“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
A while back I wrote a piece encouraging people to stay flexible when seeking divine perspective on their lives. “Your ‘Plan B’ (or ‘Plan C,’ or even ‘Plan D’) might just be God’s Plan A.” I recently heard a couple of good examples of this concept unfolding.
A radio pastor announced in his on-line service this morning that since the pandemic and the enforcement of “social distancing” that his audience has gone from about 30,000 to over a million. For his ministry a good 3-day crusade might result in 10,000 people indicating decisions to follow Christ. Since not being able to hold crusades, their taking the ministry to the internet has resulted in over 36,000 indicating decisions.
Another favorite ministry of mine is the “JESUS” Film Project. The movie that was made several decades ago telling the story of Jesus, taken word for word from the Gospel of John, is by far the most translated film in history. It has been produced in over 1,800 languages and used to reach largely illiterate people in tens of thousands of villages in remote parts of the world. The ministry teams would bring equipment and copies of the film into these remote areas, often on foot, and after getting permission to set up their screens or to show the movie on the side of a building, they would present the gospel to people who have never heard the Good News before – and often have never seen a movie in their own language, either. They would be so excited to hear Jesus speaking in their language, they would sit enraptured, hearing His teachings and watching Him heal the sick, feed the hungry, even raise the dead. They would weep as they saw Him being crucified, and they would cheer wildly at the resurrection. At the conclusion, as it was explained to them that Jesus’ death paid the penalty for their sins, and His resurrection means all who believe will be raised with Him to eternal life, most if not all of them would respond to the invitation to place their faith in Him.
Of course, with the Corona virus pandemic and nations in lock-down, gathering people together for a showing was virtually impossible. In my daily prayers for the ministry I asked the Lord to bless this time of isolation and to help the ministry workers and planners come up with new strategies to reach people.
The answer to that prayer came when I received word that the “JESUS” Film Project had been granted permission to air the film on not one, but six secular TV stations on Easter Sunday, in a country that until now had seemed very hostile to Christianity. I was so excited, thinking of how many millions of people might be watching and learning about the gospel for the first time in this nation that is 98% Muslim and only 0.2% Christian.
Realizing that Easter was still eight days away, and with this new vision of what was actually possible, I prayed even harder that more doors would open up in other parts of the world.
My prayers (and no doubt the prayers of many others) were answered “exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20) Two days later I got an email with a world map and a list of all the countries that would be airing “JESUS” on Easter.
All 72 of them.
These countries included Communist, Islamic, and Hindu nations, many where Christians had been persecuted the most. I was incredulous, wondering, What were they thinking?? – But I had no complaints!
So, as far as I know, in the absence of being able to take the gospel into little villages the way it’s been done in past decades, recently the gospel has been proclaimed in nations all over the world, to literally billions of people.
(Could this have been God’s “Plan A” all along?)
In the first century the Apostle Paul was a key figure in the evangelism of the civilized world. He was well educated, multilingual, and able to travel from one Roman province to another to preach the gospel. People from every ethnicity were being saved, and churches were planted and growing everywhere Paul went. But then something happened that was unexpected by many, although a few had had an inkling of what was coming. These followers had begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem, where he would be arrested and handed over to the Gentiles (Romans). But Paul proceeded and indeed was arrested, as expected.
So ended his followers’ “Plan A.”
Confined to prison and “house arrest” (quarantined), Paul could not travel to visit the churches, he could only write letters and send them to the churches by way of his good friends. The early believers so esteemed Paul that his letters were kept and treasured.
And this is how we got roughly 28% of the New Testament. I firmly believe that as Paul trusted and obeyed God, his situation was God’s “Plan A” unfolding.
So, instead of sitting around waiting for this pandemic to be over, let’s be in prayer and ask how we can be part of God’s Plan A, even when the rest of the world sees it as a major holdup. How might He want to use you during this time?
Prayer: Lord, You reign supreme. You are infinitely wiser than we are. Help us to be a part of Your plan, even when Your plan doesn’t conveniently fit into ours. In Jesus’ name, amen.