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Words of Life

When Our Plans Get “Altared”

By Nick Hall April 2, 2017 Words of Life

In the book of Proverbs, the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, looked at the state of affairs surrounding him and penned words that summed up what he saw: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV). I was stranded one time somewhere in Montana, and with more than a little frustration motivating me, I abridged those verses in my mind: “We make our plans, and God cancels our flights!” I was pretty sure God was asleep at the wheel while I needed to get somewhere fast. In the moment, my plans always seem best to me. My way or the highway, right? Solomon had learned that wasn’t a very good posture to have. 

Of all the difficult things God asks us to surrender, our plans tend to top the list. Especially for planners, being spontaneous and flexible and adaptable seems about as fun as homework on Saturday. For a planner, every obligation ushers in a whole series of concerns: “I need to know where we are going, when we are going there, how long we are staying, when we are coming back, what we will do while we’re there, what I need to wear, how I need to prepare…” and on and on it goes. They like certainty. Predictability. The safety of having a plan. And yet with God, one of the first things he asks us to place on the figurative altar of surrender is exactly that: our plan. 

As far as planners go, a guy named Saul was about as focused, and also as gifted, as they come. He worked hard, studied hard, worked harder, studied harder, slept a few hours, and then was back at it again. Saul had been raised in the “right” family and been given amazing opportunities for success from a young age. He landed in the best school, and then the best internship, and then the best job, where he quickly rose through the ranks. I’m taking some creative license here in portraying the Saul of the Scriptures, but you get the point. This guy was headed for greatness, and nothing was going to hold him back. “You know my pedigree,” he once wrote of himself. “A legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book” (Philippians 3:5). In other words, he was from the right tribe, he kept his nose clean, he worked harder than everyone else, and he was the best. Except that he wasn’t living for Jesus. 

Saul was on a mission like a dog sniffing out a bone, when he was abruptly stopped in his tracks. He was making his way to a town called Damascus, to bring justice to those who are disobeying the law. Unfortunately, in this case, those people happened to be Christians. He didn’t want to kill Christians; he had to kill Christians. They. Were. Breaking. God’s. Law. 

So, en route to this mission, as Saul plowed ahead with fire in his gut, the last thing he expected to have happen was for his plan to get interrupted by Jesus. And yet that’s exactly what went down. 

“Saul,” a simple voice whispered his way. “Saul, why do you persecute me?” (This story is found in Acts 9.) 

Saul (whose name was soon to be changed to Paul) would quickly learn that God’s plan for his life included not killing believers but rather loving them and leading them well. Talk about a reset plan! This was one for the ages, revealed before he even knew to ask for it. And yet the apostle Paul would go on to impact the world for Jesus in utterly unparalleled ways. He established foundational truths of the Christian faith (like the idea that even if we are really, really good people, we are still saved by faith in Jesus alone); he led three wide-reaching missionary journeys, catalyzing the conversions of thousands of people; he penned much of the New Testament… I’d say this guy was the real deal. His story ended the way every story ends, when that story is surrendered to Jesus. It goes down in history as a story of power and impact, of goodness and godliness and grace.


Watch Nick Hall this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Reset: Jesus Changes Everything by Nick Hall. Copyright ©2016 by Nick Hall. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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