When God Says "No" To Our Plans
What are our ministry goals? As a church planter our goals are many times good things that focus around discipleship, healthy churches, and seeing the gospel advanced in our communities. But is there something about doing church work that makes us believe that as long as we aspire to good things, the Lord will bless our journey with great success? Over the past 10 years of ministry, I have waged the emotional war from excitement to despair. Is it my sin that prohibits the gospel? Is it my motives that cause my plans to fall short? Is it my plans that are flawed? All these questions swirl in my mind as I face disappointment.
I find some relief as I read Acts 16. In Acts 16, Paul and his new star-studded team of Timothy, Silas, and soon Luke are ready to take the world captive with the gospel. In 16:5 it says, “The churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.” This group of guys seems to not be lacking in successful ministry. They could blow all our assessments away. And yet, in the next 3 verses we find that the Spirit is “forbidding” them to move forward with the gospel in Asia. From 16:6-8, this group of guys travel an estimated 200 miles on foot, calculating a minimum journey of 2-3 weeks from town to town and the Spirit says “NO” to their plans. I find relief and comfort that even for the greatest church planting team in history, the Spirit also is forbidding them from doing good things.
I am reminded of Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Church leaders, we need this truth ever before our eyes. The Evil One wants us to believe that God will always say “YES” to our good plans and our good intentions. But the truth is that we could look throughout the Scriptures and find multiple places where God’s servants were shut down. Not because of their sin, not because their plan was flawed, but because it is the LORD who establishes our steps. We need the truth before us that God may say “NO” to our good plans. The question is, “Can we surrender our plans to God’s ‘NO?’” Elisabeth Elliot writes, “Our prayers for guidance (or for anything else) really begin here: I trust him. This requires abandonment. We are no longer saying, ‘If I trust him, he’ll give me such and such,’ but, ‘I trust him. Let him give me or withhold from me what he chooses.’”
Chad Mondragon lives in Centennial, CO with his wife Melody and their 5 kids. He is lead pastor and planter of Sola Church in Centennial, and has also planted a church in Lexington, KY. Chad is part of the Acts29 Church Planting Network, North American Mission Board, and the Soma Family of Churches.