragement I am trying to impart? Is anyone here who can identify with some of my shared experiences as I look back upon my life? Is there anyone here needing to hear from God? To discover and embark upon a different plan that fits your experience as well as the yearning in your heart? Don’t think you are too old. Let me briefly mention a few people who came up with a plan that touched millions of lives.
Demos Shakarian was a California dairyman. He was a man with a great big heart for humanity and great faith in God. He didn’t have the talent of a preacher, teacher or evangelist—but he prayed and God gave him a plan that has circled the globe and transformed the lives of countless businessmen. The plan was to invite unsaved businessmen to a dinner. Who can turn down an invitation to a free dinner? The rest is history and well known to all of you.
Loren Cunningham was a young man with a missionary heart. He realized that methods must change with the culture and he organized short-term youth trips to foreign countries. YWAM is a well known ministry to all of you.
Dave Wilkerson obeyed the call of God to take the Gospel to the streets of New York. It was dangerous, hard, often thankless and sometimes lonely. The work of Teen Challenge in drug recovery and the ministry of the Times Square Church is well known.
Was it Billy Graham or Bill Bright who launched Youth For Christ? But what a work that ministry has done in the past half century.
And the Gideons—placing Bibles in hotel rooms all around the world. A ministry started in 1899 by three traveling salesmen who saw a need and developed a plan to meet that need.
You can add to the list of men and women who came up with a plan that met a need, was suitable to their talents and was blessed by God. Prayer and obedience were foundation stones in each and every ministry. And each of the above ministries was a new concept to the Christian world. What is God birthing in your spirit? No matter has it been done before—if God is putting a plan in your heart pray it through and when God moves be obedient.
I believe some of you have entertained some new and different plans. One of our members has a trucker’s ministry. Others have unique ministries like pantomimes on the streets of America and third world countries. Still others are providing food and clothing to the poor and needy. What is your gift? What is your experience? What is in your heart? Cover these ideas with prayer. Make a list of things and people to pray for. Show acts of kindness to neighbors and those you meet on life’s journey. Carry small pieces of literature to give here and there as doors of opportunity come your way. Visit the sick and needy with a Scripture, a prayer, an act of kindness.
You want another idea? Walk the streets of your neighborhood or around your church praying. Bring down the angels of God to drive away demon spirits. I heard of a man living in a neighborhood where there were gang members. He walked the streets and prayed the demons away. Gang members began moving away—or in some cases wandered into churches and were saved. A neighborhood was transformed through a prayer-action plan.
In Matt. 23:37 Jesus is weeping and praying over Jerusalem. What might happen if we would walk the streets and weep and pray over our cities? What would happen if we would shut ourselves in a closet and weep and pray over our America and the nations? I am talking to myself now. I don’t pray enough. I don’t weep over my city, over America, over the nations of the world like I should.
There are opportunities all around us. The other day I drove into my yard and a man was digging a pipeline ditch in the neighbor’s yard. He needed an excuse to rest so he spoke to me. I responded and the conversation led to me asking: “where do you go to church?” He admitted he was formerly a mormon but had not been to church in awhile. I invited him to my church with the assurance that he would experience Jesus in a personal way and his life would be changed. With a smile on his face he promised to come and asked directions. A seed was sown just like that.
I end with a thought from Heb. 11 & 12. The Old Testament saints never realized the fulfillment of many promises, and we are told they comprise a great cloud of witnesses who watch every generation—which includes ours—hoping and praying that it will usher in the return of Christ—and the promises made to them will at last be fulfilled. You know what that means to me? It means that every generation is a link in the chain from Adam until the Lord does return. And each of us is a link of sorts in that generational chain. Don’t be a broken link in that divine generational chain. Lift up your spiritual eyes. Remember the promises to Christ’s church. Be in prayer for the plan God has for your life that it will be fulfilled. Be faithful to do what your hand finds to do until God opens a bigger door. Be obedient, trust the Lord to guide and provide; and believe for greater things than ever before in your life. If God be for you and with you—who can stand in your way?